Friday, May 23, 2014

Bridge Blog 766: Is it is or is it ain't?

          Half a point short of 1,700, I tell partner Selina Volpatti as we start playing Friday afternoon in the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont. Sorry, she says afterward, for the horrible game. But it wasn’t so horrible after all, we discover when we call up the scores on the electronic scorekeeper. We’re fifth in our direction – 54% or 55%. How did that happen?
          Well, some of our alleged bottoms weren’t so bad, like the 5 Spades doubled contract that Selina played, bumped there by me when East bid 5 Hearts after she jumped to 4 Spades over East’s 1 Heart opener. That went down one, not vulnerable, and gave us 10 out of 17 game points in this 18-table game. Should have gone down two, according to the hand records. Several went down two doubled at only 4 Spades. Or, worse yet, the opponents have no trouble making 4 Hearts vulnerable. Some made 5 Hearts.
          And sometimes we just accomplished the impossible. One of our absolute tops was a 4 Spade contract that should have gone down one, but didn’t, thanks to an opening lead that brought out the Ace of Hearts, which I trumped, then got to throw off a couple losers on the King and Queen of Hearts in the dummy. Another was a 3 No Trump bid on which I took all the tricks, but it turned out two other North-Souths did the same.
          What I thought was my most daring hand – a gambling 3 No Trump prompted by an eight-card Diamond suit – looked like a coup at the time, but only tied for second best. Two others bid and made 3 NT, one with an overtrick. The hand record says it should make just 2 Diamonds and 2 NT.
          Our final score was 53.39%, fifth overall, for 0.36 of a master point. Alas, not enough to reach the milestone. But wait, let’s have another look at the last time I earned points, on Wednesday with Celine Murray. That was a 52.50% game, but it was for double points, so we earned 0.62. If my math is right, that’s 1,699.17 + 0.62 + 0.36 = 1,700.15! Let’s get out the champagne.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bridge Blog 765: Back in the saddle

“I haven’t played in 10 days,” I told partner Usha Khurana as I slipped into my seat at the Airport Bridge Club Monday morning. “What’s the highest suit? Spades?”
My rustiness showed in the bidding on that first hand. I opened 1 Spade with 16 high card points, but after Usha’s supportive 2 Spade bid, I offered a tentative 3 Spades and she passed. I made 5 Spades, thanks to a one-trick gift from the opponents, but I shouldn’t have been so timid and we should have been in game.
Despite our bidding deficiencies – that wasn’t the last of them – we were sharp on defense and after a few rounds I noticed that most of the scores were on our side of the line. Another gift from the opponents gave us a top board on the final hand and lifted us to 61.61%, first North-South, winning 0.70 of a point and lifting that lifetime total to  1,699.17.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Bridge Blog 764: Pause on the threshhold

Vacationing. A week away from the tables. But before I left, Selina Volpatti and I managed to scratch out some fractional success playing our usual aggressive game (she was declarer on nine of the 26 hands, I played six of them).
 Plus it was Canadian STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) week, which cost $2 extra at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines. Big game. 17 tables. Once again we slip in slightly above the 50-50 mark – 52.76%. Five 16-point tops (for the best offensive one, see Blog 763). Three zeros, including two bad sacrifice bids. seventh in A North-South, fourth in B. 0.57 of a silver point. Less than 2 points from 1,700 now.

Bridge Blog 763: Offense taken

Of the five top boards Selina Volpatti and I chalked up in the big Friday game this week in the Niagara Bridge Centre in St. Catharines, Ont., the one I wound up being proudest of was the one that seemed like a flop after we played it. In the moment we had to hash it out, it seemed like it should play better at 3 Hearts or maybe even 3 No Trump, but we did it instead at 3 Diamonds.
It’s Board 8 and we’re playing against two of the club’s best players – Brian Macartney, sitting East, and George Morrissey, who’s West. George is dealer. Nobody’s vulnerable. I open the bidding at 1 Diamond with this hand:
Spades: J-6; Hearts: K-5; Diamond: K-Q-9-8-7-3; Club: Q-4-2.
Looking at the hand records, I think the bidding proceeded with Brian bidding 2 Clubs, Selina going 2 Hearts and George overcalling 2 Spades. With six Diamonds in hand, I figure a rebid is in order and everybody passes me out at 3 D. Brian leads the Ace of Clubs and this is Selina’s hand:
Spades: K-4; Hearts: A-Q-10-7-2; Diamonds: J-6-2; Hearts: J-7-5.
Brian and George rip off three quick tricks in Clubs – Ace, King and a ruff with the Ace of Diamonds. But the only other trick they get is the Ace of Spades. I draw Brian’s trump, then run the Hearts. Here are the other two hands:
Spades: A-10-3; Hearts: 9-8; Diamonds: 10-5-4; Clubs: A-K-10-8-3.
Spades: Q-9-8-7-5-2; Hearts: J-6-4-3; Diamonds: A; Clubs: 9-6.
According to the hand records, 3 Diamonds is the only contract that succeeds for North-South. And we were the only North-South to get a score on our side of the line, although three played it at 4 Diamonds, one of them doubled, and two were at 5 Diamonds. East-West, on the other hand, is good for 4 Spades. The only E-W that actually bid 4 Spades was doubled and, of course, made it. Hearts don’t work at all (One N-S bid 4 Hearts, going down four). And neither side made the mistake of trying No Trump.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bridge Blog 762: Faith restored

Ordinarily, I have only one or two bad games in a row with Wednesday partner Celine Murray and we certainly had those last week – that 41.67% last Wednesday, which nevertheless earned us almost half a point in the last extra-point game of April, and a thoroughly dismal 38.89% on Thursday, dead last all the way.
Paired up with her again on Tuesday, the downward spiral continued – 37.04%, dead last again. We both contributed mightily to the misery. I gave away extra tricks by not taking Aces. Celine plowed ahead with unsupportable bids. We had four bottom boards and two tied for bottom.
But in the midst of our misery, there were bright spots. “How did you ever make that slam?” more than one player asked when the game was over. “Celine,” I said. She bid and made 6 Hearts on a hand where everyone else stopped at game and made one overtrick. It was one of our two top boards.
Brightness prevailed for our regular rendezvous on Wednesday. This time we had six top boards and only one bottom on our way to a 61.89% game. It might have been even better if it weren’t for a long bidding hesitation by Celine, which resulted in a director call and may or may not have cost us another top board. (We got an average minus instead.)
Even so, it wouldn’t have improved on our first place finish East-West. And it wouldn’t have given us any more than the 0.70 of a point that we won. So, no complaints. My faith in Celine is restored. And that 1,700-point milestone is even closer. 1,697.77!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Bridge Blog 761: Slouching toward 1,700

Thanks to April, my first 10-point month of the year, I’m standing on the threshold of 1,700 career points. The latest total, according to the ACBL’s “Check Your Masterpoints” portal, is 1,695.04.
Not included, of course, are my three small successes so far in May – the 51.92% game with Selina Volpatti on Friday at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., which brought us 0.36 of a point; the 51.75% game with Cleveland Fleming on Saturday at the Airport Bridge Club, good for 0.49 of a point; and a solid 56.55% effort on Monday at the Airport Club with Marietta Kalman. Second north-south in an extra-point game, that was worth 1.18 points. So make that a career total of 1,697.07.

Bridge Blog 760: April aggregated

Yes, my first double-digit month this year. 10.64, to be exact. And since the Airport Bridge Club has reported in time to be included in the ACBL’s tabulations this month, the 2014 totals are up to date, as well. Total points for the year so far – 38.29. Ace of Clubs points for club play only – 32.32. Not great, though. At this pace, I’ll barely bring home 100 for the year.
Nevertheless, there should be honest placements in the ACBL master point lists for the first time in a few months. Let’s see who’s where in the 1,000 to 2,500 point division, beginning with Unit 116 (Buffalo). OK, I’m in sixth place in standings that include two snowbirds who haven’t come home yet – David Millward, who’s on top of the list with 60.59 Florida points, and Pinky Regan, who’s tenth with 20.43 from the Sunshine State.
The rest goes like this – Fred Yellen, 41.37; John Ziemer, 36.59; Ken Meier, 36.15; Mike Silverman, 33.69; Gene Finton, 26.10; Vince Pesce, 23.57; and Clare Gareleck, 20.90.
Over on the Mini-McKenney, which includes all points earned everywhere, once again David Millward is on top with 68.12, followed by David Hemmer, 61.03; Fred Yellen, 58.81; Chongmin Zhang, 50.27; Ken Meier, 44.77; John Ziemer, 44.70; myself, 38.29; Mike Silverman, 36.66; Gene Finton, 33.15; and Elaine Kurasiewicz, 25.95.
Of note: The only Unit 116 player to top 100 points overall so far this year is Saleh Fetouh, with 104.98.
How do we Buffalo players fare against the rest of District 5, which includes Cleveland, Pittsburgh and pieces of West Virginia and Maryland? Well, it’s nothing like the dominance we demonstrated in previous years.
There are six of us among the Ace of Clubs Top 25 in the 1,000 to 2,500 point division. David Millward’s 60.59 is tops here, too, followed by James Gray of Murrysville, Pa., who has 49.13. Fred Yellen is third. John Ziemer is sixth. Ken Meier is seventh. Mike Silverman is ninth. And I’m the last local on the list in 12th place.
The Mini-McKenney is more competitive. Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, continues on top with 155.81, followed by Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, Ohio, with 155.62; and Peter Merker of Mentor, Ohio, with 137.74. David Millward’s 68.12 puts him seventh. David Hemmer is 14 th. Fred Yellen is 15th. Chongmin Zhang is 19th. And Ken Meier and John Ziemer hold down 24th and 25th, respectively. You need at least 44.70 to make the cut.
Do Buffalo players even register on the national Top 100? Let’s see. Big dog here is Sanford Robbins of Miami Lakes, Fla, with 150.51, well ahead of Larry Lazarow of Highland Beach, Fla., who’s got 105.69. David Millward doesn’t show up. You need 61.63 to make the list.
In the nationwide Mini-McKenney, the leaders are Vinita Gupta of Woodside, Calif., with 352.08; Robert Micone of Tustin, Calif., with 330.17; Sylvia Shi of Baltimore with 287.49; and Jay Barron of Tulsa, Okla., with 286.12. Michael Creager’s 155.81 is 52nd. You need at least 131.26 to land on this list.