Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bridge Blog 817: Buffalo Winter Sectional, Day 2 and out

Chemo brain tried to derail me again in the early rounds Saturday morning in the Main-Transit Fire Hall, but it didn’t do too much damage. On the other hand, partner Paula Kotowski and I didn’t get any gifts of the magnitude of the one that the usually capable John Welte delivered to me and Judy Kaprove on Friday, when he revoked (trumped my Ace of Spades, then led a Spade) and allowed me to make a 5 Diamond contract that should have failed.
Indeed, Paula and I tried to avoid giving gifts, especially when one of the best East-West pairs in the room, Saleh Fetouh and Bud Seidenberg, came to our table. If anybody was going to squeeze extra tricks out of us and give us bottom boards, these guys would.
Then the bridge gods, in their whimsy, bestowed all 13 tricks on us – twice! But we didn’t bid the slams. We could have, but we didn’t. In the first hand, had we bid 6 No Trump, the right lead would have sunk us unless Paula was declarer. The second one also benefited from a favorable lead, but not as much.
Here they are. First, Board 19. I was North, declarer on both. Saleh was East:

Spades: K-Q-8-3; Hearts: 9; Diamonds: A-K-Q-10-8; Clubs: A-J-10.
Spades: A-5-2; Hearts: K-8-5-2; Diamonds: J-2; Clubs: K-Q-9-7.
Spades: J-6; Hearts: J-10-6-4-3; Diamonds: 9-4-3; Clubs: 6-5-2.
Spades: 10-9-7-4; Hearts: A-Q-7; Diamonds:7-6-5; Clubs: 8-4-3.

Saleh did not lead a Heart. Any other lead lets me romp straight to 13 tricks. Five Diamonds, four Clubs and, as it turned out, four Spades. The hand record indicates that South can make 6 NT, but North can make only 4 NT. The other sure slams are in the minor suits. In Spades, we take only 11 tricks.
Now for Board 20. Both vulnerable this time and we wind up at 4 Spades after I open a strong 2 Clubs, proclaim Spades as my favored suit and Paula jumps straight to game. The hand record says it’s good for small slams in Spades and Diamonds. Here it is:

Spades: K-Q-9-8-4; Hearts: 6; Diamonds: A-K-Q-7-5; Clubs: A-Q.
Spades: A-6-2; Hearts: Q-8-7-3; Diamonds: 4-3; Clubs: K-9-5-2.
Spades: 7-5-3; Hearts: A-10-4; Diamonds: J-10-8; Clubs: 10-7-5-3.
Spades: J-10; Hearts: K-J-9-5-2; Diamonds: 9-6-2; Clubs: J-8-4.

Once again, Saleh does not lead a Heart. I cash my Clubs, then draw trump in three rounds, ending in dummy, discard my Heart singleton on the King of Clubs and run the Diamonds, catching a favorable split.

Paula and I wind up with a 54.9% game, fifth in the B strat, tenth in the overall A strat. It’s our standing in the A strat that gives us our 0.67 of a master point. Total for the tournament – 1.03. I’m not playing the Swiss teams on Sunday. Given my limited stamina right now, I’m happy.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Bridge Blog 816: Buffalo Winter Sectional, Day 1

Chemo brain. What else would prompt me to get into a 2 Spade contract on this, the very first hand of the day Friday in the Main-Transit Fire Hall? Why else would I ignore Walt Olszewski’s double? After all, we’re vulnerable. Could be because I thought my four-card black suit was Spades.

Board 15. I’m dealer. Here are the hands.

Spades: 7; Hearts: A-K-8-3; Diamonds: K-10-8-2; Clubs: 10-8-6-3.
Spades: A-Q-J-2; Hearts: 6; Diamonds: 9-6-3; Clubs: Q-J-9-7-5.
Spades: 10-9-6-5-4-3; Hearts: Q-5-4; Diamonds: A-J; Clubs: 4-2.
Spades: K-8; Hearts: J-10-9-7-2; Diamonds: Q-7-5-4; Clubs: A-K.

I opened bidding with a pass. Partner Judy Kaprove opened with a Club. East – Martin Pieterse – bid a Heart. Me, thinking my Clubs were Spades, bid a Spade. Walt, sitting West, bid 2 Hearts. Judy bid 2 Spades. Walt doubled. Down three vulnerable. 
Actually, we can make 2 or 3 Clubs, depending on who plays it. The likely result on the hand record shows East-West playing it at 3 Hearts doubled, down one.
We stabilized after that and wound up with a 52% game, seventh in B in our section North-South for 0.36 of a silver point. I’m happy enough. Overall, there were 32.5 tables, a fine turnout. Uncertain of stomach when the session started, I settled it with nut bread and tea. My head was clearer when it was over.

As I was filling my plastic plate, Unit 116 president Sue Neubecker jested about the time I went out and bought extra cream cheese when the original supply ran out at a sectional a few years ago. She assured me there was plenty this time. Not necessarily so.  When I surveyed the few remaining bagels during our sit-out, halfway through the game, cream cheese was nowhere to be found.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bridge Blog 815: Catch as catch can

Not to put big black Xes across the whole calendar too soon, but 2015 is not going to be a championship year. The first six months are going to be consumed with chemo treatments, then surgery for Stage 2-B bladder cancer.
Currently I’m taking future dates with the understanding that I won’t play if I’m not feeling up to it. The Rochester Regional in May? My original plan was to spend the week there, but now there’s virtually no chance I’ll see a single session of it.  
Nevertheless, until chemo started a week ago, I was having a pretty good start – 7.39 points in seven sessions, thanks to double points all this month at the Airport Bridge Club. A couple stellar games – notably a 66% effort with Dianne Bloom back on Jan. 6 – didn’t hurt.
Chemo brain took over last week, however. My Jan. 13 game with Dianne was 36%. A venture to St. Catharines, Ont., on Friday the 14th yielded 51% with Selina Volpatti, less than a tick from winning points. It took a dull and steady game with Marietta Kalman on Tuesday to return to the winners’ paddock – 55%, fourth overall, 1.11 points. Total: 8.50.  December only brought in 8.73.
          Depending on how I feel, there will be more chances to add to that 8.50 during the next 10 days. My latest blood tests showed good white and red blood cell counts, so the nurses at Roswell Park Cancer Institute figure I’m immune enough to be in a crowd of card-players at the Buffalo Winter Sectional if I avoid the sneezers and coughers and take along some protective face masks. I’m skipping the strenuous Swiss team session Sunday, but have partners for Friday and Saturday. Mornings only.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Bridge Blog 814: 2014 farewell

          Hobbled by health problems, I limped through the final weeks of 2014. Now that the ACBL has posted its year-end master point totals, I wonder how far I tumbled down the various lists.
          My point count for the year was 148.39, of which 110.26 came from club play. (In 2013, I earned 178.34, with 147.77 Ace of Clubs points.) In the Unit 116 (Buffalo) standings, I slipped to sixth place in the Ace of Clubs race for players with 1,000 to 2,500 points. The winner, John Ziemer, was never in doubt. He has 218.51, followed by Mike Silverman with 183.14, Ken Meier, 154.49; Fred Yellen, 121.70; and Chuck Schorr, 112.33. Following me are Vince Pesce, 87.84; Barbara Pieterse, 85.83; Gene Finton, 80.16; and Eleanor Whelan, 77.08.
          In the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney race, which counts all the points, I’m fifth. John Ziemer tops the list with 304.01, followed by Mike Silverman, 204.69; Ken Meier, 190.52; and Fred Yellen, 185.40. After the big step down to my 148.39, there’s David Hemmer, 146.33; Chongmin Zhang, 126.59; Chuck Schorr, 123.12; Gene Finton, 108.12; and Barbara Pieterse, 105.66.
          Who earned the most points of all last year in Unit 116? That would be the aforementioned John Ziemer. Runner-up is Jerry Geiger (2,500 to 5,000 points) with 293.32. Only five other players have more than 200 points.
Moving on to the District 5 level, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh, Buffalo players once again dominate the Ace of Clubs list. We hold the top four places and six of the top seven (only Eva Lefton of Cleveland, with 113.44, crept in among us). But that’s all we get. The list cuts off at 88.68.
In the district Mini-McKenney race, John Ziemer is fourth, behind three Ohioans – Peter Merker of Mentor, 407.27; Fleur Howard of Gates Mills, 402.52; and Michael Creager of Brecksville, 396.08. Mike Silverman is sixth, Ken Meier is seventh, Fred Yellen is 11th, I’m 17th and David Hemmer is 18th. The list cuts off at 127.30.

Biggest point winner in the district is Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh, who has more than 10,000 points and racked up another 1,034.50 during the past 12 months. And who’s the winningest player of all? The eminent Jeff Meckstroh of Clearwater Beach, Fla. He had 3,098.24.