Monday, March 17, 2014

Bridge Blog 746: Green day

Traffic was so light en route to the Airport Bridge Club on St. Patrick’s Day that it felt like a real holiday. Club manager Bill Finkelstein treated it like one, hosting morning and afternoon sessions, like he does on Presidents Day, Columbus Day and Martin Luther King Day. The free lunch this time was corned beef and cole slaw.
Partner Usha Khurana wasn’t wearing green (she recounted how she once wore eight green things to try to win a St. Patty’s contest at another bridge club) and thought she was still jet-lagged from her return trip from India last week. Me, I was just my usual sleep-deprived self, especially since I had to wake up an hour early for this occasion. At least I had enough green for both of us. Shirt, watch and some emerald Mardi Gras beads.
Fuzzy around the edges, we missed a couple games we should have bid in the morning session, and I blundered into a couple unwise sacrifices, but we managed 55%, fourth overall in a 5 1/2-table Howell, for 0.39 of a point.
The afternoon’s six-table Mitchell game found us well-fed and increasingly fatigued, which suggested that we were due for a fall. Not so. We improved slightly to 55.42%, first North-South, for another 0.60 of a point. Could this be the birth of a new streak?
P.S.: Total for the month is now 6.97. Total for all of February was just 6.87.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Bridge Blog 745: Streak week

Beginning last Monday, with a 56.25% game with Joyce Greenspan (second overall, 0.49 of a point), the second week of March was the best week I’ve had in ages. Tuesday saw June Feuerstein come back from a long layoff for a 55.93% game that was first overall (0.90 of a point).
The March blizzard snowed out Wednesday’s game, but the Airport Bridge Club reopened Thursday for the ACBL-wide International Fund Game, where Dianne Bloom and I collected 1.64 points, half of them red, for a meagre 50.99%, which nevertheless was first in the B strat in our direction (see Blog 745-A).
I would have gone to St. Catharines on Friday, but Friday partner Selina Volpatti had a family matter, so I wound up at the Airport Club again with a pickup partner, Jerry Kemsley. We kept things simple and came in first in the B strat with 54.06%, winning 0.48 of a point.
With my significant other out of town, there were no qualms about playing over the weekend. Saturday morning brought me back to the Airport Club to play with my usual Wednesday partner, Celine Murray, who was so-so on defense, but very good on offense. Our 51.46% won’t get our names in the paper, since we were fourth in the B strat, but it earned another 0.28 of a point.
After a quick stop home, it was over the Peace Bridge to St. Catharines for the monthly social at the Bridge Centre of Niagara. There was an Irish theme, of course, and I opened the back door of the club into a performance by Irish dancing girls. I quickly retreated to the front door and caught the rest of the dancing from the edge of the bar, where partner Selina Volpatti was drinking red wine. They also had white wine colored green, but the red was better. And best of all was the food, especially the shepherd’s pie.
As for the game, it’s been a long time since I’ve played wine-soaked bridge, not since my social bridge friends stopped playing with me. Those social games had a reckless edge to them, but I managed to rein that in and still have a terrific time. It also was the best game of the week – 57.19%.  We were third overall North-South in a 10-table competition and earned 0.70 of a point.
I had high hopes to continue when I was paired with Cleveland Fleming in a 3 ½ table game at the Airport Club on Sunday afternoon, but we didn’t click. In fact, our 43.75% put us dead last. Still, it was a good run while it lasted. Total earnings – 4.49 points. Add that to the 1.49 from the first week of March and this month is almost as good as February. And it’s only half over.

Bridge Blog 745-A: I am a bad person

Streak week’s most memorable hand was a fluke, right from the start, and since it turned up during the ACBL International Fund Game on Thursday, we can go straight to the hand records for Board 13. I’m sitting North, both pairs are vulnerable and I’m the dealer. Here’s my holding:
Spades: J-3-2; Hearts: K-3; Diamonds: None; Clubs: A-K-10-8-7-5-4-3.
Eight-card Club suit. Could be eight tricks off the top, if I’m lucky and nobody has a third Club. And you have to  figure on at least one trick in the dummy or, if you’re really, really lucky, from the King of Hearts. So I open with a gambling 3 No Trump.
I love the gambling 3 No Trump. It screws up the opponents’ bidding and, if everybody passes, it gives them no clue about what to lead. But, alas, I have not discussed this bid at all with partner Dianne Bloom. Allen Beroza, sitting East, passes. Dianne passes. Jerry Geiger, who’s been a mentor to Dianne, asks what that 3 NT bid means and she says, she’s not sure, but I probably have 25 to 27 points.
Jerry says something about this being a 50-point hand, but since he’s West, the opening lead isn’t his. Allen puts down the Ace of Hearts and Dianne lays out these cards:
Spades: K-9-8-5; Hearts: 5; Diamonds: A-Q-J-9-7-6-2; Clubs: 2.
The endless Club suit creates an excruciating squeeze. I watch Allen and Jerry’s pitches and shorten the dummy accordingly. A little light bulb goes on when I see Jerry jettison the Queen of Spades, so I keep the King of Spades and Ace-Queen of Diamonds in the dummy and exit my hand with the only suit that’s left – a Spade. Jerry wins the Ace, but he’s kept Diamonds and he’s end-played. Making 5 No Trump.
Allen calls the director, but gets no satisfaction. Although the bid was not part of an agreement between me and Dianne, Bill Finkelstein said it was part of my unpredictability and he allowed it. It was a top board.
Here are the other hands and the ACBL commentary:
Spades: 10-6; Hearts: A-Q-10-9-5-4-2; Diamonds: 10-3; Clubs: Q-9.
Spades: A-Q-7-4; Hearts: J-8-7; Diamonds: K-8-5-4; Clubs: J-6.
“With all the seven-card and eight-card suits, six-card suits hardly look rebiddable. Say North opens 1 Club, declining to preempt because he has defensive values. If East passed or overcalled 1 Heart or 2 Hearts (2-7-2-2 pattern is the least attractive to preempt), North-South might take a small minus at a minor-suit partial.
“But if East puts it up to 3 Hearts, South will have a problem if he tries 4 Diamonds or a negative double. North-South will probably play at the five level. If North plays 5 Clubs doubled, perfect defense, starting with a Spade opening lead, will collect +800 and N-S may score plenty of match points if they escape for minus 200.
“We doubt that any East will play 4 Hearts, but a pretty defense would beat him: South leads a Club to the King and North returns the 2 of Clubs (that’s what it says, but let’s make it the 3 of Clubs), letting South ruff and shift to the Ace and Queen of Diamonds.”

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bridge Blog 744: Shuffle off, Buffalo

Western New York Unit 116 usually dominates the District 5 master point races, particularly in the 1,000 to 2,500-point category that I’m competing in, so it comes as a surprise – wait, make that a shock – to see so few of us in the District standings for February, which were posted Thursday on the ACBL website.
In the District 5 Ace of Clubs race, for points earned only in club play, where we occupied eight of the top 10 places last year, we hold only four out of 25. In the Mini-McKenney, which counts all points earned everywhere (except online), we’re even less of a factor – just two out of 25.
So while I’ve been bemoaning my shortage of points so far this year – 15.97 overall, 12.13 in club play in two months – I’m not the only one experiencing a drought locally. It’s a city-wide phenomenon. What’s happening is that the clubs seem to have dramatically cut back on the extra-point games that they offered regularly in the past.

Anyway, here’s the breakdown. I do not appear on either of the District 5 lists in the 1,000 to 2,500 master point category. The cut-off points are 23.91 on the Mini-McKenney and 12.24 on the Ace of Clubs.
Our only people to show up on the Mini-McKenney are Fred Yellen (27.33, 19th) and Ken Meier (25.32, 23rd). The Ace of Clubs list includes Fred Yellen (21.74, fifth), Ken Meier (19.96, seventh), Gene Finton (17.38, ninth) and John Ziemer (15.71, 13 th).
Topping District 5 Ace of Clubs are James Gray of Murrysville, Pa., with 26.57; Joane D’Antonio of Sewickley, Pa., with 23.78; John Bernhard, also of Sewickley, with 22.98; and Mary Lou Naughton of Pittsburgh with 22.47.

Leading District 5 Mini-McKenney are Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, with 68.58; Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, Ohio, with 51.01; and the aforementioned Pittsburgh-area players, Mary Lou Naughton with 50.68, Joane D’Antonio with 44.83 and James Gray with 40.01.
Here’s what we look like on the Unit 116 level:
Ace of Clubs: Fred Yellen, 21.74; Ken Meier, 19.96; Gene Finton, 17.38; John Ziemer, 15.71; me, 12.13; Anne Watkins, 12 even; Cathy Majewski, 11.38; Mike Silverman, 10.72; Elaine Kurasiewicz, 10.71; and Carolyn Siracuse, 10.34.
In the whole unit, only a pair of 5,000 to 7,500-point players have more points so far this year than Fred Yellen – his sometimes partner Bud Seidenberg, with 25.65, and Jerry Geiger, with 24.79. There’s also Meg Klamp, who has 40.44, but she’s in Florida.
Mini-McKenney: Fred Yellen, 27.33; Ken Meier, 25.32; David Hemmer, 23.66; Gene Finton, 23.59; Chongmin Zhang, 22.60; John Ziemer, 18.83; me, 15.97; Anne Watkins, 15.88; Gene Harvey, 14.80; and Cathy Majewski, 14.02.
In Mini-McKenney, the point counts elsewhere soar. Six players (including Meg Klamp) have more than 40 and six more have more than 30.
Nationwide, the top Ace of Club players in my division are Sanford Robbins of Miami Lakes, Fla., with 74.43, and Kenneth Wagner Jr. of Hollywood, Fla., with 60 even. The list of 100 cuts off at 31.59.
National Mini-McKenney leaders in my division are Robert Micone of Tustin, Calif., with 189.70, and John McAllister of Charlottesville, Va., with 163.71. This list of 100 stops at 68.29.