Friday, June 29, 2012

Bridge Blog 541: This side of 30

          Come play tomorrow, Airport Bridge Club manager Bill Finkelstein said Friday, and you might make 30 points for the month. I haven’t had a 30-point month since the heyday of triple points in 2009. But I don’t have a partner and my sweetie is coming home from a week of business travel in the morning (after a hellish unexpected overnight layover in Atlanta). At first, she said she could take a cab and I could play bridge if I liked. But on her most recent call, the cab option didn’t sound like what she wanted. I’ll stop at 27 and a fraction and be happy with it.

Bridge Blog 540: Who do you trust?

          Trust your partner, that’s what they tell you. And often that’s what I try to do, even though my partners shouldn’t always trust me. Today, Friday, I should have thought of partner Sharon Chang’s jump bid to 4 Diamonds as a real Diamond bid, but because she mentioned splinter bids in our conversation before we played, I thought she was supporting my opening Clubs and, after the opponents bid 4 Hearts, I bid 5 Clubs. We had six Clubs between us. She had eight Diamonds all by herself. I went down four doubled. I should have trusted her Diamonds, since it made 4 Diamonds. (Of course, she might have corrected to 5 Diamonds, but perhaps she thought I had six or seven Clubs instead of four.)
          But what prompted this rumination was a hand Monday afternoon, played by my partner that day, Judy Zeckhauser. Judy’s a rookie. Well, a step or two above a rookie now that she’s gotten 20 master points. And I enjoy partnering with her. We play a nice, simple game. No extraneous conventions. And certainly no splinter bids. Judy and I had a good morning Monday (double sessions at the Airport Bridge Club for North American Pairs competition), 54.76%, third overall, but we could tell the afternoon wasn’t going our way and I was getting that uneasy feeling about Judy. Board 11 here didn’t help. At least we weren’t vulnerable. Here are the hands.
East (Judy)
Spades: K-J-9-5; Hearts: K-9; Diamonds: A-4; Clubs: A-Q-J-4-3.
West (me)
Spades: A-8-3-2; Hearts: 7-4-3; Diamonds: J-10-8; Clubs: 10-9-5.
North (Barbara Sadkin)
Spades: Q-10-7-6; Hearts: Q-5-2; Diamonds: Q-9-7-6-2; Clubs: 8.
South (June Feuerstein)
Spades: 4; Hearts: A-J-10-8-6; Diamonds: K-5-3; Clubs: K-7-6-2.
          I don’t recall the bidding. South is dealer. Nobody’s vulnerable. It’s possible that everyone passed around to Judy and she would have opened a Club. Then South overcalls a Heart, I pass, North either passes or bids 2 Hearts and Judy goes to Spades. I support her Spades – after all, I have the Ace – and Judy, with her little what-the-hell smile, goes to 4 Spades. I’m relieved that we aren’t doubled.
          I’m not sure of the play, but the trump break is bad and Judy has only one entry to my hand, that Ace of Spades. Plus I think she holds back on taking the first trick with one or her Aces, which gives the opponents an opening. She runs out of trump and the opponents get to run their Hearts and Diamonds and trump her Clubs. Judy takes only four tricks. It’s a bottom board. Top board is 3 Spades doubled and made, played by West. Another 3 Spade bid goes down one. West plays 3 Clubs, down two. And at a couple tables, South gets to play it at 3 Hearts, making three and four. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bridge Blog 539: Points of many colors

          June is a month of multiple master point possibilities. There are the usual black points you earn from club play. Then there are the silver points from sectional tournaments, in this case the District 5 Sectional Tournament at the Clubs (STaC). And then there are red points, which are acquired in North American Pairs qualifying games, which are held for two weeks and actually award half red points and half black points.
          So when I go to check on my monthly totals on the bulletin board at the Airport Bridge Club, it’s a more complex reading than usual. As of Wednesday, June 20, it looked like this: 4.55 red, 8.45 silver, 6.66 black. Total is 19.66. Add that .83 point district bonus for the big game Celine Murray and I had during STaC week and, whaddaya know, I’m having my first 20-point month of 2012.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bridge Blog 538: Right place, wrong time (and vice versa)

For STaC Week, the Sectional Tournament at the Clubs, I reckoned to double my chances to collect silver master points by playing twice a day – in both the morning and afternoon sessions at the Airport Bridge Club. But hitting the jackpot – winning points before and after lunch – has pretty much eluded me. On Monday with Nancy Littenburg and Tuesday with Paula Kotowski, the morning was magic, in a meager sort of way, and the afternoon was awful – dead last both days in our direction. Was lunch the culprit? My blood pressure meds? My sleep deficit?
Then on Wednesday, with Celine Murray, my luck shifted. In the morning, we posted 60.32%, first overall. Unfortunately, it was in a 4.5-table game, which for STaC purposes is considered a small game and returns smaller bonus points on a district level for the big winners. Five tables is the minimum for full-sized games. In the 6-table afternoon game, Celine and I managed only 47.5%, but still collected .74 silver points, second in the B strat in our direction.
By Thursday, with Judie Bailey, my luck had flip-flopped. In the morning session, we weren’t quite in sync, an important factor, I’ve found, when playing with Judie because we don’t reach our best bids. Our results suffered accordingly – 42.92%. Not last, but next to last. By afternoon, we were reading each other very nicely and posted a 61.22% game, first in our direction, but third overall, trailing two pairs in the other direction by a fraction.
Playing with Alicia Kolipinski on Friday, my luck not only had changed directions, but also evaporated. Our 42.14% in the morning was weak enough to be last, but was buffered by two other pairs in the 30% range. We improved to 48.02% for the afternoon, earning .78 points.
That put me within my pre-declared goal for STaC week – 5 to 10 points. I now have 5.12 – 3 of them from the two 1.5 point first-place finishes. Or maybe more. Anything over 60% stands a chance of earning extra points on a district level.

   Finally, on Friday, District 5 results for the week have been posted. Celine and I, winning our small game on Wednesday, collected 2.33 points on the district level instead of 1.5. Had it been a big game, our score would have given us 3.48. Thursday’s results haven’t yet been compiled. So let’s add .83 from Wednesday's district bonus onto that 5.12. Equaling 5.95. The games Saturday and Sunday will be gravy.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bridge Blog 537: Lone gun

Somewhere in the middle of the individual game Saturday at the Airport Bridge Club, our table erupted into a chorus of appreciation for the individual game. One of the chorus members was Elizabeth Young, who never comes to the club any more except for the individual game. She noted that the competition is too tough the rest of the time (she restricts herself to the Non-Life Master game at the Bridge Center of Buffalo), but that she feels at ease in the individual game.
Mike Silverman, sitting North, noted that all of the local heavy hitters tend to avoid the individual game because they don’t want to be partnered with less skilled players. Looking around the room, I observed that Silverman and I were the ones with the highest point totals, since we’re both over 1,000. None of the other experts were around. Not Jerry Geiger. Not Jim Mathis. Not Judi Marshall. Not Liz Clark or John Ziemer or Harry Cheung.
There’s a certain unpredictability to the individual game, since a weak partner often won’t find the best bid or the extra trick or the optimum line of defense. So on Saturday I started out simply by bidding aggressively – opening in one instance with 9 high card points and a six-card Heart suit topped by the Q-10. And it seemed to be working. In a session where the 24 hands were divided into two sets of 12, I came out of the first set feeling very good indeed about my chances. (A check of the game summary shows me with 32.5 game points out of a possible 48.)
My good fortune held up through the second batch of 12 hands. I finished the session with 64 game points and a 66.67% score, tied for first with Margaret Miles. We each got 1.32 master points and an $8 cash prize, meaning that both of us actually came out of the game a buck richer than when we went in.
The win brought me up to 6.24 points of the month so far – Ace of Club points, as club manager Bill Finkelstein pointed out. During the Sectional Tournament at the Clubs next week, all those silver points we earn won’t be added to our Ace of Clubs totals.
Far as I’m concerned, points is points and I need more silver to become a Gold Life Master. Finkelstein will be running two STaC games a day – double sessions that will last from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. – so there’s a good opportunity for silver. My goal for STaC week – 5 to 10 points. Best I’ve ever STaCked up? That was last December, when I got 13.91 and might have gotten more if Finkelstein hadn’t gone into the hospital and canceled the Saturday and Sunday games.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Bridge Blog 536: Rounding up the month

It’s the seventh day of the month and the ACBL, well-oiled machine that it is, has posted the updates of its master point races right on time. I added another 13.66 points to my totals in May – 10.63 club points, 3.03 tournament points in the Cleveland Regional – not a remarkable achievement. As I look over the Ace of Clubs lists for Western New York Unit 116, it’s clear how unremarkable my whole year has been so far.
With 47.17 club points (after another week of play in June, it’s over 50), I’m eighth on the list of 10 for the unit in the Ace of Clubs race for the players with 1,000 to 2,500 points. There’s a new leader – Carlton Stone. With 68.72, he’s jumped ahead of Vince Pesce, who stands at 64.26. The rest of the Top 10 includes Jim Gullo (62.29), John Ziemer (60.05), Mike Silverman (56.76), Liz Clark (54.30), Barbara Libby (48.28), Judy Padgug (46 even) and Carolyn Siracuse (41.72).
What I also noticed are the players in other point categories who are doing well so far this year. It’s no surprise to see Jerry Geiger topping the 2,500-5,000 list with 94.12 (best in the unit) or Meg Klamp atop the two-person 7,500-10,000 category with 77.89, but an eyebrow elevates at the 500-1,000 people, where two players have more than anyone in my division – David Millward with 76.73 and Ken Meier with 70.10. And then there’s Bill Boardman atop the 300-500 list with 67.43.
Now for the Mini-McKenney, which aggregates club points and tournament points. Here I’m tenth, with 58.65. Continuing on top is Dian Petrov with 148.81 (32.76 in the Cleveland regional), followed by Judy Padgug (120.93, 13.49 in Cleveland), Jim Gullo (89 even), Carlton Stone (72.08), John Ziemer (70.64), Mike Ryan (64.96), Vince Pesce (the same 64.26 he has in Ace of Clubs), Liz Clark (63.22) and Mike Silverman (60.89).
Mini-McKenney is where the heavy tournament hitters really shine. Top guy in the unit is Dan Gerstman with 296.94, which includes those 117.99 points from Cleveland. (Yes, in one week he won twice as many points as I’ve collected all year.) Dian Petrov is second unit-wide. Seven other players – Jerry Geiger, Judy Padgug, Meg Klamp, John Toy, Jay Levy, Chris Urbanek and Fred Yellen – have more than 100 points.
Let’s telescope out to the District 5 level, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Here the list is 25. Usually the Unit 116 players are top dogs here, but not this month. The one-two positions are held by Robert Maier of Morgantown, W.Va., with 80.73, and Francine Feldman of Pittsburgh, with 76.63. Then comes Carlton Stone, followed by the next five players on the Unit 116 list. I’m 15th. In the Mini-McKenney races, you need 80 points to make the Top 25. Dian Petrov is third, behind Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio (274.26, 15.12 of them in the Cleveland regional) and Henry Nelson of Zelienople, Pa. (151.34, 20.30 in Cleveland). Judy Padgug is tenth.
Does Unit 116 have any standing at all on the national Top 100 list? There the big Ace of Clubs guys in my division are John Petrie of Long Beach, Calif., with 138.84, and good old Charlie Christmas of Tallahassee, Fla., with 138.62. Carlton Stone? Not on the list. You need at least 73 points. Over on the nationwide Mini-McKenney, the new 1,000-2,500 point leader is Suzanne Cederborg of Visalia, Calif., with 301.56, followed by Dianne Sullivan of Solana Beach, Calif., with 300.33. District 5 leader Michael Creager is fifth. Dian Petrov? Not there. You need at least 154 points. In fact, nobody from Unit 116 is on any of the national Mini-McKenney lists, not even Dan Gerstman.
Gerstman, however, does turn up on a list called the Barry Crane Top 500. He’s 210th, the only one from Unit 116 who appears on it. To make that list, which actually contains 505 names, you need just short of 203 points.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bridge Blog 535: More glory days?

The ACBL site shows the master points I earned in May as pending, all 13.66 of them – 10.63 club points and 3.03 from the Cleveland Regional. (Lifetime total: 1,285.62) Which gets me wondering – will I ever see another 20-point month again? Last ones were at the end of 2011 – October (24.01) and November (28.22), both of which involved regional tournaments.
Nevertheless, June has more promise than the first five months this year. It’s STaC month – Sectional Tournament at the Clubs – and the Airport Bridge Club is running two sessions daily all week long, 14 chances to win big points on a district level. It’s also the start of the North American Pairs qualifiers, which offer extra points, half of them red, which the Airport Club also is scheduling for maximum opportunities. So 20 isn’t far-fetched. Not at all.