Monday, September 30, 2013

Bridge Blog 715: Sad September

             Sayonara, September. You’ve inspired more than your usual grim contemplations of mortality, thanks to death of our beloved cat just before you began. What am I playing bridge for, anyway, I wondered, as my days dwindle down to a precious few. Thoughts like these took all the joy out of the game. So did my results.
          One dismal session after another piled up – successive games of 44.84%, 44.48%, 46.92% and 41.96% in the second week of the month. It’s taken until almost October for things to start brightening. In fact, I may even have hit double digits for the month, impossible to even contemplate last week. As for the 17 points I need keep pace for my 200-point goal for the year, forget it.
          I was helped along by Monday’s partner, June Feuerstein, who pronounced herself feeling better than she had in ages because she’d finally gotten the right diagnosis for what was ailing her and it’s clearing up. Our 55% game made us first in the B strat North-South, second overall in our direction and fourth among all pairs, earning us 1.15 points on this, the final day of double-point ACBL International Fund games.
          A check of month-to-date point totals at the Airport Bridge Club showed 7.75 as of last Thursday, the last day the club was open. Uncertain if that counts Thursday’s game, though, when I was reunited with the lovely Dianne Bloom for a 52.78% effort, earning 0.68 points for being third in the A and B strats in our direction. And then there are those club series statistics, which award points for wins on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc., which have not been updated at all this month.
           So, at the least, there’s 8.90 points at the club, to which we can add another 0.78 from Sunday’s Swiss team game at the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament and a couple scores with Selina Volpatti from the Bridge Centre of Niagara over in St. Catharines, Ont. – 0.32 from a 50.15% effort on Sept. 6 and 1.12 from our 61.79% game on Friday the 13th. Minimum point count for the month – 11.22. A few lucky bounces and that might be 13.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bridge Blog 714: All's well that ends well

           The Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament certainly had a grand finish. Attendance was robust – I forgot to look at the total number of teams, but we played against a Team 24 – and it was announced that this year’s tournament was up 40 tables overall from last year.
          Things also worked out well for the Paula Kotowski-Barbara Pieterse pairing, which I almost hooked up with until I was reminded that I had long ago made other arrangements. Barbara’s husband didn’t have to go to Mexico after all, so he played and they wound up sixth in the B strat with 107 Victory Points.
          Our team of Eva Schmidt, Usha Khurana and Joe Miranda started off like experts, vanquishing the team of Dede Kluckhohn, Cynthia Helfman, Barb Landree and Carol Bedell in the first round by an International Match Point margin of 24-7. Not a good thing, I advised my teammates after we compared scores. We’ll have to play the tough guys.
          And so we did. At our table, it was Jay Levy and Bob Cannizzaro from Rochester (yes, he said, he’s related to the baseball player – a cousin). At the other table, it was Jay Costello and Donna Steffan. They were the day’s overall winners and they had no trouble stampeding us, 31-1 IMPs, for a shutout.
          I gave away the next round to Pat Rasmus and the delightful Jo Finton, wife of Gene, who I was playing against for the first time. I messed up a sure 4 Diamond contract, going down one and losing 4 IMPs, maybe a couple more. Then I bid 4 Diamonds over what would have been an unsuccessful 3 Spade contract for them, and I went down two doubled vulnerable. Their teammates were down one, not doubled. That was minus 9 IMPs. We lost 16-2. Take away those two hands and it would have been our round, not theirs.
          Against Dian Petrov and his partner Bishara in the next round, I chickened out on a 4 Heart contract, making 5. Instead of a draw, it was minus 10 IMPs. We lost to them by nine IMPs. Our fortunes revived against Barbara Kopko and her friend Donna from down Allegany and Salamanca way, routing them, 39-8. Then we floundered again against Ron Henrikson and Andy Fairweather, 20-8, and rebounded in the last round against Ginny Panaro and Judie Bailey, 25-8.
          Our final Victory Point total was 99, which put us a couple points ahead of the team headed by another of my would-be partners for the day, Selina Volpatti, but we would have needed 107 to tie for sixth place in the B strat with the Pieterse team. And there were a few other teams in between us – the Bishara/Petrov team with 106; the Kluckhohn team, a C team, with 104; the Ritza and Lakeman teams with 103; plus the Walt Olszewski team tying us at 99. Nevertheless, we mined a little bit of silver, point-wise, for our three victorious rounds – 0.26 for each one.
          By winning the Swiss teams, Jay Levy captured the most points overall for the tournament with 17.96. Meg Klamp was next with 15.72, followed by Donna Steffan at 12.10, Brian Meyer at 10.67 and Jay Costello and Bob Cannizzaro with 10 even.
          Meanwhile, the snacks were winners, too. Plenty of bagels and no shortage of cream cheese. Paul Zittel’s irresistible corn salsa (which suddenly evaporated right before the Bocce’s subs arrived for lunch). And an equally irresistible lemon cake among the desserts. Bravo to the organizers. Bravo also to director Mike Roberts, who kept a firm, but polite hand on the proceedings.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bridge Blog 713: Day 0.5

           Missed all of Friday’s first day of the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament, which is something I never do (see Blog 712), and then I only play half the second day Saturday due another pressing social obligation. Worse yet, after Friday’s freewheeling bid fiesta in St. Catharines, I had little to work with sitting east in the morning session with Celine Murray.
          Not that I mind playing a supporting role, but Celine was not at her best. Twice she made a mistake in play akin to the whopper I committed Friday, putting down the wrong card. She plunked down a Queen of Hearts on one hand, thinking it was trump, but Diamonds were. Not only did she fail to take that trick, but she also missing collecting a Heart trick later with the Queen.
          I was guilty of even more disastrous mishaps when I eventually became declarer. Twice I guessed wrong in trump finesses where there were three cards left, one of them honors. In both cases, if I went up with the Ace from the dummy, I would have nailed the outstanding honor card on the fence. In each case, I discovered later, this cost me about 10 match points. Give us those and we would have had a 50% game, or maybe a little better. As it was, we finished at 45.35%, 11th out of 14 East-Wests in our section.
          Attendance seems to be very good at this sectional. There were 28 tables in the morning session, including at least four Canadian pairs that I had seen Friday, and someone said there were 32 on Friday, a total boosted by some folks from Rochester. Could make for a bigger-than-usual Swiss team session on Sunday.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bridge Blog 712: Unhinged

           The Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament started Friday and, for the first time in years, I missed it. My arrangements for the sectional have been in great disarray all month. At first I was going to play with Wednesday partner Celine Murray in both sessions on the first day. Then a friend invited me to her 65 th birthday party on what I thought at first was Saturday, but then turned out to be Friday. And not just a party, but a sit-down dinner at 6 p.m., well before the afternoon session ended. So I told Celine I’d just do the morning. And then I decided to hook up with Canadian partner Selina Volpatti and play over in St. Catharines instead.

          They had 18 tables at the St. Catharines club – I wonder if they had that many at the sectional – and it was an extra-point International Fund game, to boot. Selina and I bid our heads off, as we prefer, and I wound up as declarer in 15 of the 26 hands. For all that, however, we finished at 50.79%, less than a percentage point behind the sixth place pair North-South in the B strat, which would have earned us a third of a master point.

          I know exactly the hand that made the difference. I was declarer at 3 Diamonds vulnerable and I was going to make it on the nose. But then, instead of putting a King of Clubs on top of Norman St. Denis’ Queen, I played low. Why? It was so stupid, a total brain lapse. Had I kept my wits about me, that hand would have given us 11 game points instead of 3.5 and we would have been tied for fifth in B.

          My sectional plans are in disarray for Saturday, too. Originally, I was going to give it a pass. Then Cleveland Fleming asked me to play. Then Celine Murray wanted to make up for not playing with me on Friday. And then my teacher friend wanted me to help her at a poetry gig in Niagara Falls at 6 p.m. The upshot – I’m playing the morning session with Celine.

          The Swiss teams Sunday have been even more fouled up. Originally, I spoke with Usha Khurana about playing. Then she got Joe Miranda as a partner and I accepted an invitation from Eva Schmidt to fill out the team. But that was a couple months ago. I didn’t write it down. I totally forgot about it. So I asked Selina to play with me. Then Paula Kotowski and Barb Pieterse were looking for another pair to fill out their team. Fine, I said.

          That little house of cards quickly collapsed earlier this week. Selina said she was going to play with her buddy Adrian Figliotti instead. Then, just as I was looking for a replacement for Selina, Eva reminded me of our previous arrangement. Paula was not at all happy, despite my profound apologies. I am such a screw-up.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bridge Blog 711: Bereavement leave

   The first week of September was going to be bridgeless anyway – we were going to motor over to visit my youngest brother in Michigan – but everything got blown off course when one of our beloved cats – Tosh – suddenly lost the use of his hind legs and, two days later at the emergency animal clinic, we had no choice but to put him down.

   Grieving deeply and having canceled my partners for the week, I stayed away from the tables except for a dismal pair of short games – low 40 percenters – with Wednesday partner Celine Murray, who’d forgotten we weren’t going to play. (Since then, Airport Bridge Club manager Bill Finkelstein has abandoned his experiment at running two 18- to 20-board games every day but Sunday. I’d been looking forward to it as a master point bonanza, but many people just didn’t get the hang of it and complaints were abundant.)

   Finally, on Friday, I ventured over to Canada to play in St. Catharines with Selina Volpatti (whose husband of 50-odd years passed on just a month ago – and, jeez, here I’m so bent out of shape about a cat). We improved upon our previous week’s effort – 50.26% was good for third in the B strat North-South and 0.26 of a master point in a 15½ table game.

   Partnerless on Saturday, I nevertheless returned to the Airport Bridge Club. Paired with Paula Salamone for a series of hands that encouraged and mostly rewarded exuberant bidding – slam bid and made in our first round – we finished first in B North-South with a 54.17% score. This being a month of double points at the club, it was good for 1.02 master points. I’m still bereaved, but things are starting to look brighter.

Bridge Blog 710: Adding up August

   I had high hopes for August. It’s been a good month for me in previous years. But my game wasn’t up to it. The end result? End of July I had 100.38 Ace of Clubs points and 121.78 overall. End of August, it’s 117.15 and 138.55, up 16.77 points, all club points.

   On the Unit 116 level, for just Buffalo, that means I stay in fourth place on the Ace of Clubs list, way behind first-place John Ziemer (188.41), second-place Mike Silverman (139.28) and third-place Liz Clark (132.74), but safely ahead of David Millward (107.36), Fred Yellen (91.40), Ken Meier (91.13), Judy Padgug (87.14), Paul Libby (86.99) and Carlton Stone (83.04).

   As for the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney race, which rolls up all your club and tournament points, I’m still in seventh place, although a hot streak would lift me up a couple places. Again John Ziemer is first (283.43), followed at a considerable distance by the rest of us – Judy Padgug (158.28), Liz Clark (157.60), Mike Silverman (152.45), David Hemmer (142.60), Ken Meier (139.40), me (138.55), David Millward (121.64), Fred Yellen (119.51) and Paul Libby (111.07). The only players in other categories who have more points than John Ziemer are Dan Gerstman (321.03), Chris Urbanek (298.48) and Jerry Geiger (286.76).

   Moving up to the District 5 level (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and bits of Maryland and West Virginia), once again us Unit 116 players hold down the top five places on the Ace of Clubs list for those with 1,000 to 2,500 master points. Indeed, we have 10 of the first 11, the only interloper being James Quigley of Pittsburgh in sixth place with 92.88. Plus we add a few more down the list – Vince Pesce (79.32, 12th), Carolyn Siracuse (77.81, 14th), Elaine Kurasiewicz (67.69, 21st) and Chuck Schorr (66.84, 24th).   

   Last month’s leaders hold their own on the district Mini-McKenney. Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, continues on top with 385.10. John Ziemer is second, followed by Peter Merker of Mentor, Ohio (262.64), and Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, Ohio (229.72). Here only eight Unit 116ers make the Top 25. Judy Padgug, Liz Clark and Mike Silverman are 10th, 11th and 12th, respectively. David Hemmer is 14th. Ken Meier is 19th. I’m 20th (down from 14th last month). David Millward is 25th.

   And nationwide? Leaders in the Ace of Clubs (1,000 to 2,500 point division) are same as last month: Judy Zhu of Naperville, Ill, with 267.47, followed by Kenneth Wagner Jr. of Hollywood, Fla., with 213.70 and Robert Ramos of Davie, Fla., with 205.61.

   John Ziemer’s 188.41 puts him sixth, ahead of last month’s No. 4 guy, Michael Vermilion of Albuquerque, who now has 185.80, and good old Charlie Christmas from Tallahassee, Fla., with 184.64. Mike Silverman is 46th, Liz Clark is 62nd and I miss the cross-country bus again. Cut-off point is 119.56.

   Over on the national Mini-McKenney, Jim Johnsen of San Diego is still on top, now with 803.81 points. Next come Shan Huang of Toronto (761.89) and Sylvia Shi of Baltimore (579.37). Michael Creager is 22nd. John Ziemer is 69th. Cut-off is at 254.50.