Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bridge Blog 709: Streak (updated 8/23)

Streaks don’t last forever, but losing streaks feel like they do, especially when they’re as deep as the one I fell into a week ago. The dismal procession began back on the 14th, with a 41.67% game with Wednesday partner Celine Murray. Dead last, if I’m not mistaken.
After Marietta Kalman and I experienced a miracle of stratification a week ago Thursday – .74 points for second place in the B strat with only a 46.58% game – it was downhill. Dead last with Alicia Kolipinski on Friday with 40.22%. (Actually, not dead last. Some other pair in our direction was in the 30s.) Even deader last Saturday with Beverly Dale with 38.44%. (Ditto here, someone else had 37%.)
“We’ll do better today,” I assured Alicia when we paired up again on Monday. And we did. 43.37%. But it was still dead last. (In our direction, but not overall. Someone in the other direction had 41%.) The cards on Tuesday wouldn’t let Barbara Sadkin and I play the aggressive bidding game we did so well a week earlier. Our 45.37% wasn’t last, but it was well beyond the reach of miracles. Same on Wednesday. Celine Murray and I improved upon our previous week’s effort, but not enough. 45.35%.
But on Thursday with Eva Schmidt, I could tell my luck had turned, right from the very first hand, when John Kirsits and Ken Meier failed to cash their two winning Hearts and I trotted away with two overtricks in a 4 Spade contract for what clearly was going to be a top board.
From that point on, we were hot. We bid and made the only slam of the day (although four others also do that). We took Vince Pesce and Harry Cheung down five doubled vulnerable on an extremely ill-advised 3 No Trump contract. This after beating them when they doubled us at 5 Diamonds.
Our bubble didn’t burst until the final round against Paul and Barbara Libby, who hung us with two bottom boards. In all, we had six absolute top boards and three ties for tops. Before the Libbys got to our table, we had a 71.5% game. When they finished with us, we deflated to 63.69%. Second overall, but still first North-South for 2.25 points. After a week of wishing and waiting and hoping for the losing streak to end, I’m finally over 10 points for the month.
Don't know if two in a row constitutes a new streak, but an exhiliarting game Friday with Myra Razik resulted in a 57.91% score, second in A among nine East-Wests at the Airport Bridge Club, and first in B. The master points? 0.85 red, 0.84 black. Totals for the month so far: 12.39 points, 5.12 red and 7.27 black.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bridge Blog 708: Let the fingernail biting begin

Now that the month is at its midpoint, thoughts start to turn to fretting over my monthly master point totals. With a goal of 20 points, I should have 10 by now, especially with all these triple-point North American Pairs qualifying games at the Airport Bridge Club. But August has been mostly mediocre. The mid-month total stands at 8.45 – 3.14 red, 5.31 black. If I’m not going to win big, like Judi Marshall and John Ziemer, guess I’m going to have to play at every opportunity.

Bridge Blog 707: Bad omen

Just like your birthday is supposed to be a preview of the upcoming year, I suspect that sometimes the first hand of the day can presage the rest of the game. So it was with great pleasure that I counted up the high card points in the following collection of cards to start my partnership Friday with Alicia Kolipinski at the Airport Bridge Club.

Spades: A-Q; Hearts: J-9-4; Diamonds: A-K-9-7-3; Clubs: A-K-6

Yup, 21 high card points. Add another point for the five-card Diamond suit. After Alicia and the player sitting North passed, I had no qualms at all about opening with a 2 No Trump bid. Pass-pass-pass. Alicia’s pass was ominous. “Well, OK, down two,” I chirped in the face of what was starting to feel like disaster. And sure enough, I was able to take only six tricks. Down two, vulnerable. Here’s Alicia’s hand:

Spades: J-9-8-5; Hearts: Q-5-3-2; Diamonds: 10-4; Clubs 9-5-2

South led the 5 of Diamonds and I let North’s Queen take the trick, figuring that this would be the safety play that would allow me to scoop up the other four Diamond tricks. Add to that the two high Clubs and either a successful finesse of the King of Spades or the emergence of a Heart trick down the line.

Wrong. South had five Diamonds. The winning Queen was a singleton. The Club finesse didn’t work. And before I could make the long Hearts good, the opponents had taken seven tricks – three Diamonds, two Hearts and two Clubs. Here are the other two hands:


Spades: 10-6-4-3; Hearts: A-K-10-8; Diamond: Q; Club: 10-8-4-3


Spades: K-7-2; Hearts: 7-6; Diamonds: J-8-6-5-2; Clubs: Q-J-7

Checking the scores after the game, I discovered that East was declarer at all 9 tables. In No Trump. Five times at 2 NT. Four times at 3 NT. One of the 2 NT bidders actually made the bid. Everybody else went down. Of the 3 NT bidders, one took 6 tricks, like I did; two took 7 and one took 8. Among the three other unsuccessful 2 NT bidders, one took 6 tricks, two took 7.

While it wasn’t a bottom board, it gave us only 2.5 match points out of a possible 8. And it began a stunning string of reverses. When we got to our final table, Jim Mathis looked over at Alicia’s score sheet and remarked something about how one column had nothing but negative scores (every board from 1 to 16). I told Alicia we’d be lucky to finish over 30%. Thanks to three good hands against Mathis and his partner, Judi Marshall, we were able to lift ourselves up to 40.22%. Although Mathis and Marshall claimed they were doing poorly, they weren’t. They were first overall with more than 60%.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bridge Blog 706: Busting the tape

        If 1,600 master points was a finish line in a race, the final few feet seemed to take forever last week. With only a little more than half a point to go, I stumbled through a succession of games that ranged from slightly inadequate to just plain awful – a 44.21% Wednesday with Celine Murray, 48.81% Thursday with Marietta Kalman and a fun-filled fiasco on Friday with Nadine Stein, where a computer snafu resulted in three changes in the final scores. Ours went from 38% to 44% before settling in a little above 41%. No matter what, it was always dead last.
       Still tasting defeat, I reckoned that the Swiss team game on Sunday would generate the requisite fractions of a point, went to the Airport Bridge Club without a partner and was paired with my Wednesday counterpart, Celine.
It was not Celine’s finest day – at one point, she responded to my 1 No Trump opener with a 3 Spade bid. Our opponents questioned it and I just shrugged. “Are we playing transfers?” she asked later. Being at the top of my No Trump opener, I pushed the bid up to 3 NT and went down one. She had only five Spades in her hand, I had two. It should have played at 2 Spades and we would have made exactly 2 Spades. It lost us that round.
In the morning half of the Swiss, we won one round, tied one, which did not add up to half a master point, only 0.29. The afternoon was better – two rounds won, tied for top of the C teams, for better than a point, 1.20 in fact.
Having broken the 1,600 barrier, the master points now are flooding in. With Marilyn Sultz on Monday, in a game marked by numerous slams on both sides, we finished at 52.84%. Doesn’t sound like much, but we were second in our direction, earning 1.42 points, half red, this being triple-point North American Pairs qualifier games all month long at the Airport Bridge Club. Tuesday with Barbara Sadkin was even better – a free-bidding 58.11%, just short of first in B in our direction in an 11-table game. This one was worth 1.90 points.

Bridge Blog 705: Resurrection

         Paula Salamone told me over the weekend that the Bridge Club Meridian website was active again, but when I cruised over that way to look at it on Sunday night, it was like one of those zombie houses that get foreclosed by the banks. Lights were on, home page was up, but it was empty. No links. No results. No schedules. I signed up for e-mail notification with the host server,, in case something stirred and, sure enough, it came to life again on Monday. Not quite the same kind of life – the results were only four names deep – but at least it’s back.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bridge Blog 704: Milestone watch

   That 1,600 master point mark is so close I can taste it. So close that I may have accidently crossed the line Tuesday when birthday girl Barbara Sadkin and I finished first in the B strat at the Airport Bridge Club with a 54.89% game.

    Let’s see, according to the ACBL, my lifetime total at the end of July was 1,596.28. Now let’s add up what’s happened so far in August – 0.63 Thursday with Celine Murray, 0.36 Friday in St. Catharines with Selina Volpatti (53.21%, fourth in B), 0.51 Monday with Marilyn Sultz (51.39%, tied for third in B) and Tuesday’s 1.69. Total: 3.19. Anything more than half a point on Wednesday and that’ll get it.

Bridge Blog 703: July goodbye

    Sixth of the month and, just like clockwork, the ACBL has posted the updated master point race results. Chances are I’m pretty much running in place with those 19.03 points from July.

     But no. For Western New York Unit 116, basically Buffalo, I’ve moved up from fifth to fourth place in the Ace of Clubs division for players with 1,000 to 2,500 points. My total points earned in club play total 100.38, which leaves me behind John Ziemer (163.35), Mike Silverman (112.95) and Liz Clark (108.84).

     I’ve pulled ahead of David Millward, who’s now fifth with 92.47. The rest of the list looks like this: Fred Yellen (78.90), Ken Meier (75.82), Judy Padgug (72.66), Vince Pesce (66.97) and Paul Libby (66.61).

     I’m one of only seven players in Unit 116 with 100 club points or better. Leading the pack is Jerry Geiger in the 2,500 to 5,000 list, who’s slipped back ahead of John Ziemer with 164.39. Others include Meg Klamp (7,500 to 10,000 points) with 124.61 and Jim Mathis (over 10,000 points) with 112.43.

     Moving over to the Mini-McKenney race, which includes all points earned everywhere, I’m still in seventh place, but it’s a solid seventh, not a shaky one. John Ziemer’s still on top with 258.37, followed by Judy Padgug (143.80), David Hemmer (140.01), Liz Clark (133.70), Mike Silverman (126.12), Ken Meier (124.09), then me with 121.78. After that, there’s Fred Yellen (107.01), David Millward (106.75) and Paul Libby (90.69).

     Biggest point-earner in the Unit turns out to be Dan Gerstman in the over 10,000-point bracket. He’s got 292.84. Next is Chris Urbanek on the 7,500-10,000 list. She has 276.83.

     Now let’s look at District 5, which encompasses Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, points in between and bits and pieces of Maryland and West Virginia.

     On the Ace of Clubs list of players with 1,000 to 2,500 points, Unit 116 holds down the top five places and 11 of the top 13, broken only by James Quigley of Pittsburgh, sixth with 82.53, and Carl Hurd of Altoona, Pa., tenth with 67.27. In all, we have 14 of the 25. Beyond our top 10, there’s Carlton Stone (66.08, 13th), Dorothy May (58.21, 22nd), Carolyn Siracuse (58.11, 23rd) and Elaine Kurasiewicz (57.44, 24th).

     Of the district’s 13 Ace of Clubs lists, Buffalo players top six of them. Ron Henrikson leads the zero-to-5 list with 49.45. Dave Donaldson tops the 100-to-200 list with 51.51. Martin Pieterse, Bill Boardman and Barbara Pieterse crown the 500-to-1,000 list with 92.24, 80.36 and 76.56, respectively. And finally, Jerry Geiger is king of 2,500 to 5,000 and Meg Klamp is queen of 7,500 to 10,000.

     Over in the Mini-McKenney, our showing is less dominant, nine out of 25 places in the 1,000 to 2,500 list. There the Ohio players rule – Michael Creager of Brecksville with 344.70, Peter Merker of Mentor, third behind John Ziemer with 205.06 and Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, fourth with 188.17. Judy Padgug is seventh, David Hemmer is eighth, Liz Clark is ninth, Mike Silverman is 11th, Ken Meier is 13th and I’m 14th, up from 19th last month. Fred Yellen and David Millward hold down the last two rungs.

     Unit 116 and District 5 haven’t been making much of a ripple on the national Top 100 and this month is no exception.

    There Judy Zhu of Naperville, Ill., leads the 1,000 to 2,500 Ace of Clubs competition with 237.21, followed by Kenneth Wagner Jr. of Hollywood, Fla., with 194.19; Robert Ramos of Davie, Fla., with 175.55; and Michael Vermilion of Albuquerque with 167.87. John Ziemer holds down seventh place. Mike Silverman is 67th. Liz Clark is 82nd. And the list cuts off at 104.15.

     The national Mini-McKenney finds even fewer representatives from District 5. There Jim Johnsen of San Diego is tops with 764.48, followed by Shan Huang of Toronto with 589.44 and Sylvia Shi of Baltimore with 498.11. Michael Craeger is 18th. John Ziemer is 49th. This list stops at 213.31.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Bridge Blog 702-A: Elusive

    A couple weeks ago, back before the Buffalo Garden Walk, I felt like a baseball player looking to extend a hitting streak. There were five chances to hit 20 master points for the month in July. Could I do it?

    Not on Thursday the 25th. Walking in without a partner (forgetting that Dianne Bloom was otherwise engaged), I had a pleasant but subpar 45.83% game with Ron Henrikson, which placed us 10th out of 15 pairs. No points.

    Returning from the weekend off for a game with an elegant-looking Usha Khurana on Monday the 29th, I played too cautiously and twice didn’t bid game when I should have. Even if we had corrected our mistakes, it’s unlikely we would have scratched, but at least we wouldn’t have been dead last with 39.39%.

    I vowed to do better Tuesday with Marietta Kalman and I noted only three disasters on my score sheet. Still, that only gave us 46.96%. Again no points.

    Down to my last two at-bats, I whiffed Wednesday morning with Celine Murray, coming in at 43.33%. Fortunately, there also was an afternoon session, which proved to be my salvation – fourth overall, first in B and C North-South, with 54.63%. That was good for 0.87 of a red point, 0.87 of a black point.

Bridge Blog 702-B: Dollar short

    That last-minute success on the last day of July lifted the total to 16.91 points for the month at the Airport Bridge Club – 4.63 red, 12.28 black – good for eighth place in the club’s July master point race, behind Jerry Geiger (34.36), John Ziemer (32.66), Judi Marshall (25.43), Barbara Libby (24.70), Jim Mathis (24.14), Paula Salamone (21.95) and Carlton Stone (17.57).

    Of course, that wasn’t the whole story for July. Points accumulated elsewhere – 1.21 at the Unit 116 picnic and 0.91 more over at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont. Not 20 for the month, but close – 19.03. With triple-point games (North American Pair qualifiers) continuing for another month, August has a chance to be better.

Bridge Blog 701: Vanished (Updated 8/9)

   The Bridge Club Meridian website (see Blog 700) has disappeared. According to, it's no longer available.
   (I called up club manager Dian Petrov Monday night to ask how I could get his scores for the newspaper and he said he'd straighten out whatever's going on with cuebid. 28 hours later, cuebid still says "Page not found.")
   (Just checked it at 9:40 a.m. Friday, Aug. 9, and it's still missing)