Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bridge Blog 583: Over the top

Judy Kaprove greets me just inside the door at the Airport Bridge Club with the news. We’re partners Sunday in this last-day-of-the-month Swiss team game. Terrific! Judy and I haven’t played together in a long time, but we always have fun together. The rest of the team? Mike Kisiel and Paul Ganley, good players and a well-established pair. I’m feeling better about my 30-30 goal already.
That feeling doesn’t last. Our first opponents – Janet Frisch and her social bridge friend Barb Hill, who I haven’t encountered in ages – take us directly to the cleaners, shutting us down by a 27-8 IMP margin. We recoup against Chuck Schorr and Sushil Amlami, 20-13, and sit in third place at the lunch break. Then, after pizza, we lose, 25-18, to Liz Clark and John Ziemer (their team goes undefeated) and save our bacon with a 33-21 win over Carolyn Siracuse and Bob Olin, thanks to a pair of bid-and-won games in the final two hands.
The Clark-Ziemer team finishes way in front and the rest of us are bunched so closely that we don’t know if we’ll finish better or worse than third until the final score is posted. The team that could have come in second has a horrible final round, however, and so we’re second by a two victory-point margin, first in the B strat. Needing only about half a point, I got 1.83.
Add the 3.78 from the sectional and it’s roughly 35 points for the month. How does this stack up against other Septembers? Let’s go to the history books.
Last September (Blog 450) was “modest” – 11.33 club points, 1.11 in the Fall Sectional. Totals for the year were 111.25 Ace of Clubs, 121.65 overall. Going back further, September almost always has been modest. First time it surpassed 10 points was 2009 (16.53). The best (20.71) was in 2010.
Biggest months overall? March 2010 (43.76) and August 2009 (42.38), the heyday of triple point games at the Airport Bridge Club. So not only was this a superior September, but it’s also my winningest month in more than two years.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bridge Blog 582: This side of 30

In the back of my mind, I figured if I hit 30 points for the month on Friday, I could skip my rainy-day plan, i.e., playing in the Swiss team event on Sunday at the Airport Bridge Club. Especially since my team evaporated (see Blog 581). Having 28.91 points meant that a win wasn’t necessary Friday with partner Marilyn Sultz, just a good finish.
After our starting round against Mike Mesirov and Barbara Libby, our finish was severely in doubt and it was entirely my fault. The first hand was wildly unbalanced, but having a stopper in the suit they bid, I went to 3 No Trump instead of sticking to our 11-card suit Clubs. Mike had six Spades. Down two. Then I bid 3 Spades to thwart what looked like a certain game contract by the opponents and went down five for an absolute bottom board. They couldn’t make more than 3 Hearts. On the third board, we let them take the bid at 4 Diamonds, down three, but better scores could have been had if we ignored the sting of the first two hands and pressed on to a makeable 4 Hearts. Out of a possible 21 game points, we had 1.5. That’s less than 10%.
It turned out to be a day of more bottom boards and a lot of offsetting tops. On eight out of 24 hands, we had at least 6 game points out of 7. (Our best – a successful 3 Diamond contract where everyone else let the opponents play and make 2 Spades, and a wicked defensive whammy that put an opponent down four at 3 No Trump, while others went down two.) On eight other hands, including those first three, we had 1 game point or less. It all evened out – final score of 51.19%, second in the B strat North-South, fourth in B overall. Our reward – 0.66 of a point. September total? 29.57. Weather forecast for Sunday: Rain.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bridge Blog 581: Swan song

The days are dwindling down to a precious few and, amazingly, the point-a-day dream is still alive. On Wednesday, Celine Murray and I manage a 52% game and collect almost  another full point.
Then on Thursday, there’s a double session with me sleep-deprived from a late night at work and feeling a bit scratchy in the wake of a flu shot on Wednesday and partner Alicia Kolipinski only wanting to play the morning session and feeling bridged out in general.
It doesn’t help that Paul and Barbara Libby bid and make a 6 Spade slam against us on the very first board, starting us off with a big fat zero. We crawl from that wreckage through a series of wildly distributional hands, winning the auction on 17 out of 25 of them. On two occasions we send opponents down two for minus 200 on 1 Spade contracts. We finish with 53.71%, fifth overall, third in the B strat, for 0.83 of a point. Alicia leaves happy.
The afternoon finds me with Sharon Chang in a four-table Howell game. We haven’t had a game together in months and things are a little tentative at first. Plus after all those exciting morning hands, these are flat and not very inspiring. We’re declarers on only seven of the 21 boards, but become  bulldogs on defense. We emerge second overall, first in B, with 57.14% and 1.21 master points. Total for 27 days of September – 28.91.
          I’m spending Saturday away from the tables, but was counting on the Swiss team game Sunday as my 30 for 30 guarantee. It was going to be a reunion of our winning Swiss team from three Sundays ago – Carlton Stone, Eleanor Whelan, Celine and me. Then, on Wednesday, the team vaporized in a flash. Carlton tells me that Eleanor can’t do it and he’s decided he won’t either. Then Celine, overhearing this, drops out. Suddenly all guarantees are off.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bridge Blog 580: Bonus days

How about a point a day in club points this month in addition to those 3.78 silver points that came my way over the weekend in the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament? Could be done, especially after Monday’s game at the Airport Bridge Club, where Wednesday partner Celine Murray and I came in first in our direction, second overall and first overall in the B strat with a 59.57% game. It not only earned us 1.59 more black points, but it also lifted me into first place in the club’s monthly series race for Monday, which meant another 0.78 of a point. After 24 days, 23.96 Ace of Clubs points.
After the seven-table morning session Tuesday, it’s still 23.96 club points. With Celine again, I’m closer to brain dead than brilliant. I miss the implications of her Diamond lead after we’ve been bidding Hearts on the opening hand. (Yes, a singleton, and declarer Paula Kotowski allows me to win with my King, not taking the trick with the Ace in the dummy like she could have.) I cash the Ace-King in my five-card Heart suit and lead a third one, figuring Celine would ruff it (she's played 3-2). Wrong. I should have given her the Diamond ruff. So the contract succeeds, when it could have been down one.  Not the worst outcome, it’s a middle board, but it could’ve been above average.
Then on the next hand, I revoke and catch it before the next trick gets played, causing a director call and a stir at the table, but not a penalty. We keep misfiring all morning, with the exception of the down five doubled vulnerable score we hung on one unfortunate opposing pair. That didn’t keep us from coming in behind them – last overall with 39.21%.
In the afternoon five-table Howell game, we seem to be stuck in the same rut. I give Jacqueline and Sharon Chang a ruff and sluff, allowing them to make an extra trick. Celine goes down three on a hand we should have left to the opponents. But both of these turn out to be middle boards. We’re surprised to see ourselves among the leaders when the preliminary scores go up. Final tally is 52.78%, third overall, another 0.98 point. Total now is 24.94. But wait! Make that 25-plus. My Tuesday afternoon wins this month will be giving me another club series bonus.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bridge Blog 579: Fall Sectional Day 3

To be a big winner at the Buffalo sectional tournaments, you’ve got to win the Sunday Swiss team game. The foremost foursome was rewarded with 7.50 silver points and the tournament’s three top point-getters were members of that team – Jay Levy (17.93), Bud Seidenberg (15.92) and Saleh Fetouh (14.99).
Our team – Faith Perry and Pawan Matta, Florence Boyd and me – didn’t play those guys, but we played the third-place winners – Brian Meyer, Susan Cooper, Dan Gerstman and his Toronto buddy – in the second round and lost by 15 International Match Points. We were surprised to playing them at all in the second round, since they were clearly one of the best teams, but perhaps they started out against the Levy team. It could have been closer – we should have set Meyer in a 3 NT contract, but discarded carelessly on his long suit, and Flo should have picked up an extra trick in one of her contracts. That would have made us nearly even.
We didn’t expect to beat Brian Meyer & Co., but we clearly thought we’d nail the Southern Tier ladies we faced in the next round. However, I failed to unblock a winning Diamond in the dummy, going down two doubled instead of one, and commotion near Faith and Pawan’s table broke their concentration and their makeable North-South slam failed, while at our table our opponents made it.  We lost by only two IMPs.
We had similar hopes for the next round, but I blew a chance to set 3 Hearts doubled vulnerable and it made all the difference. It cost us 14 IMPs and we lost by 15. After lunch, we took on the only other winless team and it was our worst defeat yet, 22 IMPs. Our only success came in the sixth round, against Barbara Sadkin and Sandy Scheff. If we didn’t come in last, it was only because they slipped in behind us. Final result – just 0.26 of a silver point. And although I was determined to be nonchalant about our fate today, it was still distressing to let those two middle rounds slip away. At any rate, my goal of 3 points for the tournament was exceeded. The final tally – 3.78 points, 43rd overall, one notch behind Meg Klamp (3.83), one ahead of Arthur “Chip” Kean (3.73).
P.S.: Morning hospitality was bagels from Panera’s, the bakery cafĂ© chain, accompanied by only three containers of cream cheese, which ran out quickly, plus one of butter and one of fake butter. Bagels and butter? Not a popular choice. Between round two and round three, I took it upon myself to run next door to the deli attached to Dick’s Christmas store and bring back a couple more packages of cream cheese. Dian Petrov suggested that the supply of bagels was too much for the cream cheese. Au contraire. The new cream cheese disappeared quickly, just like the first batch, leaving the butter behind.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bridge Blog 578: Fall Sectional Day 2

Now I know what it felt like to be the pitcher who gave up Hank Aaron’s 715th home run. I put the player with the most master points in Buffalo – Dan Gerstman – into first place overall in the morning session at the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament on Saturday on the very last hand.
Gerstman is declarer after Judie Bailey and I, bidding Spades, push him up to 4 Hearts on a very distributional hand. But then, after taking our first three tricks with the Ace-King of my six-card Diamond suit and the Ace of Clubs, clearing the dummy’s doubleton Diamonds and singleton Club, I lead the Queen of Diamonds. Wrong. Gerstman discards one of his two Spades and ruffs my Queen in the dummy, where the Ace of Spades resides. Had I led another Club, the dummy would still ruff, but Gerstman couldn’t shed a Spade and I’d win a trick in the suit with my King.
It’s worth at least 7 game points for him, perhaps 10. Either way, it’s just enough to lift him past the other leading pair. I kick myself mentally for it all through lunch. Those extra 7 to 10 game points make no difference to us, however. Our percentage would improve slightly from 54.54%, but we’d still be 10th overall, sixth in the B strat, and we’d still win 0.47 of a silver point.
The morning turnout of 27 ½ tables shrinks to 20 for the afternoon and Judie and I can’t tell if we’re doing better or worse. This time we play Gerstman and his Toronto partner three hands instead of two with similarly dismal results – 14 out of a possible 51 game points, vs. 14 out of 50 – missing a game bid on one hand, allowing them an extra trick on the second and playing 3 No Trump, making nine tricks, instead of 4 Hearts, making 11, on the third.
Nobody else beat us that badly, however, as a look at our scoring summary shows. We’re better than 50% against all the other pairs except one. Beginning against neophytes Jeff Thier and Lynn Witmer, we get 36 game points out of 51. Next comes a Canadian couple who see us bid and make two straight 6 NT slams, 33 out of 51. After that, we get 34 out of 51, 30.5 out of 51, and 31.5 out of 51. We’re humming along at better than 60% until we stumble against Strat C players Judy Zeckhauser and Marilyn Shuman, where Judie rejects my 2 Spade bid (which makes 3, even though she has a singleton) and wins the auction at 3 Clubs, down three vulnerable. Against them, we’re only 24.5. And then comes Gerstman.
We rebound in the final rounds, however, and outdo our morning effort – 56.86%, fourth in A in our direction, third in B, fifth in B overall, winning 1.15 silver points. Total for the tournament – 3.52. Mission accomplished. So for the Swiss team game Sunday, no pressure, no frenzy, just fun.      

Friday, September 21, 2012

Bridge Blog 577: Fall Sectional Day One

Players in the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament are saying Friday how nice the main banquet room is at the Father Justin Knights of Columbus Hall on Union Road in Cheektowaga.  And indeed it is, despite the gloomy painting of Father Justin Figas giving us all a hard look from the back wall. (Father Justin, former pastor of Corpus Christi Church on Buffalo’s Polish East Side, in 1931 started the nation’s oldest continuous religious radio program in the Polish language – “The Father Justin Rosary Hour.”) But, truth be told, it comes in second to the Main-Transit Fire Hall on several counts.
1.    Although it’s more easily reached from the Thruway than the fire hall, it’s a longer drive for most of the bridge players, who mostly live north of the city. It’s also harder to find, since it’s tucked behind a big Christmas store. A couple Canadian players say they didn’t see it, turned right instead of left onto Union Road and wound up in … what’s that town called? West Seneca, I tell them.
2.    The fire hall doesn’t book competing events. The Knights of Columbus, on the other hand, host a Friday night fish fry. Before the afternoon session can start, players are asked to move their cars from in front of the building over to the left side to make way for the dinner crowd.
3.    According to partner Judie Bailey, the kitchen facilities are better at the fire hall.

Turnout seems a little light on opening day of the tournament – 25 ½ tables in the morning session, 18 ½ for the afternoon, both divided into two sections. There’s talk about how some of the players aren’t there because they’re traveling – one group of three couples is over in China together for a couple weeks. There are three or four Canadian pairs and another pair from Olean who say they’re staying in town overnight.
Judie and I get off to a bad start against Joe Rooney and Ken Meier, with me going down four doubled vulnerable on what should have been a proper 4 Spade sacrifice bid (they bid 4 Hearts and they can make it, while us North-Souths are supposed to take at least 8 tricks in Spades).
Later, when Judie opens and I’m holding a 19-point hand, I jump straight to the 4 No Trump Blackwood bid, asking for Aces, ignore John Marvin’s double of Judie’s 5 Diamond (one Ace) response, and plow forward to 6 Hearts. Marvin leads Ace-King of Diamonds and we’re down. Judie loses two more tricks later. Be considerate of your partner, she tells me. It’s a problem I keep having all morning. We’re pretty sure we’re having a bad game and indeed we do – 40.74%, 10th out of 12 North-Souths in our section. For consolation, we note that two good veteran players, Luke Danielson and Bob Andersen, finished 11th. I do a little quick scoresheet reckoning by figuring out how much better our five worst hands would be if we did them right and determined that we were beyond redeption – we could have improved 20 to 25 game points, but not enough to overtake the ninth place pair.
I try to have consideration for my partner in the afternoon session. The upshot is that we win fewer bidding auctions. In the morning, we were declarers on 18 of the 27 hands. In the afternoon, we’re declarers on 12 of 27. But there are fewer regrets. We only have two bottom boards, the first coming in the first round when I push to slam in Spades on a hand that the hand record says can’t make slam (although a couple of the North-Souths succeed). Offsetting them are three absolute tops – two on little part-score hands, another by setting Unit president Betty Metz’s attempt at 2 No Trump.
The scores go up and we’re among the leaders – sixth overall among 18 North-Souths, third in the B strat, fourth and second respectively in our direction, nosing out third-place Sue Neubecker, the tournament chairwoman, and Elaine Kurasiewicz. We’re 58.22%, earning 1.90 silver points. Maybe I should bump up my point goal for the tournament.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bridge Blog 576: Ready or not

          Wednesday partner Celine Murray and I couldn’t possibly repeat this week’s grand success on Thursday. And we didn’t. My biggest errors – (1) jumping directly to 4 Spades with an opening hand opposite Celine’s opener, then discovering it was good for all 13 tricks, and (2) plunging ahead to 3 No Trump on another hand where the opponents got to run a six-card Spade suit.
I only played six out of 27 hands, gaining 28 game points out of a possible 48 (58.33%). Celine was declarer on six others, taking 26 out of 48 (54.16%, but it could have been better if I took her to slam on that 4 Spade hand, right?) Which means that all those hands on defense brought us down a peg, because we finished with 53.59%, third in the B strat overall, for 0.96 of a point.
The September Ace of Clubs total will have to stay at 21.59 through the weekend while I play in the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament. How have I done in the past few sectionals? Here’s a review of the past three years:
Spring 2012: 7.52
Winter 2012: 0.93
Fall 2011: 1.11
Spring 2011: 1.80
Winter 2011: 2.13
Fall 2010: 3.24
Spring 2010: 1.60
Winter 2010: 3.68
Fall 2009: 4.85
Average them up and it’s about 3 points per tournament. There’s a reasonable goal. At least 3.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bridge Blog 575: 20-20

The partial score posted after 20 boards Wednesday at the Airport Bridge Club was a big surprise. Celine Murray and I were having an OK game … but 69%??? I was astounded. Of course, that wasn’t the whole story. We played 27 boards, including a final one against the second-place pair, Vince Pesce and Bob Andersen, in which I made a non-vulnerable 4 Spade doubled sacrifice bid against a certain 4 Heart vulnerable contract and went down one more trick (i.e., four) than I wanted to. Tie for a bottom board, but it only cost us one game point.
The final tally showed us settling back toward the pack, but Vince and Bob didn’t quite catch us. Still first overall, we come home with 64.17%, which I believe is my best game of the month, winning another 1.98 master points. September total – 20.63.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Bridge Blog 574: Back in the saddle

          Judie Bailey and I warmed up for next weekend’s Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament with a game Monday at the Airport Bridge Club and concluded that we probably got all of the bad bridge out of our system. What other shred of encouragement could we salvage from a 40.88% game that left us dead last North-South? I scrawled notations on eight hands on my scorecard, details already forgotten, but had we achieved just an average score on them, we might have been contenders. Well, at any rate, we're warmed up.
          With that last-place finish, I fell solidly off my point-a-day pace for September. Would I be able to make it up in the double session pairs games on Tuesday? Having had my ups and downs with Tuesday partner Beverly Dale, I wasn’t sure if the Dale Effect (see Blog 556) would be in force.
          It seemed to be working more often than not (3 top boards, only one bottom) in the morning game. Our 55.83% put us second North-South and earned .83 of a point. The afternoon was harder to gauge, perhaps because it was a only a four-table Howell game (Rosh Hashanah seems to have diverted most of the Jewish players) and we kept hopping from North-South to East-West and back. At the end of the afternoon, our score was posted and we were dead last – 37%. It didn’t seem as if we were that horribly bad, but wait, we weren’t Pair 8. We were Pair 2, the winning pair. Our numbers had been transposed. So we were not bottoms after all, but overall tops in the A and B strats at 60.65%. Another 1.63 master points. Total for the month: 18.65!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bridge Blog 573: Stop the clock

    Sure, I could’ve gone out to the Sunday game at the Airport Bridge Club. My better half was lunching with an old girlfriend and was gone for the day before noon. But it was also a great day for taking the lawnmower out for a walk. Faded flowers needed replacing. Shrubs and spent flower heads needed trimming. Now the yard’s refreshed and won’t need any attention for a while, which is a good thing because next weekend is going to be entirely consumed by the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament.
    In the meantime, I’ve fallen behind the calendar. It’s the 16th of the month and my September point total stands at 15.85, since I was able to add just 0.31 of a point to the tally with my 53.13% (tied for sixth overall) at the Individual Game at the Airport Club on Saturday.

Bridge Blog 573-A: Is it luck?

          Some people won’t play the Individual Game at the Airport Bridge Club because they say it depends too much on luck. To the extent that an outcome depends on the generosity of your opponents, I would agree. But was it luck or skill that gave me a 53.13% at Saturday’s Individual Game? Let’s see what I can deduce from my summary sheet.
          Bidding fool that I am, I was declarer on 11 out of 24 hands, making six of the contracts. Out of a possible 44 game points, I got 23.5, or 53.4%. My partners were declarers on nine more, making five. Out of a possible 36 game points, they got 15.5, or 43.05%. Some of that could be blamed on me, though, for pushing to an unsuccessful slam in one instance and setting up a bad sacrifice bid in another. Of the four contracts our opponents took, they fulfilled only one, giving us 12 out of 16 game points, or 75%. Maybe I should have let them win a few more bids.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bridge Blog 572: Chased by the calendar

          The winning streak has ground to a halt and suddenly that point-a-day goal for September is in jeopardy. I last scratched on Wednesday, when Celine Murray and I turned in a middling 49.68% game, sixth overall, for .25 of a point, bringing the total to 15.54.
And there it has stalled.

    Alicia Kolipinski and I stumbled to a 38.28% finish on Thursday (for a couple hands from that game, see Blogs 571 and 571-A). We were saved from dead last only by the presence of a more unfortunate pair at 37.96%. Usha Khurana and I improved on that somewhat on Friday, tying with Marilyn Sultz and Celine Murray at next to last East-West in an eight-table game with 45.03%. Maybe my luck will turn back around at the Individual Game on Saturday.

Bridge Blog 571: To coin a phrase

Judi Marshall took animated exception to one of my bids against her on Thursday – it was a Diamond overcall of her partner’s 1 Diamond opener – saying, in effect, that I can’t bid like that. Holding six Diamonds in what was otherwise a rather pathetic hand, I remarked that I was only doing what the cards told me to. To which I added, “Sometimes you have to wear what’s in the closet.”
This must have resonated on more than one level. It cracked Judi up at length. We all laughed. Even her taciturn partner, Tom Fraas, gave a chuckle. On Friday, Judi gleefully threw the line back at me as we approached her table to play a round. If I say so myself, it’s a good one. Here’s the hand that inspired it:
Board 1. Nobody’s vulnerable. North is dealer.
North (Tom Fraas)
Spades: A-Q-6-4; Hearts: A-K-7-4
Diamonds: 10-8-5; Clubs: 10-3
East (me)
Spades: J-10-7; Hearts: Q-8-6
Diamonds: Q-J-9-6-4-2; Clubs: 7
South (Judi Marshall)
Spades: 9-8-5-2; Hearts: 5-3-2
Diamonds: None; Clubs: Q-9-8-5-4-2
West (Alicia Kolipinski)
Spades: K-3; Hearts: J-9
Diamonds: A-K-7-3; Clubs: A-K-J-6
Tom opened a Diamond, I passed and Judi bid 2 Clubs. Alicia also passed, as did Tom. So I bid 2 Diamonds, which I hoped would be understood as a real Diamond bid, albeit a weak one. Then Alicia broke her silence by going 2 No Trump. I passed. Alicia played it out and made 2 NT exactly for plus 120, which turned up to be just one step up from a bottom board.
At the first two tables to play the hand, the 1 Diamond opening bid was doubled and stayed doubled, down three, giving East-West plus 500. A two-way tie for top board. One table saw it played at 3 NT, making an overtrick. Plus 430. We were one of four tables to play it at 2 NT, but the others did better, making one or two overtricks. Another played it at 1 NT, making two overtricks. Worst idea was playing it at 2 Diamonds, making an overtrick for only plus 110.

Bridge Blog 571-A: Born under a bad sign

I suspected Thursday’s game with Alicia Kolipinski at the Airport Bridge Club was in trouble right from the first round against Rita Sierocynski and Linda Wynes. Not that we were getting bad cards – I was declarer on all three bids – but we failed miserably when it came to getting the most out of them.
The first one I played at 3 Diamonds, making an overtrick, but it gave us only two out of eight game points. It was good for 3 No Trump, too. The second one I played at 2 Diamonds, going down one, although I could have avoided that by drawing trumps sooner or by bidding 1 NT instead of rebidding my Diamonds. And then there was this one, a total bottom board.
Board 6. East-West is vulnerable. East is dealer.
East (me)
Spades: A-K-Q-8-7-6-5; Hearts: A-J-9
Diamonds: None; Clubs: K-7-3
South (Linda Wynes)
Spades: 9-4-2; Hearts: 8-3-2
Diamonds: Q-J-9-7-4; Clubs: J-8
West (Alicia Kolipinski)
Spades: None; Hearts: K-10-7
Diamonds: 10-8-5-3-2; Clubs: A-10-6-5-4
North (Rita Sieroczynski)
North: J-10-3; Hearts: Q-6-5-4
Diamonds: A-K-6; Clubs: Q-9-2
I opened a Spade and if I recall correctly, there were two passes to Rita, who doubled. I redoubled to show big confidence and Linda bid 2 Diamonds. Two more passes back to me and it was 2 Spades, pass, pass, pass. The play of the hand was no problem. I took 11 tricks. I should have been in game. Where did we go wrong?
Alicia contended that she had no bid to make, given her void in my big suit and her weak hard card holding. I had to agree. It was up to me to make a jump bid instead of redoubling.
At six tables, the bid was 4 Spades, making two, three and (just once) four overtricks. Two others stopped bidding at 3 Spades and both of them made three overtricks. Two Spades making five was a bottom board.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bridge Blog 570: Simple twist of fate

          Doug Dean, at 95, the oldest player in the clubs these days, remarked as I gave him a ride back to his assisted living quarters Monday that sometimes he felt like he had no control over how well or poorly the game was going. As an example, he cited his partner that day, who plunged ahead into an ill-advised 4 Club contract despite his repeated use of the Pass card and went down badly. Nothing he could do about it.
          I had that same feeling in the double session Tuesday at the Airport Bridge Club, though it wasn’t my partner Marilyn Sultz’s fault. In the morning game, our opponents seemed to have the magic touch. They’d zip into slams, stop prudently to avoid overbids and find the magic lead which deprived us of the extra trick that everybody else won. It was dismal. We ended up at 38.81%, dead last by a fraction.
          The afternoon session did not feel any better. We were on offense on only seven of the 24 hands and I got to play just two of them. Nevertheless, the opponents kept inadvertently knocking themselves out. For instance, in the four boards we played against club manager Bill Finkelstein and C strat player Elsie Rogers, we got 15.5 out of a possible 20 game points, although we were unaware of how good it was at the time. So Marilyn and I were shocked to discover that we came in first overall with 58.75%. Our reward – 1.73 points – boosts my September total to 15.29.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bridge Blog 569: Disaster

No, not so much at the bridge table, but on the Buffalo News  website. I’ve posted an expanded version of the duplicate bridge column on there for many moons, but now they’ve gone and switched software systems again and all the old columns have disappeared from the Internet, including the one I posted last Wednesday night before the switchover.
What’s there instead is the version that appeared in the paper on Saturday, which is greatly cut down in order to fit the little square that’s allotted to it.
The disaster? I’ve routinely copied a major chunk of info from one online week to the next, without backing them up elsewhere – the upcoming tournament schedule with links attached, the list of clubs with their hours, etc., background stuff about the column. Is this all lost? Will I have to reconstruct it this week? Aggghhh!
Wait! Maybe I can find an older column cached on Google. Nope. Here’s what I get instead:
“Please check back as we continue to upgrade this site in conjunction with a redesign.
“Story archives from The Buffalo News continue to be built out. This link will be accessible.
“Thank you for your patience.”

Bridge Blog 569-A: Near disaster

As for the bridge table, I thought I was playing with Judie Bailey on Monday, but when she didn’t come and I called her, she said she’d told me she couldn’t make it. This change didn’t make it into my datebook.
So I got to play with Bill Regan, a reasonable player with whom I’ve done reasonably well in the past. Bill has an agreement with his wife, Pinky, who’s a much better player, that because the average bridge player makes 10 mistakes per game, she shouldn’t criticize him until he makes No. 11.
Bill and I started off as if we weren’t going to make any mistakes. After four rounds, we were flying along at a 64.37% pace.
But then we hit the skids. Bill added a competitive bid that drove Judy Zeckhauser and Dottie Soong up to game at 5 Clubs and they made an overtrick for a 420 instead of a part score of 170. The opponents left Bill at 1 No Trump on another hand instead of finding their Spade contract like all the other East-Wests did and he went down three vulnerable for a bottom board. Nothing we could do about that. I threw away a Diamond I should have kept against a Joe Rooney 2 NT contract and he made an overtrick for top board.
When the partial scores went up, I was surprised to see us above 50%, but we stayed there, finishing with 52.31%, just barely catching some points. In fact, it was just 0.32 of a point. September total now – 13.56.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bridge Blog 568: Burdened by success

So prone to perversity is the human psyche. A smidgen of success and suddenly there’s a burning desire to maintain it, a veritable obligation, even though it defies the laws of probability.
All it took to do that to me was to average one master point per day for the first week of September. Saturday, I could have stayed home from the Airport Bridge Club, as I’ve done on most Saturdays this year. But it was rainy and miserable, no day for gardening or running errands, that’s for sure. And it was still humid, too sticky for puttering around the house. So why not spend a few hours in an air-conditioned room, especially if I might add to my points?
OK, off to bridge, unplanned and without a partner. Club manager Bill Finkelstein paired me with one of the better players, Cleveland Fleming,  and we started off like we were on fire, ripping through our first-round opponents at a 92.5% rate. We were still up at 80% when the second round finished.
Then reality set in. A slam try failed when Cleveland didn’t take a finesse to set up the dummy’s long Diamond suit. I made a bad sacrifice bid, then on the next hand let opponents make a part score in Spades when we could have had game in Hearts.
On another hand, I trumped prematurely, costing us a valuable trick in defense. And then, holding a long Heart suit and not much else, I took out Cleveland’s double of a 2 Spade overbid by the opponents, which he intended as penalty, and we went down three vulnerable at 3 No Trump.
We deflated to a mere 52.50%. Nevertheless, it was second in the B strat and gave us 1.01 points. September stood at 9.63 points after eight days.
Amassing more master points was definitely on my mind earlier in the week when I accepted Carlton Stone’s invitation to be part of his team in the Swiss teams game at the Airport Club on Sunday. (I haven’t been playing on Sunday much either.) I eagerly enlisted my Wednesday partner, Celine Murray, despite her lack of experience in team games.
It was another good start, beating the team with the most aggregate master points – Liz Clark, John Ziemer, Jerry Geiger and Harry Cheung – by 28-13 International Match Points. And despite a gaffe by Celine – after she opened 1 No Trump, she failed to recognize my stolen-bid double of Paula Salamone’s 2 Heart overbid and Paula made the contract – we only lost to Paula and her daughter Miri by 20-18 IMPs.
The next two matches saw us in a similar pattern, we swept the Manju Celony-Shakeel Ahmad team, thanks to good defense, 34-9; then lost 17-13 to the Mike Silverman-Alicia Kolipinski team when our teammates struck out on a hand where Mike made 3 NT with an overtrick. After that round, which included the lunch break for pizza, we were in second place, one victory point behind the leaders, the team of Jan and Carl Hasselback and Paul and Linda Zittel.
We squeaked past the Judi Marshall-Cleveland Fleming team, 15-14, then confronted the people we had to catch. On the first hand, Paul Zittel bid up to 6 Spades on a mismatch and went down two. Our teammates stayed at 4 Spades and made an overtrick. After we shut them out, 23-0, there was no doubt about the final results. We were first overall, always a good feeling, and won 3.61 master points, which made me feel especially good. Add that to 9.63 and it’s wayyyy ahead of a point per day.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bridge Blog 567: All in for August

Seventh of the month, the new tallies for the master point races are up on the ACBL website. My totals for the year now stand at 109.67 Ace of Clubs and 131.27 overall (Mini-McKenney). How does this stack up on the unit, district and national levels? Let’s find out.
Among Unit 116 players (Buffalo only) in the 1,000 to 2,500 master point section, I’m in sixth place in the Ace of Clubs race. Carlton Stone still is first with 132.39, followed by Mike Silverman (128.19), John Ziemer (118.94), Liz Clark (111.66) and Vince Pesce (111.46). Right on my heels is Jim Gullo (108.73), then Carolyn Siracuse (92.06), Barbara Libby (89.59) and Mike Ryan (85.69). 
In the Mini-McKenney, I’m eighth. There are two extra names on the top – Judy Padgug, who has vaulted to first with 238.33, and Dian Petrov, who has 229.15, but has slipped to third. Between them is John Ziemer with 231.73. The rest of the list includes Mike Ryan (176.20), Jim Gullo (145.32), Mike Silverman (139.74), Carlton Stone (138.25), me, Liz Clark (129.82) and Vince Pesce (111.46, same as his Ace of Clubs total).
OK, on to the District 5 level (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh). In the Ace of Clubs, I’m seventh. Only additional name is right at the top – Robert Maier of Morgantown, W. Va., with 144.79. Next out-of-towner is Francine Feldman of Pittsburgh, who’s ninth with 100.29. And then, since it’s a list of 25, there are people who didn’t make the Unit 116 Top 10 – Judy Padgug (13th, 83.57), Paul Libby (18th, 74.97) and Gene Finton (19th, 73.24).
Over in the District 5 Mini-McKenney, I’m barely clinging to the list in 25th place. Top dog once again is Michael Craeger from Brecksville, Ohio, with 405.78. The aforementioned Robert Maier is second with 290.61. Judy Padgug, John Ziemer and Dian Petrov are third, fourth and fifth. Mike Ryan is 12th. Jim Gullo is 19th. Mike Silverman is 20th. And Carlton Stone is 22nd.
On the national level, Ace of Clubs in my division is headed once again by good old Charlie Christmas from Tallahassee, Fla, with 236.22, trailed closely by John Petrie of Long Beach, Calif., with 231.99.  Robert Maier is 25th. Only two of us from Unit 116 appear – Carlton Stone (48th) and Mike Silverman (61st). To make the bottom rung on the Top 100, you need 119.65.
On the Mini-McKenney, the top is tightly bunched – James Gross of Lee’s Summit, Mo. (465.21), Zachary Grossack of Newton, Mass. (458.43) and Stephen Apodaca of Santa Fe, N.M. (446.06). District 5 leader Michael Craeger is seventh, Robert Maier is 46th, Judy Padgug misses the cut. You need 242.74 to make the list.

Bridge Blog 566: Good while it lasted

“We didn’t do anything wrong, did we?” Wednesday partner Celine Murray asked after we came in at exactly 50%. Well, we must have, but nothing immediately came to mind. At least there was nothing glaring. No minus 1100s. Well, there was that minus 600, but that depended on Celine finding the lead that would let us set Joyce Greenspan at 3 NT. We wound up tied for fourth in the B strat. 0.62 point for the day. 7.49 for the month.
Thursday I thought I was playing with Florence Boyd, but Flo thought she was playing with Faith Perry. The upshot – my partner was Mike Silverman. I reckoned this would be good and it was. We played a supremely steady game, aside from two hands I botched (an unfortunate 4 Spade contract that we never should have pursued and a slam that we should have set because we had two of the Aces, but I failed to recognize the killer  switch to Mike’s suit after I led my Ace.) Those two bottoms were offset by three tops – a 4 Spade bid that Mike made and nobody else did, a 4 Heart bid that Mike Kisiel doubled and I beat and a 4 Heart contract that went down three for Miri Salamone Burnett, back for the first time since she had her baby. Even our pass-out hand gave a better than average score. Final result: 55.09%. Second East-West, first in the B strat, 1.13 points for the day, 8.62 for the month.
The string ended Friday with Usha Khurana on what was a unusually sour day at the club. There was unhappiness with the 14-pair three-quarter movement, which required everyone to play two hands and move, even though it meant that the sit-out was short and we played every other pair. And then there were the hands themselves, which were singularly unexciting. There were no slams.  Most of the time, there wasn’t even game. We bid and made one game and that’s all our opponents did, too. But we fell short a lot on those partial score hands, sometimes due to good defense that denied us the extra trick, sometimes due to our own missteps. In the end, we had 41.25% – out of 13 pairs, next to last.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bridge Blog 565: When it rains, it pours

The rain started falling halfway through the afternoon session Tuesday at the Airport Bridge Club and what a rain it was! More than an inch before it was over – most we’d had in one day since Aug. 5 – and we really needed it. My flowers have to be overjoyed.
Meanwhile, master points continued to shower my way in two sessions with Beverly Dale – we were Ms. Dale and Mr. Dale. At any rate, I was winning auctions left and right in the morning, playing declarer on 12 of 24 hands while Beverly only got to play one – a 4 Heart bid on which she took all 13 tricks.
I should have deferred to her on another, where she opened a weak 2 Hearts and I pressed forward over minor-suit bidding competition to 5 Spades (doubled, down five) with a ragged seven-card suit.
We hung a similar catastrophe on our final opponents of the morning. Judi Marshall pressed ahead to 4 Clubs against one of our sure contracts (it made 4 Hearts vulnerable) and went down four doubled vulnerable.
It was our only top board of the session, but we had two other near tops against Judi and her partner and it lifted us to 59.18%, first overall, 2.22 master points.
Beverly got to be declarer more often in the afternoon session, but faltered badly a couple times, going down five and getting bottom boards on each occasion. We rallied once again in the final round, this time against Mike Silverman and Art Matthies, tapping them for two of our four top boards of the afternoon. We came home at an even 55%, third overall in B, second in C (the strats were moved wayyy up because so many experienced players were in the six-table game). That gave us another 0.98 points. Two-day total – 6.87!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bridge Blog 564: Labor Day labor of love

Even though the Airport Bridge Club’s monthly chicken barbecue game is a bodacious bargain – two games plus lunch for $14 (lunch all by itself often runs that much) – I wasn’t so sure I could attend the Labor Day edition. My better half could have plans for us. Plus, there’s another double session on Tuesday, so it would amount to four games in two days.
But there were no plans afoot at home. And, after rising early and watering and cleaning up one of my garden plots, the prospect of sweltering all day – a day that hit 90 degrees – was  appalling. By 9:40, I was calling club manager Bill Finkelstein to tell him I was coming and needed a partner.
Finkelstein met me in the hallway to inform me that, one, I was playing the morning session with Gaurang Sheth, a first-time partnership, and two, that I should ask Carlton Stone if he needed a partner for the afternoon. That might as well be a first-time partnership, since we haven’t played together in more than a year.
As it turned out, both arrangements were amenable. Gaurang, a pediatrician, is solid and plays a sensible, aggressive, uncomplicated game. Given a bunch of biddable hands, we ran roughshod over the North-Souths and played 18 out of 26 contracts. We finished with 55.68%, second East-West, third overall, first in the B strat for 1.57 points.
In the afternoon, Carlton was his genial self and, although we played more defense than offense (we took 10 of 24 contracts and Carlton got to play only two of them, one a top board), we didn’t make too many mistakes. Few enough, in fact, to wind up first overall with 61.73% for 2.10 points. With another double session Tuesday, I’m starting to have visions of averaging a point per day in September.