Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bridge Blog 534: Too soon, too soon, the First of June

          I was starting to like May, especially the part following the Cleveland Regional. Although partner Celine Murray and I struck out in both halves of the chicken barbecue doubleheader game on Memorial Day Monday, we were hot on Wednesday, shaking down a 61.65% game for first overall and 0.8 of a point. It also boosted me up to the point-winners’ list in the Wednesday club series, based on your day-of-the-week wins.  
Add to that a 53.19% game with Mike Silverman on Tuesday (third in A, second in B, 0.4 of a point) and, through the miracle of stratification, a 46.68% game with Florence Boyd on Thursday (second in C North-South, 0.85 of a point). Club total for the month of May is 11.19. And then there’s that 3.03 from Cleveland.

Bridge Blog 533: Cleveland in the rear view mirror

I think I saw Dan Gerstman, the man with the most master points in Buffalo, more frequently at the regional tournament in Cleveland last week than I see him here. We didn’t say hi, but he seemed pretty chipper and now that the tournament results are posted, I see why. Gerstman brought home some serious master points – 117.99. He finished second only to Phillip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, who had 135.54.
How did Gerstman get so many points? Let’s break it down. He started as part of the winning team in the Wednesday evening side Swiss game. 4.85 points. Then, on a team with Phillip Becker, he tied for third in the Tuesday-Wednesday knock-out game. 15.38 points. In the Thursday-Friday knock-outs, the ones where we were stomped in the first round, he again played on a team with Becker and this time they came in first. 33.51 points.
He’s with Becker again for the Sunday morning knock-outs. They’re first again. 26.57 points. Then there are the Saturday-Sunday knock-outs. With Becker again, first place again. 37.68 points.
Other big-time Buffalo point winners included John Toy (46.10, 20th), Dian Petrov (32.76, 34th), Meg Klamp (14.47, 107 th), Judy Padgug and Eugene Harvey (13.49, tied for 124th), Chris Urbanek (11.29, 160th), and Bob Feasley and Mike Ryan (9.63, tied for 187th). 
And what about our little foursome? 3.03 points each, tied for 473rd. In all, 750 players got points.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bridge Blog 532: Cleveland Regional II

          We had such a good start in the afternoon session of the Swiss teams game Friday. Even our loss in the first round wasn’t a bad one. Minus the one bad board, we would have won it. My fault. After two passes, I bid a 3 Heart preempt in the third seat, thinking to shut out the East guy, whose name was Lou. Trouble was, my hand was too strong for the preempt. Seven Hearts headed by the Ace-Queen, Ace-Queen-x of Clubs. No Spades at all. Lou steps up with a 3 Spade bid. Partner John Kirsits, who has a weak hand with three Hearts in it, passes. We set Lou by one trick. At the other table, Lou’s teammates bid 4 Hearts vulnerable and made an overtrick. Without that, we would have beaten them 11-9 IMPs, which would have given us 19 victory points, instead of six.
          We excelled in the next three rounds, though, winning them 14-11, 16-8 and 15-8. By the time we broke for dinner, we had 72 VPs and were tied for fourth in B, which would get us 2 or 3 gold points if we kept up the good work.
          Our good work put us up against good opponents in round five – Buffalo people, Mike Ryan and Bert Feasley. Yet we played well against them. After five boards, we made a 5 Diamond game that the other side didn’t and avoided serious damage when they went to 6 Hearts doubled, not vulnerable, to keep us from making a 4 Spades vulnerable game. We were up 9-3 IMPs when we played the final board. Mike Ryan went to 4 Spades and John, holding five good Spades, made a perfectly reasonable double. (The dummy and I had one Spade each.) At any rate, Ryan drew one round of trump, ran out four good Heart tricks, got a couple Diamonds and finally end-played John on the 11th card, obliging him to lead from a Q-8 of Spades into a K-10. Plus 790. I didn’t think it would be so bad, assuming that our teammates also bid 4 Spades and made it undoubled. But theydidn’t. They bid 4 Spades, all right, but Helen Panza went down two. That gave them 14 IMPs, beating us 17-9. Had John set Mike Ryan or if our teammates had figured out how to make 4 Spades, we would have beaten those folks.
          John was spooked and we never recovered. The next team shut us out, followed by Sally and Gary from Wheeling, W. Va., who fought us to a draw on four hands, then made game where our partners didn’t and beat us 9-1. Our bid for gold was over. In the final round, because one team walked out (was it those people who erupted in the corner during round five and were threatened with being thrown out?), we were pressed into a three-team round robin. We beat one of the teams and lost to the other. We got credit for half a win. Each round you won was worth .31 of a master point, so for the day we won either 1.08 or 1.09. Add that to our 1.79 from Thursday and we can’t be too unhappy, even though we didn’t get any gold.

Bridge Blog 532-A: Cleveland Regional II

          After the Swiss teams game was over Friday night, we spent our time in the hospitality suite munching pizza and debating how we should have played a hand where the bidding involved the New Minor Forcing convention. I’ve operated on the assumption that New Minor Forcing is the opening bidder’s way of checking for an eight-card major-suit fit. He bids a minor suit, you bid a major, he has three cards in your major suit and wants to determine if you have four or five of them, so he bids 1 No Trump. Then, if you have five of the major and 10 high-card points, you bid the other minor suit – the new minor – and, since it’s a cue bid, it’s forcing. The declarer is obliged to bid again.
          No, no, no, John says. The declarer doesn’t have to have three cards in your suit. He’s just bidding 1 No Trump to see if you have five of them and 10 points. Then he bids something. This approach is borne out by the commentary on the convention on the ACBL website. I’m wrong, although I like my method better. How did I come up with this approach? Was this one of Bill Finkelstein’s lessons? Was it one of his lessons that I twisted around and screwed up? At any rate, it screwed up one of our contracts.
John opened a Diamond. Holding seven Hearts (but not the Ace) with a void in Spades, I bid 1 Heart. He bid 1 No Trump. Since I had more than 10 points and at least five Hearts, I bid the new minor – 2 Clubs. He responded 2 No Trump, which sort of baffled me, since I thought we looked at this convention the same way. (The ACBL article says 2 NT “denies four Hearts or three Spades, maximum [strength].”) Well, not knowing any of that, I certainly doIn't want to pass. He makes 3 NT on the nose, but the hand actually makes 4 Hearts with an overtrick. His question: Why didn’t I bid 4 Hearts?
That was one of our misplays in the round where we were shut out, but we made worse errors to get there. Figuring that setting our opponents in 4 Diamonds would be better than getting set at 4 Hearts, I passed instead of bidding it. We set them one trick, but at the other table it was 4 Hearts, bid and made. And then on the next hand, I passed at 3 Clubs with an iffyhand instead of returning John to No Trump at game level, vulnerable, or in my mind, questionable. At the other table, it made 3 No Trump. Take away those two hands, which cost us 19 IMPs (21 with the New Minor Forcing fiasco), and we still lose, but only 7-0, giving us 7 Victory Points. Enough for gold? I’m not so sure.

Bill Finkelstein replies:

I had the displeasure of reading your blog regarding the "New Minor Forcing" Convention.
First of all I never taught it.  As with most conventions, I don't recommend it unless you and your partner play it correctly (or at least the same way).
Almost nothing mentioned in your blog is correct about it (not even what you say John or the ACBL website says, which I suspect you are misinterpreting).
I hate going over this in an email, but...
The opening bidder is not the one who uses new minor forcing it's the responder.
When the opening bidder  rebids 1NT it shows what it always does, a balanced hand with less than a 1NT opener.
Responder ONLY uses New Minor forcing to show exactly 5 cards in a major and at least invitational values.
With 6 or more in a suit Responder:
- bids 2 of the major with a minimum,
- bids 3 of the major with invitational values (a good 10 or 11, including length)
- bids 4 of the major with opening hand values
- bids stronger with more
I have personally gone over this with players and you were likely one of them on a couple of hands after a game.
There's more to it and more wrong, but that's enough for now.
I'd ask you to remove the reference that I may have taught something wrong from your blog, but I have asked before and that never happens.
Perhaps you will include this email in a blog.
Also, by the way, when John denies 3 hearts, how many did you think he had?  Clue: he bid NT, and should have 2.   Now let's see, your 7 hearts and his 2 equal how many hearts?  The goal of bidding is to find (if it exists) you and your partner's 8 card OR LONGER fit ASAP.  What goes unsaid is then to bid the suit, not leave him in No Trump.
I hope you and your team get back for the Memorial Day Chicken BBQ.  It would be a big money saver for you all, and you'll get a nice meal, and likely more points.
P.S.  Please look at this email as if I had included all the touchy-feely nice comments a normal person would.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bridge Blog 531: Cleveland Regional I

   It's a good team, really -- me, Dotty May, Helen Panza and John Kirsits -- all life masters, about 3,500 points among us, so we were primed, despite our lack of sleeip for our first round of knock-outs in the Cleveland Regional at 1 p.m. Thursday. We run up against a team with 4,500 points from Ohio, kept it close through the first two rounds (three points between as at halftime), but a couple bad boards sank us in the later rounds. We licked our wounds at a nearby Irish pub and prepped for the evening single-round Swiss teams event.
   We're the 16th team of 16 in this evening game and our first opponens in these 6-board matches are paired with two of the best Cleveland area players -- the lovely Susan Stark and Jan Assini, the hottest-looking player in the room. They whip us by just 5 International Match Points. After that, we narrowly beat an Asian couple from Cleveland -- Sue and Lu -- and have a happy old time with a pair from Pittsburgh, Madeleine and Lessa, who are as loose as the club players back in Buffalo. We beat them only by one IMP.
   There are bonus points for the top four teams in the B strat and with the fourth and final round to go, we're fifth. We need a good game to make the magic circle and we get one in a hand where Kirsits opens 1 No Trump and I'm holding seven Spades to the King-Queen, four Diamonds to the King-Queen-Jack, a singleton Club and a singleton Ace of Hearts. The woman sitting West -- Florence from Pittsburgh -- bids 2 Hearts and I double for the stolen bid to transfer to Spades. John almost forgets the convention, but after a mninute or so, bids the Spades. I answer 4 Clubs -- Gerber. He bids 4 No Trump -- showing 3 Aces. That's all we need. I jump straight to 7 Spades. John has to play out the trump to make sure there isn't a 4-0 split that would beat us, but there isn't. It's a 1510 score, good for 14 IMPs (the Pittsburgh ladies' teammates stopped at 4 Spades, making 7). Our 19 IMP victory lifted us to third place in B for 1.79 red points.
   I write this from the business center at the Holiday Inn, while my teammates are celebrating up in the hospitality suite (which I'm told is sweet indeed, here in Cleveland/Independence). I stupidly left the power cord for my laptop at home and have about 10 minutes of juice left in it. An awkward situation. Thank god for this crappy Dell machine.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bridge Blog 530-A: M.I.A.

          A fully-filled-out dance card, or in my case, a fully-scheduled bridge datebook, doesn’t guarantee that you won’t occasionally be a wallflower. Sometimes more than occasionally. This week it happened three times.
          On Tuesday, I showed up at the Airport Bridge Club and learned that partner Marie Suprinick once again wasn’t feeling well. Marie wakes up hurting and begs off on about 50 percent of my dates with her. Should I just not take any more dates? Well, Ah’m just a boy who cain’t say no. I haven’t the heart to. At any rate, substitute Ruth Hnath came in and we had a better game than most of the ones I have with Marie – 51.72%, .34 of a master point.
          On Wednesday night, my Thursday partner – Alicia Kolipinski – called to say she wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t play. Unlike Marie Suprinick, she didn’t want to schedule a new date. She didn’t think she’d be playing for a while. I was crestfallen. “Hope you feel better soon,” I said and wondered if I should be sending her a get well card. Plus we had done so well in the ACBL International Fund Game last week. I was really, really looking forward to playing with her again.
          So club manager Bill Finkelstein called in his Thursday sub – Faith Perry, who’s always the life of the party. We had a great time together. We always do. Trouble is, we also both overbid. By the time we reined in our wilder instincts and settled into winning a couple boards, we were thoroughly out of contention. It was so bad that Faith figured we had a 20% game. It turned out not to be quite that bad, but our 40.88% was wretched enough to be dead last overall.
          Then, during lunch after Thursday’s game, my Friday partner, Nadine Stein, calls to say she can’t play. I’m dumbfounded. Is a date with me a curse? This time I’m paired with another partnerless player, Bill Regan, who’s not overly adventurous and therefore a good counter-balance to my intemperance. He was wondering what he was in for, however, after I pulled a not-vulnerable sacrifice bid on the third hand of the day and went down five doubled. We recovered, though, and came home with a 53.83% game, third in the B strat, .28 of a masterpoint.

Bridge Blog 530-B: Man in the mirror

          My past two weeks at the tables have felt like mirror images. Last week yielded a sub-50% game that earned fractional points, a better sub-50% game that didn’t, and that really big game with Alicia Kolipinski in the ACBL International Fund Game on Thursday, where we came home first overall with 61.61%, which earned us 3 points, maybe more on the district level. (I’m told the ACBL doesn’t tally these games up until the end of the month).
          This week I played five times – no golf games or medical appointments getting in the way this time around – with results that are surprisingly similar. This time there were two down days -- a dead-last 40.88% on Thursday with Faith Perry and a just-missed 47.42% on Monday with newbie partner Judy Zeckhauser. And there were two days when we got fractional points for showing up among the leaders – the 51.72% on Tuesday with Ruth Hnath and the 53.83% with Bill Regan on Friday. And then there was the bright, shining moment on Wednesday with Celine Murray, 59.52% for first-place overall in a double-point game, giving us 1.84 master points. Total for the month of May so far – 8.24. Maybe more, if Alicia Kolipinski and I got some district points in the ACBL International Fund Game.

Bridge Blog 530-C: Damned if you don't

          Last game of the day with Celine Murray on Wednesday, there are two passes to me and I’ve got a 10-point hand – five-card Spade suit headed by Ace-King and an outside King, Diamonds probably. The way I understand the Rule of 15 – 10 points + 5 Spades = 15 – I should open it. So I do. Celine then bids 2 Hearts. I have only two Hearts and no obvious responding bid. I pass. She goes down three vulnerable. Bottom board.
          I should have bid, Celine contends. Hers was a new suit at the 2 level, a demand bid. She had an 11-point hand. She thought we might have game. I apologized, but said I thought that, as a passed hand, she was showing me no Spade support and a big preference for Hearts. Plus, I was opening light in the third seat. Turns out she also had three Spades and figured that a simple raise wouldn’t have showed enough strength. If I recall correctly, other pairs made seven tricks in Spades, so we wouldn’t have done very well there, either.
          I’m still baffled by this one on Friday when one of my opponents, Margaret Miles, starts talking about a partner who did the same thing to her – passed, then made a 2-bid over her weak third-seat opener and berated her for passing because he was giving her a demand bid. Margaret, who’s been playing this game seriously a lot longer than I have, maintained that a passed hand has no claim to a demand bid and that if they bid a suit, that’s where they want to play it. She couldn’t remember who the guy was, but she didn’t want to play with him again.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bridge Blog 529: Going wide

          I told our opponents in the ACBL-wide International Fund Game on Thursday that partner Alice Kolipinski and I had an uncomplicated relationship. Which was true. We didn’t do any fancy conventions, just played a solid, straightforward game.
As North-South, we were on offense more than defense and, as South, Alicia played more hands that I did. The good part was that we didn’t screw up very much. It felt like a good game and it was. We finished with 61.61%, first overall, netting 1.5 red points and 1.5 black points at the club. That more than doubled my total at the Airport Bridge Club so far this month.
Director Bill Finkelstein suggested that 61.61% probably wouldn’t mean much in the distribution of major wads of points on the district and nationwide levels. At this point on Thursday night, no nationwide or district tabulations have been completed, but now that I’ve looked into a couple club websites, I’m starting to think that we may have done something significant.
Only four clubs took part in the game in District 5 – Beechwood near Cleveland, where the only pair who beat us was Buffalonian Bev Cohen and her partner with 63%. At the Greensburg club down near Pittsburgh, nobody had 61%. As for the only other District 5 club, the one in Altoona, Pa., they don’t have a website.
          So just for the heck of it, I looked at clubs in Westchester County down near New York City. A seven-day-a-week club called the Bridge Deck in Scarsdale had one North-South pair at an amazing 70%, but nobody else was better than 61%. The Hartes Club in White Plains, however, had a really big game (35 pairs in four sections) and several big hitters. A pair named Halina Jamner and David Yates had a 74.70% game, earning 7.50 points at the club. Seven others came in between 61.9% and 69%.
Scores weren’t that high at a few Florida clubs I just looked at, though. Generally, only one pair was outpointing us in each game. Same in Toronto and Chicago and even the Honors Bridge Club in New York City, where there were 30 pairs, there was a 70%, one in the mid-60s and one which tied us exactly at 61.61%. So I suspect we may have captured some extra district points, if they’re available, but nationally? Finkelstein is probably right. We’re too low.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bridge Blog 528: Chosen few

          Aha! The seventh of the month. The ACBL has posted updates in the master point races. Let’s see if 17 overall points for the month of April, including a best-ever sectional tournament, improved my standing.
          First stop: Western New York Unit 116. Buffalo area only. In the 1,000 to 2,500 point category, where I now reside, I’m still hanging in on the Top 10 in the Ace of Clubs race, which counts points earned in club play only. Ninth place with 36.54 points so far this year. Leader continues to be Vince Pesce, who now has 54.94. Then come Carlton Stone, 50.81; John Ziemer, 45.05; Jim Gullo, 44.86; Mike Silverman, 43.79; Barbara Libby, 41.60; Liz Clark, 38.59; and Judy Padgug, 38.32. Behind me in 10th place is Luke Danielson with 35.14.
          Meanwhile, over in the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney race, which counts club points plus tournament points, I’m on the list for the first time this year – 10th place, 44.99 overall points. Top of the Mini-McKenney once again is Dian Petrov with 107.87. Then it’s Judy Padgug, 73.76; Jim Gullo, 71.57; John Ziemer, 55.64; Vince Pesce, 54.94; Carlton Stone, 54.17; Mike Ryan, 51.30; Mike Silverman, 47.92; and Liz Clark, 47.51. The player with the most points overall in the unit is Dan Gerstman, who’s in the Over 10,000 category. He has 140.77.
          Well, now, let’s move along to District 5 – Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Here the lists go to 25 places. In the Ace of Clubs, Buffalo players hold five of the top six positions (only interloper is Robert Maier of Morgantown, W. Va., who’s second with 53.64) and all of Buffalo’s Top 10 is present. I’m 15th. In the District Mini-McKenney, the competition elsewhere is stiffer. Only three from Unit 116 make the list. Dian Petrov is fifth. Leader once again is Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, with 198.03. To have a place on the district list, you need at least 58.53 points.
          For the nationwide races, the lists go to 100 places. Leader in the national Ace of Clubs in the 1,000 to 2,500 division is a familiar figure – Charles Christmas of Tallahassee, Fla. He’s got 115.29. Vince Pesce? Not even on the list. You need at least 60 and a fraction. National Mini-McKenney? No Western New Yorkers there, either. You need almost 124 points to make it. Leader again is Leslie Amoils of Toronto – 276.85. The District 5 leader, Michael Creager, is 13th. And just to give it a little more perspective, there’s the Barry Crane Top 500, which rounds up all the points and all the players in all the categories. Leslie Amoils is 140th on that list. On top are two guys from Las Vegas who are the only players with more than 1,000 points so far this year – Mike Passell with 1,173.49 and Geoff Hampson with 1,080.42.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Bridge Blog 527: Day late

As of last Thursday, when Judie Bailey and I came in fourth in the B strat with 51.16% at the Airport Bridge Club and earned 0.38 of a master point, my club point total for April stood at 9.52. Three chances to break into double digits, but could I?
Not Friday with Marilyn Sultz. We thought we did OK, but watched our percentage sink as successive scoring updates were posted on the bulletin board. We got nothing for our 45.24%.
Chances looked better on Saturday when, arriving without a partner, I was paired with the best player in the room, Jerry Geiger. Even though he played most of the contracts, my bidding deficiencies hurt us and we just had bad luck. Worse than Friday – 43.06%. With Marilyn again on Monday, we seemed to be having a better day in a three-table Howell game. Four of the six pairs got points, but not us.
        It took until the calendar changed on Tuesday for my luck to improve, even if my game didn’t. Marie Suprinick and I had what felt like one of our better sessions – in the preliminary tally we were over 50% and second in the B strat – but that didn’t hold. We wound up at 44.70%, which somehow managed to be fourth in the C strat overall. Our reward – that 0.52 point I wanted on Monday.