Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Bridge Blog 927: Not so high point

Partner Bob Kaprove and I thought we had a good thing going at the Airport Bridge Club on Tuesday, the first time we’ve played together in ages. In a run of what seemed to be average hands, there was the occasional peak like Board 16 below.
Indeed, our summary shows us a fraction over 50 percent heading into our final round against Linda Vassallo and Wilson McClaren. But then they bid a big Club hand to game and squeezed out an extra trick against us in a sacrifice bid, dropping us to 48.08%. Not last, but no points for us either.
My happiest moment came against Vince Pesce and Usha Khurana in the third round. It wasn’t one of our four top boards – those were all defensive, we were on defense more often than not – but it was one of our two best offensive efforts.
I’m East. We’re vulnerable. Bob’s the dealer. He passes. Vince, North, also passes. I open a Spade with this Aces-and-spaces hand:

Spades: A-9-8-7-2; Hearts: A-7-5; Diamonds: 2; Clubs: A-7-6-4.

Bob responds 1 No Trump. Vince, I believe, bids 2 Diamonds. I come back with my second-best suit, 3 Clubs. If I recall correctly, Usha bids 3 Diamonds and Bob goes up to 4 Clubs, which could be a little too high. After Usha leads an opening Diamond, Bob reveals the dummy.

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

Vince wins the first Diamond trick, but then I’m in the driver’s seat, discarding my two losing Hearts on dummy’s high Diamonds, then cross-ruffing Spades and Hearts. It works. I take 10 tricks. Here are the other hands:

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

Spades: Q-J-10-5-3; Hearts: K-10-3; Diamonds: 8-4-3; Clubs: K-10.

The hand records, however, tell me that making 4 Clubs isn’t so special. East-West is supposed to make 4 Clubs. It’s our best contract. Fortunately, we found it. But it wasn’t an absolute top. We got 5.5 out of a possible 7 match points.

We were the only ones who bid 4 Clubs. Two others stopped at 3 Clubs and one of them made an overtrick. Top board, however, went to someone who bid 2 No Trump and made two overtricks. According to the hand record, it’s only good for 1 NT. Two other Wests played there, did that. Another wound up at 2 Hearts, which also is makeable, but went down one anyway. And some unlucky West got a bottom board by bidding a makeable 3 Clubs and managing to go down two. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Bridge Blog 926: Normalcy

Back to normal Monday after all those double sessions during STaC Week and it was a relief to be able to have lunch after the game and not have to race home and walk into work later that I oughta.
What’s more, partner Barbara Sadkin and I had one of our better days. As an unusually large number of scoring mistakes were ironed out after the game ended, our score and our winnings kept rising.
First we were 54.55%, third in the A strat, fifth in A overall, earning 0.66 of a point. Then we nipped up to 57.52%, still third in the A strat in our direction, but better overall, earning 0.83 of a point. And finally we rose to 58.12%, still third in A in our direction, but through the miracle of stratification, we were second in an expanded B strat, earning 1.06 point.
High point of the day came early, in the very first round, when we got our first and only absolute top board. Barbara, with a flat hand and 13 high card points, opened a Club. Holding five in that suit, I raised it to 2 Clubs. West, void in Clubs, doubled. Barbara then went 2 Spades, but that would be a four-card suit. Having only two Spades, I took it back to 3 Clubs. East, who had five Clubs headed by the Ace-King, doubled.
The hand record notes that this deal should make 3 Clubs. Barbara got an overtrick, thanks (I guess) to an over-ruff. It was plus 570. Second best at two other tables was a 2 Club bid doubled and making just two for plus 180. One East player won the bid at 2 Clubs and went down three. A South took the bid at 1 No Trump and made an overtrick. Best East-West score came from West winning the bid at 3 Diamonds and making it. Here are the hands:

North (Barbara)
Spades: A-K-9-4; Hearts: K-Q-2; Diamonds 10-7-4; Clubs: J-8-7.

South (me)
Spades: Q-7; Hearts: 6-4-3; Diamonds: A-6-2; Clubs: Q-10-9-5-3.

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

Spades: J-10-8-3; Hearts: A-J-9-8; Diamonds: J-9-8-5-3; Clubs: none.

Second-best effort came three rounds later – a 3 No Trump contract where I made three overtricks. That plus 490 tied for a top board. According to the hand record, North should make 6 NT, 6 Hearts or 6 Clubs, but South can only make a 3-bid in each of those suits.
I don’t see why South shouldn’t make it. Against No Trump, West does the natural thing and leads a Spade, I capture East’s singleton King with the Ace, take a marked Spade finesse for four Spade tricks to go with four Heart Tricks and four Club tricks. I save the Diamond loser for last.
A Diamond lead keeps South from making more than 3 NT, but since our bidding went 1 Diamond-3 NT, East didn’t drop a hint about holding the Ace of Diamonds.  Here’s the hand. North is dealer.

South (me)
Spades: A-Q-2; Hearts: A-Q-10; Diamonds: 7-4-3; Clubs: Q-J-4-2.

North (Barbara)
Spades: J-9-6-4; Hearts: K-9-6-3; Diamonds: K-9-8; Clubs: A-K.

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

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

Bridge Blog 925: Thoroughly STaCked

        My hat’s off to the director who's been posting the results for last week’s District 5 Sectional Tournament at the Clubs. I believe it was Alex Bealles, who shows up regularly at our regional tournament. Every day he was on top of it. And now that it’s over, he’s promptly compiled the list of point winners.
         Turns out the most points anyone earned all week was 23.40. That’s Sandra McCall of Canonsburg, Pa. There’s a tie for second, Stephanie and Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 22.50.
         First among the Buffalo players and sixth overall is Art Matthies, who took home 19.17 silver points, 11.44 of them in that first STaC game Monday morning with Ted Kahn at the Airport Bridge Club.
Right behind him in seventh place is Jerry Geiger, with 18.95. Then we have Tom Koralewski in 12th place with 13.16 and Ted Kahn sitting 18th with 11.96.
John Ziemer checks in with 11.64 points and comes in 22nd, just ahead of John and Martha Welte, tied for 23rd with 11.57.
After that, it’s John Lyth, 37th with 10.32; Alan Greer, 38th with 10.31; Judi Marshall, 40th with 10.25; Dian Petrov, 43rd with 9.79; and me, tied for 45th with Elaine Kurasiewicz with 9.74 points and just ahead of 47th-place Sue Neubecker, who had 9.66.

In all, 1,015 players throughout the district got silver points, or at least slivers of silver points. And who should be the very last name on the list, with the slightest sliver (0.21) of a point? My good friend Judy Zeckhauser. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bridge Blog 924: Short STaC?

         Now that STaC (Sectional Tournament at the Clubs) Week is over, now that I’ve squandered all my free time playing in 13 out of 14 STaC sessions at the Airport Bridge Club, including the pair of three-table games on Sunday, the only STaC games in the whole district, what did I accomplish?
         Nothing that compares to Ted Kahn and Art Matthies, who nailed a 66.67% game in the very first session Monday morning at the Airport club and earned 11.44 silver points. In fact, I don’t think I earned 11 points for my whole week of effort. Here’s what my successes looked like.
         Monday morning with Dottie May – 55.85%, 0.94 of a point.
         Monday afternoon with Dottie May – 58.50%, first overall, 1.59 points. Not good enough to break into the district bonus points.
         Tuesday afternoon with Nadine Stein – 62.50%, second overall, got to the bonus level. 2.39 points. Best payoff of the week.
         Thursday afternoon with Ron Henrikson – 49.91%, second in the B strat at the club, 0.74 of a point.
         Friday morning with Marilyn Sultz – 57.74 %, first North-South at the club, but not good enough for the big picture, 1.59 points.
         Friday afternoon with Marilyn Sultz – 50.94%, fourth overall, 0.66 of a point.
         Sunday afternoon with Sandy Scheff – 60%, second in a three-table game, first in the B strat. 1.83 points.

         If my math is correct, then I’ve ground out 9.74 points for the week. Could have been better, but then again, I’ve done worse. 

Bridge Blog 923: Howling about Howell

        Carolyn Siracuse and I were sure of it. The cards were stacked against us all during the Saturday afternoon STaC game at the Airport Bridge Club. It was a five-table Howell movement and we were on defense more than what we thought was fair. On 24 boards, we were declarers only five times. We finished with 37.94%, dead last by a large margin.
         Generally, over the course of a game, the law of averages evens things out. You can count on getting about 10 points a hand if you’re sitting in one direction all the time. So let’s do a little review of what happened Saturday afternoon as we went from East-West to North-South and back to the other side of the table again.
         In 24 hands, I had a total of 177 high card points. That’s an average of 7.375. Needless to say, I gave those green Pass cards a workout. Carolyn had the better holdings, but hardly enough to compensate. Her high-point average was 9.46. She took the bid twice. We were outgunned.

I held just five opening hands all afternoon and only on three of them did I win the bid. They were 12 points (3 Spades making 4, average board), 15 points (1 No Trump making 2, a lucky top, Carolyn had a 4-point hand) and 11 points (3 Diamonds making 4, average minus, opponents fixed us by bidding a 3 Club opening preempt and kept us from finding our Spade fit). So there’s the evidence, plain as day. The Howell movement can really turn the game against you. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bridge Blog 922: November's tally

The ACBL has updated its masterpoint races to include November. Not much of a month for me. I bumped my totals up only by 10.75, well short of the relatively modest average of 15 I’d like to maintain. Now I have 134.32 in club play, 169.02 in all venues. So just how much standing did I lose?
Nothing much among Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points). I’m still third in the Ace of Clubs race on the Unit 116 list, which is Buffalo only. In fact, it looks like I’m dancing all by myself in third place.
Mike Silverman and Ken Meier are neck and neck at the top, with 168.46 and 166.66, respectively. They’re third and fourth overall in the unit.
Then there’s me with 134.32, ninth overall in the unit, and then another big step down to Fred Yellen with 106.73 (18th), followed by Gene Finton with 95.26 (23rd), Allen Beroza with 85.85 (28th), Vince Pesce, 84.94 (29th), then another big step down to Bill Finkelstein, 55.90 (54th), Anne Watikins, 53.43 (58th), and Chuck Schorr, 49.14 (68th).
Ace of Clubs overall leader continues to be Jerry Geiger, with 228.97, way ahead of second-place Judi Marshall with 175.18. In fifth place, breathing down the necks of Mike Silverman and Ken Meier, is Ron Henrikson with 166.18. He’s followed by Liz Clark, 158.34; Tom Koralewski, 154.11; John Ziemer, 143.85; my 134.32, then Martin Pieterse, 132.47; Mike Ryan, 126.97; and Meg Klamp, 120.20.
Turns out I’m also still fifth among Ruby Life Masters on the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney list, though I’ve dropped one place overall to 24th among all local players. Ahead of my 169.02  are Ken Meier, 272.72 (10th overall); David Hemmer, 187.59 (19th); Fred Yellen, 183.60 (20th); and Mike Silverman, 179.49 (22nd).
Well behind me are Gene Finton, 114.23 (37th), Allen Beroza, 109.02 (42nd); Vince Pesce, 97.19 (48th); Art Morth, 86.06 (55th); and Chongmin Zhang, 61.69 (82nd).
Still atop the overall list is Saleh Fetouh with 457.36. But after him, the Weltes have jumped ahead of Jerry Geiger. John Welte has 374.44, while wife Martha has 365.53. Impressive! Jerry is fourth with 341.31. Then it’s Mike Ryan, 308.26; Tom Koralewski, 304.52; Dian Petrov, 298.39; John Ziemer, 277.49; Jay Levy, 273.26; and Ken Meier’s 272.72.
We three kings of the Unit 116 Ace of Clubs list also hold the three top places among Ruby Life Masters in District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh). I have a healthy lead over fourth-place Doris Kirsch of East Springfield, Pa., who has 119.34. Fred Yellen is eighth. Gene Finton is 12th.
Overall, Mike Silverman is still ninth among all players in the district. Ken Meier is 10th, up from 16th. I’m 28th. Last month I was 22nd.
Among all District 5 players, Jerry Geiger’s 228.97 gives him a slim Ace of Clubs lead over Arlene Port of Pittsburgh, who has 227.23. Charles Smith of Erie, Pa. (199.40); Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh (189.96); and Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio (181.89); fill in the slots in front of Judi Marshall’s sixth-place 175.18.
Go to the Ruby Life Masters on the District 5 Mini-McKenney list and the runaway leader is Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio. Clearly a frequent flyer at tournaments, she has 488.87. She’s also sixth overall among all district players. Unit 116’s Ken Meier is a distant second with his 272.72. He’s 36th overall.
Others above 200 are Charles Ladiha of Vermilion, Ohio, 239.64; Peter Merker of Mentor, Ohio, 234.35; and Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, 211.84. Buffalonians David Hemmer and Fred Yellen are sixth and seventh. Me? I’m 14th, up a notch from last month, but 103rd overall, down one position.
Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh continues to lead all District 5 players in overall points. She has 913.09. A month ago, she had 779.82.
Trailing at a distance are the usual suspects – Philip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, with 593.32; Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 566.18; Kathleen Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, 543.15; and Stephanie Alexander, also of Mentor, 539.28. Buffalo’s Saleh Fetouh is eighth with his 457.36. John Welte is 14th, Martha Welte is 16th and Jerry Geiger is 19th.
Nationwide, it shapes up like this in Ace of Clubs: Ruby Life Master leaders are Robert Shearer of Diberville, Miss., 316.19; Ariel Liebovitz of Houston, 297.65; Edward Rauch of Fort Lauderdale, Fla, 290.38; Richard Fronapel of Danbury, Conn., 288.48; and Billie Brown of Evansville, Ind., 285.11. Mike Silverman is 124th. Ken Meier is 128th. I’m 337th.
Overall Ace of Clubs champs are Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta with 699.85; Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale, 557.43; and Kay Schulle of Purchase, NY, with 537.36. No Unit 116 players here. The list of 500 stops at 197.60.
Mini McKenney nationwide gets rather awe-inspiring this time of year. Leader among the Ruby Life Masters, Oren Kriegel of Chicago, has broken into quadruple figures – 1,133.16. Next are Mary Jane and Michael Gladfelter of Columbus, Ohio, with 765.91. District 5’s Sue Lan Ma is 20th. Buffalo’s Ken Meier is 188th. He’s the only Unit 116 player who made it. The list of 500 runs out at 197.94.
Among all players nationwide, the current king is Chris Compton of Dallas with 3,275.36, followed by Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., with 2,956.56, Eddie Wold of Houston with 2,577.24, Mark Itabash of Murrieta, Calif., with 2,495.64 and Mike Passell of Plano, Texas, with 2,463.70. Wow!

The fabled Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., is eighth with 2,300.80. Buffalo native Joel Wooldridge is 29th with 1,529.36. District 5’s Reanette Frobouck is 102nd, five notches behind a certain Sally Meckstroth, also of Clearwater Beach. The list of 500 stops at 472.16. District 5 Ruby Life Master leader Sue Lan Ma is 465th. No Unit 116 player makes the list. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Bridge Blog 921: STaC me

What a big nasty cloud that 36.50% at the Unit 116 party on Saturday cast over my approach to the Winter Sectional Tournament at the Clubs, which started Monday. Happily that cloud has had plenty of breaks in it.
The morning and afternoon sessions with Dottie May on Monday at the Airport Bridge Club turned out to be mostly bright. Our morning 56.84% placed us third overall in the A and B strats, good for 0.94 of a silver point at the club level. It takes a better percentage than that, however, to catch those bonus points on the district level. In this case, an even 60%.
Despite fatigue setting in, we got brighter in the afternoon session – 58.50%, first overall in A and B, 1.59 points on the club level. Not quite bright enough for the district level, though, where the seventh spot in B was 58.93%.
Clouds rolled back in Tuesday after a two-filling 9 a.m. visit to the dentist when I played with the ever-agreeable Nadine Stein. Or rather, misplayed.
The worst was a 2 Heart Michaels bid by Nadine, where I should have bid my three-card Spade suit (it made 2 Spades) instead of a brain-dead 2 No Trump, which prompted her to quite properly bid her long Diamonds. Down one. 
It was with great relief that I yielded my seat to Florence Boyd at noon so I could run my health care forms down to personnel office at The News to beat the deadline. She took it the rest of the way for the final eight hands. Looking at the score sheet now, I calculate that we were at 34.04% when I left. Final score: 35.85%.

Could the afternoon be any more dreary? My previous outing with the equally agreeable Sandy Scheff – 39.58% last Wednesday – didn’t forecast much. But where we weren’t good, we were lucky, capped off in the final round with me making a 3 No Trump doubled contract that should have gone down two. 
The result: 62.50%. Second in A (hard on the heels of Judi Marshall and Jerry Geiger with 62.92%), first in B. 1.11 points at the club level and, better yet, 2.39 on the district level (where the seven-table Airport Club session was the only afternoon game). STaC week winnings so far: 4.92. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Bridge Blog 920: Dark and dreary

That’s the end of November for you, at least in this neck of the woods. And that was the end of November for me at the bridge tables. No bounce-back after the Thanksgiving break, despite four opportunities to do so.
Nadine Stein and I slipped back from a promising round last Monday morning to a 49.96%, prompting some teasing from club manager Bill Finkelstein as he announced the winners. Same in the afternoon session with Mike Silverman. He’s an astute player and we should have a bunch of hot games in our pockets, but this was not one of them. Far from it. 43.48%.
On Tuesday, Marilyn Sultz and I similarly watched our prospects fade away into a corrected 46.98%. Last chance on Wednesday was my first game in ages with Sandy Scheff. We had a good time, but not a good result. 39.58%. Miraculously, we weren’t dead last.
But it did nothing to fatten up my total point count for the month. I’m barely in double digits, far short of the average of 15 that I’m aiming for.
Hopes are reviving, however, even as I write this. Thursday, in a last-minute pairing with Bob Kaprove, we were fourth overall with 51.82%. 0.35 of a point. In St. Catharines, Ont., on Friday with Selina Volpatti, we finished fifth North-South out of 15 pairs with 51.92%, earning 0.34 of a point. No luck, however, on Saturday at the annual Unit 116 meeting and game. (See Blog 920-A)

And now here comes STaC Week, the Sectional Tournament at the Clubs. Two sessions daily at the Airport Bridge Club. Chances to win silver points in massive quantities with a good score, i.e., over 60%. How have I done in past STaCs? Not so massive. Last June, 11.67. Last December, just 5.94. 

Bridge Blog 920-A: Annual meeting and game

The annual Unit 116 meeting definitely plays second fiddle to the annual picnic. There’s more food at the picnic and, hey, it’s picnic food. Plus there are two games instead of one and no business to conduct.
Nevertheless, the food was good Saturday in the Social Hall at the Main-Transit Fire Company in Amherst. You can’t go wrong with Weidner’s roast chicken, which is also the centerpiece of the picnic menu. Paul Zittel, who was all over the room as host, came around with second helpings. Resistance was futile.
The business end was pretty painless, too. The balance sheet was $2,000 ahead of where it was a year ago. The election for the board of directors was no contest – three seats, three candidates: Sue Neuberger, Gay Simpson and Denise Slattery.
Membership stands at 437, despite the departure of more than a dozen players who were honored with a moment of silence. And attendance at this affair was vigorous – 25 tables.
It felt like a game in St. Catharines. Two boards a round. But not as fast. Director Brian Meyer did his best to get people to finish quickly, but half the time partner Judie Bailey and I found ourselves standing and waiting.
It was a good day for us East-West players, as the North-Souths repeatedly told us, but Judie and I did not convert our good cards into good fortune.
We started off by missing a 3 No Trump game, thanks to interference by Judy Kaprove sitting North, who bid Spades on a J-10-9-8-7-3 suit after I opened my 19-point hand with 1 Club. Later on we missed the grand slam on Board 18. Would Judie have lost a trick and made only 6 Spades if we bid 7? Hard to say.
          Still, I had hopes of finishing around 50%. Looking at the hand records, it didn’t seem so bad. But it wasn’t even close. 36.5%. Hand records and commentary (!) can be found at TheCommonGame.com. But scores from Saturday’s game aren’t up yet here on Sunday night

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bridge Blog 919: Thanksgiving tailspin

A couple weeks ago, the wind was in my sails. I was leading the November master point race at the Airport Bridge Club. It looked like this was going to be a banner month.
But for the past week, nothing. Nothing compounded by inactivity over Thanksgiving weekend. Surely I would bounce back in the double session Monday.
Hopes soared when I saw me and partner Nadine Stein atop the intermediate results for the morning game. With 20 boards out of 28 tallied up, we were first by half a match point with 56.06%. Minutes later, after 23 boards, we’re even better – ahead by more than 1.5 match points with 57.57%.
But then the winners get announced and where are we? In those final five boards, out of a possible 15 match points (it’s only four-table game), we get only 2.60. We finish at 49.96%. Out of the money. Unbelievable.
Surely, I’ll fare better in the afternoon, paired with one of the better players, Mike Silverman, in an extra-point game. We get off to a roaring start against Dottie May and Carolyn Siracuse – top boards defending against a 4 Clubs doubled contract that goes down five and scoring four overtricks on a 3 Diamond hand that should only make one overtrick.
But in this 3½ table game, you have to get top boards consistently. And we don’t. We get only two more tops, more than offset by six bottoms. It didn’t feel like we were that awful as we played it, but we were. A measly 43.48%. It doesn’t seem right. (Continued on Blog 919-A). 

Bridge Blog 919-A: How did we fail?

Continued from Blog 919:
Board 1. Dottie May and Carolyn Siracuse bid and make 2 Spades. Hand record says it’s their hand, making 3 Spades. Still, we get only 0.5 out of 2 match points.
Board 2. Mike jumps to 5 Clubs, but they overcall at 5 Spades. We can make 5 Clubs. They go down 2. Hand record says we should have set them one more trick. 1 match point.
Board 3. Here’s our plus 1,100. They go down four at 4 Clubs doubled. Best we could have done is 3 Hearts. Top board!
Board 4. Another top. 3 Diamonds making four overtricks. Should have made only one overtrick.
Board 9. I’m North. I should make 3 No Trump plus an overtrick. Instead, I’m down one against Chuck Schorr and Janet Frisch. Zero.
Board 10. Redemption at 1.5 match point. I make an overtrick at 2 Spades. Should only take eight tricks.
Board 11. Middle board. This time I’m at 3 Spades, down two, which is what should happen. They can make 3 Hearts. Good sacrifice.
Board 12. We let Chuck play it at 1 Diamond. It should make 3 Diamonds and it does. Another middle board. After these two rounds, we’re hitting 56.25%.
Board 13. I make an overtrick at 3 NT against Joe Rooney and Bill Boardman. And I should make an overtrick. Still, it’s good for 1.5 out of 2.
Board 14. Bill bids 3 Spades, makes an overtrick. He shouldn’t. Mike and I don’t find our bid. We could make 3 NT or 4 Diamonds. That’s a zero.
Board 15. Bill bids 3 Diamonds, makes it. Should get an overtrick. Should make 3 Hearts or (gasp!) 6 Clubs. Nevertheless, it’s only 0.25 for us. Screwed.
Board 16. Bill again. 1 Diamond. Makes three overtricks. Should only make one. Still, it’s a middle board. Now we’re at 49.47%.
Skip Board 17 on the final round and go to Board 18 against Joyce Greenspan and Ron Henrikson. I go down one at 2 NT. Good defense or bad card management? I should make it. Zero.
Board 19. Mike finally gets to play a hand at 2 Hearts. Makes two overtricks. We shoulda bid it. Another 0.25.
Board 20. Ron plays 3 Hearts, goes down 4. Plus 400 for us. A top. Our percentage is still slipping: 47.46%.
Board 21. Against a really good player, Tom Koralewski, and a not-so-good one, Tish Schiffman, with whom I got my all-time low score a couple months ago (see Blog 904). I leave Mike at 2 Spades, despite holding S: Q-8-5-3; H: Q-J-5-3; D: K-Q-7-6; C: Q. Bad move. He makes two overtricks, as he should. Bottom board.
Board 22. Revenge. I bid 3 NT, despite weakness in Diamonds, make 3 overtricks, one more than I oughta. Top board.
Board 23. Tish endplays her partner. Instead of going down one at 3 Spades, I make it. 1.75 match points.
Board 24. Mike plays 2 Hearts, makes two overtricks. He’s got six Hearts, five Spades, singletons in the minors. I have S: K-8; H: Q-9-3-2; D: J-10-5; C: Q-6-4-3. Did he bid and rebid Hearts or did he bid 1 Spade and then 2 Hearts over my 1 NT response. Don’t remember. A middle board but it should have been better. Percentage now: 50.34%
Board 25. Against Allen Beroza and Liz Clark. This is the round that breaks us. I think we played it second, right after Dottie May and Carolyn Siracuse. With a big hand, I double Allen at 4 Spades and he goes down two, one more than he should. We wonder, would we have made 3 NT? Turns out, yes. We could even make 4 NT, despite having just one Spade stopper. We also would succeed at 5 Clubs. Good sacrifice against us when we’re vulnerable and they’re not. 0.25 of a match point.
Board 26. Allen again. This time at 3 Diamonds, making two overtricks. I should take my Ace of Spades when I get a chance early in the play. Then he only makes 1 overtrick, which is what he ought to make. Bottom board.
Board 27. Another bottom. Liz plays 5 Clubs, makes an overtrick. How can we avoid it? That’s what it makes. We could sacrifice at 5 or 6 Spades, but we’d lose even worse.
Board 28. Middle board. Liz bids and makes 3 NT. That’s what it makes. Nothing we can do about it. And there we are at 43.48%. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Bridge Blog 918: Going For Broken

Just after the morning half of Tuesday’s double session started at the Airport Bridge Club, manager/director Bill Finkelstein comes to our table and announces there won’t be any results this day because the computer is broken. That’s because, he adds, it lists me in first place in the November master point race.
Well, needless to say, the club’s computer is working just fine, but has November really been that good?
Guess it has. On the eve of the midway point, I have 9.24 points. That’s better than the Weltes, John and Martha, who have been winning a lot and who both have 8.75. It’s better than two other heavy hitters – Judi Marshall, who has 7.38, and Jerry Geiger, who has 6.70.
What a difference a new page on the calendar makes. In all of October, I earned just 7.12 points at the Airport Club and wound up in 22nd place on the list.
Tuesday morning pads that lead. The nearest master point contenders aren’t playing and partner Marilyn Sultz and I are first overall with 60.08%. But because this is a game that didn’t award double or triple points, we earn only 0.60 of one.
Judi and Jerry weare present, however, for the afternoon game, which offers the big-point bonus. They play together and are the overall winners, harvesting 3.19 points. That's enough to shoot both of them past me, since Marilyn and I finish one position short of the winners’ circle with a 49.54% game.
But wait a minute … What about Board 14? We’re credited with a score of 150, good for only 0.5 of a match point out of a possible 5. But on my scorecard, as West, I bid and made 3 No Trump. That’s 400. (The hand records say it should make 4 NT.) I point this out to the director, but the other players involved have already left, and I can’t corroborate it. He says he’ll check with them. If I'm upheld, that would boost us to 51.62% and fourth overall. And it would be just enough to keep me in the lead. We'll see.
Meanwhile, Judi misunderstood the starting time for the afternoon game and arrived just as Jerry and a substitute partner were preparing to bid their first hand. In practically any other club, somebody would be turned away, but not here.

In an impressive display of quick thinking, director Bill Finkelstein immediately called in another substitute player and changed the game from a six-table Mitchell to a 13-pair arrangement, with just a two-board sit-out for every pair. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Bridge Blog 917: October uberview

Am I on track for 180 points this year? October’s 25.44 total (9.78 in club play) outstripped the 15-point-per-month average, but let’s see what the ACBL’s monthly master point race standings will say.
Ace of Clubs points, earned only in club play, total 123.57. Mini McKenney points, which include all points earned everywhere, have reached 158.27. Need 11 points per month in November and December to make my goal and I’ve got half of November’s quota already.
Among the Unit 116 (Buffalo) Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points), my 123.57 keeps me in third place and ninth overall among all Buffalo players, same as last month. Still missing is David Millward, who would be ahead of me but has mysteriously disappeared.
Holding firm on top is Mike Silverman with 150.48. He’s fourth overall in the unit. Then it’s Ken Meier, 136.26 (seventh overall), me with 123.57, Fred Yellen, 90.02 (19th), Gene Finton, 87.69 (21st), Vince Pesce, 79.91 (27th), Allen Beroza, 79 even (28th), Bill Finkelstein, 54.26 (46th), Anne Watkins, 45.81 (66th) and Chuck Schorr, 43.62 (71st).
Ace of Clubs leader among all Unit 116 players continues to be Jerry Geiger with 216.69. Then come Judi Marshall, 158.88; Ron Henrikson, 153.84; Mike Silverman, 150.48; Tom Koralewski, 142.45; Liz Clark, 141.92; Ken Meier, 136.26; John Ziemer, 133.19; me, 123.57; Martin Pieterse, 119.64; Mike Ryan, 116.37; and Barbara Libby, 111.45.
Meanwhile, over on the Mini McKenney list for Unit 116 Ruby Life Masters, I maintain my hold on fifth with that 158.27. Ken Meier is first here with 242.32, but that’s only tenth best overall in the unit. David Hemmer follows with 186.43 (16th overall), then it’s Fred Yellen, 166.89 (21st), Mike Silverman, 161.51 (22nd); and my 158.27 (23rd).
From there, it’s a big step down to Gene Finton, whose 106.66 makes him 38th overall, and Allen Beroza, 102.17 (41st), the last Unit 116 Ruby Life Master with more than 100 points so far this year.
Still in the lead among all Unit 116 players is Saleh Fetouh with 431.22, followed by Jerry Geiger, 324.92; John Welte, 319.50; Martha Welte, 310.59; Tom Koralewski, 288.75; Mike Ryan, 278.81; John Ziemer, 262.72; Chris Urbanek, 250.19 (thanks to those 71 points at the Buffalo Regional); Ken Meier, 242.32; Jay Levy, 242.23; Bud Seidenberg, 236.07; Davis Heussler, 220.47, and Ron Henrikson, 212.54. That’s everybody with more than 200 points.
Looking at the District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) races, we Buffaloons hold the top three spots in the Ace of Clubs derby. Only other player with more than 100 club points is Doris Kirsch of East Springfield, Pa., with 103.17. Mike Silverman is ninth overall among District 5 players. Ken Meier is 16th. I’m 22nd.
Jerry Geiger’s 216.69 makes him Ace of Clubs leader for all District 5 players, followed by Arlene Port from Pittsburgh with 190.64 and Charles Smith from Erie, Pa., with 178.12.
District 5 Mini McKenney Ruby Life Master leader is Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, with 415.94, which makes her eighth overall in the district. I met her at the Buffalo Regional and she’s charmingly modest.
Ken Meier is second, 39th overall, with 242.32, breaking the Ohio stranglehold on the top spots. He’s followed by Charles Ladiha of Vermillion, Ohio, with 224.47; Peter Merker of Mentor, Ohio, with 205.26 and Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh with 202.94. Buffalo’s David Hemmer is next with 186.43. I’m 15th with 158.27 and 102nd overall, one place behind Doris Kirsch (159.38) each way.

Player with the most points of all so far this year in District 5 continues to be Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh, with 779.82. She’s far ahead of Phillip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, with 582.85, and Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 538.78 and 511.88, respectively. Saleh Fetouh’s 431.22 is good for seventh place. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bridge Blog 916: Roaring start

I was spooked by those bad 39% and 44% games on Halloween, but the horror show didn’t last long once the calendar changed.
Thrown together Tuesday with Carolyn Siracuse, still a great player despite her occasional lapses, we roared to a 56.96% game, earning 1.97 points.

The exorcism continued Wednesday with my first game in a while with Barbara Sadkin. She was still too aggressive despite my attempts to put the brakes on, but we managed to finish in the middle of a tight three-way race for first place. Our 55.36% was second-best, second in the A and B strats, earning another 1.97 of those much-needed club points. 

Bridge Blog 915: Stumbling to the finish line

I couldn’t believe my eyes. My name was way, way down the list in the October master point race at the Airport Bridge Club, barely 5½ points with only a couple days left in the month. That month also included a week of tournament play, which brought in three times as many points, but that won’t help in the Ace of Clubs tally.
Fortunately, Saturday the 29th boosted my fortunes by 1.70 points when partner Ron Henrikson and I turned in a 57.41% game (third overall, second in B).
And I was looking forward to more at Monday’s double-session Halloween Party game. Alas, that was not to be. 
In the morning, with David Donaldson, we limped home with 39.44%. But then again, Dave and I haven’t played together in a long time. I’d do better in the afternoon with Judie Bailey. 
Wrong. Instead of pursuing the defensive stance that’s worked so well for me lately, we went on offense, taking 17 of 24 contracts. The results weren’t so winning – 44.58%.
Fortunately, I have a few other club points to add from sudden (and unexpected) success at the Niagara Bridge Centre in St. Catharines, thanks to two good games in October with Selina Volpatti (see Blogs 908, 914 and 915-A). 

Bridge Blog 915-A: Deeee-fense!

Let us now praise the power of the green card. The one that says “Pass.” Not only has it been keeping the overbidding side of me out of trouble lately, but it’s also been a key factor in some winning efforts.
Two prime examples came last weekend. Friday at the Niagara Bridge Centre in St. Catharines, Selina Volpatti and I were less aggressive than usual – winning only eight bids in the 21 hands that I played (after missing the first three for coming in late) – but our defensive efforts were what won the day. Our two absolute tops were defensive. So were a couple near-tops.
Again on Saturday at the Airport Bridge Club on this side of the border, Ron Henrikson and I were closed out on most of contracts – we were declarers on only nine of 27 -- but that proved beneficial. Four of our five top boards were defensive.

And all this, for the moment, is unschooled. Perhaps I could stand to read a good book on defense. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bridge Blog 914: Late

I slept late Friday. I was beat from a week of late nights and early mornings. I needed it. When I became aware of what was on the bedside radio, NPR’s “On Point” was taking its first break at 10:20 a.m.
I left the house late. Couple minutes after noon. I hate to hit the Peace Bridge after noon. Sometimes it’s clear. More often it’s not. This time … not. To compound matters, I was directed into a slow lane. Had I been in the line of vehicles immediately right of me, I would have passed through the checkpoint at least 10 minutes sooner.
Even that would have made me late, but not 20 minutes tardy, which is what I turned out to be. It takes roughly half an hour to get from the Peace Bridge to the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines. I passed the checkpoint at 12:48. I got to follow a medical lab delivery vehicle that was hitting 90 mph, which gave me hope temporarily, but only until I reached the first of the three one-lane bridge construction areas on the Queen Elizabeth Way.
Partner Selina Volpatti had received none of my text messages, nor my phone call from the Peace Bridge. Her phone was at home, charging. At any rate, she was able to play temporarily with Agnes Bak, whose partner didn’t show. They’d finished a round and a half – three boards – before I slipped in to the North seat at Table 6.

Once I settled in, it started to feel like a pretty good game, especially defensively. (Our two absolute top boards were defensive efforts.) When the final round was finished and we punched up the preliminary results on the Bridge Mate gizmo, we discovered it was a really, really good game. First in our direction. First time we’ve done that in St. Catharines. 62.65%. 1.5 master points. 

Bridge Blog 913: Buffalo Regional Wrap-up

Answers to lingering questions:

How much did I pay per master point?

I won 15.66 points (97th overall). I entered three events Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and the equivalent of two events Friday, Saturday and Sunday. $12 per event. That’s $180. Roughly $11.60 per point.
The bulk of them came from only $90 in expenditures – the Tuesday knock-outs (6.28), the Wednesday-Thursday evening compact knock-outs (4.85) and the Sunday Swiss teams (2.65).

Was this really my most successful Buffalo regional?

I earned more points in Rochester in 2015 (16.44 for winning Bracket 2 knock-outs with Judie Bailey). But Buffalo? Let’s check the ACBL archives.
2015 – 5.38
2014 – 9.77
2013 – 4.59
2012 – 12.12 (9.37 from second-place finish in Bracket 3 knock-outs with Usha Khurana and Alison Burkett from Kitchener, Ont.).
2011 – 6.97
2010 – 7.59
2009 – 4.15
2008 – 12.70 (My year with “Fast” Eddie Koval of Rochester, who played achingly slow. Eddie died in 2011.)
2007 – 5.44
2006 – 1.94
2005 – 2.73
So … yes!
For a change, a Buffalo player was the top master point winner at the Buffalo Regional. How did Chris Urbanek amass her 71.09 points?
Second in Tuesday open pairs with Meg Klamp: 56.93%, 9.85 master points.
First in Wednesday open Swiss teams with Buffalo’s Bud Seidenberg and Jay Levy and Toronto’s Joan Eaton: 140 victory points, 25.43 master points.
First in Saturday open pairs with Joan Easton: 70.79%, 24.94 master points.
Fourth in Sunday Swiss teams with Bud Seidenberg, David Hemmer and Saleh Fetouh, 139 VPs, 7.83 master points.
That’s only 68.05. Looks like she picked up some scatterings in other games, too.

Was this really a bigger tournament than the one in 2015?

In 2015, there were 699 tables, with 487 players earning a total of 4,518.34 master points. Top Buffalo player was Saleh Fetouh, who was 20th with 46.13 points.
This time, there were 718 tables, with 522 players earning a total of 4,800.85 master points. 
Last tournament at the Grand Island Holiday Inn in June 2013 was considerably bigger, though. There were 886 tables, 563 players earning 5,303.99 points.
October 2012 on Grand Island topped that by a lot – 1,092 tables.

Follow-up question: Was the Sunday Swiss team game bigger this year?

It was. 2015 Swiss had 41 tables. 2016 Swiss had 43. However, Sunday Swiss in 2012 had 67 tables. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Bridge Blog 912: Buffalo Regional Days 4, 5 & 6

         After a while, the Buffalo Regional Tournament and the Adam's Mark Hotel turn into a blur. Casting my fate to the Partnership Desk, I hook up Friday with Teresa Jackson, a winsome Polish-born Canadian who wishes I could play the two-over-one convention. We have two dismal rounds – 45.96% in the morning, 47.95% in the afternoon. No master points.
I’m available Saturday and when I run into Rex Ryan’s mom in the line for Friday evening hospitality, she says she’d love to play with me (she had a bad day Thursday too), but she’s leaving in the morning.
The phone rings at 9 a.m. Saturday. 585 Area Code. It’s Dolores Schwartz from Rochester. Well, actually Pittsford. She played with Rex Ryan’s mom on Friday. She and her friends need a fourth for the compact knock-outs.
The first K.O. round is a round robin, three teams, two winners, and we narrowly miss winning against both opponents. In the second part, a round robin consolation round, we beat both teams and collect 0.64 of a red point.
We regroup for the single session Swiss teams in the afternoon – Art Morth, who’s also playing in them, calls them “Loser Swiss” – but we’re not entirely losers. We win one of the four rounds and tie another, which gives us 0.38 of a red point.
The Sunday finale is the traditional monster Swiss team game – seven rounds, seven boards per round, 42 teams playing – and I’m attached again with Joe Miranda and Usha Khurana. This time John Marvin is with Usha.
We get off to a roaring start, a 30-0 victory point sweep of Ron Henrikson’s team, which includes a pair of Canadians. This, unfortunately, throws us up against some really good players – hard-of-hearing Jonathan Steinberg from Toronto and young Alex Hudson from Raleigh, N.C.
Joe asks Alex what he does in North Carolina and Alex taps the table. “Oh,” Joe says. “Bridge.”  He’s a pro.
Nevertheless, we manage to edge them, 24-23 International Match Points, thanks to an outrageous piece of luck. Alex doubles my 2 Hearts vulnerable overcall of his opening Spade bid, I redouble, expecting to get overcalled, but the redouble stays in. I make two overtricks, which prompts considerable discussion between our opponents. It also gives us a plus 1,640 score and 17 of those IMPs. The Hudson-Steinberg team recovers later, however, and finishes eighth overall.
That puts us up against an even better team, David Hemmer and Saleh Fetouh, who finish fourth for the day. They put us in our place, 22-8, with a few playing tips along the way. We bounce back with a 2 IMP victory before lunch. If we can win two more rounds, we’ll be rolling in gold points.
But we only win one. First we lose, 23-13, to John Welte (without wife Martha, who was concertizing on her violin) and Ten-Pao Lee, who go on to be first in the B and C stratifications. We recover against Canadians David Eddy and Ann Shaw, 27-18 IMPs, thanks to some serious luck in a series of three straight 6 No Trump contracts, setting them on one and succeeding on another which should have gone down. They nevertheless finish third in B.
We might have eclipsed them if we didn’t crash to a 30-0 IMP defeat in the final round against cheerless Canadians John Moser and David Baker. That helps them tie for sixth overall.
Our final IMP total is 106, short of what I thought it would take to win gold points. But I’m wrong. We’re fifth in B – earning 2.65 gold. It’s enough to put Usha over the top. She’s now a Life Master. Mission accomplished.
As for my personal mission, this is one of my better tournaments. Overall winnings, near as I can figure – 15.66 points, 13.78 of them gold. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Bridge Blog 911: Buffalo Regional Day 3

Relegated to playing pairs again, Joe Miranda and I flame out in the final rounds Thursday morning (against Selina Volpatti, yet – we make her a point winner) and again Thursday afternoon. Our record couldn’t be more dismal – 47.09% in the morning, 42% after lunch.
Evening reunites me with newfound partner Terri Downey from New Jersey and Canadian teammates Alison Burkett and Jed Drew for the second installment of compact knock outs. Jed confesses to a terrible mistake on a sure 6 Club contract, which costs us 14 International Match Points and a shot at the final round. We lose to the Martin team – four women from Cleveland – 34 to 18. Take away those 14 IMPs from them and add in our 5½ point handicap and we’d be winners.
After a brief discussion of forfeiting the consolation round and going home early, we decide to take on the Petrov team again, even though they beat us Wednesday night. This time we play Petrov’s teammates, Alex Khrakovsky and Junko Hemus.
Junko, who wears glittery makeup and has a Versace scarf across her lap, berates Alex throughout the 12 hands we play. And for good reason. He takes seven bids to one of hers. And he hands us two outrageous gifts.
First he doubles me in a 5 Diamond contract and allows me to make it (16 IMPs). On the very next hand, he jumps in with a 4 Heart bid to take away a vulnerable 3 No Trump contract from me. Since I’m holding a 20-point hand (with A-K-Q-J-8 in Hearts) opposite my partner’s weak 2 Diamond opening bid, I pounce on him with a double. He’s not vulnerable, but he wins only four tricks. That’s a minus 1,400 and another 14 IMPs.

Although the Petrov team beats us 33-31 overall, we get 2.81 IMPs for a handicap, and that makes us victorious in the consolation match. 4.85 gold points! We’re elated. Especially Terri. She now needs only half a gold point for Life Master. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bridge Blog 910: Buffalo Regional Day 2

Plans fall apart. Our team abandons another run at the Knock Outs because Elaine Kurasiewicz can’t play with us on Thursday if we survive Wednesday. So we split up and play the pairs game. Joe Miranda and I keep our heads above water in the morning session with 51.36%, earning 0.86 of a red point for coming in 19th overall, ninth in the B stratification, but fail to improve on this in a slog of an afternoon, when we sink to 41.98%.
High points are the people we meet along the way. I finally play a round with Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, perennial leader of the District 5 Ruby Life Masters in the Mini-McKenney master point race. She’s surprisingly modest, beholden to her partner, Peter Petruzzellis of Pickering, Ont., who she describes as her mentor. We hold them to 50%, but it doesn’t seem to slow them down in the afternoon session. They’re fourth overall for the day, earning 5.72 gold points.
Another thrill is meeting a woman named Doris from Las Vegas, who says she's in town to see family. Family being Buffalo Bills coaches Rex and Rob Ryan. “You’re Buddy’s wife?” I remark. “Ex-wife,” she corrects me. Friendly and outgoing once we break the ice, she also does well – eighth overall, 5.20 gold and red points. Against her and her partner in the morning, we register a paltry 41%.
As for Usha and Elaine, they have a 43.14% game in the morning and don’t stay for the afternoon. Joe decides to throw in the towel and skip the evening game, but not me. I’ll hook up with someone somehow. Hey, you never know.
Sure enough, I’m drafted to join a team in the Wednesday-Thursday evening compact knock-outs. It’s my old friend Alison Burkett from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., soon to be living near Ottawa. She pairs me with Terri Downey, a player from down near Sea Isle City, N.J., down near Cape May. 
The team game turns out to be the only game at 7:30 p.m. Too few pairs turn out for the evening side game, so it's canceled. Once again, we’re in round robins and once again we survive, despite coming up against high-powered players like Buffalo’s Dian Petrov, who whomps us, 30-6 International Match Points, and young whiz David Saverin from Ottawa, stinking from cigarettes, who (amazingly) doesn’t. By advancing to Thursday night’s game, we’re guaranteed gold points, at least 3.77 of them. 
Here's the link to the latest tournament bulletin. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Bridge Blog 909: Buffalo Regional Day 1

Love those round robins. Our team (partner Joe Miranda plus Usha Khurana and Elaine Kurasiewicz) is in three-way competition in the Bracketed Knock Outs team game as the tournament gets under way Tuesday morning and the prospects are good. Two of the three teams get to advance. And there are only five teams overall in the bracket.
We beat them both in the first round of 24 boards. We’re 22-0 and 26-18 (in International Match Points) against the Dorothy May team (Ron Henrikson, Joe Rooney and Bill Boardman), which gets eliminated. We squeak past the Sandy Scheff team (Christine Malarkey, Barbara Sadkin and Paul Kotowski), 0-17 and 23-5. They also beat the May team. We get to play them again in the afternoon.
It’s another round robin after lunch, another 24 boards. Despite a mishap or two, we outpoint the Scheff team, 22-15 and 2-1. We also might have beaten the Barbara Landree team (Betty Metz, Gay Simpson and Paul Zittel) if partner Joe Miranda had taken more care in bidding one of the hands and let the contract settle somewhere other than 6 Hearts, which went down one. That costs us 11 IMPs in the first round of six hands. We lose it, 12-1, and our 8-7 margin in the second round falls far short of making it up.
The Landree team also beats the Scheff team, eliminating them. So we get to face them again, head-to-head, in the evening finals. Win or lose, however, we get what we came for – gold points.
We build up a stupendous margin during the first 12 hands, winning 31-0 and 20-9. That inspires Betty Metz to take competitive risks against Joe and me in the 12-board finale, encouraged by a string of wildly distributive hands. Doesn’t work. We win, 14-10 and 43-19. As champs, we collect 6.28 master points. Gold ones.
This, however, is a pittance next to what the winning team takes home in the expert bracket. A team of heavy hitters from Ohio – Fleur Howard, Philip Becker and Hope and Brian Ellis – defeat Buffalonians Jerry Geiger and John Ziemer (plus a couple guys from Ithaca) in the final round to pick up 25.21 points. Consolation prize for Jerry and John isn’t so shabby either – 17.65 points. 
Just got the daily bulletin online, which has pix of everybody and all the results. Here's the link.