Monday, September 29, 2014

Bridge Blog 798: Nada

I’ve been in a slump of monumental proportions ever since the sectional tournament two weekends ago. Indeed, I have not collected any fragment of a master point since Saturday, Sept. 20. I keep expecting to snap out of it, but all I’ve done is add to my succession of sorry finishes.
This past week included a 42.26% with Usha Khurana last Monday and a 38.09% today (barely escaping last place), a 44.26% with Marietta Kalman last Tuesday (after which she suggested I cut down on overbidding), a 38.19% with Celine Murray on Wednesday (cut down, but it didn’t help), a 46.73% with Dianne Bloom on Thursday, and a 43.81% on Saturday with Alice Bragg (paired up at the last minute).
Closest I came to success was Friday in St. Catharines, Ont., with Selina Volpatti in an 18-table game where we were 2½ match points away from placing fourth in the B strat. All we had to do to improve upon our 48.87% was avoid those three train-wreck hands – two minus 1,100s and a minus 1,700 (on the very first board of the day, a very ill-advised 5 Spade sacrifice, down seven doubled) – and that would have done it.

Bridge Blog 797: High water

Individual game results from the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament back on Sept. 12 to 14 were posted right away, but not the tabulation of all the master points. The ACBL, at its new headquarters in northern Mississippi, got flooded out in the big rains early that weekend. Time to move back to higher ground in Memphis, folks.
At any rate, the ACBL finally reopened last week and added up all those points and now, nearly a week later, I’ve finally found a moment to acknowledge them.
Big winner was somebody who usually isn’t the big winner – Kathy Pollock – who played as good as she looked that weekend. She brought home 15.67 points, 8.75 of them as part of the winning Swiss team on Sunday. She also was third overall in the two-session game on Friday.
Second was a guy who’s always in the running, Bud Seidenberg, with 12.79. He earned 6.56 of them as part of the second-place Swiss team on Sunday. Third and fourth were two of Kathy Pollock’s Swiss teammates, Fred Yellen and Chongmin Zhang, with 12.61 and 11.75, respectively.
Fifth and sixth were two perennial winners, Chris Urbanek with 10.62, and Saleh Fetouh, with 10.58. They were on Bud Seidenberg’s Swiss team.
Me? I was 74th, right behind a six-way tie for 68th, with 2.90.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bridge Blog 796: The "Moonraker" hand

First opponents in St. Catharines, Ont., on Friday included a player I hadn’t seen before who declined to enter his number into the Bridgemate gizmo. He said his name was Amir (Amir Farsoud, the results on the club website tell us) and that he was Iranian. Not Persian?, I inquired. No, he said, that’s a name given by the British and smacks of colonialism.
At any rate, Amir and his partner, Norm St. Denis, were adventurous convention hounds and he made it clear that he knew a lot about bridge. His main point was that point count means nothing and, as an example, he cited the “Moonraker” hand (actually the Duke of Cumberland hand), an outrageously distributional deal which author Ian Fleming incorporated into the James Bond novel of that name. The winning hand at 7 Clubs redoubled has only eight high card points. Google it and see. (Bond opened 7 Clubs, but now that I look at the hand, an astute opponent, holding 31 high card points, could make 7 Hearts or 7 Spades if his partner is sharp enough to bid one of the major suits over his double.)

Bridge Blog 795: Bottoms 'r us

What a week in the doldrums this has been. I’ve been brain dead, epitomized by my revoke in the first hand I played with Dianne Bloom on Thursday. It’s a sad succession, hitting the depths with 29.95% on Tuesday with Flo Boyd, who was a last-minute substitute for the last-minute cancellation by Barbara Sadkin. Even in St. Catharines today (Friday), hopes faded with a minus 800 and a minus 1,100, both misguided sacrifices inspired by favorable vulnerability.
The minus 1,100 was 5 Diamonds doubled, bid when I believed that the opponents could make 4 Hearts vulnerable, as indeed they can. Unfortunately, we North-Souths can take only six tricks in Diamonds, not eight. Allowing them to make 4 Hearts would have given us 5.5 more game points.
The minus 800 was 5 Hearts doubled on a hand where East-West can make 4 Spades vulnerable. According to the hand records, we can take only seven tricks, which we did. Allowing them to make 4 Spades would have given us an extra 4.5 game points. An extra 10 game points, however, would have only boosted from 13th place to 12th. Clearly, our distress was more widespread than these two hands. Our big problem: An abundance of 30% and 40% boards.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Bridge Blog 794: Buffalo Fall Sectional Finale

“Well, at least the Bills won,” teammate Michael Kozower said when the Swiss teams game finally ended Sunday afternoon. The past couple hours of bridge had seemed not only endless, but also fruitless. We managed to win only one round and tied another for a grand total of 0.39 of a silver point.
Since the game finished later than I expected, I bolted for work – I would be more than an hour late – and didn’t stick around to see if we were last. In the parking lot, I discovered that we weren’t. Somebody else reported that they’d won only one round. “At least the Bills won,” he said.

Bridge Blog 794-A: Random Notes

As of Monday night, the ACBL has yet to post a list of the master point winners from the tournament (could it be because ACBL headquarters is still closed because of last week’s heavy weather?), so a roundup of point winners will have to wait.
        After Friday morning’s big turnout, attendance settled down to normal levels. Friday afternoon had 30.5 tables. Saturday morning had 28. Saturday afternoon had 22. And there were 25 Swiss teams on Sunday.
        Having been asked by Pat Lakeman to bring cookies, I ordered 12 dozen from my neighborhood custom cookie purveyor, Barbara Keating of Sweet Temptations du Jour, and they were a hit. Betty Metz put half of them out on a tray at the start of Saturday afternoon’s game and they disappeared in a flash. In the middle of the session, she filled up a second tray, which met the same fate.
        Other hospitality was a mixed bag. Panera’s bagels Friday and Sunday mornings, plus some of Paula Kotowski’s blueberry bread on Saturday, that was good. Tim Hortons Tim Bits, not so good. Paul Zittel brought in fresh peppers, which he gave as prizes to winners, plus veggie platters which included a cross between cauliflower and broccoli that split the difference between their two flavors. It wasn’t until Sunday that he brought some of his fabulous corn salsa.
        I’ve rarely seen blood in a men’s room except in gangster movies, which made for an unsettling sight in one of the toilet stalls on Saturday – a raised toilet seat heavily splattered in red. Whoever it was should get that checked out, the janitor and I agreed as he scoured it up late in the day. Sunday someone mentioned that one of the players who had been there Friday and Saturday was in the hospital. Bleeding ulcer.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bridge Blog 793: You read it here first

The biennial Niagara Falls, Ont., Regional Tournament should have been listed on the ACBL website for November 2015 for several months now. I’ve kept checking for it, but it hasn’t shown up. I thought I heard somebody saying that Unit 166 wasn’t going to hold it this time around.
Some of the folks from Unit 116, not seeing Niagara Falls on the ACBL tournament calendar, have been starting to wonder if they could move the 2015 Buffalo Regional from June to October, a more favorable time of year because hotel rates are cheaper.
So when I see Unit 166 honcho Lorna Johnson, who chaired the last Niagara Falls Regional, among the competitors at the Buffalo Sectional on Saturday, I ask her about it.  She says yes, it’s going to happen. They’ve applied for the sanction. It should be on the ACBL schedule any day now.

Bridge Blog 792: Buffalo Fall Sectional, Day 2

Tune-up time for the Buffalo Regional Tournament next month with Betty Metz, with whom I’m teamed for the Friday and Saturday sessions. Since she doesn’t play at the Airport Bridge Club and I’m always playing there, this was our first best chance to reacclimate ourselves to one another, having had a successful session when we were thrown together by the partnership chairman at a tournament a while back.
No problem when it comes to filling out the convention card. Betty says we should play like she plays with Helen Panza, which is a pretty standard game – no funny conventions. Nevertheless, we start off poorly in the morning game.
We allow opponents to win auctions when we should have outbid them. We don’t bring down the extra tricks we should be taking defensively. And then there’s the misguided slam bid, when I mistake Betty’s jump to 2 No Trump as a strong hand opposite my strong opener instead of a 10 or 11-pointer. Down five doubled vulnerable. Minus 1,400. A bottom is a bottom. And we finish down near the bottom in the 15-table double-session game with 43.39%.
This does not bode well at all for the regional next month. For the afternoon, I resolve to be more opportunistic. That doesn’t go so well at first, but after a few rounds things start to turn in our direction. For instance, there’s a 2 No Trump bid that should make 4 NT and I wind up taking four overtricks. Not a top board, but high middle.
Later we bid a 6 NT slam and make an overtrick. And on the final board of the day we rush to another 6 NT contract after I make an ill-advised opening bid of 1 Heart with this hand:
Spades: J-4; Hearts: A-K-J-9-6; Diamonds: 6; Clubs: 9-8-7-6-3.
Betty bids 2 Diamonds and I can’t leave things there, so I go to 3 Clubs. She jumps to 4 NT and I have no choice but to play along with the Blackwood convention and show her I have an Ace. So there we are at 6 NT. As I put down my cards for the dummy, I apologize for leading her down the garden path.
The hand record shows that the hand can make 6 Clubs, but only 5 NT from the South. Betty, however, manages to bring it home by squeezing the opponents. They throw away the suit she’s holding at the end. It’s brilliant. It’s a top board. It’s just enough to raise us to 50.51% and put us fourth in the B strat. We win 0.54 of a silver point. Here are the other hands.
Spades: A-K-5-2; Hearts: Q; Diamonds: A-J-5-3-2; Clubs: A-Q-5.
Spades: 9-8; Hearts: 10-4-2; Diamonds: K-10-7-4; Clubs: K-J-10-4.
Spades: Q-10-7-6-3; Hearts: 8-7-5-3; Diamonds: Q-9-8; Clubs: 2.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Bridge Blog 791: Buffalo Fall Sectional, Day 0.5

Played only the morning session. Not my usual regime at these things, but partner Selina Volpatti had an early event this evening and said she couldn’t do the afternoon game. I also had an early evening possibility that I did not want to blow off – the Garden Walk Thank You Party from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Twentieth Century Club (second oldest women's club in America, an E.B. Green building which I’ve long wanted to see the insides of). Plus I could pick up my significant other from her flight home from Memphis at 3 p.m. Taking the afternoon off would be all good.
The morning also was all good. Failing to bid up to game on a hand in the first round, I was inspired to aggressive auctioneering the rest of the game. Selina, of course, is always inclined that way. Encouraged by good cards, we took bid after bid – 18 out of 24 of them. And, yes, we bid the 6 No Trump slam, although our top board was a hand where we made four overtricks at 1 NT (hand record says the opponents should make 1 NT there).
The upshot? 57.27%. First North-South in the 9½-table single session pairs game. Third overall. 1.97 silver points. Better than we expected.
Turnout for the first session of the tournament also was better than expected. Start of the game was delayed so they could bring in more tables and chairs. They had 35 tables in all, thanks to a fair number of folks from St. Catharines and some Bridge Center of Buffalo 299er folks who came to our table that I hadn’t seen before, like Jeffrey Oshlag and Marilyn Wortzman and the Weltes, John and Martha. Somebody remarked that it was a good thing they remembered to bring along some extra Bridgemate electronic scoring gizmos.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Bridge Blog 790: Sizzling September (so far)

The summer of double and triple points at the Airport Bridge Club comes to an end this weekend, and I’ve been making the most of these last precious days. In fact, it’s been enough to put me over 100 total points for the year.
Barbara Sadkin and I triumphed on Tuesday with the best game I’ve had in a while – 64.68%, 2.22 points. Wednesday with Celine Murray, we rebounded from 30.56% the previous Saturday to break into the points (0.65 of one) with 50.62%, fourth in the B strat.
Florence Boyd and I scratched on Thursday until scoring mistakes were corrected and we sank to 49.70%, fifth out of nine. Selina Volpatti came to our side of the river on Friday and we improved on our previous week’s performance in St. Catharines – 56.67%, third in A, second in B for 1.22 points. And then on Saturday, hooking up with Beverly Dale, newly returned from Florida, we do a bit better than Friday – 56.85%, fourth in A, first in B, for 1.58 points. So far in September, 5.67.

Bridge Blog 789: Wrapping up August

Seventh of the month, the ACBL has tallied up the master point races. Bill Finkelstein says he got his figures in on time this month, so let’s see who’s where with what.
First on the Unit 116 level, Buffalo only. The Ace of Clubs race, which counts only points earned in club play. A month ago I was in sixth place with 60.17. This month I’m seventh with 76.28, having been passed by Chuck Schorr. The Top 10:
John Ziemer, 136.38; Ken Meier, 107.13; Fred Yellen, 86.89; Mike Silverman, 84.68; Chuck Schorr, 84.49; David Millward, 80.70; me, 76.28; Vince Pesce, 64.28; Barbara Pieterse, 63.34; and Gene Finton, 63.25.
Only one player in the unit surpasses John Ziemer in club points, his sometimes partner Jerry Geiger, a 5,000 to 7,500 point competitor with 154,45. Only five players in the unit have more than 100 club points.
Oddly, in the Mini-McKenney races, which count all the points earned everywhere, I’m fifth in Unit 116, up one place from July, with 97.86. Oddly, I say, because I’m usually lower in the Mini-McKenney than in the Ace of Clubs race. Here’s that list:
John Ziemer, 194.05; Ken Meier, 118.52; David Hemmer, 115.68; Fred Yellen, 111.98; me, 97.86; Mike Silverman, 92.94; David Millward, 89.18; Chongmin Zhang, 86.76; Chuck Schorr, 86.11; and Barbara Pieterse, 77.39.
So how do we Buffalonians stand in the larger arena of District 5, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh and points in between? In the Ace of Clubs race, in the 1,000 to 2,500 point division, we rule. Top six places. Myself, seventh in Buffalo, ninth in the district. I’ve been eclipsed by Peggy Shivetts of Greensburg, Pa., with 77.52 and Gary Montain of Westlake, Ohio, with 76.43. Still, nine of our Buffalo top 10 make the district’s top 25. Vince Pesce is 21st. Barbara Pieterse is 25th.
Mini-McKenney? Here the Ohioans rise to the top. Michael Creager of Brecksville with 324.19, Peter Merker of Mentor with 304.81 and Fleur Howard of Gates Mills with 298.13. From there, it’s a big step down, more than 100 points, to John Ziemer in fourth place. I’m 20th on this list. Ken Meier is tenth. David Hemmer is 12th. Fred Yellen is 13th.
On the national level, top Ace of Clubs player in the 1,000 to 2,500 point division is Sanford Robbins of Miami Lakes, Fla. He has 300.21. Second is another Floridian, Larry Lazarow of Highland Beach with 261.14. John Ziemer is 54th. Ken Meier is 190th. That’s it for us in Unit 116. The list runs to 500 names (502 with ties) and cuts off at 86.91 points.
Leaders in the nationwide Mini-McKenney are Vinita Gupta of Woodside, Calif., with 636.11; Cenk Tunkow of Amesbury, Mass., with 607.71; and Robert Micone of Tustin, Calif., with 543.72. District 5’s Michael Craeger is 39th. John Ziemer is 262nd. He’s the only Unit 116 guy on the list. It cuts off at 159.10 points.

Bridge Blog 788: What just happened?

That was the question Thursday, Sept. 4, at the Airport Bridge Club after I brought home what looked like what seemed like an impossible 4 Spade contract against Eleanor Whelan and Harry Cheung. It turned out to be nearly a top board, 6 out of 7 game points.
Board 16. East-west vulnerable. West, partner Flo Boyd, is dealer and, if I remember correctly, she opens 1 Heart. Eleanor’s North and probably passes. I’m East with this hand:
Spades: Q-J-9-8-3; Hearts: J-10-8; Diamonds: 10; Clubs: A-10-9-7.
Do I respond 1 Spade? I do. Somewhere along the line, Flo supports my suit and before we know it, we’re at 4 Spades, although by rights we should be in Hearts. Here’s the dummy:
Spades: K-7; Hearts: K-Q-6-5-4; Diamonds: A-8-5; Clubs: K-3-2.
Yes, we really, really should be in Hearts. Nevertheless, we only lose the Ace of Spades, Ace of Hearts and a Club. Here are the other hands:
Spades: A-4; Hearts: A-3-2; Diamonds, Q-J-7-6; Clubs: J-8-6-4.
Spades: 10-6-5-2; Hearts: 9-7; Diamonds: K-9-4-3-2; Clubs: Q-5.
What’s peculiar about this hand is not the play, but the bidding and the results. I’m the only one at 4 Spades. Two pairs play it at 4 Hearts, one making 5 for top board, one falling a trick short to tie for the bottom. The other five tables are in No Trump, which also seems more reasonable than Spades, but isn’t. Those at 3 NT go down one. Of the three at 2 NT, two make it, the other one doesn’t.  

Bridge Blog 787: 1,920!

Mike Kisiel never fails to taunt me with magic number 800. That’s either down three doubled or down four doubled, depending on the vulnerability. John Ziemer has begun to inflate that figure to 1,100, down an extra trick doubled, a result not totally unknown to me.
The biggest disaster of all lately, however, has been a minus 1,920. It came early in the game with Selina Volpatti on Friday, Aug. 29, at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont. It was Board 13 against Ed Hills and Bob Forster. Both vulnerable. North is the dealer. I’m sitting North and I pass with this dog of a hand:
Spades: K-6-4; Hearts: 9-7; Diamonds: 6-5-4-2; Clubs: J-8-3-2.
Ed, who’s East, bids 1 Spade. Selina doubles. Bob redoubles. I think for a few seconds. Do I even have a bid with this terrible collection of cards? I decide not. I pass, figuring Selina will come up with a suit. But after Ed passes, Selina also passes. The contract is 1 Spade redoubled vulnerable.
Ed proceeds to make 4 Spades. 1,920. I’ve never seen that score before. According to the hand record, it’s supposed to make 4 Spades. According to the club’s list of results online, all but one of the 16 tables played it in Spades, making 3, 4 or 5. Only three of them bid game and one of them went down one. The odd contract was 4 Diamonds by South, down two.
At any rate, Selina said I should have bid something. I said I had a pathetic hand and she should have taken out the redouble. And once I saw the hand records, no question, she should have gone 2 Diamonds. But not seeing her hand at the time, I accepted the blame, and I still wonder if I should have made a bid, which would have been 2 Clubs. Here are the other hands:
Spades: 2; Hearts: A-6-4-3; Diamonds: A-Q-J-9-3; Clubs: A-9-6.
Spades: A-Q-J-9-3; Hearts: 5-2; Diamonds: K-8; Clubs: Q-7-5.
Spades: 10-9-8; Hearts: K-Q-J-10-8; Diamonds: 10-7; Clubs: K-10-4.