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.