Monday, August 25, 2014

Bridge Blog 786: The fruits of familiarity

Last week Paula Kotowski said that my games with Dede Kluckhohn would get better once we got used to each other. Given that we’d had two chances to play by that point and just one more chance before my schedule locked up and she snowbirded back to Florida, the prospects looked slim.
But lo and behold, the third time on Monday was the charm. It felt enchanted from the first round, although the record shows us with 9 of a possible 20 match points against expert players Liz Clark and Judi Marshall. There were a couple excruciating errors, as well. For instance, my 5 Club overbid (doubled, down one) of her surefire penalty double of 4 Hearts (OK, this was another one of my many low-point hands with long suits). And then there was Dede's missed overtrick in a 3 No Trump contract, which annoyed her for the remainder of the game.
Nevertheless, we emerged with 55.42%, which tied us for first place overall and earned us 2.34 master points, half of them red. I don’t care about the points, Dede said, I just want to have my name in the paper.
Also a cut above the norm was my Friday game with Selina Volpatti (at the Airport Bridge Club instead of St. Catharines because I had early evening obligations that wouldn't wait for a long delay at the bridges). With Selina as declarer on 12 of the 24 hands we played, we registered 56.25%, first in the B strat, second overall, winning 1.38 points.
Should I also mention the best game I had with Celine Murray in a long time last Wednesday? Only 50.30%, but tied for first in B in our direction for 0.74 of a point. If my math is correct, my total for August so far is 15.84.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bridge Blog 785: A big so-so

How’s your bridge game, non-bridge players ask. The most honest answer is that some days I’m up, some days I’m down. A week ago, however, the tally for the month was more up than down.
At the Airport Bridge Club back then, I’d collected 7.05 points, 3.04 of them North American Pairs triple-point red points. Seeing them all piled up in one place was a pleasant surprise. Pile on those 3.44 gold from Syracuse and voila! Double digits! And the month wasn’t even half-over.
A week later, things are down. No points last Wednesday in a 37.50% game with Celine Murray. None Thursday for a 46.48% with Dianne Bloom. A bit of a taste on Friday in St. Catharines, Ont., after I arrived one hand late due to a big back-up at customs on the Peace Bridge – 54.58% with Selina Volpatti, sixth overall, 0.28 of a point.
The uptick continued Saturday when, playing with Bill Boardman for the second time in a week, we hit 50% (first time was 49.40%) and were second in the B strat for 0.71 of a point. And that’s been all.
With Dotty May on Sunday, it was 45%, fifth of six pairs. Monday with the perky Dede Kluckhohn was better than our first Monday two weeks ago – 44.17% vs. 41.67% – but still out of the points. Paula Kotowski said Tuesday that with Dede you have to get used to playing together. We’ll see next Monday. Tuesday with Eva Schmidt, who was top in her direction with Jim Gullo over at the Corn Fest on Sunday at the Bridge Center of Buffalo, we barely escaped the bottom with 44.35%. And here we are at Wednesday again with Celine Murray. Prior to last week’s 37.50%, we had 41.67%, 49.49% (fourth in B), 49.72% and 49.48% (fourth in B). Here’s hoping for another one of those big so-so games this morning.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Bridge Blog 784: Regional retrospective

We players from Buffalo and St. Catharines came to the last week’s regional tournament in Syracuse, but we did not conquer. Best of us were two of the top St. Catharines guys – Jeremy Smee and Brian Macartney, who took 20.90 points and tied for 67th place overall. Top Buffalo player was Jay Levy, 71st with 20.38.
After that you have to scroll down the list quite a way to find Bud Seidenberg and Saleh Fetouh with 10.19 points, tied for 169th. Then there’s Maureen Clark and Christine Pentesco from St. Catharines, tied for 193rd with 9.26, Buffalo’s Chris Urbanek and her partner from Schenectady tied for 208th with 8.57 and Marge Dykstra and Dorothy Duchnicki from St. Catharines tied for 284th with 6.19. Judie Bailey and I, with our 3.44, are tied for 384th. In all, 611 players got points.
Top of the heap were Phil Clark of Pittsford with 105.55 and Douglas Ross of Rochester with 97.42, who won 21.19 of those points in Saturday knock-outs. Tied for third, Martin Hunter of Mississauga, Ont., and John Duquette of Oshawa, Ont., with 94.23, of which 17.33 came from finishing second in Swiss teams on Sunday. All four of them got off to a hot start by winning 25.04 points in the Monday-Tuesday knock-outs.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Bridge Blog 783: Juillet retrouve

Shall we thank the Airport Bridge Club for submitting July’s monthly master point accumulations to the ACBL on time? Yes, we shall. Now there’s an honest reading of where all of us who play there stand in relation to the rest of the bridge universe.
So how do we stand? From the looks of it, pretty much where we stood a couple months ago. Personally, as of July 31, I have a lifetime total of 1,735.06 points, of which 43.94 are gold, 166.85 are red and 204.89 are silver. Since 20% of the points you need for Gold Life Master have to be colored, this is a good ratio. Ahead of the game, even.
The big challenge, however, is accumulate points of any kind. Since the start of the year, I’ve won 78.31 points as of July 31, which is OK, but not spectacular. At 100 points a year, it will be 2022 before I attain Gold Life Master. I’ll be 80 years old. Yikes! At 125 per year, it will take until 2020. With a little luck, maybe we could move that up to 2019.
At any rate, of those 78.31 points, 60.17 of them were earned in club play. A look at the Ace of Clubs race for players with 1,000 to 2,500 points in Western New York Unit 116 finds me in sixth place. Topping the list is John Ziemer with 106.35. Then come Ken Meier with 84.93, David Millward with 77.87, Mike Silverman with 75.86 and Fred Yellen with 75.37.
After the big step down to my 60.17, there’s Chuck Schorr with 57.79, Gene Finton with 54.22, Vince Pesce with 49.46 and the only woman in the Top 10, Barbara Pieterse with 48.80.
Only two Unit 116 Ace of Clubs players in other point divisions had surpassed 100 points by July 31 – Jerry Geiger with 128.69 and the ailing Meg Klamp with 108.20. Judi Marshall is on the threshold with 98.03. If I were back in the 500 to 1,000 section, which I dominated for two years, I’d be third now, behind Bill Boardman (72.37) and Martin Pieterse (63.06).
Going over to the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney race, which counts all the points you earn, my 78.31 puts me in eighth place. John Ziemer is the leader here, too, with 141.69, followed by David Hemmer with 114.58, Fred Yellen with 100.46, Ken Meier with 96.32, David Millward with 86.35, Mike Silverman with 84.12 and Chongmin Zhang with 83.14. Behind me are Gene Finton (63.82) and Barb Pieterse (62.85).
Player in Unit 116 with the most overall points? The Ace of Clubs leader – Jerry Geiger – with 151.95. Close behind are Dan Gerstman with 149.99, Saleh Fetouh with 146.07, John Ziemer’s 141.69 and Kathy Pollack with 139.66.
On the District 5 level, which includes Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo, plus points in between, I’m 13th on the Ace of Clubs list for players with 1,000 to 2,500 points. Unit 116 players hold down the first five spots. In all, we have eight. The 25-name list cuts off at 52.33 points. Unit 116 players also top four other point lists.
Over on the District 5 Mini-McKenney, however, Unit 116 is far less prominent. Seven of us are on the 1,000 to 2,500 list, but not me. It cuts off at 81.28 points. Leaders are Michael Creager of Brecksville, Ohio, with 292.26; Peter Merker of Mentor, Ohio, with 273.16; and Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, Ohio, with 265.27. I’m starting to think of them as the Ohio bridge trinity. John Ziemer is sixth. David Hemmer is ninth.
Going to the 500-name national Ace of Clubs list, leading 1,000 to 2,500 players is a Florida trinity – Sanford Robbins of Miami Lakes, with 267.83, followed by Larry Lazarow of Highland Beach, with 224.01, and Kenneth Wagner Jr. of Hollywood, with 215.33. John Ziemer is 107 th. Ken Meier is 312 th. David Millward is 469 th. The list cuts off at 76.76.
In the national Mini-McKenney, top dog in 1,000 to 2,500 is Vinta Gupta of Woodside, Calif., with 591.48, followed by Jay Barron of Tulsa, Okla, with 533.05, and another Californian, Robert Micone of Tustin with 524.84. Michael Creager is 31st. John Ziemer is 451st. The list cuts off at 137.40.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bridge Blog 782: Syracuse Regional II

The crowd of players almost filled the big ballroom at the Holiday Inn in Liverpool as the third day of the Burt Garrell Syracuse Regional Tournament began Wednesday morning. Me and Judie Bailey (pictured and looking quite nice, I thought) were in the open pairs, a full 14 tables. There also were two knock-out games, three sections of Gold Rush pairs and another side series.
Memorable for the number of 1 No Trump contracts I stuck Judie with (five of them, four of which played very well), it seemed like a very so-so game for us North-Souths. When the preliminary totals were posted, there were many pairs bunched just above 50%, ourselves included. In fact, we were third on that list with 52-odd%. The final tally put us at 52.88%, fifth overall, fourth in the B strat, earning 0.76 of a red point. Judie noticed that 12 of us North-Souths were B pairs, while only two were A. Meanwhile, East-West had five As and nine Bs. She pointed this imbalance out to tournament director Mike Roberts, who said that last-minute requests for seating in each direction skewed the lineups.
After a quick lunch in the hotel, we were back sitting East-West and, it seemed to me, playing excellent bridge. There was a down-four sacrifice at 4 Spades, not vulnerable and, fortunately, not doubled after a 2 Spade pre-empt, which disrupted our opponents’ airtight 4 Heart contract. An early 6 Spade slam that succeeded, and then another 6 Spade slam that made an overtrick because the opponents didn’t get to cash their A-K of Diamonds. Our only outright top board turned out to be defensive, when we sent our opponents down three in a 4 Spade contract where they should have been only down one or, better yet, making 3 No Trump.
Unfortunately, there were plenty of unspectacular and just plain awful hands. We finished with 50.11%, which was just below the line where B pairs earned points (51.28% was good for sixth overall and fourth in B). But added to our morning effort, the combined total made us10 th overall and sixth in the B strat, earning us 3.44 points. Gold ones. Hallelujah! We were not going home empty-handed.
Notes and observations:
A banner hanging in the hallway outside the big ballroom announced that the 2015 District 4 Central New York regional tournament will be held in Rochester. During the Lilac Festival in May. First it’s been in Rochester in a long, long time.
Here’s hoping there are new decks of cards for that Rochester regional. Most of the hands we played were annoyingly sticky. I’m surprised they didn’t stick together in the dealing machine.
The offending cards were offending in more than one. They were the old-style automatic dealing machine cards, the ones with the bar codes on them. A couple of those decks found their way into our knock-out game on Tuesday and the woman on the opposing side complained extensively, saying they were driving her berserk. By the time we played a few rounds with them Wednesday, I didn’t even notice the bar codes. There were no other complaints.
Although players from Ottawa were most abundant on Tuesday, there also was a fair-sized contingent from St. Catharines, Ont. First ones we saw were Dorothy Duchnicki and Marge Dykstra, who were ready to become our knock-out partners until they learned how many master points Judie and I had. Sitting behind Judie in the photo above are two more St. Catharinians: Brian Macartney and Jeremy Smee. Buffalo was not as well represented. We saw Jay Levy, but none of the other big-time players. Ruth Wurster was there. So were Jan Hasselback and Linda Wynes and Chris Malarkey. That’s all.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bridge Blog 781: Syracuse Regional, Part I

          Plan One didn’t work. Judie Bailey and I came to play a team game, knock-outs, at the Burt Garrell Syracuse Regional Tournament and we get knocked out in the first round by a team of Canadians from Kingston, Ont.
This despite the fact that we picked up our own set of teammates from Canada, from Ottawa, well, near Ottawa. Terry Prout, who had a buxom lady tattooed on his left arm, and Joan Dunbar seem to hold their own. And so do we, except for those two hands where we should have held the opponents to a draw, but instead lose 24 International Match Points. In our 24-board head-to-head contest, our margin of defeat is 25.
One of those hands is entirely my fault. Judie opens 1 No Trump and I’ve got a 16-point hand with Ace-King-Queen-fifth of Clubs, four crummy Hearts, the Ace and a low Diamond and the Queen-Jack of Spades. I bid 2 Clubs, Stayman, asking for her major suit. She bids 2 Spades. I go right to 3 No Trump and we play it there, making three overtricks. At the other table, the bidding is 1 NT, 4 NT, 6 NT.
On the very next hand, we're killed by a pre-empt. West opens 3 Diamonds and I can’t bid, despite having an opening hand that’s 4-4 in the major suits. Judie doubles and I jump to 4 Hearts. Mistake. I should have cue-bid 4 Diamonds to ask for her best major. She has two Hearts, two Diamonds, four Spades and five Clubs. At the other table, there's no pre-empt and it makes 4 Spades.
After dinner, we come back to play pairs in the evening side game, a 16-table contest marked by frigid air conditioning, two identical boards (thanks to a foul-up by the dealing machine) and an overflow supply of people from Ottawa.
We start out against a couple members of the hospitality committee – Kathy Landon and Sandy Stockton – who tell us that the 100 sandwiches they set out in the hospitality room at 6 p.m. were gone in 20 minutes. We tie for a top on the first board we play against them, then tie for a bottom on the second one, when emboldened by a big hand with two Ace-King holdings, I double Sandy’s 4 Spade bid. Having a 10-Spade fit and a singleton in one of my Ace-King suits, she makes it. Had I not doubled, we would have been 5 match points better.
Though we have a good game, 5 match points aren’t enough to give us master points. Our 51.41% is 10th among the 16 East-Wests. There are a lot of pairs in the 50s. First in B is 58.85%. First overall is 59.49%. Against our afternoon teammates, who were playing North-South, we took 19 of a possible 30 match points. They also finish out of the money at 50.26%.
On the way out, Judie picks up a flyer headlined: “Fast Results comes to the Syracuse Regional.” It asks: “Would you rather go have a bite to eat than stand around waiting for your results for the pair’s (sic) game just completed? No more! You can now retrieve all of the information via the Internet."
And so I have at There’s even a provision for winners to post pictures of themselves.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bridge Blog 780: Finale with fireworks

         Airport Bridge Club manager Bill Finkelstein began the last game of July on Thursday by announcing that it would provide a last-minute winner the master point race for the month. The three leaders, Jerry Geiger with 27.68, Judi Marshall with 27.67 and John Ziemer with 27.43, all were in the house. But it really came down to Jerry and Judi, since John was Judi’s partner.
          Jerry and Mike Ryan gave it a good effort, finishing second North-South with 60.42% for 1.87 points, bettered only by Linda Vassallo and Walt Olszewski, who notched 66.67%. Judi and John, however, were first East-West with 62.73%, winning 2.50 points.
          As for me, I was finishing out a dismal and unproductive week with Dianne Bloom, who confessed at the start that she was exhausted from spending the past week helping her son get settled in his new apartment in Rochester. To further unhinge us, we were the bumping pair in the 9½ table game, displacing a different North-South pair each round.
          Nevertheless, we were sharp on defense. In our first round against John and Judi, we brought them down to nearly 50%. We had one bottom board, one top board and four ties for tops. It felt good and it was – 59.38%, best game I’ve had in a while, fourth in A and second in B overall for 1.97 points, 0.99 of them red.
          If my July calculations are correct, that would give me 10.77 points for the month at the Airport Club, 3.34 of them red, plus 0.49 at Unit 116 picnic. 11.26 in all. Not as wonderful as June, but at least it’s double digits.
          With Canadian partner Selina Volpatti unavailable to start the new month on Friday, I reunited with Dianne Bloom at the Airport Club. This time she was well-rested and I was not (problems with my sleep apnea machine). This did not feel like Thursday’s stellar session. We both made dumb mistakes. The most egregious was Dianne forgetting about a winning finesse she intended to take and cashing the Ace from her Ace-Queen. Despite all that, we finished first East-West with 56.65%, fourth overall, for 1.64 points, half of them red.

Bridge Blog 779: Now where were we???

          So annoyed was I with the master points that were pending on my monthly tally a few weeks ago that I walked away from the whole midyear roundup at the end of June. But before it all fades into the distance, it needs some cursory attention at least.
          Well, according to the ACBL, my midyear total is 57.68, of which 3.57 are red and 18.14 are silver. And during June, if my calculations are correct, I accumulated 22.11 of them, about 37 percent, thanks mainly to the Sectional Tournament at the Clubs (STaC), which contributed 11.60 silver.