Friday, February 28, 2014

Bridge Blog 743: Conundrum

So I’m looking at the ACBL website to see how close I am to 1,700 master points (1,665 as of Jan. 31) and I notice the pending points for February – the 1.79 from the St. Catharines Sectional and – what’s this? – 0.37 from CANSTAC, the Canada-wide Sectional Tournament at the Clubs last week. Except my summary from the Bridge Centre of Niagara said we won 0.85 of a point. So what is it? 0.37? 0.85? Or both?

Bridge Blog 743-A: February fizzle

There was an end-of-month rally this week, sort of like a last-minute sprint to the finish line at the end of a track meet. Not that I could expect to break into double digits. The rest of the race had been too slow.
There's not much to add up. 1.07 for that 55% game with Bill Boardman on Feb. 1; 0.45 for the 54.86% game with Barbara Sadkin on Feb. 10; 0.22 for the 49.40% with Dianne Bloom on Feb. 13; and 0.63 for the 59.52% game (first in B) with Barb Sadkin on Feb. 18. The other dates? Mediocrity. Or worse. 36% with Celine Murray on Feb. 19. Another 36% with Paula Salamone on Feb. 24.
That’s just 2.37 at the Airport Bridge Club until the big finale – 0.90 for first overall with 67.26% with Marietta Kalman on Tuesday the 25th (best of the year so far); 0.35 for a 55.68% game (second in B) with Celine Murray on Wednesday the 26th; and 0.50 for a 50.84% game (second in B in a bigger field) with Dianne Bloom on Thursday the 27th. Bringing the club total up to 4.12.
I’m radiating confidence Friday morning in anticipation of my weekly drive to St. Catharines. But then the phone rings. Selina Volpatti. She asks if I’ve seen my e-mail. No, not since 3 a.m. Well, she’s sent me a message. She’s sick with the flu. Can’t play today. Since it’s well past 11 a.m., I can’t shift gears and get to the Airport Bridge Club either. No more points, or fractions, for February. So it won’t matter much how they count CANSTAC. The tally for February is going to fall on the short side of 7.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Bridge Blog 742: Bronze vs. Silver

It seemed like the whole crowd Friday afternoon at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., was caught up in the Olympics, namely the men’s hockey semifinals, which were in progress as the game started. Canada vs. the U.S. Partner Selina Volpatti, who was following it on her smart phone, also brought along her tablet computer in case somebody wanted to watch it online.
The margin was 1-0 Canada through our first several rounds and a cheer erupted when that was announced as the final score. Canada goes on to play Sweden for the gold medal. Best the U.S. can do is win the consolation round for third place and bronze.
Meanwhile, Selina and I had a fine time on offense as North-South. We were declarers on 20 of the 27 boards and many of our risks paid off. One of our four top boards was this 4 Hearts doubled vulnerable contract, though it turned out not to be a risk at all. Both sides are vulnerable. West is dealer. I’m sitting North with this hand:
Spades: 8-5; Hearts: K-J-10-9-6; Diamonds: 10-7-5; Clubs: K-9-5.
West, Frances Aboud, opens 1 Diamond, I go 1 Heart. East, Viola Heywood, passes, though she shouldn’t. Selina jumps to 4 Hearts. Frances doubles and Viola leaves the double in. Viola’s opening lead is a Spade and Selina puts down what turns out to be the perfect dummy:
Spades: 6; Hearts: Q-7-5-4-2; Diamonds: K-J; Clubs: A-Q-6-4-3.
We lose the three Aces and that’s that. Plus 790. Here are the other hands:
Spades: 10-9-7-4-3-2; Hearts: 8; Diamonds: Q-8-6-3; Clubs: 10-7.

Spades: A-K-Q-J; Hearts: A-3; Diamonds: A-9-4-2; Clubs: J-8-2.
According to the hand record, it’s supposed to make 4 Hearts North-South. It also makes 3 Clubs. East-West, meanwhile, is supposed to make 4 Spades or 3 Diamonds.
According to the club website, only two other North-Souths played it in Hearts. The North who played it at 5 Hearts, doubled, went down one. Another North played it and made it at 4 Hearts, undoubled, for second-best board. Third-best for North-South was an East-West 5 Spades doubled, down two (!). Fourth-best was 2 No Trump by West, of all things, also down two, but not doubled. Seven East-Wests played it at 4 Spades. One made an overtrick. Two made 4 Spades exactly. Four went down a trick.
We wound up with a 53.70% game, fifth out of 12 North-Souths and third in the B stratification. In the Olympics, third would be bronze, but this week is a Canada-wide STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs). That 0.85 of a point that we won is silver!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Bridge Blog 741: Rear-view mirror

Games, blogs, life itself, all came to a screeching standstill over the weekend, thanks to a nasty cold that left me unable to do anything for more than five minutes without conking out. The cold is still with me, but the conk-out factor is much improved so, full of decongestants, I'm back at the bridge table but taking Tuesday night off sick.
First of all, a wrap-up of the St. Catharines Sectional, where Buffalo players weren't as much of a factor as they sometimes are.  
Leading Unit 116 representatives were the partnership of Bert Hargeshimer and Christy Kellogg, who tied for tenth with 16.89 points, 8.61 for tying for third in the Sunday Swiss teams competition and 7.44 for tying for second in the Friday afternoon pairs.
Other Buffalonians of note included Saleh Fetouh (13.07, tied for 22nd), Bud Seidenberg (11 even, 26th), Kathy Pollock (7.85, 38th), Linda Burroughsford (6.62, 52nd), Madhav and Beena Deshmukh (6.17, tied for 54th), Wufeng Luo, Ten-Pao Lee and Chongmin Zhang (5.83, tied for 59th), and Chris Urbanek (5.42, tied for 63rd).
My point total for the tournament turned out to be more than I calculated – 1.79 (194th). That fourth-place finish in the B strat Friday afternoon (Blog 739) turned out to be worth 1.47 points.  
So, having missed four games on the ailing list (including a much-anticipated Saturday evening session at the St. Catharines club), is there any hope for a decent point count for February?
Let’s ignore things like the 37.04% game with Barbara Sadkin on Monday afternoon and just review the good stuff, like Tuesday’s 59.52% game, again with Barbara, who played most of the hands in our direction. That was second overall, good for 0.63 of a point.
Other successes – 55% with Bill Boardman back on Feb. 1, good for 1.07 point; 54.86% with Barb Sadkin on Feb. 10 for 0.45 of a point; and 49.40% with Dianne Bloom on Feb. 13 for 0.22 of a point. That’s it. Club total – 2.37. Tournament total – 1.79. Not even halfway to double digits.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Bridge Blog 740: St. Catharines Sectional, Days 2 and 3

        In retrospect, my best St. Catharines Sectional Tournament moments Saturday and Sunday came from getting there both days and going out to dinner with partner Selina Volpatti between the afternoon and evening sessions Saturday.
        The trip to St. Catharines looked iffy both days. Saturday morning I had to drop my sweetie off at the Buffalo airport first. I wanted to hit the terminal by 11:30, she wanted to leave our house at 11:30, so guess who prevailed. It was 11:55 when I left airport property and hit the expressway. Miraculously, the miles zipped along and I was at game in a little more than half an hour.
        On Sunday, the morning forecast was for a couple inches of snow, which is sort of what it looked like from my window. Anticipating a slow go, I left at 9:05 to get to the 10:30 Swiss teams game. No wait at the bridge. No snow on the Queen Elizabeth Way. I arrived with nearly an hour to spare and found Selina already holding down a table in the hotel coffee shop.
        For dinner Saturday, I deferred to Selina’s native instincts about restaurants. Jack Astor’s or Wildfire, she asked. Chain vs. local? Local, of course. She’d been there the previous day with her Friday partner and shared the chateaubriand (served for two) and was ready to repeat the experience. And a fine experience it was.
        The experience at the bridge tables, however, left a bit to be desired. Our fraction over 50% effort in the afternoon felt respectable, but we needed 54% to scratch. We’d make it up in the evening, we decided, and it felt like we were, but no. We limped in at 47.12%. In the double session score, we were eighth out of 14.
        Our first setback in the Swiss teams game on Sunday came at sign-in. At the Buffalo sectionals, the stratification is determined by average master points. Here in St. Catharines, it’s decided according to the highest individual point count. Average points would have kept us in the B/C/D game. Individual points put us in the A/X section with the sharks.
        Not having lined up teammates, we picked a pair from partnership chairwoman Kit Nash – Herb Heller and Sally Kellar. Like Selina and I, they were an international partnership, but in more ways than one. Herb, an 80ish widower in Pittsburgh, and Sally, a 70ish widow in the north end of Toronto, met online 10 years ago and have carried on a long-distance relationship ever since.
        Needless to say, the sharks got us. We took a 30-0 victory point shellacking in the first round, which should have given us easier opponents. It did in the second round, but that turned out to be our single moment of glory.
Our only other chance of winning came in the final round, when Selina and I bid a makeable slam and didn’t make it, while our opponents stopped at game and took all 13 tricks. We wound up next to last among something like 24 A/X teams, ahead of the people we beat in the second round.
It didn’t look like a good day for the other Buffalo players, either. The team of Saleh Fetouh, Bud Seidenberg, David Hemmer and Chris Urbanek got only 99 victory points, well out of the running. Ken Meier and John Kirsits, who Selina and I might have hooked up with, played in the B/C/D game, needed victories in five rounds to scratch and only got four. The only happy face I saw belonged to Sushil Amlami, who managed to squeeze into the 299er game and finished second.
One consolation about playing in the A/X game is that winning an individual round is more rewarding. Win a round in the 299ers and it was worth something like .14 of a point. Win in the B/C/D and you got .21 or .22. An A/X win was good for .32. My total for the tournament – 1.52.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bridge Blog 739: St. Catharines Sectional, Day 1

        How big is the St. Catharines Sectional, partner Barbara Sadkin asks as she navigates her Acura SUV through the stiff wind on top of the skyway bridge over the Welland Canal. Bigger than ours, I tell her.
        Quite a bit bigger, we discover when we arrive at the miniature convention center tacked onto the rear of the tall Holiday Inn on Ontario Street. In addition to the open pairs game, there’s a 299er game, a beginners game and a women’s game, although I detect a couple old dudes sitting amongst the ladies. Will they be disqualified because of gender, I wonder.
        There are two sections in the open pairs, with 10 and 10 ½ tables, which all by itself is about the size of the bad-weather Friday afternoon session in the Buffalo Winter Sectional. And although I know virtually all the St. Catharines players, there are quite a few from Oakville, Mississauga, Kitchener-Waterloo and even Toronto, some of whom I recognize from the Niagara Falls Regional.
        My old buddy Alison Burkett from Kitchener is there, as well, and I think she's the East-West winner in our section. Although we do par against her on two hands (according to the hand records) and slightly better than par on the third, she takes us for 15.5 out of a possible 24 points.       
         What there aren’t many of are Buffalo players. Those who are there made it count, however. Winners in our section North-South are Kathy Pollock (with a guy I’ve never seen before) and Bert Hargeshimer with Christy Kellogg.
        Barbara and I make our presence worthwhile, as well, although we don’t get to play our usual aggressive game. My forays into noble sacrifices work on one occasion (5 Diamonds doubled with an eight-card Diamond suit, down 2 not vulnerable, for a top board, one trick better than the hand record indicates and foiling a 7 Heart vulnerable East-West slam) and fail miserably on another (5 Diamonds doubled, down 3 not vulnerable, outbidding East-West’s vulnerable 4 Spades, which doesn’t make it, according to the hand record).
        Nevertheless, our final tally is better than we expect – 56.71%. First in the B strat, earning 1.20 silver points. We even get a prize – a souvenir tournament ballpoint pen.

Bridge Blog 738: Midwinter scarcities

        The ACBL has posted the first month’s tallies in the 2014 master point races and what’s surprising is how few people hit double digits in club play. A review of the Ace of Clubs standings for Unit 116 (Buffalo) shows only seven of them.
        Heading the pack is Gene Finton with 14.32, followed by Jerry Geiger with 13.84, Jim Mathis with 11.95, Bud Seidenberg with 11.72, Mike Ryan with 10.86, Judy Graf with 10.73 and Finton’s wife Jo with 10.11.
        Well, actually there’s an eighth – Meg Klamp, except she’s been playing in Florida, racking up an enviable 27.08.
        So my single-digit effort for January did not consign me to complete obscurity after all. My 7.42 puts me fifth on the list of players with 1,000 to 2,500 points, a list headed by the aforementioned Mr. Finton.
        Also ahead of me are John Ziemer (9.40), Elaine Kurasiewicz (9.24) and Fred Yellen (7.62). Right behind are Cathy Majewski (6.53), Carolyn Siracuse (5.91), Claire Gareleck (5.28), Jeanne Gladysz (5.26) and Anne Watkins (5 even). Not our usual cast of suspects.
        Over on the Mini-McKenney list, which includes points from tournament play as well as club play, I’m in ninth place with 9.10 points. Leader here is David Hemmer, a big winner at the sectional tournament, with 21.80, followed by Gene Finton (20.53), Gene Harvey (13.37), Fred Yellen (13.21), John Ziemer (12.52), Elaine Kurasiewicz (12.49), Chongmin Zhang (10.30) and Cathy Majewski (9.17). Behind me in tenth place is Anne Watkins with 8.88.
        Topping the overall Unit 116 Mini-McKenney are two of the folks in the 2,500 to 5,000 point category – Brian Meyer with 49.34 and Judy Padgug with 35.61. Then there’s John Toy (7,500 to 10,000) with 34.03 and another 2,500 to 5,000 player, Dian Petrov, with 32.45. Judy Padgug and Dian Petrov presumably were picking up more points when they played in the opening round of the St. Catharines Sectional today.
        How does this all play on the District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) level? Let’s take a look at the 1,000 to 2,500 point category.
        In Ace of Clubs, the leaders are Joane D’Antonio of Sewickley, Pa., with 18.80, and Mary Lou Naughton of Pittsburgh with 17.15. Gene Finton is third. John Ziemer is fifth. I’m ninth. Only seven of us Unit 116 players are in the Top 25. Ordinarily, there are a dozen or more.
        As for Mini-McKenney, the top dogs are a familiar pair – Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, with 50.64 (36.12 from the Cleveland Rock and Roll Regional) and Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, Ohio, with 40.77 (31.30 from the same regional). David Hemmer is eighth. Gene Finton is tied for tenth. No other Unit 116ers are on the list, which cuts off at 15.63.
        Nationwide, only one District 5 player makes the Top 100 Ace of Clubs list and she’s 90th. Tops is John Petrie of Long Beach, Calif., with 37.72. Over in the Mini-McKenney, the leader is Eric Mayefsky of San Francisco with 91.86. Michael Creager is 41st. Fleur Howard is tied for 97th.