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. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Bridge Blog 848: Buffalo Fall Sectional, Day 2

Partner Judie Bailey was talking at lunch about what a terrible slump she’s in. She isn’t playing regularly and, when she does play, she and her partners don’t connect like they used to. Same thing happened to us in the morning session, when we barely escaped finishing next to last with a seriously undistinguished 42.51% game.
The afternoon session found us in better form, perhaps due to getting reacquainted in the morning (we hadn’t played since our win in the knockouts back in May in the Rochester Regional). The match points told the tale.
In the morning, we had only one hand that even came close to being a top board – Judie playing and making a 2 Spade contract (good for only 1 Spade, according to the hand record), which earned us 10.88 match points out of a possible 12. On the other hand, in the afternoon, after a stumble at the start (I foolishly doubled a 5 Spade contract that succeeded), we went on to rack up several near-top boards and one absolute top (doubling a 5 Club contract that went down four).

The upshot? A 49.68% game, not exactly brag-worthy, but sufficient for fifth in the B strat and 0.34 of a silver point. Tournament total climbs to 1.28. Meanwhile, Sunday Swiss team partner Flo Boyd had a better day than we did – finishing ahead of us at 51%. I’m pumped. We could do something good in the morning. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bridge Blog 847: Buffalo Fall Sectional, Day 1

As a player in both the morning and afternoon pairs games at Buffalo sectional tournaments, I’ve always felt a mixture of sympathy and superiority regarding those single-session players arrayed in that row of tables along the far wall of the Main-Transit Fire Department social hall in Amherst. And now, today, Friday afternoon, I was one of them, thanks to a cardiologist appointment that kept me from catching the morning game.
And our single-session crew, five tables worth, certainly felt detached from the rest of the room – the two big sections of players who were in it for the long haul. To complicate matters, our bunch had wangled six North-South seatings, which obliged director Brian Meyer to ask if anyone would volunteer to sit in the other direction. None of them would. I would have, but my partner, Eva Schmidt, normally a spry 91-year-old, begged off because of a sore leg. The upshot was that Kathy Kellogg, who has mobility issues herself, was obliged to be East-West at our table, then was seated at the sixth table with other North-Souths coming to her.

I wasn't able to locate the hand records to verify it, but we North-Souths seemed to get the better hands. We took 14 of the 25 auctions, including a 6 Heart slam that made an overtrick for a top board. Eva and I were leading the North-Souths with 59% as the game went into its final round, but then we got slam-dunked on five hands by Chuck Schorr and Sue Bergman, with Chuck guiding Sue to a 6 Spade slam, which made an overtrick. We finished second with 53%, good nevertheless for 0.94 of a silver point. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Bridge Blog 846: Blewitt!

Should I blame myself for the failure of the Airport Bridge Club to report August master points on time for inclusion in the monthly ACBL master point races? Sure. Why not? It’s my fault.
I should have been a nag last week. I should have badgered the director to do right by all of us players and provide us with one of the major joys in our competitive lives – seeing our names in their rightful places on the master point lists.

Instead, everyone who plays at the Airport Club has the frustration of seeing their totals sit at the same level as a month ago while others climb over them in the standings. For instance, I should be ahead of Gene Finton, not behind him in 13th place. Give me those 15 points I earned in August and I just might be Top 10, dammit!  A month from now, I’m going to be nagging.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bridge Blog 845: Night shift

It took an hour-long drive to Lockport Tuesday night to change my luck after dark. I thought I knew where the Lockport Duplicate game would be – the appealingly-named Dale Center had to be downtown somewhere – but it took a bit of driving around before I tracked it down a little north of the Erie Canal and a run around the block to find the parking lot. 
The high-ceilinged hall was bright, but relatively plain and unadorned aside from a big bingo scoreboard and hand-lettered signs about food and drink offerings.  The banquet tables were cleared from the east side of the room to make way for battered card tables, to which the bidding boxes were attached with handyman’s clamps.
In all, there were 6.5 tables, the field of Lockport seniors swelled by half a dozen Buffalo players – Joyce Kindt and Judie Bailey, Jeff Bender and Gabe Tannenbaum among them – along with some of the Lockport-based Indian couples – the Deshmukhs and Makhijas – who occasionally venture down to the city.
As a free agent without a partner, I got to play with the wryly humorous director Mark Pascale, whose favorite phrase seemed to be “Here’s a match point bid.” His match point bids, however, usually were astute. The most memorable of them was a plunge to 7 No Trump after I opened 3 Spades with a seven-card suit. He saw the opening lead and pronounced a lay-down.
That was a top board and, although it seemed like we were racking up a succession of top boards, it was a bit of an illusion. We finished with 58.80%, second overall behind Violet and Jessie Makhija, but good nevertheless for 1.86 master points.
My final nighttime visit to the Bridge Center of Buffalo on Thursday found me playing once again with the director, in this case the venerable Chris Urbanek, who’s one of the most knowledgeable players in town. Indeed, when I arrived, she was teaching a lesson on Roman Key Card bidding.  
Needless to say, playing with her was like riding in a Rolls Royce. Everything was smooth and perfectly executed. For my part, I made fewer than my usual allotment of mistakes. It was my best game since before the surgery – 64.06%, first overall – and netted us 1.10 master points.
It was the high point of my last week of extended sick leave freedom. And it was a very good week. After August finished on Monday with a first-place finish with Celine Murray for 3.19 points, September started with a 51.16% daytime game for 0.61 of a point with Dr. Brian Block at the Airport Bridge Club, then those 1.86 points at Lockport, another 1.31 points at the Airport Club on Thursday morning, thanks to a 59.23% game with Eva Schmidt; that 1.10 game Thursday night, and finally a 55.34% game Friday in St. Catharines, fifth in our direction, which netted 0.38 of a point for Selina Volpatti and me. 8.45 points for the week overall, 5.26 of them in September.