Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bridge Blog 759: Nothing lasts forever

Especially a streak. I knew mine was doomed in the first hands I played Monday with Barbara Sadkin at the Airport Bridge Club. We drew the initial sit-out and started playing with three straight disasters, including a board fouled by the first table that played it. Amazingly, we recovered to post a 49.35% game. Take away those first three hands and it would have been 53.04%, enough to continue the streak.
Nothing could have saved me on Tuesday, however. Playing with Joyce Greenspan, I rediscovered my love for seven-card suits and my penchant for bidding them up too far. Within two rounds, I’d registered a score I hadn’t posted in quite a while – a minus 1,100, down four doubled vulnerable.
Turns out that wasn’t a bottom board. Somebody else bid a slam. Our only bottom of the day involved another highly-distributional, highly-competitive hand against John Kirsits and Linda Wynes. Linda opened a minor suit. With them vulnerable and us not, I jumped to 4 Hearts, having seven of them, A-K-J-10-x-x-x, figuring I was good for 7 or 8 tricks. John bid 4 No Trump. Linda bid her Aces. John went to 6 Spades. I bid 7 Hearts. He finishes with 7 Spades. If it were No Trump, I would have doubled. But not in Spades. John didn’t have any Hearts. Linda was void in Clubs. John raked in all 13 tricks for a score of 2,210. Our only consolation – we weren’t dead last, though it looked like we were at first. The correction of a scoring error lifted us to seventh place among eight North-Souths with 42.86%.

Bridge Blog 758: Hot hands in Toronto

Hottest players in the Toronto Easter Regional Tournament last weekend were a pair of visitors – Joseph Silver of Hampstead, Quebec, which Wikipedia identifies as an on-island suburb of Montreal, and John Carruthers of Kingsville, Ont., which (Wikipedia again) is over near Windsor and is Canada’s southernmost municipality with town status.
Silver and Carruthers tied for first with 70.79 points, 25.70 of which were earned in the big Sunday Swiss team finale. Buffalo’s Saleh Fetouh was embedded in a team of Canadians that finished fifth in that Swiss game, earning 8.57 points. He also was the top local point-winner in Toronto, bringing in 41.98 points. He was 16 th overall.
Next Buffalo players on the list are the father-son team of Yichaun and Wufeng Lao, tied for 69 th with 25.37. Right behind them is Chris Urbanek, tied for 71 st with 24.66. Top people from the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catherines were Lorna Jackson and John Mackay, tied for 111 th with 17.78.
Best Swiss team made up entirely of Buffalo players was the combo of two married couples – Bob and Judy Kaprove and Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony. They tied for third in the B/C/D Division and won 6.11 points.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bridge Blog 757: Streeeeeak!

What a week! What an amazing week! After the auspicious sessions that started it off so wonderfully on Monday and Tuesday and miraculously continued Wednesday (see Blog 755), things bogged down a bit, but never got entirely derailed.
The lovely Dianne Bloom and I got off to a terrible start on Thursday, mangling our first four hands, failing to find a 3 NT contract, taking an unwise low-level vulnerable sacrifice (me), missing a chance to set the opponents at 3 NT (Dianne didn’t cash her Ace of Clubs when she had a chance) and letting them make 4 Spades (me tossing the wrong card in a squeeze play).
But then we found our footing and chalked up a 50.60% game, third in the B strat North-South, collecting 0.28 of a point. Had we just managed a 50-50 record in those first four hands, we would have finished second overall North-South with 55.65%.
As for Friday, Good Friday, Canada was eerily quiet. Many stores were closed. The normally bustling Pen Center mall was deserted. All the shoppers were on the bridges heading for the U.S. Cars were backed up to Thompson Road in Fort Erie waiting to cross the Peace Bridge. Inbound to Canada, however, almost nothing.
Plus, some of the best players at the Bridge Centre of Niagara were in Toronto for the annual Easter Regional (so were the electronic scoring devices, which belong to Unit 166 – we scored the rounds on pick-up slips). Same probably applies to some of the best Buffalo players, which could be a big reason why more of them didn’t zip down the Thruway to Rochester last week (Blog 756).
Nevertheless, my confidence about my weekly game with Selina Volpatti in St. Catharines was shaken by our miserable 42% outing a week earlier. It was shaken even further when our East-West opponents bid and made a 6 Spade slam on the second hand of the day, a phenomenon we saw repeated a few rounds later when someone bid and made 6 No Trump against us. We also lost a hand we should have nailed against a very slow pair when the director took away a board. Despite all that, we still managed a respectable 52.31%, fourth out of 11 North-Souths overall, second in the B strat, for 0.39 of a point.
The big question on Saturday, then, was this – will the streak stretch to six? I never know when I’m playing with Marietta Kalman. A year ago, it seemed like we were bidding on different planets. Now we’re much more attuned and on this particular day, we turned out to be very well attuned.
We were on defense on 17 of the 28 boards in this four-table Howell game, but we were nailing our opponents to the wall. Where other declarers would go down one, we’d set them two. And when we won the auction, we were making overtricks. It felt really good, in the way that making a succession of top boards can make your feel.
In all, we had 11 top boards. And as the partial results were posted, our figures threatened to lift us into bridge immortality, since any game over 75% is registered for all to see in the ACBL’s monthly Bridge Bulletin magazine. In the end, however, we fell just short – 74.40%. Still, it was the best game I’ve ever had and only the second time I've surpassed 70%. First by a very wide margin, Marietta and I earned 0.80 of a point.
So what does a week in the winning column produce? Lessee. 0.40 of a point for the 60.51% game with June Feuerstein on Monday. 0.63 of a point for the 62.73% game with Barbara Sadkin on Tuesday. 1.60 point in the double-point game on Wednesday. 0.28 on Thursday. 0.39 on Friday. And 0.80 on Saturday. Looks like 4.10.
For the month, add in the 2.13 in the sectional and another 0.35 at the club. That’s 6.58 with a week of double-point games ahead.



Bridge Blog 756: Rochester reciprocity

Talk to people from Rochester and they have well defined impressions of Buffalo. They follow our sports teams. They come to our concerts. They know their way in and out.
Talk to people from Buffalo about Rochester, however, and you enter terra incognita. Sure, we recognize that it’s the place where the Sabres have a farm team, where the Bills hold their pre-season practice, the birthplace of Kodak and Xerox and Bausch & Lomb, but not much else. Even I, knowing  Rochester reasonably well from having friends and music business dealings there for the past 30-odd years, can get confused by that city’s version of Elmwood Avenue, which because it’s a diagonal street, shows up in the most bewildering places.
Same phenomenon is in effect for the sectional bridge tournaments. This year, Buffalo’s spring sectional took place just one week ahead of Rochester’s, and the reciprocity – or rather, the lack of it – is stunning.
While Canadians were by far the largest group of out-of-towners among the 174 players who earned points at the Buffalo sectional, there were nine from the Rochester area. On the following weekend, of the 129 players who scratched in the Webster Recreation Center outside Rochester, only half a dozen were from Buffalo. Four of them – Saleh Fetouh, Jay Levy, Donna Steffan and Jay Costello, most likely a Sunday Swiss team – were tied for 75th place with 1.04 points. Our other representatives? Thomas Koralewski and Davis Heussler, tied for 88th with 0.84 of a point.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bridge Blog 755: Doubled up

I was reminded how much I miss double-point games when one of them made an infrequent appearance Wednesday at the Airport Bridge Club. Thanks to a unit game crosstown at the Bridge Center of Buffalo, the unit sanction applied.
Not that I had much hope of taking advantage of it when I arrived to play with Wednesday partner Celine Murray. She’s been driving her partners crazy with her off-the-wall bidding this week. But for some reason, she was well within the limits this time and I restrained myself from doing anything too outrageous, as well. No serious mistakes, we agreed as we entered the final rounds in a 4½-table Howell movement. The result was a 57.64% game, half a game point behind the leaders. Second overall in this session was worth 1.6 points. Thanks to those double points, this more than doubled my total winnings at the club for the month.
P.S.: Out of curiosity, I checked the BCB website to see the results over there and found no indication at all that it was a special game, although the Unit 116 website says it was supposed to be. In an eight-table Mitchell movement, Judi Marshall and John Ziemer were winners, as they likely would have been if they played at the Airport Club, but that only got them 0.80 of a point.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bridge Blog 754: Not exactly an April shower

This cruelest month isn’t exactly raining down winnings. After priming the pump with the 2.13 silver points in the sectional tournament, my club play came up dry almost all last week.
The exception was my Monday game with Barbara Sadkin, where our 52.78% was fourth overall and brought us 0.35 of a point. After that, it was 48.38% with Flo Boyd on Tuesday, 43.75% with Celine Murray on Wednesday, a painful 41.12% with Dianne Bloom on Thursday and a disappointing 41.92% in an extra point session in St. Catharines, Ont., with Selina Volpatti on Friday.
Can you blame me for taking the weekend off to begin cleaning the yard of its winter wreckage and catch up with some social obligations?
The time off apparently was a tonic. June Feuerstein and I turned in a 60.51% game on Monday, earning .40 of a point. Then Barbara Sadkin recovered from a late flight home from Passover in Chicago to join me in a 62.73% game Tuesday, second North-South for .63 of a point. Despite that, the month is half over and it’s still pretty dry – only about 3½ points.

Bridge Blog 753: Extremely belated sectional notes

The visitors did pretty well at the Buffalo Spring Sectional back on April 4 to 6. Although local players held down six of the top 10 spots among the point leaders, the out-of-towners had 12 of the top 20.
Here are our leading local master point winners and their positions among the top 30:
Chris Urbanek, 16.17, first.
Bud Seidenberg, 14.87, second.
Fred Yellen, 11.85, sixth.
Jay Levy, 10.37, eighth.
Saleh Fetouh, 10.20, ninth.
Davis Heussler, 9.95, tenth.
Peter Shui, 8.07, 13th.
Bill Rushmore, 7.58, 15th.
Donna Steffan, 6.54, 21st.
Kathy Pollock, 6.29, 22nd.
Jim Gullo, 5.67, 25th.
Stan Kozlowski, 5.54, 26th.
Ten-Pao Lee, 5.37, 27th.
Judy Graf, 5.32, 28th.
Joan Rose, 5.25, 29th.
Penny Shui, 5.22, 30th.
In all, 174 players got points (up from 147 a year ago) and the tournament logged 157 tables (up from 139 last year). Me? My 2.13 points put me pretty much in the middle of the list. 81st.

Bridge Blog 752: Pending my time

The points I earned in March at the Airport Bridge Club now show up in my ACBL tally. As pending points. Total penders are 12.56, which includes the 2.13 from the sectional. Doing the math, that makes 10.43 from the Airport Club, which would move me from ninth to fourth place in the Unit 116 Ace of Clubs standings and fifth in the Mini-McKenney, where I didn’t even show up.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bridge Blog 751: Updating the monthly races (or not)

It’s the sixth of the month and the ACBL’s tally of master point races has been updated. Let’s see where we stand.
First, let’s go to Western New York Unit 116 (Buffalo and environs) for the Ace of Clubs list, which is only the points earned in club play.
In my division, the 1,000 to 2,500 point group, I’m ninth this month with a paltry 13.38. This, however, does not include the 7.68 from the Airport Bridge Club. Son of a b----. Club manager Bill Finkelstein appears to have missed the deadline. Again. Add those absent points and I’m in fifth place with 21.06. Here’s the list as it stands without results from the Airport Club:
Fred Yellen, 29.88; Ken Meier, 24.24; Gene Finton, 22.44; John Ziemer, 16.41; Claire Gareleck, 16.29; Cathy Majewski, 15.99; Elaine Kurasiewicz, 15.19; Anne Watkins, 13.99; myself, and Carolyn Siracuse, 13.05.
OK, despite the fact that results are incomplete, let’s go over to the Mini-McKenney, which records all the points you get from clubs and tournaments together.
Here I’m not even on the list, since the ACBL thinks I have 17.22 points overall and I actually have 24.90. Here are the top 10 (asterisks indicate other players shortchanged by the Airport Club):
Fred Yellen, 35.47; Ken Meier, 29.60*; Gene Finton, 28.65; David Hemmer, 24.96; Chongmin Zhang, 23.24; John Ziemer, 19.53*; Eugene Harvey, 18.77; Cathy Majewski, 18.63; Elaine Kurasiewicz, 18.44*; Anne Watkins, 17.84*. I should be sixth.
Is there any point at looking at the top 25 for the District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh)? Well, just to note the top players, I suppose. The Ace of Clubs list is led by James Gray from Murrysville, Pa., with 39.53, followed by Steven Nolan of Pittsburgh with 31.48 and Joane DiAntonio of Sewickley, Pa., with 31.34. Fred Yellen is fourth. The 25 th player has 18.76. If my full 21.06 were credited, I’d be 17th.
Over on the District 5 Mini-McKenney, the leader once again is Michael Craeger of Brecksville, Ohio, with 124.51, followed by Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, Ohio, with 114.43; Peter Merker of Mentor, Ohio, with 87.55; and the aforementioned James Gray with 60.75. The only Buffalo representative on the whole 25-name list is Fred Yellen. He’s 18th. Cut-off point is 32.87.
Nationally, top people in the 1,000 to 2,500 point category include:
Ace of Clubs: Sanford Robbins, Miami Lakes, Fla, 118.31; Kenneth Wagner Jr., Hollywood, Fla., 81.75; Larry Lazarow, Highland Beach, Fla., 81.02; Maryse Hambrick of Saint-Laurent, Quebec, 74.87; and John Petrie of Long Beach, Calif., 71.16. No District 5 players are on the list. It cuts off at 46.33.
Mini-McKenney: Vinta Gupta, Woodside, Calif., 273.93; John McAllister, Charlottesville, Va., 234.72; Jay  Barron, Tulsa, Okla., 222.64; Robert Micone, Tustin, Calif., 194 even; Sylvia Shi, Baltimore, 176.83. Of the District 5 players, Michael Craeger is 36th and Fleur Howard is 53rd. The list cuts off at 95.07.

Bridge Blog 750: Buffalo Spring Sectional Day 3

Usha Khurana gets to the sign-up table first and we’re the Number 1 team for the Swiss teams on Sunday, but we know it’s a misnomer. There’s little chance that we’re going to finish in first place.
We get whomped by the Number 2 team right out of the game, Tova and Andrei Reinhorn, with whom we have an incident that sets partner Selina Volpatti on edge. It’s all my fault.
Selina opens 2 Diamonds and I’m not sure if it’s a weak two bid or a Mini Roman. Tova asks. I say I think it’s weak and, trying to ignore the little scrunched up face that Selina makes and having a six-card Spade suit anyway, I bid 2 Spades. Selina jumps to 4 Spades. Tova calls the director.
Mike Roberts reserves judgment until the hand is finished, then says that in Mini Roman, Selina should have passed. He says we’ve played it at 2 Spades, making five, for plus 200 instead of plus 450. At our teammates’ table, it’s plus 450. Take away that setback and they beat us only 22-9 instead of 28-9. In the end, it’s two victory points. And at the very end, those two victory points don’t really matter.
We want to lose the first round, I assure my teammates. Otherwise, we’ll have to play the seriously tough teams. Sure enough, we rip through our opponents in the next three rounds, 24-6, 25-5 and 19-11, the last being against really good players, namely Bert Hargeshimer and Christy Kellogg.
We get our comeuppance in round five against the Canadian team led by Jereme Smee, one of the top point winners at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines. Their big hits against us are sending Selina down three doubled and making game on a hand where our teammates fall short. They skunk us, 27-3, in victory points.
The next round is worse. We’re up against Saleh Fetouh and David Hemmer. They nail us twice, sending Selina down one doubled in a 3 NT contract and basking our shortcomings when a 2 Spade contract winds up making three overtricks (I know we’re undervalued the moment that Saleh doesn’t challenge our 2-bid). They shut us out completely, 43-5 IMPs, 30-0 victory points.
When the final results are posted, I notice that the Smee team is second overall and the Hemmer team is third.
             We salvage our pride against Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony, squeaking to a 21-19 IMP victory, despite the 5 Spades doubled contract that Manju made for 15 IMPs. (I never should have doubled it.) Although we wind up with only 99 victory points (it would have taken 120 to get bonus points in our B stratification), our four victorious rounds give us a total of 1.04 silver points. We’re happy.

BridgeBlof 749: Buffalo Spring Sectional Day 2

Saturday partner Celine Murray didn’t stick around for the final results of the afternoon session, but when Sunday’s Swiss team game ended, I find a message on my cell phone from her. How did we do? Not good, I tell her when I finally call her from our Restaurant Week restaurant on Hertel Avenue later (Craving, a worthy successor to its ancestor, Samples on Allen Street). But also not last. 40.63%. Still, not as good as the morning session, a slightly more adequate 44.55%.
We had fun in the afternoon, unlike the morning, when it seemed like we were grinding our way through the hands. Plus Celine was more focused. The morning, however, rewarded us with what I had been told on Friday was unlikely, if not impossible, a 17-point absolute top hand. In fact, we had two of them.
One was a 2 Spades contract, doubled by a couple from Toronto who didn’t give us their names. Even the hand records acknowledged that 2 Spades was cold and Celine brought it home for a plus 470. The other was one of my little miracles, a 3 NT contract bid and made on a hand that the hand record says is good for only 2 Hearts, 2 Diamonds or 2 Clubs. Well, think again.
Board 12, West is dealer, North-South vulnerable. I’m sitting East with this hand:
Spades: A-9-3; Hearts, A-Q-9-7-3; Diamonds: K-2; Clubs: A-9-7.
My recollection of the bidding is fuzzy, but one of two things could have happened. Either Celine opened a weak 2 Diamonds or I opened a Heart or a No Trump. If she opened 2 Diamonds, I probably jumped directly to 3 NT. It’s likely that the opening lead is a Club. Here’s the dummy:
Spades: 10-8-5; Hearts: 8-5; Diamonds, A-10-9-6-5-4; Clubs: J-8.
Looking at it now, I can’t see how I possibly made 3 NT, but it might have gone like this. I put up the Jack of Clubs on the opening Club lead and win it. Then I probably start in on the Diamonds, taking the King, watching the singleton Jack fall, taking the Ace, then losing a Diamond to North. So the Diamonds are set up, but how do I get to the dummy to cash them? It makes no sense. I guess I set up the Hearts while I still have stoppers. Four Hearts, a Spade, two Diamonds and two Clubs. The other hands:
Spades: K-Q-4; Hearts: J-6-2; Diamonds: Q-8-7-3; Clubs: 10-5-2.
Spades: J-7-6-2; Hearts: K-10-4; Diamonds: J; Clubs: K-Q-6-4-3.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bridge Blog 748: Buffalo Spring Sectional, Day 1

My cell phone rings Friday morning as I’m rolling up to the corner of Transit Road and Wehrle Drive with about 10 minutes to spare before the start of the morning session at the Main-Transit Fire Hall. It’s my partner, Barbara Sadkin. She’s at Maple and Youngs roads and she’s on her way. I’ll get there before you do, I tell her. It’s a rare thing, me arriving at a game ahead of my partner.
Turnout looks good as I steer into the parking lot. I have to park half a dozen cars further away than I usually do. Inside, it’s 28 tables, divided up between a double session game and a single session game, with a scattering of Rochester and St. Catharines people thrown in among the Buffalonians.
Neither Barbara nor I are morning people and we show it right away, giving Paul and Linda Zittel a top board by taking a bid that goes down three doubled. Paul thanks me later for giving them such a good start, then notes that they wound up around 45%. Coincidentally, so did we – 44.23%, courtesy of a couple more bottom boards from bad sacrifice bids.
Having been East-West in the morning, we became North-South in the afternoon, which is much more to our liking. The cards are more amenable to our freewheeling bidding style as well, although we twice fail to make slams we bid. This time we finish at 54.47%, fifth in the A strat for the session, second in B for 1.09 silver points.
In the morning, Barbara lamented that we hadn’t gotten any 17-game point top boards, to which someone else said that those are very rare because there are usually two or more pairs tied with top scores. Best we got in the morning was 16, for setting opponent Jim Gullo’s 1 No Trump contract down three, plus a pair of 15s, also on defense.
Our afternoon game is lifted by a final hand in which we set the opponents down five, which is good for a 16.5 out of 17. To that we add a pair of 16s, on offense this time.
In one, where I’m 5-5 in Hearts and Clubs, I make a 3 Club contract after I resist the urge to go for 3 NT, which would have gone down. In the other, I’m a third-seat 1 NT opener with 14 high card points and a five-card Heart suit. Barbara responds 2 NT and the bidding is over.
Soon as I see the dummy, I think 3 Hearts, but the hand record says that only 1 Heart is makeable. In fact, East-West is supposed to make 4 Spades. Or 2 NT. So 2 NT bid and made in our direction is good for a near perfect gain. Here’s that hand. I’m sitting South, North is dealer, both sides are vulnerable.
Spades: K-7; Hearts: A-Q-10-6-2; Diamonds: 9-5-2; Clubs: K-Q-6.
Spades: 9-6; Hearts: K-J-4; Diamonds: Q-J-10-8-6; Clubs: J-4-2.
Spades: Q-10-8-5-2; Hearts: 9-5-3; Diamonds: K-7-4; Clubs: 10-6.
Spades: A-J-6-3; Hearts: 8-7; Diamonds: A-3; Clubs: A-9-7-5-3.
I’m not quite sure which mistakes they make on this one, but West may have led a low Club. I proceed to win that trick, cash all the Hearts and go looking to establish some long Diamonds. I don't believe I get one, but after the opponents take the Ace of Spades, the King gives me a seventh trick and, if I’m not mistaken, my Queen of Clubs is the eighth. A minor miracle, eh?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bridge Blog 747: Spring is sprung

Or is it? After our lovely 68-degree preview on April Fools’ Day, we’re back below normal temperature-wise and the forecast for Saturday during the Buffalo Spring Sectional Tournament is for mixed rain and snow.
The outlook for the tournament itself is mixed as well, especially after my bizarre session with Wednesday partner Celine Murray today. Her memory’s getting worse. She asked repeatedly which date we were playing and what time it started. I also invited her to fill in my open date on Thursday, figuring we could practice a little. We’ll see.

Bridge Blog 747-A: Attitude adjustment

I’ve got to dial in some more Zen acceptance, because I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting edgy and impatient recently. Impatient with the slow arrival of Spring. Edgy over the way my editors at the Buffalo News have decided to send me out almost every night to cover events.
I feel it at the bridge table too. It’s like a knot of frustration. It tightened for a while when Bob Kaprove and I weren’t connecting in our bids at the beginning of our 47.69% game Monday. It reappeared Tuesday as Joyce Greenspan and I struggled to an almost as good 46.73%, which left us tied for bottom.
And it swelled to occasionally gigantic proportions Wednesday as Celine Murray didn’t lead the suits I bid in defense, when she blew a slam we bid by losing track of trump and when she hit my 2 No Trump opener with a 4 No Trump response when she should have transferred me toward her six-card Spade suit.
Correct that stuff and we’d have finished around 55% and collected a fraction of a point. Despite it, we finished just out of the money with a 49.58%. Oh well, better days are ahead. I’ve just got to remember to keep my gratitude and sense of humor ahead of my expectations.

Bridge Blog 747-B: Point hounds

It was last Saturday when Judi Marshall pulled out her datebook, showed me how she keeps running totals of all the master points she earns and lamented that she wasn’t going to reach 10 for the month of March. I’d just checked the updated master point race list on the bulletin board at the Airport Bridge Club and conceded that I wasn’t going to reach 10 either.
We sure miss those double- and triple-point games. At that moment, I had 7.19 and Judi had 7.92. Ahead of us were John Ziemer with 8.23, Jim Mathis with 9.06 and the only double-digit winner, Jerry Geiger, with 10.41.
If I’m not mistaken, Judi won on Saturday. Marietta Kalman and I were second overall and first in the B strat with 52.78% for 0.49 of a point. Judi won another 0.66 of a point on Sunday, despite her initial reluctance to play Swiss teams without knowing who the other half of the team would be. And then she came out on top again Monday. Maybe she made it after all.
If I’m calculating correctly from the numbers in my datebook, my totals for March include the 7.68 from the Airport Club and my winnings with Selina Volpatti in St. Catharines – 0.70 at the St. Patty’s Day party on March 15; 0.36 at the March 21 game and another 0.40 for our 53.67% game March 28 (see Blog 747-C). That would be 1.46. For the month, a little over 9.

Bridge Blog 747-C: Fast break

My favorite hand of the past couple weeks was the first one Selina Volpatti and I played in St. Catharines on March 28. We’re North-South. It’s Board 9, East-West vulnerable. East is Barbara Staples, wearing another spectacular set of earrings. West is Charles Leguerrier. I’m dealer. Here’s my hand:
Spades: A-6; Hearts: 10-9-7-5-4-3-2; Diamonds: None; Clubs: A-K-9-6.
Given the high card points, the long suit, the void and the favorable vulnerability, I had no qualms about opening 1 Heart. But here my memory of the hand starts fading. I think Barbara bid 2 Diamonds. If she didn’t, she probably should have. Selina passes. Charles either supported the Diamonds or bid 2 Spades.
Before long, they’re bidding 4 Diamonds and, given that favorable vulnerability, I go 4 Hearts. Barbara doubles. Hey, I was expecting it. She leads a Diamond and Selina lays down this hand:
Spades Q-8-5-4; Hearts: 6; Diamonds: 10-7-5; Clubs: J-6-4-3-2.
According to the hand record, the best I could do is take 9 tricks. In Clubs, it makes 11 tricks played from the North, 12 played from the South. But the Ace and King of Hearts crashed down on the same trick. When the trump was gone, I set up the Clubs and tossed my losing Spade. Making 4 Hearts doubled.
Here are the other two hands:
Spades: 10-7-3; Hearts: K-Q-8; Diamonds: A-J-6-3-2; Clubs: Q-10.
Spades: K-J-9-2; Hearts: A-J; Diamonds: K-Q-9-8-4; Clubs: 8-7.
According to the hand record, East-West can make 1 No Trump, 2 Spades or 4 Diamonds, which means their holdings aren’t as good as they might seem.
It was a top board, tied by two other North-Souths who also made 4 Hearts doubled. At all the other tables, the bids were taken by East-West, who played it in Diamonds (8 times), Spades (once, down two at 4 Spades) and No Trump. Best of the lot was the pair who bid 3 NT and made two overtricks (the other 3 NT was a trick short). Second best was a 5 Diamond contract bid and made. Three of them made 4 Diamonds, four of them went down.