Sunday, April 28, 2013

Bridge Blog 671: Par for the course

When it was mentioned that I’m third on the Airport Bridge Club’s point list for April, I was astounded. When the month started, I was still in that miserable slump. And since then, it’s been a mixed bag of triumphs, catastrophes and miracles of stratification.
Still, the total was only 13.2 points, which led me to try to fatten it at the Sunday Swiss team game. Playing with the experienced Eva Schmidt, and with Dotty May and Florence Notto as our teammates, we had potential and showed it by winning two of our first three rounds. But we faded after lunch, getting beaten by the winless Mike Kisiel team and  slam-dunked by Jerry Geiger and John Ziemer. Two winning rounds gave us 0.60 of a point.
At any rate, with two more days to play, I can hope for another 17-point month in April, which at least is up to the par of January and February. May, meanwhile, does not look promising. I’m scheduled to be out of town for more than a week. And then there’s Memorial Day weekend.

Bridge Blog 670: Big and bad

A succession of major miscues has been taking the fizz out of my feeling of confidence over our Swiss team’s play in the Buffalo Spring Sectional Tournament. On Monday, I missed partner Barbara Sadkin’s opening bid and we wound up with a bottom board, which made the difference between finishing first or second. At 59.02%, we were less than a percentage point behind Jim Mathis and Paul Libby. First in B gave us 1.68 points.
On Tuesday, I had one of my best games with Pawan Matta, but it would have been better if I unblocked her long suit as we defended against a 3 No Trump contract. They made it – another bottom board – when they should have been down two or more. Still, we were first in B with 56.37%. No double points that day, so our reward was 0.65.  
With Celine Murray on Wednesday, there was more than one misstep. Failure to hit my partner’s short suit let opponents make three overtricks, that was the first one. Then there were a couple underbids on makeable game contracts. And finally there was an unnecessary sacrifice bid. Without all that, we would have finished over 50%, though we would have needed 54% to catch some points. With it, we had 45.14%.
June Feuerstein and I started off with a terrible bit of miscommunication. I bid 2 NT. She responded 4 NT. Thinking this was Blackwood, I showed her my three Aces – 5 Spades. Thinking that I was showing her my strong suit, she raised it to 6 Spades. We had only five Spades between us. Down three for a bottom board. We finished the day with a flourish, however, being only pair that bid the 7 Spade grand slam. It was hardly enough, though. We were next-to-bottom with 43.38% in a game that was marked by a massive directors’ mistake.
It was a 12-table game and to make sure that the boards and players didn’t snag in the middle, a relay between two tables was set up. But something went wrong with the relay and halfway through the game, the problem came to a head when some of the players were looking at boards they’d played earlier. We turned in our boards, shuffled them and played out the rest. Scoring was complicated, to say the least. Club manager Bill Finkelstein, characteristically, noted that this the only club that could have recovered from a problem like this and finished the game.
Over in St. Catharines, Ont., on Friday with Selina Volpatti, the big miscue again came in the first round. I jumped to 3 NT over her 2 Diamond response to my opener. Looking at the hand records, I’m not sure why I didn’t just open 2 NT. Oh, well, I took all the tricks, although the hand record says we should only make 6 NT, and we got 2.5 out of 14 match points. Best we would have done, though, is 9.5. Eight tables bid the small slam, several made the overtrick, and two bid grand slams. We wound up fourth in the B strat with 49.59% for 0.25 of a point. And we wouldn’t have caught the third place pair even if we bid that hand correctly.

Bridge Blog 669: Tournament tape delay

Were results from the Buffalo Spring Sectional Tournament posted daily? No. Were they posted on the evening after the tournament ended? Someone said they were on the District 5 website, but I didn’t look there, figuring the Unit 116 site or the ACBL site would be the places to find them.
Come Monday they finally showed up at all three sites and the combined scoring for the pairs games, which baffled me over the weekend, yielded another surprise. A good one this time. The big combined list showed Flo Boyd and me with a combined score of 54.08% on Friday, fifth in the B strat and  2.18 silver points, about half a point more than I expected.
So my total for the tournament was 2.70 points, 63rd among 147 players who got points. Top gun once again was Saleh Fetouh, who was on the winning Swiss team Sunday afternoon, an effort that gave him 7.75 of his 21.66 points overall.
Two of his teammates were runners-up – Chris Urbanek with 19.70 and Bud Seidenberg with 19.50. Bert Hargeshimer and Christy Kellogg, partners for the weekend, tied for fourth at 12.82. John Toy was sixth with 12.50, followed by Gene Finton with 11.23 and Ken Meier and John Kirsits tied with 10.30. Saleh Fetouh’s other teammate – David Hemmer – was tenth with 9.91.
In all, there were 139 tables at the tournament, about the same as last year’s spring tournament, which had 137. How do our other sectionals do, attendance-wise? The winter sectional had 151 tables, last fall had 129. But compared to 2008, when they held the spring sectional in the Rescue Fire Hall in North Tonawanda, these are much better figures. That tournament had only 114 tables.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bridge Blog 668: Buffalo Spring Sectional, Days 2 & 3

Seldom has one of my Swiss team experiences gotten off to such a solid start. Our Team 7 – myself, Selina Volpatti, Dave Donaldson and Linda Burroughsford – racked up a resounding 23-1 International Match Point margin against our first opponents on the final day of the Buffalo Spring Sectional Tournament on Sunday, giving us 28 victory points. In our half of the match, against Ginny Panaro and Dotty May, Selina and I had all the scores on our side of the plus-minus line.
In golf, there’s the awesome responsibility of a good  drive, the need to come up with another stellar shot. In Swiss teams, there’s the awesome challenge of facing the top players in the room if you succeed early. Round 2 put us up against two Rochesterians – Guy and Jerry – who were playing 2 over 1, a sure sign they might be sharks. They made one big slip-up, going down three vulnerable, which gave us 10 IMPs. Unhappily, we committed four smaller miscues, which aggregated to 14. Well, we may have lost that round, but we lost it well.
We followed that with a big romp – a 28-IMP victory over Elaine Kurasiewicz, Warren O’Connell and their teammates, good for 30 victory points. Then we went into the lunch break by holding a truly tough team – Brian Meyer was on it – to a 1 IMP margin over us. That left us fifth overall and we’d played two of the teams ahead of us already.
Play resumed against another veteran team – Stan Kozlowski and Alex Kowal were our opponents – and we thought we beat them until a scoring error turned up. They won instead by 2 IMPs.
We were still feeling glorious when we went up against the team that ultimately won the day – Chris Urbanek and Bud Seidenberg were at our table. “You guys killed us,” I declared after we finished our seven boards. And they truly did. 51 IMPs to 0. There was no single mistake we could point to, either. Sure, Selina shouldn’t have jumped to 5 Clubs, which went down two vulnerable after Bud doubled. But then they were making game where our partners were struggling to part-scores. In one case, they made game in a hand where their teammates also took the bid in the opposite direction.
Even so, we might have salvaged something in the final round against Paul and Barbara Libby, but we lost another squeaker, 14-11 IMPs. Had we won by 3 IMPs, we would have cashed in on bonus points. We needed 109 victory points overall to finish fifth in the B strat and we had only 100. And only two victorious rounds for .26 master points apiece. Nevertheless, we played remarkably well together. We came close.
There was nothing close about the pairs games with Celine Murray on Saturday, however. In the morning session, we were bidding fools, taking 16 of the 24 bids, and I confess that I was the bigger fool, going down on two-thirds of my contracts. Dead last North-South, we were lucky to come out on the sunny side of 40%.
I wanted to pull in my horns in the afternoon session, but the cards wouldn’t let me. At least not at first. Until we hit the halfway point, I had a succession of big hands and long suits. This time, though, the results were better – 48%, a couple percentage points away from scratching.
Random notes: The sectional seemed a little small. There were few outside players. A handful from Rochester. A few from Canada. The Sunday Swiss session had just 21 teams. By comparison, the St. Catharines Sectional in February had 46 Swiss teams. When I mentioned our sectional to the folks at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines a week ago, they were largely unaware of it.
Director Mike Roberts seems to keep growing in everybody’s estimation. He ran quiet, polite and steady games all weekend and there were nothing but good things said about him.
Ditto for the venue – the social hall at the Main-Transit Fire Hall. Modern, well-lit, easily accessible. Only drawback this time around – they apparently banned anything from being taped to the walls, so the scores were pasted onto upended tables.
When the hospitality was good, it was very, very good. The baked goods Friday, lots of cookies and coffee cake, were a big hit, so big that they pretty much disappeared. Maybe they should have lasted a little longer. It seemed like Saturday’s morning pickings were slim.
Sunday brought abundant bagels from Panera’s and plenty of cream cheese (a feature which unit president Sue Neubecker made sure to call to my attention, a reference to the cream cheese shortage at a previous sectional, which I remediated by going out and buying some at the deli next door). Sunday coffee – big urns from Tim Hortons – came a little late, but not overly so, arriving just as the first hands were played. No inconvenience for me. I come with my own Starbucks Via instant.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bridge Blog 667: Buffalo Spring Sectiona[ Day 1

            It felt like bridge purgatory. Every hand seemed to have 11 points. Or less. Every hand seemed like marking time. Never was there a big score. Yet Florence Boyd and I racked up plus after plus in the 27-table morning session in the Main-Transit Fire Hall. In 26 hands, our opponents got seven plus scores, while we set them five times. It felt like a good round and it was – 56.08%, tied for fifth overall, tied for second in B. 1.27 silver points.
            We were declarers on 14 of the 26 boards in the morning, but in the afternoon session, a 22-table game, we found ourselves mostly on defense. We were declarers on only 11 of 27 boards and until the final round I had been the declarer on only two of them.
           Our finest moment in letting the opponents take the bid came against two of the best players in the room – Saleh Fetouh and Bud Seidenberg. Down two at 2 Clubs. Down 2 vulnerable at 1 No Trump. Down one a 4 Spades. Well, that one wasn’t so good, but we got 34 out of a possible 51 match points against them.
           Our final result wasn’t as good as the morning session – 52.15%, which put us fifth in B for the afternoon. What mattered, however, was overall score for the day. We were eighth in the A strat for the session, fifth in B. My printout summary showed us with 1.68 master points. I asked the director if that included our morning points, hoping that it didn’t. Yes, he said, it did.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bridge Blog 666: Seesaw

          My April bridge results have been like the April weather. Hot one day. Ice cold the next. This week is a perfect example.
          There was that 50.69% outing with Marilyn Sultz on Monday, which should have been rewarding, but left us without points. Then, on Tuesday, the lovely Pawan Matta and I turned in a dismal 43.75%, which nevertheless was touched by the miracle of stratification. We were second in C in our direction (Pawan has verrrry few points) and earned 0.41 points.
          Celine Murray came back from a lengthy bout with pneumonia on Tuesday and finished better than Pawan and I did. By Wednesday, she was in prime shape and we soared to a 63.39% game – first overall, 1.98 points.
          Thursday’s game with the beauteous Dianne Bloom was the other side of the roller coaster – back down to 43%. No points.
          A quick unofficial tally of points in my datebook shows me with 9.98 so far this month, a total which has been bolstered heavily – basically doubled – by two Sunday Swiss team games. The one on April 7 gave our team 1.77 points, while we scratched in both halves of the April 14 Swiss for a total of 3.10 points.
          Speaking of Swiss, I have high hopes for our Swiss team this coming Sunday in the Buffalo Spring Sectional Tournament.
Selina Volpatti is coming over from Canada to be my partner. The other half of the team is Dave Donaldson, who’s good and steady, and either Linda Burroughsford, who’s excellent, or Paula Kotowski, ditto. Barring something totally stupid, I reckon that this is a lineup that could finish in the top three in the B strat.
The pairs games Friday and Saturday are anyone’s guess. Friday partner Flo Boyd has had impressive results playing with Faith Perry in previous sectionals, so we might do something wonderful. And Saturday pairs me with Wednesday partner Celine Murray. Here’s hoping she’s still hot.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Bridge Blog 665: Goodbye, March

Now that the ACBL has done its monthly update of the master point races, I can see how badly my major slump has hurt me. Not a lot, as it turns out. My Ace of Clubs total, for just club play, is 41.35. The Mini-McKenney figure is 43.85, but that’s not right. The five district-level bonus points that I won in the special game back on March 12 are not included there.
Anyway, let us begin with Unit 116, which is just Buffalo. I’ve slipped from second to third place in the Ace of Clubs Top 10. John Ziemer continues first with 66.99 and Mike Silverman now is second with 49.23. Following me are Liz Clark, 37.32; Ken Meier, 34.72; Fred Yellen, 25.82; Vince Pesce, 24.73; Gene Finton, 23.46; Carolyn Siracuse, 22.76; and Paul Libby, 22.70.
Actually, only a few other people unit-wide have more club points than me. Jerry Geiger has 67.37. Meg Klamp, who’s down in Florida, has 55.29. And Jim Mathis has 43.35.
It’s a different story over on the Mini-McKenney list, where the tournament points are added in. Leader here is still David Hemmer with 79.18, followed by John Ziemer with 71.32. Judy Padgug and Mike Silverman are tied for third with 50.45. And I’m fifth with 43.85. Add those missing five points and I’m still fifth. After that come Ken Meier, 42.14; Liz Clark, 40.70; Fred Yellen, 36.92; Paul Libby, 28 even; and Vince Pesce, with the same 24.73 he has in Ace of Clubs.
Going to the District 5 level, covering Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and parts of West Virginia and Maryland, Unit 116 players occupy the top five spots on the Ace of Clubs list at the 1,000 to 2,500-point level and eight of the top 25 overall.
District 5 also has top players in the 100-200 list (Dave Donaldson, 32.38); the 200-300 list (Larry Soong, 17.44), the 300-500 list (Shakeel Ahmad, 31.92), the 2,500-5,000 list (Jerry Geiger) and the 7,500-10,000 (Meg Klamp).
On the Mini-McKenney, our top two guys, David Hemmer and John Ziemer, are fourth and fifth. On top once again is Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, with 147.99, followed by James Gray of Murrysville, Pa., with 81.75, and Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, Ohio, with 81.08. I’m 20th, but give me those missing five points and I’d be 13th. In all, seven of us Unit 116 players are among the Top 25.
Do we show up at all on the national level? Yes. On the nationwide Ace of Clubs, John Ziemer is seventh. Leader is Paul Harris of Phoenix, Ariz., with 82.85, followed by Michael Vermilion of Albuquerque, N.M., with 78.95, good old Charlie Christmas of Tallahassee, Fla., with 75.32, and Judy Zhu of Napierville, Ill., with 74.95. Mike Silverman is 72nd and I don’t make the list. It cuts off at 45.84.
Over on the national Mini-McKenney, it’s Jim Johnson of San Diego, Calif., with 467.05, leading Shan Huang of Toronto with 354.93 and Sylvia Shi of Baltimore with 269.90. Michael Creager is 17th and nobody from Unit 116 is on the list. It stops at 95.02.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bridge Blog 664: Joyocity!

It didn’t start out well. Thursday partner Usha Khurana and I weren’t understanding each other, a point driven home especially hard in a hand in the third round. Martin Pieterse opened one Club. Holding four Clubs to the Queen and less than five high-card points, I passed. So did Martin’s wife, Barbara. Usha, however, doubled. I had no good option for her. Clubs were as strong a suit as I had and we were vulnerable, the Pietereses were not. I let it stand. Bad mistake. Usha was void in Clubs. Martin easily picked off all my Clubs and proceeded to take 11 tricks for plus 540.
But things weren’t as bad as they seemed. Sure, that was our second bottom board of the day, but we also were accumulating some tops – an improbable 2 No Trump that I pulled off, setting Liz Clark’s 5 Diamond doubled sacrifice bid, and two straight defensive slam-dunks in our final round against John Kirsits and Ken Meier. That lifted us over the 50% mark. 51.85%, to be exact, tying us for first in the B strat North-South in this 10-table game. That gave us 0.55 of a point, my first master points in 10 days. I felt like dancing.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bridge Blog 663: Overdue

I am in a slump of epic proportions, the worst I can remember. I have not earned a master point, or even a fraction of one, in nine sessions, going back to Monday, March 25. On the previous day, in a Sunday Swiss team event, I managed only 0.38 of a point.
To find my last good game, you have to go back to March 21, the first full day of spring. That was the unexpected pairing with Jerry Geiger, when we had 55.45%. Things have been dismal since then. Here’s the sad tale, day by day:
March 22 with June Feuerstein, 46.53%.
March 25 with Usha Khurana, 45%.
March 26 with Marietta Kalman, 50.72%.
March 27 with Celine Murray, 47.08%.
March 28 with Florence Boyd, 44.94%.
March 29 with Selina Volpatti in St. Catharines, 41.07%.
March 30 with Cleveland Fleming, 50% even.
April 1 with Judy Kaprove, 47.05%.
April 2 with Pawan Matta, 48.66%
April 3 with Celine Murray, 47.98%.

Once upon a time, those upper 40% scores would have been good for second place in the C strat, but I don’t play there any more. You'd think that the law of averages would dictate a scratch every third or fourth game. But no. My blighted March (pending points on my ACBL tally sheet – just 8.78) has turned into a barren April. Help me, bridge gods. I’m overdue.