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