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 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.