Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Bridge Blog 873: Happy Endings

I began the year wondering if I would live to see the end of it, given my diagnosis of bladder cancer. Thanks to the folks at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, I’m still here, at least most of me, and I’m still working full-time, playing almost daily and hoping to reach Gold Life Master in, well, perhaps 2019. Maybe sooner.
How much progress I would make toward that goal this year was uncertain. Surgery and recovery would take me out of action for an unpredictable amount of time. Being laid low by chemotherapy and taking time out for heart procedures didn’t help, either.
With surgery scheduled for early May, I expected to miss the Rochester Regional Tournament, the first one there in ages, which I was greatly looking forward to. But when the surgery was delayed because of my heart procedures, I got to go after all, at least for a couple sessions. It turned out to be the high point of the year – a victory in one of the knock-out games (see Blogs 835 and 836).
As for collecting gobs of master points, I put aside all my ambitions this year. Whatever I won would be good enough. Here’s the breakdown, month by month.
January – 9.73.
February – 1.84.
March – 7.81.
April – 9.90.
May – 23.32.
June – 1.33.
July – 10.86.
August – 15.11.
September – 14.41.
October – 19.08.
November – 15.35.

As of Nov. 30, there were 95.10 club points, 128.74 overall. Add to that a tentative December total of 23.10 at the Airport Bridge Club and another 0.56 at the annual meeting and game and, voila! December has been the best month this year. Looks like I’ve passed the 150-point mark. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bridge Blog 872: Past Due

Let’s blame it on the STaC. The Sectional Tournament at the Clubs had the marathon air of a regional tournament, at least for people as obsessive as me who decided to play in almost every STaC game available. In my case, there were 14 of them – morning and afternoon from Monday Dec. 7 to Sunday Dec. 13. They ate up so much of my time that I’m still playing catch-up on blogging and a bunch of other things two weeks later. 
And how did I do in the STaC? No big games over 60%. No big jackpot scores. Just plain dogged persistence through 14 sessions that got me to 7.77 points for the week, 69th among 1,137 players who earned points, or some fraction thereof. Winners in the district were a pair of our guys – John Ziemer with 37.61 and Jerry Geiger with 32.45. 

Bridge Blog 872-A: Annual Meeting

When local bridge players around here talk about having an event at the fire hall, that’s the Main-Transit Fire Hall. It’s modern and particularly well-situated a few minutes from the Thruway exit on Transit Road.
For the 2015 annual meeting and game, however, they picked a different fire hall – Rescue Hose in northest North Tonawanda. Not quite as modern nor as convenient (it’s a half hour drive from my house), but it did have a big plus – hot water in the washrooms.
The food – Weidner’s roast chicken, potatoes, salads, a big fruit salad for dessert – was as good as it gets at these affairs. No question that Paul and Linda Zittel, who put this together, as well as the annual picnic, deserved the Volunteer of the Year award. 
The meeting is usually something to be endured, but this one slid through easily. There was no argument over the unit’s $3,988.96 surplus for the year or the suggestion that the new board of directors would have to look for a way to spend it.
Partner Florence Boyd, who helped count the election ballots, said the final results were very close. Nevertheless, the announcement of the winners was a great relief to Ron Henrikson, who was sharing a table with Flo and me. He wasn’t among them.

The game also zipped by, thanks to director Brian Meyer, who maintains a quick pace. Instead of being an hour late for work, I arrived only a few minutes off schedule. Meanwhile, Flo and I managed to finish above 50% -- 53.49%, to be exact. Sixth in the B strat. 0.56 of a master point. 

Bridge Blog 872-B: 11 Down, 1 to Go

Also lost in the STaC shuffle was the monthly review of the Unit 116 and District 5 master point races and my quest  to maintain a respectable position in them despite losing a couple months to medical leave.
Let’s start with the Ace of Clubs, points earned in club play only, for Unit 116 in the 1,000 to 2,500 point division, which is where I’ve been living since 2011. As of Nov. 30, I had 95.10 club points, keeping my position in sixth place on the list.
Leader is John Ziemer again, with 164.79, but nipping at his heels is Mike Silverman with 164.43. If Mike didn’t disappear on vacations, like the one he’s on now (Dec. 26), he’d be in the lead.
The rest of the list looks like this: Ken Meier, 152.71; Fred Yellen, 142.50; Martin Pieterse, 127.95; then me, followed by Allen Beroza, 94.39; Walt Olszewski, 79.38; Dorothy May, 78.85; and Bill Finkelstein, 75.76. Eleventh is Gene Finton, with 71.03 and an address of Delray Beach, Fla. Didn’t realize he was a snowbird.
In all divisions among Unit 116 players, Jerry Geiger (5,000 to 7,500) is on top with 229.18 and Meg Klamp (7,500 to 10,000) is next with 181.70. Then it’s the top three from 1,000 to 2,500, followed by Bill Boardman (500 to 1,000) with 148.22. Me, I’m 16th in the unit overall.
Moving right along to the Mini McKenney, which counts all points earned in all places, I have an end-of-November total of 128.74, which makes me a solid seventh.
John Ziemer is on top here too, with 258.27. Next are Fred Yellen, 229.24; Ken Meier, 201.68; David Hemmer, 199.49; Mike Silverman, 179.79; Martin Pieterse, 173.02; then that big step down to me, followed by Dorothy May, 109.62; Allen Beroza, 103.45; and Barbara Pieterse, 101.06.
Overall point champs in Unit 116 are the big-time players – Saleh Fetouh with 488.06, Jerry Geiger with 310.67, then Bud Seidenberg, 269.92; and Chris Urbanek, 264.47. John Ziemer is fifth. I’m 30th.
OK, time to look at District 5, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh as well as Buffalo. Here Unit 116 dominates the Ace of Clubs again. We hold the top four spots, then Gary Montain of Westlake, Ohio, checks in with 132.58. Martin Pieterse is sixth. I’m 13th. Allen Beroza is 16th. Walt Olszewski is 28th. Dorothy May is 30th.
Overall, it’s Jerry Geiger and Meg Klamp on top. John Ziemer is seventh. Mike Silverman is eighth.
Mini-McKenney, however, is where the Ohio people shine. They occupy the top four places – Su Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, 567.14; Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, 528.64 (47.87 of them here in Buffalo in October); Peter Merker of Mentor with 300.89 and Charles Ladiha of Vermilion with 263.11. John Ziemer is fifth. Fred Yellen is sixth. I’m 38th.
Champion of all District 5 players is Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh. She has 804.27. Then come the Ohio people Fleur Howard played with in Buffalo – Phillip Becker of Beachwood, 642.66; and Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, with 605.37 and 568.73. Su Lan Ma is fifth. Saleh Fetouh is eighth. John Ziemer is 38th. I’m 154th.
Best of all Ace of Clubs players in the 1,000 to 2,500 point bracket is Sanford Robbins of Pompano Beach, Fla. He’s got 432.94, an amazing number of club points, when you really think about it. Second is another Florida player, Edward Rauch of Fort Lauderdale, with 384.94. John Ziemer’s 173rd. You need at least 132.89 to make the Top 500. Best overall Ace of Clubs guy is Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta – 695.73! Sanford Robbins is tenth. Jerry Geiger is 255 th. The list cuts off at 192.92.
Best Mini-McKenney guy in the 1,000 to 2,500 category is Peter Gelfand of Corallitos, Calif., with 1,393.52. He won’t be in this division much longer. Sue Lan Ma is 15th. John Ziemer is 303rd. Fred Yellen is 458th.

Even more awesome is the overall Mini-McKenney list. Here we find Chris Compton of Dallas with 3,016.34, more points than I will probably earn in a lifetime. The fabled Jeff Meckstroh is 13th with 1,702.64. Buffalo native Joel Wooldridge is 29th with 1,356.56. Our own Saleh Fetouh is 404th. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bridge Blog 871: Wham Bam Slam

One thing I regretted again and again at the Niagara Falls, Ont., Regional was the inability of me and my partners to bid and make slams. But that deficiency ended in a big way on Thursday at the Airport Bridge Club. Tom Koralewski, with whom I was playing for the first time, and I bid and made three of them en route to a superlative 63.69% effort. Second overall, we earned 2.08 points.
Two of the slams were small ones – 6 Spades, 6 No Trump. But one of them was grand and it came in the very first round. Board 5, North-South vulnerable, but not us in East-West. Tom opened a Heart. Holding 17 high card points, I went 2 Diamonds. If I recall correctly, he gave me 3 Clubs next.
Moments earlier, when we reviewed which conventions we played, we'd skipped over slam procedures. “I guess this is something we didn’t discuss,” I conceded, slapping down a 4 No Trump bid to ask for Aces. Tom thought for a minute and went 5 Diamonds. Hopefully, that’s one Ace. Terrific, I had the other three. On to 5 No Trump. Kings? He responded 6 Spades. OK, we have all the Aces and Kings. What the heck. 7 No Trump.
West (me)
Spades: A-4; Hearts: A-5; Diamonds: A-8-6-5-3; Clubs: K-Q-9-6.
East (Tom)
Spades: K-J; Hearts: K-Q-8-6-3; Diamonds: K-10-7; Clubs: A-J-2.
North (Eleanor Whelan)
Spades: Q-10-9-7-3-2; Hearts: 10-7-4; Diamonds: J; Clubs: 10-7-3.
South (Sharon Wilcox)
Spades: 8-6-5; Hearts: J-9-2; Diamonds: Q-9-4-2; Clubs: 8-5-4.
Eleanor led a Spade and I thanked Tom for the dummy. No question that we had two Spade tricks, four Clubs, the top two Diamonds and at least three Hearts. But that’s only 11. The other two would have to come from one of the long red suits. Best to test the Hearts first and see if the opposing hands split 3-3. Hallelujah. With five Heart tricks, I didn’t need to try for extra Diamonds, which would have been fatal.

At other tables, people stopped at 6 NT if they got to slam at all. One of them even went down one. Nobody else went all the way. According to the hand record (a new feature at the Airport Club and much appreciated), East-West can make three other slams – 7 Hearts, 6 Diamonds and 7 Clubs. But match-point-wise, why settle for less? 

Bridge Blog 870: Niagara Falls Regional Wrapped

The Niagara Falls, Ont., Regional Tournament felt bigger than the Buffalo Regional three weeks earlier. And it was. Buffalo attracted the Ohio and Rochester people. Niagara Falls drew them in from Burlington, Oakville, Toronto and points beyond.
Buffalo had 699 tables. Niagara Falls had 1,094 (down from 1,177 in 2013). A total of 732 players earned points in the Falls. Just 487 did in Buffalo.
In Niagara Falls, the big winner, Jack Shinehoft of Dundas, Ont., earned 76.60 points. In Buffalo, the couple tied at the top, Stephanie and Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, took home 63.15.
In Niagara Falls, Buffalo’s leading point man was Saleh Fetouh, fifth overall with 67.77. He also was our biggest winner in Buffalo, 20th overall with 46.13.
In Buffalo, there were local players racking up impressive point totals who usually don’t do that sort of thing. In Niagara Falls, our representatives on the leaderboard were the people you expect to see there. To wit, Dian Petrov, 40.07 (27th), Jill Wooldridge, 36.37 (37th), Chris Urbanek, 32.72 (42nd), Bud Seidenberg, 26.91 (53rd), John Ziemer, 25.28 (60th), Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony, 25.23 (Sunday Swiss team winners once again and tied for 61st), David Hemmer, 25.14 (63rd) and Mike Ryan, 19.22 (87th).
Personally, I found Niagara Falls more rewarding. With 6.78 points, 1.67 of them gold, I was tied for 268th on the list, joined by Teri Ford of Amherstburg, Ont., and John Abbott of Windsor, Ont., neither of whom I recall meeting. In Buffalo, I earned 5.38 points, 2.65 of them gold, and was all by myself at 220th.
Other points of comparison:
Hospitality food. Better in Buffalo, a respectable hors d’oeuvre each evening, though not without a foul-up or two by the Adam’s Mark Hotel. In Niagara Falls, it was chips, popcorn, cheese and crackers.
Wine. Better quality in Niagara Falls, at least on Saturday evening, when they were pouring pinot noir and meritage from Between the Lines Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Better quantity in Buffalo, where one of the committee got a deal on box wines and you could fill your own glass.
Parking. Easier in Buffalo, both in terms of finding a space (always got one near the elevator on the second level, sometimes had to go to the sixth level in the Falls) and quickness of exit.
Restaurant food. In the Falls, I hit the mini food court outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel twice for a Subway sandwich for lunch, then opted back to the buffet in the attached casino for more food, more variety, same price. Evening choices were Swiss Chalet, a retro trip since the chain no longer has an outpost in Buffalo, and Mandarin, a Chinese buffet bigger and better than what we have over here. Dinner Saturday night was back in Buffalo, actually Blasdell, at the Brick Iron Bystro, by far the best food I had all week.

Things also were better during the Buffalo Regional.  Ventures outside the hotel were rewarded by lunches in great downtown places – Osteria 166 (twice), Merge and the Allen Burger Venture. Wait’ll next year.  

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Bridge Blog 869: Niagara Falls Regional Final Day

        Swiss teams! Lots of them on this, the last day of the Niagara Falls Regional Tournament. In the A/X division, 28. In the B/C/D bracket, 34. The main ballroom at the Crowne Plaza Hotel was teeming with players.
        Thanks to the fact that partner Selina Volpatti and teammates Marilyn Sultz and Ruth Wurster have an average of about 500 points apiece, we wound up in the C stratification and we started out by kicking some B strat butt, winning by 27 International Match Points. That warmed us up for a second-round shutdown of a D strat team, 42-6.
        My teams never win the first two rounds in Swiss matches, but here we were. The third round brought us back to reality, with the Paul Pointet-Lezlie Cullen team (also a D bunch) drubbing us, 14-1, en route to their second-place finish.
        But we won the fourth round, beating the Adrian Record team (which ultimately finished third), 24-12, then had a lunch break that was light with elation. Marilyn checked the scoreboard and reported that we were in third place.
        Our good fortunes faltered in the fifth round, however. Selina and I had a series of crummy hands and watched another D team – Alan and Leslie Wilson of Port Elgin – whip us, 23-11. But then we rallied to win round six, 20-14, against the Anne Pettigrew team, our opponents being scary old and such slow players we feared the directors would take away our final two boards. We rushed and got them played.
        If we win our final round, I told the team, we could collect some serious gold points. Indeed, we stood a chance of finishing fourth, fifth or sixth overall, good for 2.86 to 4.44 gold points. However, we got blanked, 17-0, by the Polish guys from Burlington, the Henyrk Nowak team. They finished fourth.
(The big winners, by the way, were the doctors – Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony – who also won the Swiss teams at the Buffalo regional. They went undefeated in all of their rounds with a team that included Judy Kaprove and a last-minute pick-up guy and collected 10.01 gold points.)

We wound up tied for tenth overall, out of point range in the B strat, which rewarded just the top nine with gold points. But we also tied for the eighth and final extra-point position in the C strat. I thought the C strat paid off only in red points, but according to the ACBL Live results e-mail, it actually gives gold. A whole 1.67 points for us. After a week of red points, gold, gold, gold at last.  Total take for the entire tournament, despite no big winners – 5.11 red, 1.67 gold. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Bridge Blog 868: Niagara Falls Regional Day 5

Playing regional tournaments is like banging your head against a wall. You keep doing it until you draw blood. Or, in the case of the tournaments, red points.
That’s the way it was Saturday. Partnered for once with all-week teammate Beverly Ganim from Ohio, we failed to find an amenable second couple for the compact knock-out game, so we did the open pairs instead.
We did better than OK in the morning. With three boards to go, we were at 58.51%, third place North-South.  Then we failed to take the 5 Heart doubled sacrifice on Board 22, which would have kept our opponents from making 5 Clubs vulnerable and earned us an extra match point or two.  
And thennnn on Board 23, we should have stuffed the next pair at 1 No Trump, but they made an extra trick instead. That would have been worth an extra 7 match points.
And finally, I jumped the gun on the slam on Board 24, not giving Beverly my number of Kings on her 5 Club Gerber bid, but going directly to 6 Clubs instead. She would have wound up at 6 NT, although it could make 7 Clubs or 7 Diamonds. Nobody bid the grand slam, but four of the 16 pairs wound up at 6 NT and one other bid and made 6 Hearts. We lost a couple more match points there. Given an extra 11.5 match points, we would’ve finished second, earning 1.72 red points. Instead, we were sixth with 55.45%, taking home 0.41 of a red point.
And that’s all we got. Our afternoon game was much worse than it felt. Had Beverly not made her most grievous mistakes – the big one in my book was pitching the good 13th Heart that would have given her a game contract and a top board instead of going down one – we would have been around 50%, not next to the bottom East-West at 44.23%. But still not earning points. To do that, we would have had to eliminate my mistakes too.
How bad was I? On the hands I played where Beverly and I bid them right, I was 65%. But then there was that push to 3 NT on a couple hands that could only make 2 NT.

And then there was the confusion over what to do after interference when she opened 1 NT. I bid 3 Diamonds over the opponents’ 2 Spades, hoping for a transfer to Hearts. She left it there. Down three. Bottom board. However, 3 Hearts would have been only marginally better: Down two, despite my six-card Heart suit. At most tables, North-South took the bid in Spades. I should have let them. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bridge Blog 867: Niagara Falls Regional Day 4

Friday the 13th. No other explanation for the way our best intentions cratered. Even getting there in good time was a failure. Arose 15 minutes earlier than Thursday, still had to make a mad dash down the Queen Elizabeth Way, buffeted by high winds, after a 15-minute wait for Canadian customs at the Peace Bridge, and arrived a minute before starting time, just like I did on Thursday.
We got stuffed in the first round of the compact bracketed knock-outs, the round robin competition where we had two out of three chances of winning, thanks to one bad hand against each opponent. When we also lost the consolation round on International Match Points (though winning one set of six boards by just one IMP to earn 0.30 of a red point), teammate Larry Murray was ready to jump ship. His partner Beverly Ganim had let a negative double stand, with disastrous results. After that, he said, he couldn’t take the afternoon game seriously.   
Nevertheless, he hung in for the single session Swiss team match. We started off brightly, as a team ranked in the C stratification, beating our first B strat opponents, 17-12 IMPs, then losing honorably in the second set of Bs, 17-11, putting us exactly in the middle of the pack.

But then we ran into two A strat teams, the first being Buffalonians Jerry Geiger and Mike Ryan. They stuffed us, 41-0. So much for our hopes of bonus points. Then we hit another A team, Canadians, the Bambrick team, who nailed us, 31-0, en route to a third-place finish. Our reward for winning that first round – 0.20 of a red point. 
In retrospect, just an awful day, winning just half a red point, although we did better than some of our Buffalo acquaintances, namely John Kirsits, Bill Boardman and Paula Kotowski, who played in the same games and got nothing at all. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bridge Blog 866: Niagara Falls Regional Day 3

It took two melodic bursts from the alarm clock in my smart phone to get me out of bed Thursday morning and I spent the next two hours trying to make up for the lost time.
My phone was ringing again as I searched for a spot to park on the sixth level of the garage behind the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Niagara Falls with the final minutes ticking off toward the 10 a.m. start. This time it was Thursday teammate Beverly Ganim, distressed that I wouldn’t show, despite assurances from my partner, Barbara Sadkin, and ready to bring someone else aboard to play.
But it all worked out. It always does. And 15 minutes later we were settling into a three-way round robin match in yet another knock-out team game. This time we were in Bracket III, the lowest-ranked group, right where we belong, and we vanquished both of our opponents, 16-10 and 41-25 International Match Points, the first one being an estimable Buffalo team of Linda Burroughford, Davis Heussler and the Weltes, John and Martha.
The second session after lunch, head-to-head, found us well-matched once again, winning three of our four rounds against a St. Catharines team of Max Rutherford, Michael Ritze, Maureen Clark and Sharon Stevens and having a jolly old time with Max and Michael.
However, our three winning rounds were small margin affairs – 15-12, 14-12 and 10-5. What determined our fate was the second round, where we went down 21-6, thanks to one unfortunate hand. Teammates Beverly Gamin and Larry Murray (from Windsor) attempted a 6 No Trump slam and came up one trick short, while Max and Michael stopped at 3 NT and made two overtricks. That cost us 13 IMPs, a deficit we could not quite make up.
Our reward for the day – 1.18 red points for winning the round robin. Had we been successful in the second session, we would have been guaranteed at least 4.71 gold points, more than enough to make Barbara a Life Master. Meanwhile, Linda Burroughford, Davis Heussler and the Weltes were afternoon winners. They’ll continue Friday, with a chance to win 8.25 or 11.78 gold points.

Our loss, however, simplified our Friday arrangements. Barbara was going to cancel a bridge date with Nadine Stein and postpone a dentist appointment if we won Thursday afternoon and I was going to have to cancel my Friday tournament date with Art Matthies. Now, despite our disappointments, we can at least proceed as planned. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Bridge Blog 865: Niagara Falls Regional Day 2

Thought I’d play all three sessions Wednesday at the Niagara Falls Regional, but then I woke up feeling like crap. The stubborn cold I came down with during the Buffalo Regional was making a comeback. The evening game, perhaps with Beverly Ganim from Ohio, an option I was looking forward to, was out of the question.
A decongestant and a grande Starbucks dark roast coffee had me feeling almost human by the time Barbara Sadkin and I teamed up with David and Maria Deaves for the new round of knock-outs in the morning. But the knock-outs didn’t do much to brighten my outlook. We were the lowest-rated team in the top-ranked knock-out division and we were up against some serious contenders.
Once again, however, we were put into a round robin match and once again there was hope. We lost to both pairs in the first round, 30-1 and 12-6 (this to teammates of Kevin Loughlin, my partner Tuesday, and the estimable Jill Wooldridge). We deepened one hole in the second half, losing that one 34-3 for an astounding 60 International Match Point deficit, but filled the other, 18-7, thanks in part to me making a 6 No Trump doubled vulnerable bid. So all three of us robins beat at least one of the others. Since we had the lowest IMP score, we were knocked out, but our victory round earned us some points – 1.23 red.
The afternoon found us in a single-session Swiss team game, thrown up immediately against some of the heaviest hitters in the room – Bill Koski, of the long salt-and-pepper beard and tens of thousands of master points, and Polish-born Paul Janicki, the ACBL rep for District 2. They were great company and, of course, they whupped us, 17-6 IMPs, on what was the first step toward their eventual second-place finish among 14 teams.
A successful slam bid gave us the second round against Dennis Glazebrook from St. Catharines and Junko Hemus, a Florida woman he played with in the Buffalo regional, 13-4 IMPs. And then, remarkably, we won the third round on part-score contracts against some Rochester-area ladies.
Suddenly, should we win our fourth and final round, we realized we were looking at earning bonus points. But playing against Gary and Lynn Sturch from over the other side of Peterborough, we ran to a 13-13 tie. Would it be enough?

Turns out, yes, it was. A tie for fifth in the A strat (with Saleh Fetouh and Dian Petrov, who proposed a playoff), but got better points (1.41 vs. 1.01) for finishing fourth in the B strat. After dinner at Swiss Chalet on Montrose Road, 10 minutes and a world away from the hotel and the tournament, Barbara and I headed for the Rainbow Bridge and home, satisfied in more ways than one. With a total of 3.02 (red) master points so far, this (see Blog 863) is already my second-best Niagara Regional. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bridge Blog 864: Niagara Falls Regional Day 1

So there I am Tuesday afternoon in the Crowne Plaza Hotel lobby, all set up with teammates David and Maria Deaves, but stiffed by Barbara Sadkin, whom I thought all along would be my partner for the opening round of knock-out team play (See Blog 863).
Fortunately, however, there is a bridge angel, one Janice Upenieks, who is partnership chairman for this affair. Within minutes, she hooked me up with Kevin from Kingston, Ont., full name Kevin Loughlin, with a bit of a brogue from being born in Dublin, Ireland. Kevin is unhappy that I don’t play two-over-one (about which David Deaves disagrees, saying it’s only for experts).
At any rate, there are three flights of knock-out brackets and, averaging slightly fewer than 2,000 master points, we’re in the middle bracket. My hopes go up when we start out in my favorite configuration for team games – the round robin. Three teams, two winners. That 50-50 chance of progressing to the next round becomes 2-to-1 in favor.
But our robin did not get the worm. In the opening set of 12 hands, we trailed one of our opponents by 25 International Match Points and the other one by just three. Needless to say, we did not make up the big deficit in the second set of 12 boards. And we stayed even with the other team until the last hand, that last one bad hand. Both of them moved on to the evening session and both got beaten.
Kevin was amenable to playing the evening charity pairs game, a 17-table event, but we got off to a terrible start, beginning with an absolute bottom board on the losing end of a 3 No Trump contract. After three rounds, we were at 21.97% and my bidding was under frequent criticism.
Nevertheless, the mood was much looser (we bantered considerably with the East-West pair following us, lovely Torontonians Anita Greenberg and Joanne Heller). In the fifth round we scored an absolute top board on a 3 No Trump contract (lot of those this night) and eventually it seemed like we were pulling up at least one of our socks. We finished at 49.45%, sixth in the B strat, earning 0.38 of a red point. A crumb, but at least we weren’t empty-handed.
Although pairs games aren’t necessarily treasure troves of points, the winning pair – Jill Wooldridge (mother of wunderkind Joel) and Clyde Paul – raked in 7.88 red points with 63.22%. They were North-South and maintained their percentage against us when we let Jill make a 4 Heart contract that should have gone down two, according to the hand record sheet, and which made 3 Hearts at most tables.
My fault there and it was crucial. I needed to overtake a cheap Diamond trick so I could return a Club to my partner and nail Jill’s King. Plus 50 would have given us 10 match points instead of the single one we wound up getting. Those extra nine match points would have moved us up a notch, a fraction ahead of the fifth-place East-West pair in B – David and Maria Deaves. And it would have knocked Jill and Clyde down to fifth place North-South. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Bridge Blog 863: Falling into Niagara

How much bridge can we stand? Second regional tournament in three weeks is coming up at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ont., beginning Tuesday, and I’m at once excited and chagrined.
Excited because Niagara Falls is where I got my life master hat trick – regular life master, bronze and silver – all in one fell swoop in 2011. Also excited because it seems like I do better there than at the Buffalo regional.
(Let’s do a little fact-checking via the ACBL website.
2013 – 2.02
2011 – 13.67
2008 – 1.50
2006 – 2.32
Hmmm. Not true. Guess it’s bigger in memory than it is in fact.)
And then I’m chagrined because all my arrangements are up in the air, despite my best efforts to nail them down.
Thanks to the tournament’s partnership chairwoman, I’ve lined up three sets of teammates for the knock-out competitions Tuesday through Saturday – well, maybe just through Friday – but all that has come into doubt courtesy of Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday partner Barbara Sadkin.

She announced at the club game Monday that she won’t be able to play Tuesday. Her daughter bought her tickets to Colm Wilkinson: Broadway and Beyond at the UB Center for the Arts Tuesday night. So now I’m obliged to line up somebody else to partner for Tuesday knock-outs at the last minute. Will I get away with telling them they can’t play Wednesday if we survive the Tuesday rounds? God only knows. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bridge Blog 862: October Rounded Up

After a year when I was sidelined for days and weeks with serious medical problems, October felt like a return to double-digit point-winning form. And now that the ACBL has updated its master point races, I can get a better idea of how good it was.
In the Ace of Clubs race, which counts only points earned in club play, I picked up 13.70 to bring my total so far this year to 86.53. I’m still in seventh place among Unit 116’s Buffalo players with 1,000 to 2,500 master points, but instead of being 14 points out of sixth place, the margin now is only four.
John Ziemer continues on top of this list with 156.38, followed closely by Mike Silverman with 152.52. Then come three more over the century mark – Ken Meier, 144.55; Fred Yellen, 134.54; and Martin Pieterse, 123.52. Still in sixth place is Allen Beroza, with 90.47, then me with 86.53, Walt Olszewski, 73.88; Dorothy May, 72.84; and Bill Finkelstein, 71.39.
Overall Ace of Clubs leader for Unit 116 once again is Jerry Geiger, far out ahead with 213.51. Still second is Meg Klamp with 161.32. Then come John Ziemer, Mike Silverman and Ken Meier. Bill Boardman is sixth with 140.59, followed by Barbara Libby (135.01) and Judi Marshall (134.88). Among all Unit 116 Ace of Clubbers, I’m 17th.
Moving on to the Mini-McKenney races, which counts all points earned everywhere, I moved up a notch in the 1,000 to 2,500 point category, from eighth to seventh, with 113.39 points overall so far this year, picking up a total of 19.08 in October.
John Ziemer rolls along in first place here, too, with 224.58 points, but not much ahead of Fred Yellen, who has 221.28. After him comes Ken Meier, 185.81; David Hemmer, 172.28; Martin Pieterse, 168.59; and Mike Silverman, 167.88.
Then there’s that big step down to seventh place and my 113.39, followed by Dorothy May, 103.61; Barbara Pieterse, 100.36; and Allen Beroza, 99.53.
Among all Unit 116 players, the leader is Saleh Fetouh, who now has 415.12. Next are Jerry Geiger, 278.10; Dan Gerstman, 239.25; Bud Seidenberg, 236.69; Meg Klamp, 233.85; and Davis Heussler, 225.24. John Ziemer is seventh; Chris Urbanek is eighth with 222.88; then Fred Yellen and, in tenth place, Mike Ryan with 210.26. Me, I’m 32nd, down one place from last month.
On the District 5 level, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh as well as Buffalo, the Buffalo bunch still dominates the 1,000 to 2,500 point Ace of Clubs category. We have the top four places and five of the top six. Here I’m 13th.
Over in Mini-McKenney, it’s the Ohio folks on top. Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills is first with 515.91, then Fleur Howard of Gates Mills with 490.69, Peter Merker of Mentor with 294.49 and Charles Ladiha of Vermilion with 230.80. John Ziemer and Fred Yellen are fifth and sixth. Ken Meier is eighth. And David Hemmer is tenth. I’m way down in 40th place.  

Queen of all District 5 players in the Mini-McKenney is good old Reanette Frobouck from Pittsburgh. 714.59. Next is Philip Becker of Beechwood, Ohio. 600.16, 47.87 of them earned with Fleur Howard at the Buffalo Regional. Sue Lan Ma is sixth. Saleh Fetouh is ninth. John Ziemer is 44th. I’m 165th. 

Bridge Blog 861: Buffalo Regional Wrapped

It’s not news that out-of-towners dominated the top places on the master point list at the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament a couple weeks ago. They always do. First Buffalo player to show his face – Saleh Fetouh with 46.13 points – is in 20th place, followed immediately by Jay Levy with 45. 51.
The surprise this year comes from the unfamiliar faces among the big Buffalo point winners. You expect to see someone like Bud Seidenberg (36th, 28.84 points), but not Dr. Gaurang Sheth (31st, 31.97 points).
Also notable for their strong showings were: Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony (31.61, tied for 33rd) Linda Burroughsford (48th, 24.43), Dorothy May (52nd, 21.43), Joe Rooney (55th, 21.08) and John and Martha Welte (19.42, tied for 63rd).
Top dogs were Stephanie and Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, tied for first with 63.15 points, followed by the venerable Martin Hunter from Toronto with 60.93. Ex-patriate Joel Wooldridge, whose address is now Astoria, was tied for fifth with 57.13. Saleh Fetouh was teamed with the Alexanders for a knock-out victory worth 14 points on Tuesday-Wednesday.

Me? You’ll have to follow the list down to 220th place to find me with my 5.38 points. In all, the tournament comprised 699 tables, with 487 players earning 4,518.34 points. It was a step down from the June 2013 tournament, the last one to be held at the Holiday Inn on Grand Island, when there were 886 tables. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bridge Blog 860: Buffalo Regional Finale

Well, we weren’t contenders in Sunday’s Swiss team extravaganza. We lost our first round, 25-5 Victory Points, thanks to some overbidding on my part, and it was pretty much downhill from there, even though I tried to be more cautious.
We prevailed in only two rounds, against teams that finished lower than we did. We missed bidding slams. Or else we bid slams and fell one trick short. Against Jerry Geiger and John Ziemer, we fell one trick short on five of the seven hands and lost by 25 International Match Points. At the end of the day, we had just 65 VPs, which might put us in last place, but left us instead 38th out of 41 teams. Two wins gave us 0.72 red points. A consolation, but a small one.
Our first loss, it turned out, was to the local team that went on to become the overall winners – Shakeel Ahmad; his wife, Manju Ceylony; Ten-Pao Lee and Gaurang Sheth. Four doctors – three physicians and, in Ten-Pao’s case, a Ph.D. in economics. Their reward: 17.85 gold points.
Other winners in the first round were the team that included Mike Silverman and Bill Boardman, who knocked off a quartet that included the two hotshot kids we played in the knock-outs on Friday. Score, 51-0 IMPs. Nationally-ranked players, Mike said. Unfortunately, this put Mike’s team up against more tough players and they failed to win the gold master points that Bill needs.  

One of the kids – the one who took forever to play a card Friday – turns out to be Gordon Zind from Ottawa, who says on his page on bridgewinners.com that he wants to become an options trader. Says he plays mostly professionally and teaches online. The other is Sean Gannon from Decatur, Ga., who two months ago finished third in the World Open Youth Championships. Surprisingly, their team only won three of the seven Swiss team rounds. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bridge Blog 859: Buffalo Regional Day 5

Up until the last minute, we didn’t know. Would we play the compact knock-out game on Saturday? In the end, no. Nobody else turned up unattached and our Friday knock-out partners weren’t having any of it. Our Asian teammate, Won Yang, wanted to play pairs. Our other teammate, Jim Gullo, as one of the partnership chairmen, wasn’t inclined to play at all, but he wound up pairing with a freewheeling and rather fun free agent named Patricia Young from Erie, Pa. (who is notorious, we heard later).
So it was double-session pairs, which were a lot less quirky and stressful than the Friday knock-outs. For one thing, there weren’t opponents who took five minutes deciding which card to play. What’s more, Selina and I seemed to be having a decent go at it in the morning game, even though, as East, I was getting mostly crappy cards. We came in at 50.89%, earning 0.61 of a red point, and went to lunch (at Merge on Delaware Avenue) content in the knowledge that we could break into the gold points in the afternoon session if we did well enough.
We didn't. We wound up at 46.79%, well out of reach of the gold. It would have taken at least a 55% game to get there, so it was no single mistake that sank us, but a lot of 50% rounds with the occasional clunker. And then there were simply rounds that were NOF, not our fault, like Sharon Benz and Nancy Wolstoncroft bidding and making a 6 Club slam.

How much have you spent on this tournament, my significant other asked after the second session finished and we were trudging through the wind and rain to the Buffalo Sabres game in First Niagara Center. I added it up: $24 a day, 5 days. $120, soon to be $168. And how many points have you earned? Not many, I’m afraid – 2.65 gold, 1.95 red. But there’s hope for the final day Sunday, the Swiss teams. Selina and I are playing with Paula Kotowski and Bob Kaprove. We could be contenders. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bridge Blog 858: Buffalo Regional Days 3 & 4

Thursday finally gave us our breakthrough in the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament, thanks to a miracle of stratification. Our team – me, Joe Miranda, Usha Khurana and Elaine Kurasiewicz – played the one-session Swiss team game and because all the novices were skimmed off into a gold rush Swiss team session, we wound up in the C stratification instead of B, where we normally belong.
As a result, our less-than-stellar showing – three wins in seven sessions – bought us a tie for third place in the C strat, winning 2.65 gold points. And here I thought we were coming up empty again, especially after we lost our first three rounds.
That gave me higher hopes for Friday, when I would play knock-outs again, this time with Selina Volpatti and the rest of a team to be determined by the partnership desk. We landed one prospect – a Chinese woman named Won who lives in Orlando, Fla., and who is playing bridge while her husband reunites with his old buddies up here – and had one of the partnership chairmen, Jim Gullo.
“Do you know who we’re playing against?” Jim said more than once. Due to another quirk in stratification, we were in the top group, albeit the team with the fewest master points in the top group. Some of our opponents, he noted, had team totals of tens of thousands of points.
Fortunately, we started out in a round robin match, which accommodates three teams in split competition instead of going one vs. one. That’s because the odds for survival are better – two of the three teams go to the next round, while only one advances in the head-to-head game.
We were trailing both of our opponents at the halfway point in the morning game, but rallied to defeat the tough Davis Heuessler-David Colligan team. The other people, Toronto folks, drubbed us badly.
The male half of the Toronto pair had perplexed us by taking long pauses to contemplate his next card during the play, but that was nothing next to the pair of twenty-something guys we played against in the afternoon round robin.
The young-un from Montreal (the other was from Atlanta) took fully five minutes to put down a card against a 4 Spade contract Selina was playing. She was ready to strangle him. Since the knock-out games aren’t timed, like Swiss teams and pairs games are, I doubted that objections could be raised to this. Later, however, I was told that we could have called the director. Next time this happens, I will.

Nevertheless, we fell way behind during the first 12 boards against both afternoon pairs and further behind in the second batch of 12. Not only were we knocked out, but we were beaten up and dragged out. Even so, the day wasn’t a total loss. For winning one round in the first round robin, we earned 1.34 red points. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bridge Blog 857: Buffalo Regional Day 2

         It was during the mid-session break in the Wednesday morning knock-out game at the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament that the director came to our table to break the bad news. Our fifth player, who was supposed to fill in on our team on Thursday, would be ineligible. She was playing in the pairs event Wednesday at the same time we were playing in the knock-outs. Not allowed.
        That would be a good problem to have, we told the director. At that point we had played 12 hands against a couple from Halifax, Nova Scotia (teamed at the last minute with a couple women from Rochester), and we were down more than 30 International Match Points. Could we make it up in the next 12 hands? Our opponents did that to us on Tuesday and knocked us out. This time, however, it was not meant to be. In the first group of six boards, a veritable festival of small contracts and part scores, we prevailed by a margin of 2 IMPs to 1. In the second group of six, we sank even deeper into defeat.
        So it was back to the side game in the afternoon. Open pairs with the 299ers mixed in because there weren’t enough of them for a separate section. That obliged the directors to recalibrate the stratifications. Joe Miranda and I, who started out in the B start, were put in with the big guys in A.
        Not that it should matter. A good score is a good score and I felt we were on our way to one. Joe and I finally seemed to be perfectly attuned, at least until the last couple rounds. I was shocked that the score didn’t reflect my good feelings. We wound up tied for fifth out of nine pairs East-West with a 47.92% score, suppressed by two bottom boards in our final round.

We would have had to beat 51.62% to win red points. Take away our three worst hands – those two bottom boards and an ill-fated 5 Clubs doubled vulnerable contract that Joe should have shifted back to my original bid of Diamonds – and we’d be 10 match points better, good enough to finish third and earn 1.11 red. Well, there’s always tomorrow. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Bridge Blog 856: Buffalo Regional Day 1

Not that anything horrible happened on Tuesday, the first day of the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament, but there was a succession of little frustrations, the kind that tell you that now that you know about them, you’ll do something different tomorrow.
First of all, I vow not to forestall taking tricks so much in Wednesday’s knock-out competition, even in the No Trump games. On more than one occasion Tuesday, I held back from taking Aces in hopes of capturing extra tricks, then went to bed with them.
There’s not much I can do, however, about our teammates not bidding up to game on hands when our opponents do. That was the key to our defeat at the hands of the team from Guelph in the morning round of the knock-outs. We led them by 28 International Match Points at the break after 12 hands, then gave our lead away 10 IMPs at a time when our adversaries nailed game bids and our teammates stopped short. How badly did they beat us in the second half? 59-12. 
So Elaine Kurasiewicz and Usha Khurana didn’t want to be teammates with me and Joe Miranda again in the single session Swiss team game in the afternoon. They opted for pairs instead and, given the situation, so did we. Joe and I, playing what seemed like dismal cards East-West, finished  right at 50%, eighth out of 15 pairs. No points for us. Usha and Elaine, who sat North-South, came in third overall at 62.82%. They got 1.93 points.
Meanwhile, my plan was to run home during break between morning and afternoon sessions, feed the cat, bring in the mail, turn on the lights, then stay downtown when the afternoon games finished to catch up on a few things at the office.

But I also didn’t want to pay for parking in the ramp at the Adam’s Mark Hotel and the desk with the free parking passes wasn’t going to open until 2. I opted instead to take a hike through windy Niagara Square to a restaurant I’ve wanted to try – Osteria 166, the Italian bistro opposite the convention center on Franklin Street – and discovered that it’s Restaurant Week again. I went for the $20.15 lunch special – appetizer (pasta fagiole), main course (chicken lasagna) and a dessert (fried dough with Nutella and a wonderful raspberry compote) that turned out to be the best part of the meal. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bridge Blog 855: Revved for the regional

        Got my partners for the Buffalo Spooktacular Regional Tournament, which begins Tuesday, Oct. 20. Got teams too for every day but Friday and Saturday.
        But when I give it a second thought, I wonder why I’m so psyched for this bridge marathon. Perhaps it’s because it’s in downtown Buffalo, although the last time it was at the Adam’s Mark Hotel, the accommodations were sub-par compared with the now-defunct Grand Island Holiday Inn.
        And I have high hopes for winning gold points, but to tell the truth, I’ve done better at the regionals in Niagara Falls, Ont., and Rochester and Syracuse. The Buffalo regionals have had their ups and downs:
        2014 – 9.77.
        2013 – 4.59.
        2012 – 12.12.
        2011 – 6.97. 
        2010 – 7.59.
        2009 – 4.15.
        2008 – 12.70.
        2007 – 5.44.
        2006 – 1.94.
        2005 – 2.73. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Bridge Blog 854: No waiting

Airport Bridge Club manager Bill Finkelstein expressed disdain for the ACBL-wide Instant Matchpoint Game on Friday, or at least for the way the scores were rated. To that extent, they did indeed seem a bit peculiar, but I still got a kick out of seeing immediate results.
It helped, of course, that partner Selina Volpatti and I were doing well (and could see our successes right then and there on the oversized Instant Matchpoint score sheets). In the final round, however, we also were able to watch how we were falling behind the other pair with whom we were tied atop the North-Souths. They won the gold point. We came in second with 55% and took home 1.83 master points, half of them red ones.
I had told Selina our chances of earning points would be better in Buffalo at the Airport Club (a 5-table game) than they would have been in the bigger game in St. Catharines, Ont. Let’s take a look at their website and see. Aha! They had 18½ tables, but the results are not listed in Instant Matchpoints. Perhaps they didn’t do it, after all. No, they didn't. They played different hands. A 55% there would have finished fourth North-South and given us just 0.95 of a point.

Well, how about the other game in town – the one at the Bridge Center of Buffalo? They played the ACBL cards. Our 55% there would have been not quite so good – only third North-South, yielding 1.34 points. 

Bridge Blog 853: Lightning Strikes Twice

         Seven No Trump. It’s a bid I pull out of the box as a joke. It’s so over the top. It never happens. Except it did – twice – on Thursday in a 5½-table game at the Airport Bridge Club.
The first grand slam, in fact, was 7 NT with two overtricks, if there had been a way to take them. There was no secret to the play, which was a lay-down from the opening lead. It was all in the bidding.
Sitting East, vulnerable, I was declarer and opened 1 Club. My partner, Barbara Libby, responded 1 Spade. I went to 2 NT, she came back with 4 Clubs Gerber, asking for Aces. My bid was 4 NT, showing three of them. She thought for a minute, then went straight to 7 NT. South’s opening lead was a Diamond. Here are the hands:
Spades: 8-7; Hearts: A-K-7; Diamonds: A-8; Clubs: A-Q-J-6-3-2.
Spades: A-K-Q-J-4-2; Hearts: 6; Diamonds: 10-2; Clubs: K-10-9-2.
Spades: 6-5; Hearts: J-10-5-3; Diamonds: J-9-5-4-3; Clubs: 7.
Spades: 10-9-3; Hearts: Q-9-8-4-2; Diamonds: Q-7-6; Clubs 8-4.
See what I mean? Six Spade winners. Same with Clubs. Plus one Diamond and two Hearts.
It was a top board for us. At the other four tables, East-West swept up 13 tricks, but didn’t bid it. Second best was 6 Spades, then 6 Clubs, 3 NT and, at the bottom, 5 Clubs.
A couple rounds later the good cards were on the other side of the table. Barbara and I were the North-South defenders as Wilson McClaren and Judi Marshall marched to 7 NT, not vulnerable. Here are the hands:
East (Wilson)
North: A-9-7; Hearts: A-K-Q-J-5; Diamonds: None; Clubs: A-Q-J-8-4.
West (Judi)
Spades: None; Hearts: 8-6-2; Diamonds: A-K-Q-9-7-5-2; Clubs: K-9-7.
North (me)
Spades: Q-J-10-6-3; Hearts: 10-9; Diamonds: J-10-8-6-4; Clubs: 6.
South (Barbara)
Spades: K-8-5-4-2; Hearts: 7-4-3; Diamonds: 3; Clubs: 10-5-3-2. 
Wilson was the declarer. Barbara led a \Spade. It was another lay-down, except they had only 14 tricks – five Hearts, five Clubs, three Diamonds (they won’t run) and the Ace of Spades.

Every East-West took 13 tricks and Wilson and Judi tied for a top. Another pair also bid it. The other three tables bid small slams – two 6 NT, one 6 Hearts. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bridge Blog 852: September Song

Let’s start by thanking the Airport Bridge Club for reporting points to the ACBL on time this month on behalf of all of us who play there and care about where we stand in the master point races. Didn’t happen last month. Glad to see it this month.
With all my points present and accounted for, I’m further grateful to return to the top 10 in the Ace of Clubs race in Unit 116, which encompasses Buffalo. I sit in seventh place with 72.83 points earned in club play, a nice advance from my previous position in the double digits.
Top dog in the 1,000 to 2,500 point division once again is John Ziemer with 147.02 points, followed closely by Mike Silverman with 142.24. Next comes Ken Meier, 135.17; then Fred Yellen, 131.02; Martin Pieterse, 110.01; Allen Beroza, 86.65; then me. Rounding out the top 10 are Bill Finkelstein, 71.08; Dorothy May, 69.52; and Walt Olszewski, 69.21.
Leading club point winner in the entire unit is Jerry Geiger (5,000 to 7,500) with 201.08. Mighty impressive. Meg Klamp (7,500 to 10,000) is second with 157.21. Then, after John Ziemer and Mike Silverman, there’s Bill Boardman (500 to 1,000) with 135.40. Among all unit players, I’m 20th.
Moving over to the Mini-McKenney, which includes all points earned everywhere, I’m eighth with 94.31. John Ziemer also heads this list with 194.90, but just barely. Second-place Fred Yellen has 194.29. After that, it’s David Hemmer, 164.39; Ken Meier, 159.88; Mike Silverman, 156.52; and Martin Pieterse, 152.32. Then there’s a big step down to Allen Beroza with 94.63; then me; then Barbara Pieterse, 90.61; and Dorothy May, 78.86.
Leaders on the Mini-McKenney list for the whole unit are the experienced players, topped by Saleh Fetouh with 359.71. Then it’s Jerry Geiger, 251.05; Dan Gerstman, 239.25; Meg Klamp, 229.74; Davis Heussler, 200.70; Bud Seidenberg, 195.73; and John Ziemer and Fred Yellen. On this list, I’m way down in 31st place.
Now for a look at District 5, which includes Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Ace of Clubs, 1,000 to 2,500, continues to be dominated by us Western New Yorkers. We have the first four places and six of the top 10. I’m 16th, 84th among all players in the district.

Not so for the Mini-McKenney, where the Ohio players rule. Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills is first with 470.81, outdistancing Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, 431.40; Peter Merker of Mentor, 279.69; and Charles Ladiha of Vermilion, 223.64. John Ziemer is fifth and three more Buffalo players show up in the top 10.  On this list, I’m 48th, 187th for the entire district. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bridge Blog 851: Are we there yet?

        I knew that the 1,900 master point milestone was getting closer, but I wasn’t sure if I’d know when it happened. There’s no master point odometer. And progress has been hard to follow.
        First of all, the Airport Bridge Club didn’t report its point winners to the ACBL on time at the beginning of September, so the 16.91 points I earned during August weren’t included in the month-end totals. So the number stood at July’s level – 1,869.93. But in actuality, it was 1,886.84.
        And then, to complicate matters, I’ve collected points at five different venues this month. In addition to the Airport Club, there’s been Lockport Duplicate, the Bridge Center of Buffalo, Bridge Centre of Niagara and the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament.
        So let’s total them as best we can. As of Sept. 23, the last date for which totals are posted at the Airport Club, I had 8.24 points there. But then there were the other places. In Lockport, I earned 1.86. At the BCB, it was 1.10. And the sectional yielded 1.80. Add those all up and what have you got? 1,899.84.
        I could have crossed the threshold last Friday after I crossed the Peace Bridge to play in St. Catharines, Ont., with Selina Volpatti, but our 52.05% left us in tenth place North-South. With four other pairs between 52% and 53%, we missed earning points by a fraction.

Or so it appeared when the results first were posted. A check with the club’s website Monday night revealed that the point gods somehow found a way to smile on us. Now we were sitting fourth in the B strat. 0.29 of a point! Belated and misbegotten, but just enough to put me over the top. 

Bridge Blog 850: Buffalo Fall Sectional Roundup

         My 1.80 points seem pretty paltry next to the winners in the Fall Sectional. Top player Jay Levy had 26.45, grabbing 13.41 with his first-place finish with Bud Seidenberg (second with 24 even) in Friday’s two-session pairs. He picked up another 9.02 by coming in second in Saturday’s two-session pairs and 4.02 for third place among the Swiss teams on Sunday.
        The other leading local players filled out the next few places – Saleh Fetouh had 16.25, followed by Judy Padgug with 15.54, Fred Yellen with 15.11, Jay Costello with 13.04 and Chris Urbanek with 13.01.

        In all, 149 players earned a total of 547.51 points. I was in 90th place. The tournament attracted 139 tables, compared with 145 in the spring, 156 back in January and 164 last September.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bridge Blog 849: Buffalo Fall Sectional, Day 3

        My enthusiasm over our Swiss team remained intact for the first round of the final day of tournament play on Sunday. Facing off against familiar opponents (and sometimes partners) Judy Kaprove and Nadine Stein, Florence Boyd and I rattled off a string of successful part scores and down-one defensive efforts. Teammates Jeff Bender and Rich Cramer-Benjamin did much the same against Judy and Nadine’s compadres, Michael and Ruthie Kozower. We won by 14 International Match Points. The day was worthwhile already.
        Round two, however, found us shut out by cute little Linda Burroughsford and a guy named Barry from Ithaca with whom she’d just been paired. The 21-0 IMP margin would have been reduced by 12 if I had rebid a six-card Spade suit on one hand instead of steering it toward a 3 No Trump contract. It made 4 Spades.
        As the day progressed, there was one bad hand like that in each round that sank us. And it was Rich who ruefully accepted the blame. While we were holding the fort against John Ziemer and Vic Bergsten, who failed to bid a slam, Rich and Jeff bid it, but lost it on an ill-advised finesse. A 15 IMP victory turned into an 8 IMP setback and cost us that round. In round four, I won a 4 Hearts doubled vulnerable contract for plus 12 IMPs against Al and Barbara, a Rochester couple, which should have won the match, but Al overcame it by winning a 3 No Trump bid that Rich and Jeff bobbled. They beat us, 14-12.
        Tied for next to last overall after lunch, we took on a pair of loveable 299ers, Mary Ball and Joyce Frayer, and decimated them, 30-4. But our hard luck returned in the final two rounds. Gaurang Sheth and Ten-Pao Lee made a 6 Heart slam with an overtrick, while their teammates, Shakeel Ahmad and Manju Ceylony, confounded Rich and Jeff with a ridiculously weak 2 Spade opener, after which our guys cautiously stopped at game.
        Up against Fred Yellen and Jim Gullo, good players down on their luck, the final round found us foundering some more, this time taking IMP losses of 11 and 8 on successive hands. In the end, we accumulated 88 victory points, which put us fourth or fifth from the bottom in the 16-team field, near as I could tell. Our two victories gave us 0.52 of a silver point apiece. To win bonus points, we would have needed at least 105 VPs – two more wins.
        Random notes: Small turnout for Swiss teams, which was apparent as I pulled up to the Main-Transit Fire Hall from the abundance of good spaces still left in the parking lot. Jewish holidays? The Bills game? Canadians staying home? Hard to say. At the spring tournament in April, there were 23 tables. Last fall there were 25.   
        Director Brian Meyer got a well-deserved round of applause at the lunch break. He’d been pleasant and efficient all weekend, as we saw during a call to our table by the Rochester couple when we passed out the first hand of the round. Should we reshuffle? Sure, he said, noting that, after all, this wasn’t a pairs game or a high-stakes tournament. And he’d moved the games right along. He hustled the Swiss teams to a conclusion by 4:30 p.m., half an hour earlier than they usually end.

        Not allowing enough time in the morning to pick up something for lunch from the Lexington Co-op, my stomach and I decided to see what fates and the hospitality table would bring. If things were really desperate, there was always the pizza, $6 for two slices ($5 for those who paid in advance). Or I could run to Jimmy John’s out on Transit Road for a fast, fast, fast sandwich. Not to worry. Saturday’s bagel shortage turned into bagel abundance on Sunday. There also was hummus, veggies and a ton of cookies and other baked goods. For good measure, Florence gave me, Jeff and Rich each a fresh-baked loaf of banana bread. Not exactly a balanced, heart-healthy diet, but at least hunger wasn’t an issue.