Friday, January 31, 2014

Bridge Blog 737: Lucky

The omens weren’t good. My hair appointment ran half an hour longer than I expected. Partner Selina Volpatti hit some kind of big rock in the Thorold Tunnel under the Welland Canal, which was reduced to one lane for road work.
Though I didn’t get to cross the Peace Bridge until 11:56 a.m. and raced along at 130 kmh, reducing my usual 30 minute run from the bridge to 26 minutes, my worries were over when I got to St. Catharines and tucked into the special lunch – butter tarts to die for.
But Selina fretted throughout the game about what kind of damage she’d done to her new RAV 4, which has only 3,000 kilometers on it. I assured her that they build these things to go off-road, so unless some precious automotive fluid was leaking into the slush, the RAV was probably OK.
As for our game, we quickly went on the offensive, which is our best stance, and knocked down extra tricks on several contract, as we saw when we checked the hand record after the game. We also were tough on defense, squeezing out extra tricks there as well.
When we punched up the results on the electronic scoring device, we were third overall North-South in this 11-table game. When the scores were posted, our 59.48% was first in the B strat, as well. Our reward – 0.64 of a point. Guess we got all of our bad luck out of the way before we got there.
Add that to the 0.32 of a point I got with Dianne Bloom on Thursday and we bump the January number up a notch. Not stellar, but given the dearth of double and triple points this month, I won’t complain.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bridge Blog 736: Accumulating

Maybe the hard luck of late 2013 is over. The scores are getting better, aside from a disastrous doubleheader a week ago, and the master points have been dribbling in.
        The disaster was the two-session Martin Luther King Day chicken barbecue game at the Airport Bridge Club. After registering a miserable 35.65% game and coming in dead last in the morning half, I assured partner Marilyn Sultz during the lunch break that we were certain to do better in the afternoon. Wrong. Nothing worked. We were deader and laster with an even more miserable 31.25%.
        Things perked up the next day with Florence Boyd, but 46.72% was not enough to earn points. Wednesday partner Celine Murray helped bring in the best game of the week – 55.68% – first overall for .80 of a point.
        Dianne Bloom had a sick friend in the hospital Thursday, so given a choice between a game with club manager Bill Finkelstein and Janet Frisch, I chose Janet and we managed 49.58%, second in the B strat for .22 of a point. Friday in a 13 ½ table game St. Catharines, Selina Volpatti and I fumbled our final two-board round but nevertheless salvaged 51.49%, fifth in A North-South, third in B for .40 of a point.
        Saturday would have been point-producing, but weather shrank the turnout at the Airport Club to a mere two tables. Bill Boardman and I tied for first with 55.56%, winning the first of three nine-board rounds and tying the other two. Fun, but too small a game for points.
        Sunday promised to make up for it with a Swiss team of Celine Murray, Judy Kaprove and Chuck Schorr. The joy of Swiss, aside from its change of pace, is the likelihood of winning at least fractional points by winning a round or two. We won two in the morning session, scoring enough victory points to come in second in B for 1.43 points. After pizza for lunch, however, we fell entirely on our faces and didn’t win anything else.
        Maybe it would have been better if Judy and I had been partners in Swiss (though Celine would probably never play with Chuck). We had a chance to find out as partners on Monday and came through with a 54.76% effort, third overall, first in B, 0.40 of a point.
Could I possibly do as well with Marietta Kalman on Tuesday? Well, it felt like a pretty solid game (Marietta and I seemed to understand each other for a change, see Blog 736-A) and, because there were runaway winners with a 76% score, we were third North-South in a nine-table game and first in B with 50.53%, good for 0.48 of a point.
What do all these January bits and pieces add up to? There’s 1.68 from the sectional tournament, 0.88 from St. Catharines and 4.95 from the Airport Bridge Club. Three days to go. Doesn’t look like a double-digit kind of month.

Bridge Blog 736-A: Opportunity knocks

How well were Marietta Kalman and I connecting Tuesday? Consider this hand. Board 10. Start of our fourth three-board round. I’m North, Marietta is South, Bill Boardman is East and Janet Frisch is West. All are vulnerable. East is dealer. I’m holding this dog:
Spades: J-10-9-8-2; Hearts: 6; Diamond: J-10-5-2; Clubs: 8-5-3.
Bill opens 1 Club. Marietta doubles. I forget whether Janet passes or bids, but she must’ve passed, because if she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have bid 1 Spade. Bill bid 2 Clubs. Marietta jumps to 3 Spades. Pass. Pass. Pass. Bill leads the Ace of Clubs and Marietta puts down that big hand of hers:
Spades: Q-6-5-4; Hearts: A-Q-4; Diamonds: A-K-Q-8-4; Clubs: 10.
All East-West is that Ace of Clubs and the Ace-King of Spades. We make an overtrick. Last thing I expected with a crummy hand like mine. Here are the other hands:
Spades: A-7; Hearts: K-8-3; Diamonds: 7-3; Clubs: A-K-Q-J-6-4.
Spades: K-3; Hearts: J-10-9-8-7-2; Diamonds: 9-6; Clubs: 9-7-2.
As I was reviewing this hand after the game, one of the East-West pairs, Linda Milch and Sharon Chang, came over to reconstruct their play on it, as well. At their table, Linda opened the Club and South bid a Diamond, prompting Sharon to bid a Heart. When the auction reached 3 Diamonds, Linda doubled, hoping Sharon would bid again, but she left the double in. Down one vulnerable. Top board for them.
Ours, however, was not the best score North-South. One pair bid 3 Spades and made two overtricks. Another pushed East-West up to 5 Clubs. Down two. Both were plus 200. Ours was plus 170, third-best. East-West took the bid at the other four tables, making 3 Hearts or, in one case, 3 Clubs.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bridge Blog 735: Also playing

The Airport Bridge Club finally posted the year-end results of its in-club master point race and it took a second glance to find my name. Eighth place. 145.07 points. Of which .02 were gold, 16.27 were red and 11.61 were silver.
I expected John Ziemer would be seven spots ahead of me in first place, but he wasn’t. Jerry Geiger instead with 269.09. John was second with 245.75, then Mike Silverman (193.54), Jim Mathis (186.16), Liz Clark (160.52), Barbara Libby (151.34) and Judi Marshall (148.69). All more astute players than me, to be sure.
As for missing points in my overall 2013 totals, all that was lacking from the Airport Club were 3.91 black points. Add that to my tally on the ACBL website and the final number would be … 182.25.

Bridge Blog 735-A: Closing the books (almost)

Now that the Airport Bridge Club has posted its master point race results, let’s calculate a provisional personal point total for 2013. One complication. Those district-wide bonus points from the Sectional Tournament at the Clubs (STaC) in December.
Of the 7.86 points I earned at the club in December, 3.95 were STaC silver. (That put me 14th – Mike Silverman led the December list with 19.17 points.) My total STaC winnings, however, were 6.37. So add the difference, 2.42, to the 7.86 and that’s 10.28. Then add the 1.68 points from the St. Catharines club for an unofficial, not-so-grand December total of 11.96.

Bridge Blog 735-B: Long haul just got longer

Gold life master by 2017? That means maintaining a pace of 200 master points a year. Not only did I fall 18 points short in 2013, but in the home stretch my average was 10 points a month.
Assuming only 10 points a month, how long would it take to get from my year-end total of 1,658.43 to the gold number of 2,500?  I need 842, so that’s 84 months. Seven years. 2020.

Bridge Blog 735-C: Alternating currents

Sometimes this week was up, sometimes it was down. Monday was down with Marilyn Sultz, 44.68% on a day when the winners got just over 52% and seven other pairs (out of 10) were clustered right around 50%. At least we weren’t last.
Tuesday was up with Florence Boyd. 53.67% was better than we thought we did and it made us first in the B strat for 0.72 master point.
Wednesday stayed up with Celine Murray. In fact, our 56.71% was the week’s best effort. Still, we were third out of 10 pairs overall in a five-table Howell game, earning 0.50 point.
Thursday Dianne Bloom and I thought we were doing terrific, but wound up with just 47.43%. Were our last two rounds really that bad? Let’s take a look. Yes, they really were. Before we hit those final two tables, we were at 56%.
Friday in St. Catharines, in a 13-table game, Selina Volpatti and I put out a 53.53% effort, fifth in A, third in B, 0.49 of a point.
No chance to bump up totals Saturday. Bad weather depressed turnout at the Airport Bridge Club.  There were just four pairs. Two tables. No points. Twenty-seven hands in three nine-board rounds. Either you won for one game point, tied for half a point or lost for a zero. Playing with Chuck Schorr, we lost the first round, 5-4; tied the second and won the third, 5.5-3.5, finishing in second place with 51.85%.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bridge Blog 734: Restarting

Having notched my first master points of the year at the Buffalo Winter Sectional last weekend, I came into the first full week of January full of confidence, bolstered even more on Monday when Nadine Stein and I turned in a 57% game, finishing third.
Then along came the Blizzard of 2014, with the attendant driving bans, states of emergency and general treacherousness on the highways. The Airport Bridge Club sent out e-mails with the latest Winter Storm Warnings on Tuesday and Wednesday, along with the announcement that there would be no bridge that day.
When things settled down on Thursday, Dianne Bloom and I could only muster at 45.24% effort, not nearly enough for points. Friday in St. Catharines, Ont., Selina Volpatti and I began the session with a pair of 6 No Trump slams, in which I made the overtrick on the first one for a top board and lost an unnecessary finesse on the second one, making just 6 NT, good for 4.32 out of a possible 14 game points. On offense for most of the day (19 out of 26 boards), we finished with 52.16%, fifth overall North-South, third in B, earning 0.48 of a master point.

Bridge Blog 733: Foreign dividends

Haven’t looked for the Airport Bridge Club’s year-end master point totals (I suspect that club manager Bill Finkelstein, late reporting to the ACBL this month, probably hasn’t posted them yet), but I checked out the list at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., after the game finished Friday.
Theirs are hung out on clipboards, so I had to turn back a few pages to find my name in 260th place. I earned 6.28 Canadian master points which, unlike the dollar, are taken at par by the ACBL. On another sheet, I discovered that I played there 19 times and had an average of just over 51%.
Leading the list for 2013 in St. Catharines were Jeremy Smee with 215.29, George Morrissey with 156.40 and Brian McCartney with 150.01. They were the only ones in triple digits.  

Bridge Blog 732: Bill would've fixed it

Great commotion at the start of the third two-board round Friday at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont. One of the players, Janet Glazebrook, suddenly wasn’t feeling well and had to leave, accompanied by her husband, Dennis, who was playing with someone else.
Janet was North-South, Dennis was East-West. Easily solved by pairing up their partners, but wait – this was a 15 ½ table game. Instead of having one sit-out, East-West would have two. Or would they?
For a minute or two, there was talk of East-West having two sit-outs, but the cobbled-together pair decided to play East-West, thereby creating a sit-out in both directions. For the rest of the afternoon, the idle pairs retreated to the other room, picked up a deck of cards and played a couple hands while they were waiting.
The sit-out never reached Selina Volpatti and me, we played a full 13 rounds. Meanwhile, during the confusion, it seemed to me that Airport Bridge Club manager Bill Finkelstein would have come up with a more creative solution, eliminating the sit-outs. Selina and the others at our table agreed.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bridge Blog 731: Not quite out with the old

The ACBL has posted its year-end master point race results, but for us players at the Airport Bridge Club, they’re not quite all there. According to the website, they haven’t been reported. So my incomplete 2013 total is 178.34, with 147.77 Ace of Clubs points.
How many did I earn at the club last month? It’s a little hard to reckon. Aside from STaC Week, my datebook indicates a grand total of 1.97 (I had a brief Santa Claus rally the week before Christmas, but it fizzled. Plus I didn’t play at all from Christmas Eve onward.)
Will it make a difference? I’m in fourth place in the Unit 116 Ace of Clubs race in the 1,000-2,500 point division. Liz Clark is third with 182.61, so there’s no catching her. Fifth-place Ken Meier might surge past me, however. He’s got 139.01.
Over in the Mini-McKenney competition, which counts all points earned everywhere, my total of 178.34 is good for seventh place, but it’s within hailing distance of sixth-place David Hemmer. He’s got 179.47.
Meanwhile, first place in my division in the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney is John Ziemer with 378.23, also with a few points pending. Only two other players in the unit earned more than he did – Chris Urbanek with 408.58 and Dan Gerstman with 446.25. Neither of them reached the Barry Crane Top 500, which lists all the leading point collectors. It took 465.90 to reach 505th place on the list.

Bridge Blog 730: Buffalo Winter Sectional

The weather was so bad on Friday, Jan. 3, the first day of the tournament that I wondered if I would make it on the drive out to the Main-Transit Fire Hall in Williamsville. Black ice on the Kensington Expressway and the Thruway. Scary. I thought I had flat tires.
Plus, when I got there, I wondered if I was going to get to play. My designated partner, Selina Volpatti, e-mailed to say there was three feet of snow in her driveway in Niagara Falls, Ont. And she doesn’t want to come over here when the weather’s bad, even if her driveway is clear.
But who should be looking for a partner but my Wednesday compatriot, Celine Murray. They’d paired her up with a guy who was only going to play the morning session, so she shed him and there we were, playing Friday as well as Saturday, which we’d already planned. (She’d called Thursday night wondering if I was available, which I wasn’t at that point.)
Last time Celine and I played, back on Dec. 23, we’d registered a dismal 34.72%. The morning session at the tournament was better, but not much. With the cards repeatedly leading people to bid unattainable games, we limped in with 39.58%, tenth out of 11 North-South pairs.
We saw improvement Friday afternoon, 44.12%, eighth out of 11 pairs, and a little more Saturday morning, when the weather was better, 44.47%, tenth of 13 North-Souths. It took until Saturday afternoon to make our breakthrough – 53.30%, eighth overall North-South, fourth in the B strat, for 0.64 of a silver point, first point (or fraction thereof) of the new year.
For the Swiss teams on Sunday, I kept my expectations low. If we win two rounds, I’ll be happy, I told teammates Usha Khurana, Joe Miranda and Selina Volpatti. As it turned out, we won our first round, lost the second and won the third right before the lunch break. Anything more will be gravy, I said.
          And gravy there was. We won two more rounds, piling up 104 victory points. We would have needed three more wins, not just two, to be among the top seven A strat leaders. Ruthie and Michael Kozower were seventh with 121. Nevertheless, we got 0.26 of a silver point for each victorious round. Not bad.
          Yes, not bad, but nowhere near what Davis Heussler did. He had 13.70 and he didn’t even place among the leaders in the Swiss teams, which is the usual path to victory. Second was his frequent partner, David Colligan, with 11.78 (looks like he won three rounds in Swiss). What’s more, they’re both C strat players. Their secret? They swept both the morning and afternoon games on Saturday, picking up 11 points.
After that on the leaderboard, the high strat players step in. Stan Kozlowski, part of the team that finished second in the Swiss teams, was next with 11.62. His teammates Bert Hargeshimer and Christy Kellogg tied for fourth with 11.48.
          In all, 142 players earned points. I was 82nd. Saleh Fetouh, who usually tops the list at the sectionals, was tied for 101st with 0.91.