Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bridge Blog 547: Divisible

Judy Kaprove asks if I’ve seen the headline in the Tuesday issue of the Bert Garrell Syracuse Regional Tournament’s daily bulletin: “Only Buffalo team wipes out in first round of knock-outs.” Really? Not really, she says with grin. Nevertheless, we seem to do better seeking our fortunes separately.
Judy and Ruthie Kozower try their luck in the Gold Rush Pairs, restricted to players with fewer than 750 master points. Me and my partner, Judie Bailey, have more than 750, so we go into the open pairs, which are divided into two stratifications – A and X, for those with fewer than 2,000 points. Judie and I are in X. There are 16 tables in our A/X game and another 31 ½ tables in two sections in the Gold Rush Pairs. The four of us are the only Buffalo players in the room. Judie, having lived in Syracuse for 20 years, knows many of the East-Wests who come to our table.
Aside from a couple awkward bidding situations, we do well in the 24-board morning session, in which we play 12 of the 16 other pairs – 53.22%, tied for sixth in A, third in X, .84 of a red point. Judy and Ruthie do a bit better in the Gold Rush Pairs – slightly over 54%, third in A, slightly more than a whole red point. If we could score well in the afternoon session, we might actually pick up gold points.
Alas, we do not. In 24 hands, Judie and I take 15 of the bids and go down one on nine of them. Is down one good bridge? Not for us. Out of a possible 99 game points, we earn just 31. There’s a lesson here – let the other guys take the bids. In the end, it’s a 44.7% game. In the composite score for the morning and afternoon sessions, we are 10 points short the 11 leaders in A and the five leaders in X. Judy and Ruthie do even worse – below 40%. We soothe our battered sensibilities with some excellent pierogis and golumkis at an outstanding Polish restaurant called Eva’s on Milton Avenue over by the state fairgrounds. Judy and Ruthie then point their Camry toward Buffalo and ride off into the drizzling rain. Judie and I are sticking around. We’ll give the pairs one more try on Wednesday.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bridge Blog 546: Bonehead

I hadn’t played more than about half a dozen hands in the initial knock-out round Monday afternoon at the regional tournament in Syracuse when I committed two of my worst errors of the year – and for big stakes, yet.
In the first instance, partner Judie Bailey and I were defending against a 2 No Trump contract and my pretty good hand included three Clubs – Ace, King and Queen. I had a King of Hearts, as well, so I had visions of setting our opponents if Judie had a good card or two and I could leverage things properly. One thing I wanted to be careful of, however, was setting up the fourth Club in the dummy. I was too careful. I didn’t cash the Clubs after I won a trick with the King of Hearts and wound up jettisoning two of my Club honors on the declarer’s long Diamond suit. They made two overtricks, which converted into a couple International Match Points.
Worse yet was my lapse a couple hands later. This time I was declarer at 3 No Trump and, although it made only 2 NT in our direction at the other table, I had maneuvered to a place where I could see enough tricks to make the contract by reaching the dummy with a carefully preserved Ace of Spades and running a nicely set-up long Diamond suit headed by the Queen. So when my right-hand opponent led a Spade, I casually played low from my hand and then simply called for a Spade from the dummy, neglecting to recognize that my left-hand opponent had played the King. After noting that I had not specified the Ace, this opponent also cashed the 13th Heart in her hand. The result: down two on a cold contract. The scoring swing on that little disaster was 13 IMPs, which would have given us a victory over that team in that round.
But it wouldn’t have been enough to beat them overall. We were in a round-robin match against two other teams and played a total of four rounds. In previous tournaments, this round-robin arrangement has worked out well for us, since two of the three teams continue on to the next installment of the knock-outs. On Monday, however, it was the other two teams who survived. We lost all four rounds and the margin was enough that we would have lost to the two other teams even if I had played those two bonehead hands correctly.
So Judie and I joined our teammates – Judy Kaprove and Ruthie Kozower – for a fine meal in their favorite French restaurant next to Syracuse City Hall and skipped the evening pairs game. Between the drive from Buffalo and the beating in the knock-outs, we were spent. Come morning, no more knock-outs. We’ll try our luck in the pairs games.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bridge Blog 545: A birthday of biblical proportions

“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” – Psalm 90:10
No labor and sorrow as my 70th year on this planet came around. I took the night off from work and spread good cheer, treating all comers to a free game Wednesday evening at the Airport Bridge Club. The free game was my idea. The potluck food before the game was club manager Bill Finkelstein’s and he was distressed to discover that I had little or no idea who was bringing what.
Then again, I always figured the spirit of potluck is to just put out the suggestion and see what happens. My only guidance was to tell people not to bring desserts, a plan that worked really well. We had mostly salads and appetizers and they were super. Thanks to one and all who brought food. We all loved it and very little was left over.
I also had no idea how many people would take up my offer of a free game. I estimated 7 to 10 tables. When 12 ½ showed up, I was delighted, At $7 a player, it added up to $350. Someone put it in perspective later by observing that $350 was pretty cheap for a party for 50 people. Partner Celine Murray and I joked that our opponents should give me a present by letting us win, but they weren’t about to go that far. Plus, deep-down, I thought it would be churlish to be the big winner. No danger of that. We wound up at 46.02%, 10th out of 13 east-wests.
Although I made a big deal out of my big day, I was happy to share the spotlight with another July 18 player – Val Derenda, who turned 85. He won the birthday strat, too, in the evening game. He and Paula Salamone won points.
Actually, I didn’t come out of the day empty-handed. I collected points with Celine earlier, in the regular afternoon game -- .85 red, .84 black – for coming in fourth overall in a 13-pair Howell movement with a 53.17% effort.   

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Bridge Blog 544: Midpoint

2012 is half over and now that the ACBL has made its monthly post of totals for the master point races, it’s a good time to stop for a moment and take stock of things. Total points so far this year – 96.20. Could I hit the 200 mark by the end of December? Not out of the question.
Also not out of the question is the Ace of Clubs race for Western New York Unit 116, i.e., Buffalo. That fabulous 27-point month of June has lifted me into a tight six-way race for the lead in the 1,000 to 2,500 point division. My Ace of Clubs total – 75.44 – puts me in fifth place, but not that far behind first-place Carlton Stone, who has 81.82. Trailing him closely are John Ziemer (80.11), former front-runner Vince Pesce (80.07), Mike Silverman (77.11), myself and Jim Gullo (74.96). The rest of the Top 10 trail back slightly (Liz Clark at 69.55 and Barb Libby at 66.67) and way back (Judy Padgug at 56.42 and Carolyn Syracuse at 54.78). Ace of Clubs leader for the unit is Jerry Geiger in the 2,500 to 5,000 division with 133.60. David Millward atop the 500 to 1,000 list has more points than any in my division – 87.36.  
My belated bonanza from the International Fund game in May (see Blogs 529 and 542) has given me a lift in the Mini-McKenney race, the one that counts club play plus tournament points. On the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney list, I’m also holding down fifth place with that 96.20. Everybody ahead of me is in three figures – Dian Petrov (207.64), Judy Padgug (135.59), John Ziemer (129.42) and Jim Gullo (107.10). The rest of the Top 10 include Mike Silverman (88.66), Liz Clark (87.71), Carlton Stone (87.68), Mike Ryan (86.24) and Vince Pesce (80.07, same as his Ace of Clubs total).
How does this play on the District 5 level, which takes in Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and some of the more remote regions of West Virginia and western Maryland? Not badly. In the Ace of Clubs standings, the first eight folks on the Unit 116 list simply have been lifted intact with two numbers added to their place on the list. Leading the parade are Robert Maier of Morgantown, W. Va., with 101.05, and Francine Feldman of Pittsburgh with 94.41.
The District 5 Top 25 includes not only all of the Unit 116 Top 10, but a few more besides. There’s Gene Finton (18th at 54.43), Mike Ryan (22nd at 49.64) and Paul Libby (24th at 47.50). Does Unit 116 have more than half of the entries in any of the other divisions? On the 500-1,000 list, Buffalonians are the top three leaders, but have only 10 of the 25. In the 300-500 category, Buffalo’s Bill Boardman leads with 80.59, but he’s one of only nine from Unit 116.
The good news in my book is that I’ve finally cracked the Top 25 list in the District 5 Mini-McKenney (again thanks to that International Fund Game), although just barely. My 96.20 puts me 23rd, just ahead of Jerri Harper of Peninsula, Ohio (95.83), and John Bernhard of Pittsburgh (95.13).  Top once again is Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, with 280.76. Unit 116’s Dian Petrov is second and there are only five of us Buffalonians among the magic 25.
Nationally? Fuggetabouddit! Nobody from Unit 116 on the Ace of Clubs list for those with 1,000 to 2,500 points. You need at least 87.90 to make the bottom rung of the Top 100. Leaders are John Petrie of Long Beach, Calif., with 186.42, and good old Charlie Christmas of Tallahassee, Fla., with 167.98. As for Mini-McKenney, you need 177.51 to climb onto the list, which means that Dian Petrov is the only Unit 116 representative. He’s 48th. Top people are a couple new names – James Gross of Lee’s Summit, Mo., with 312.42, and Suzanne Cederborg of Visalia, Calif., with 307.46. District 5’s Michael Creager is 13th.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bridge Blog 543: Big numbers are back!

When the ACBL put their hammer down on triple point games, I thought that the days of prodigious point totals were over at the Airport Bridge Club. But club manager Bill Finkelstein, being a clever gamer of the system, has figured out a way to maximum point awards anyway, at least for part of the year.
The part that’s ripe for manipulation is the summertime, which the ACBL designates for North American Pairs qualifying games at the clubs. NAP qualifiers award extra points and by holding half his games in the mornings and half in the afternoons (11:59 a.m. and noon, in this case), Finkelstein can offer twice as many NAP games.
That, plus the two-a-day sessions at the Airport club during STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) week, was the reason I broke above 20 points in June for the first time this year. But I wasn’t the only one. In fact, in the club’s monthly master point race, I came in fourth with 26.72 (the extra .88 that gave me 27.55 overall was a district award in the STaC). Ahead of me were Jerry Geiger (44.83) (!), John Ziemer (32.08) and Mike Silverman (27.09). Right behind me was Paula Salamone’s daughter Miri at 26.11. More good news. NAP qualifiers continue for two more months.

Bridge Blog 542: Message in a bottle

Remember the ACBL-wide International Fund Game back on May 10? Alicia Kolipinski and I were top pair at the Airport Bridge Club with 61.61%. (Blog 529) We got 1.5 red points, 1.5 black at the club level for our efforts, but results weren’t posted at the district level right away or even for a few days afterward. Like the $20 bill you use as a bookmark in a book you stop reading, I just totally forgot about it.
Then, one day last week, Airport club manager Bill Finkelstein hands me a printout of the District 5 Overall Master Point Winners from that six-week-old game. Darned if we weren’t tops in the district. Master points earned – 13.00. And now that the pending points are posted on the ACBL website, I see that my 27.55 points pending from June are actually 37.55, thanks to those extra 10 points for winning the district. Hallelujah!