Friday, January 29, 2016

Bridge Blog 880: Buffalo Winter Sectional Wrap-up

Saleh Fetouh ruled once again during the three-day session in the Main-Transit Fire Hall. 27.01 points, which he collected mostly with the help of the No. 2 scorer, David Hemmer, who had 24.44.
       How did they do it? By winning both pairs games on Friday, for starters. The morning edition was worth 8.48 points. The afternoon added another 6.88. Most of the rest – 9.08 – came from the first-place finish in the Sunday Swiss team game.
       Other top finishers: Bud Seidenberg (a Saleh Swiss teammate), 15.97; Jay Costello (second in Swiss), 15.32; Chris Urbanek (the other Saleh Swiss teammate), 14.84; Torontonians Vera Carpenter and Rashid Khan (first in both Saturday pairs games), 14.67; Fred Yellen, 14.37; Donna Steffan (second in Swiss), 13.74; John and Martha Welte, 11.63.
       Me? Tied for 65 th with Teresa Fraas almost halfway down the list of 137 players with 3.22 points.
       Total table count was 136, with 23 Swiss teams. Last year’s Buffalo Winter Sectional had 156 tables, with 23 Swiss teams, and much worse weather. In 2014, when the tournament was the first weekend after New Year’s, table count was 132, and again with 23 Swiss teams.
       Random thoughts: Director Alex Bealles’ style was reminiscent of a security guard in a department store. Called to our table when I bid out of turn, he pulled me aside, looked at my hand, then forbid my partner from bidding after the opponents accepted my inadequate bid. It was a bad hand for us. Could he have ruled differently? I dunno. I was expecting something less draconian. Later in the weekend, I saw him pull other violators away from tables for similar chats. His gruff instructions and announcements were security-guard like, too.  
       My contributions to the cookie overload will live on. I believe it was Tova Reinhorn who told me that they would freeze the boxes full they didn’t open and bring them out for the Spring Sectional in April.

       The Main-Transit Fire Hall once again was frigid. The front vestibule isn’t heated and gets a new blast of cold air every time one of the smokers ducks outside. As a result, the social hall gets chilled every time somebody opens a door to go to the washrooms and the folks in charge don’t want to turn up the heat. Next time, I’m bringing an extra sweater. 

Bridge Blog 879: Buffalo Winter Sectional, Day 3

Playing Swiss teams, I always want to do poorly on the first round. Win those opening seven boards and you’re up against the heavy hitters right away, ripe for slam-dunking.
But Sunday’s first round in the Main-Transit Fire Hall got me rethinking that strategy. Up against C strat players Sharon Wilcox and David Whitt (teamed with Joyce Greenspan and Claire Gareleck), Judie Bailey and I and teammates Larry Abate and Bob Sommerstein wound up with a 6-6 International Match Point tie. I liked it.
It pitted us against another team that tied in the first round. Against Chip Kean and Jim McClure (playing with Bill Rich and Gene Nowatniak), we lost by a single IMP, 14-13, thanks to a missed sacrifice bid that would have saved us some fraction of the 11 IMPs they earned for making a 5 Heart contract. But this being Swiss, I was trying to avoid sacrifices and doubles.
We rebounded against Larry and Dottie Soong (teamed with Beena and Madhav Deshmukh) in the third round, 26-4, then encountered our toughest opponents, Brian Macartney and John Mackay, whom I described to Judie as the Kings of St. Catharines. They tried to deny it, but still outpointed us, 23-18.
Our worst performance came after the lunch break, against Ten-Pao Lee and Linda Burroughsford (teamed with John and Martha Welte), who whupped us 26-10, thanks to my overenthusiastic slam bid on a hand that contained nine Clubs. It cost us 11 of those IMPs.
From there, it was recovery against a Bradford, Pa., couple, 26-8. With one round to go, we had 92 victory points. If we win this last one, I told Larry and Bob, we get bonus points.
This time our opponents were Don Wilks and Kathryn Swayze from St. Catharines (playing with the estimable Paul Pointet and Lezlie Cullen), and they began by bidding 3 Spades and making three overtricks, missing the slam that Larry and Bob bid and made. Nevertheless, it was a wild round. When it was over, we had a 38-17 IMP margin, upping our victory point total to 120.
“I’ve never earned this many points at once,” Larry said he discovered that we had come in second in the B strat (and seventh overall). It was a handsome reward – 3.22 silver. It was Larry and Bob’s first Swiss team game and now they’re ready for more. Judie and I made a date with them for the next Buffalo sectional – the spring tournament in April.  
Somebody said earlier in the weekend that Saleh Fetouh’s team always won the Swiss and everybody else was playing for second place. True again, but this time it was a tight race. Only two victory points separated Saleh, David Hemmer, Chris Urbanek and Bud Seidenberg from the two teams behind them.
We didn’t play any of them. Our highest ranking opponents – the Mackay team and the Lee team –  finished fourth and fifth overall, respectively. The Lee team, with 132 victory points, was first in the B and C strats.
Three of our other opponents also finished with bonus master points – the Kean, Gareleck and Cullen teams, who were ninth, tenth and 11th. Fourteen teams got extra points out of 23 teams overall. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bridge Blog 878: Buffalo Winter Sectional, Day 2

Day 2, Strike 2. Marietta Kalman and I finished dead last in the morning session at the Main-Transit Fire Hall. At 38.63%, we were the only pair out of 24 in either direction to break below 40%. Marietta was finding it hard to forgive me for a sacrifice bid that went down 5 doubled.
Florence Boyd forgave me a revoke during the afternoon session, and a terrible revoke it was. I trumped a Club with the Ace of Spades while still holding a Club in my hand. Instead of setting a 4 Spade contract, Canadian  opponents Andrew Russell and Arno Hobart made an overtrick. Despite that, we had a slightly better round than my morning effort – 43.03%, eighth out of 10 East-Wests in our section.

Most amazing performance of the day came from another pair of Canadians – Rashid Khan and Vera Carpenter, who have dropped in at the Airport Bridge Club a couple times recently. They were overall winners in the morning session with 67.89%, earning 7.79 points, then turned in a 72.31% effort in the afternoon, garnering another 6.88 points. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Bridge Blog 877: Buffalo Winter Sectional, Day 1

“If we were playing North-South, we would have scratched,” partner Judie Bailey observed at the end of the afternoon session in the Main-Transit Fire Hall. Our 54.76% felt good, good enough to win us something, but we were East-West and five other pairs in our 10-table section, Section D, did better than that.
That score would have put us second North-South in Section D. It would have earned us points on either side of the table in 9½-table Section C (second East-West, fifth North-South). But alas, we were in fast company. The East-West winners in our section were all heavy hitters – Davis Heussler and David Colligan, Joan Rose and Chris Urbanek, Judy Graf and Mike Ryan.
At any rate, I was grateful not to repeat our wretched morning performance – 12th out of 14 North-Souths in our section with 40.98%. Plagued with horrible misfit hands, bad sacrifices and missed convention bids, it was even worse than our 42.49% tune-up game back on Monday at the Airport Bridge Club.
In the afternoon, we met many of the pairs we’d played from the other side of the table in the morning session. Once again, we were slam-dunked by Bud Seidenberg and Jay Costello, picking up a mere 6.97 match points out of a possible 51, or 13.67%. In the morning, we got 18 of a possible 50, or 36%.
Then there were our section’s East-West winners Davis Heussler and David Colligan (Colligan fresh from helping the Ralph Wilson Foundation give big bucks to local charities), who hauled in 5.16 points for finishing first in the section and second overall. Fortunately, we did not have to play them in the afternoon. They were our first opponents in the morning and got us off to a 28% start.
Near as I could tell, there were few out-of-towners. No Canadians that I noticed. Nor Rochester people.
Notable exception was a Cleveland-area pair, William Toler of Bay Village and Ann Kostel of Westlake, who zipped in, won 4.77 silver points for finishing first in the B and C strats in the morning, then zipped back onto the Thruway, not staying for the afternoon.
An even more notable exception was a Boston-area pair, Marianne Bechet and Sabrina Miles, who flew here for $66, planned to have a top-rate dinner at Tabree overnight and stick around for Saturday. They were second in the B strat and won a silver point in the morning, finished below Judie and me in the afternoon.
Moving up the afternoon game to 2:30 p.m. made going out to lunch all but impossible, since the morning session ended just a couple minutes before 2. The food option, aside from leftover morning bagels, was ice cream sundaes, not exactly a healthy choice.

I contributed to the food offerings with cookies from Sweet Temptations du Jour, nine dozen of them, which are being saved for later in the weekend. Asked if the cookies that were put out during the afternoon were the ones I brought, I checked the kitchen and found them still in their plastic wrap on a table jam-packed with cookies and other desserts. The phrase “coals to Newcastle” flashed across my mind. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bridge Blog 876: Out With 2015, At Last

The website genies at ACBL central seem to have sorted out whatever was gumming up the final standings in the 2015 master point races. Now they run to their full, exhaustive length, not just for one or three or five places.
And so it comes to be registered that my totals for the year just gone by are these – 112.70 for Ace of Clubs, which are points earned in club play, and 154.11 for Mini-McKenney, which are all points earned everywhere.
Where does that leave me in the local, Western New York Unit 116 picture? Right where I was a month ago. On  the list for those with 1,000 to 2,500 points, I’m sixth in Ace of Clubs, seventh in Mini-McKenney. In 2014, my figures were 110.26, still sixth in Ace of Clubs, and 148.39, good for fifth in Mini-McKenney. Damn! 2015, despite all the time I missed because of health difficulties, was better than 2014. Here are the Top 10 in each race.
Ace of Clubs: John Ziemer, 173.96 (218.51 in 2014); Mike Silverman, 170.48 (should have been first, but between directing and his travels, he missed a lot of opportunities) (183.14 in 2014); Ken Meier, 165.31 (155.85 in 2014); Fred Yellen, 148.55 (121.70 in 2014); Martin Pieterse, 139.70; moi, 112.70; Allen Beroza, 104.66 (end of the century club); Dorothy May, 89.15; Walt Olszewski, 86.12; Bill Finkelstein, 82.55.
Mini-McKenney: John Ziemer, 305.05 (in 2014, 304.43); Fred Yellen, 238.04 (185.40 in 2014, up from fourth); Ken Meier, 214.28 (191.88 in 2014, third then, too); David Hemmer, 208.72 (146.33 in 2014, up from sixth); Mike Silverman, 188.49 (205.46, second in 2014); Martin Pieterse, 185.26; then a big step down to me, 154.11; and another big step down to Dorothy May, 123.17; Allen Beroza, 116.72; and Barbara Pieterse, 112.17.
Among all Ace of Clubs players at all levels in Unit 116, Jerry Geiger is the champ with 246.31. Meg Klamp is second with 186.94. Then come John Ziemer, Mike Silverman and Ken Meier. Bill Boardman, tops in the 500-1,000 division, is sixth with 162.76; followed by Barbara Libby, 156.09; Ron Henrikson, 151.87; Judi Marshall, 150.67; and Fred Yellen. I’m 16th.
Overall Mini-McKenney master for Unit 116 is, of course, Saleh Fetouh, with 517.03. Then come Jerry Geiger with 360.25; John Ziemer, 305.05; Bud Seidenberg, 288.22; Chris Urbanek, 276.50; Dan Gerstman, 274.63; Meg Klamp, 268.21; Davis Heussler, 258.91; Mike Ryan, 257.44; Fred Yellen, 238.04; Ron Henrikson, 235.33; and Ken Meier, 214.28. I’m 29th.
Now let’s move up to the District 5 level, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh, as well as Buffalo. Unit 116 players hold the top five spots in the Ace of Clubs list for 1,000 to 2,500 points. I’m ninth (62nd among all District 5 players). Allen Beroza’s 12th. Dotty May is 27th.
Jerry Geiger is top District 5 Ace of Clubs guy, too.
Over on the District 5 Mini-McKenney list, those Ohio folks rule the roost. Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills is first with 594.59, followed by Fleur Howard of Gates Mills with 530.75 and Peter Merker of Mentor with 324.61. John Ziemer is a very respectable fourth. Fred Yellen is sixth. Ken Meier is seventh. David Hemmer is ninth. Martin Pieterse is 14th. I’m 24th, 129th among everyone in District 5.
Overall District 5 Mini-McKenney leader is good old Reanette Froboeck from Pittsburgh. 837.76. Saleh Fetouh is eighth. Jerry Geiger is 18th. Turns out I am tied for 129th with James Fox of Canonsburg, Pa.
Nationwide, District 5 doesn’t much register in the 1,000 to 2,500 point range. In Ace of Clubs, John Ziemer is 183rd. Top three dogs are Floridians – Sanford Robbins of Pompano Beach, Fla., with 488.69, Edward Rauch of Fort Lauderdale with 417.10 and David Schapira of Delray Beach with 356.47, who is fractionally ahead of Jeffrey Kroll of Conroy, Texas, with 355.96. The list, 500 names long, ends at 144.41.
On the national Mini-McKenney (1,000 to 2,500), it’s Peter Gelfand of Corralitos, Calif., with 1,567.95, which must be putting him in a higher division immediately. Also above 1,000 points are Edmund Wu of San Francisco, 1,149.22; Oren Kriegel of Chicago, 1,049.56; and Jonathan Fleischmann of Bloomfield, Mich., 1,044.27. Of the District 5ers, Sue Lan Ma is 18th and Fleur Howard is 23rd. John Ziemer is 224th.

And the biggest point winner in the entire ACBL? It’s Chris Compton of Dallas. 3,223.18! Only guy above 3,000 points in 2015. Thirteen players earned more than 2,000. None of them were named Jeff Meckstroth. The longtime superstar was 14th with 1,953.48 (jeez, that's only a few points less than I've earned in my entire 11-year career as a competitive player). Buffalo native Joel Wooldridge (now listed as living in Astoria, Queens) was not far behind – 22nd with 1,778.11. The only Unit 116 player among the top 500 players in the nation is Saleh Fetouh. He’s tied for 462nd. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Bridge Blog 875: Still a Happy New Year

Can’t say I was proud of it, but I collected points in the very first game I played in 2016, which was with Bill Boardman on Saturday, Jan. 2, at the Airport Bridge Club. Extra points there for ACBL Junior Fund Month every day. So Bill and I earned a munificent 1.21 points for a 45.24% game, which because of deep stratification put us second in the C strat.
Strat justice prevailed Monday, when I played with Judie Bailey. Despite our joy in making a 3 No Trump redoubled contract (800 match points, look it up), our 45.83% was only marginally better than my Saturday result, and this time there were no rewards for so paltry a score.

The rest of the week, however, turned into a winning streak: 
52.24% with Nadine Stein on Tuesday, sixth in A, fourth in B, 0.74 points. 
57% with Mike Silverman, tanned from his trip to St. Maarten, on Wednesday, second overall, 1.43 points. 
54.52% with Marietta Kalman on Thursday, second overall, 1.40 points. 
And 59.49% on Friday in a walk-in pairing with Tish Schiffman, second in A, missing first by the thinnest of fractions, 1.53 points. 
Total for the year so far: 6.31. 

Bridge Blog 874: Bejeweled

So I go to check my year-end master point total on MyACBL and, in addition to telling me that I have 1,959.25 career points (and 154.11 for 2015), it also says I’m no longer a Silver Life Master. I’m a RUBY Life Master.
Seems the ACBL has decided to stick a couple extra categories into its Life Master rankings. Ruby is 1,500 to 2,500. Gold is still 2,500, but between that and Diamond (5,000), there’s now Sapphire, which kicks in at 3,500.

Meanwhile, the genies who compile the results of the master point races for the ACBL website seem to have gone on strike. Look for them in one fashion and only the top few names are displayed in each category. Look for them the way I usually do and there’s no 2015 list to click on at all.