Friday, June 23, 2017

Bridge Blog 959: STaC and back

Two games a day for the six days of the Sectional Tournament at the Clubs (STaC) last week pretty much assured that regular players at the Airport Bridge Club would figure prominently in the final standings.
Nevertheless, our leading contender, Nancy Wolstoncroft, is way back in 12th place with her 16.14 points. Tied at the top with more than twice as many points are Stephanie and Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio. They won 33.81.
What Buffalo has is an ample supply of second-tier finishers. After Nancy comes her frequent partner, Alan Greer, with 14.77 (16th), and Denise Slattery, 14.52 (17th). A little further back in the double digits are Jerry Geiger, 11.28 (25th); Judi Marshall, 11.13 (26th); Ken Meier, 11.04 (29th); and Jay Levy, 10.82 (30th). I’m down in 58th place with 8.07.  In all, 1,061 players earned points.
I’m not sure why, but the post-STaC week began with a big head of steam. Partnerless on Monday and Tuesday, I’m paired both days with Carolyn Siracuse, a very good player but somewhat scattered at times.
On Monday, I arrive late and we don’t even consult on conventions. It doesn’t matter. We cruise to a 61.32% game, first in our direction, second overall, 2.19 master points. Tuesday we get to go over the basics before play begins and we diminish accordingly. This time we’re 55.08%, third in our direction, 0.50 of a point.
Wednesday is The Longest Day, the summer solstice and the occasion for the ACBL to celebrate by encouraging marathon games to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association. The Airport Bridge Club schedules three games, beginning at 10 a.m. Because I have to be at work in the 4 o’clock hour, I get to play only the first two of them with June Feuerstein.
To fit three of them in between 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., they’re short games, but director Bill Finkelstein insures they’re long enough to award extra points. For June and me, that turns out to be a bonanza. In the morning, we’re second in the B strat in our direction, earning 0.67 of a point. In the game that begins shortly after noon, we romp to 62.50%, first in our direction, second overall, for 1.31 points.
The hot streak ends Thursday with a 48.21% game with Dottie May, but bubbles up again on Friday with Denise Slattery, finishing with 54.17%, second North-South, fourth overall, for 1.05 point. No game Saturday so I can help Monica and her bicycle get back home from the University at Buffalo after the Ride for Roswell, but it’s been a full week anyway – 5.72 points.
Add that to the 4.01 from early in the month and the 8.07 from STaC Week and June starts to look like it might bust 20 points. And it's about time! That still leaves me short of my goal – shooting for 15 points per month, I should have 90 by midyear and I’ll only have about 80 – but nevertheless it’s a big step ahead. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bridge Blog 958: Triple Play

I wrap up STaC week with two games at the Airport Bridge Club with Denise Slattery. Our payoff, such as it is, comes in the six-table game in the morning. 53.58%. 1.05 silver points. First in the B strat, but way too low for a bonus on the district level.
Afternoon is a five-table Howell and, stricken with that after-lunch letdown, we struggle. At one point, I start dozing. At another point, I lurch into a down-four-doubled minus 800 contract. We’re lucky to register 49.55%.
Then, since my other half is over in Cortland playing volleyball in the Empire State Senior Games, I nip home briefly, feed the cat, then zip across the Peace Bridge. At the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., it’s their monthly Saturday evening social – an open pairs game with dinner. This time around, it’s Friendly Fred’s Barbecue, dedicated to a beloved club director who’s passed on.
The trip to St. Catharines is a lot easier in the 5 o’clock hour on a Saturday than it is during the noon hour on Friday, when I usually run this route. There’s only one car in front of me at the checkpoint and traffic is so light I knock five minutes off my normal running time.
They’ve only just begun to eat when I get there at 5:45. There’s steak, chicken and sausage off the grill, plus a long table full of picnic side dishes, plus beer and wine for $2.50 a pop, which makes for a very jolly evening. Converting the club from dining room to game room is a flurry of confusion, but a quick one. And it’s a big game – 22 tables.
Selina Volpatti and I have a seriously good time, I’m declarer on 11 of the 26 hands and it’s my best effort of the day. 59.17%. Tied for fourth overall, third in the B strat. 2.22 master points. Selina messages me later to apologize for messing up the response on my 2 Club opener on one of our poorer hands, but no matter. I’m feeling so much afterglow that I hardly mind getting pulled over by the Border Patrol at the Rainbow Bridge for a random search of the car. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Bridge Blog 957: STaCked Against Me

The Sectional Tournament at the Clubs (STaC) should be like taking silver points from a baby. Play at your home club, have a good game, rake in the bonus points at the district level. The Airport Bridge Club even provides us with extra rakes – two STaC games every day.
So on an ideal STaC week, I’d have 12 to 14 silver point opportunities. In previous years, I would attempt all of them. But not this year. My employer, The Buffalo News, wants me an hour earlier – 4 p.m. instead of 5 – and that rules out the second game. At best, I’d show up well after 5.
Luckily, 9 out of the 12 games can be salvaged. No work Friday and Saturday. And I plead for a dispensation for Thursday, so Selina Volpatti won’t have to come over from Canada for just one session.
Plus – to diminish our STaC expectations further – nobody wins all the time. Even if you scratch on a club level in a STaC game, it usually takes 60% or better to break into those fat bonus points.
And one final reality check – STaC history. I managed 9.74 back in December, but I played 13 games. My best STaC ever was last June – 11.57. So let’s set a reasonable goal – two-thirds of last December. 6.5 or so. 

Bridge Blog 957-A: Living It Up, Living It Down

Stumble at the start Monday with Art Matthies. 46.04%. Art’s a good player, a serious player. We should have done better. Immediately regret not being able to stay for the afternoon session.
Better with Dorothy May on Tuesday. 53.12%. Third East-West in a 12-table game. 1.03 silver points. Not enough for district bonus points, though.
Back Wednesday morning with Art, who admonishes me for my freewheeling bidding. “No more 800s,” he says. Whereupon I engineer an 1,100. Plus 1,100. I double opponents (I'm keeping my promise that they go unnamed) after they stumble into a 3 Diamond contract on a difficult hand to bid. They go down 5.

Board 17. I’m North. I’m dealer. Nobody vulnerable.

Spades: 10-9-4; Hearts: none; Diamonds: K-J-5-2; Clubs: A-J-10-9-5-2.

Spades: K-Q-5; Hearts: Q-9-7-5; Diamonds: Q-10-8-7; Clubs: Q-6.

South (Art)
Spades: A-J-2; Hearts: J-8-6-4-3-2; Diamonds: A-9-3; Clubs: 8.

Spades: 8-7-6-3; Hearts: A-K-10; Diamonds: 6-5; Clubs: K-7-4-3.

East is declarer. Art leads his singleton Club and a cross-ruff ensues. Hand record says we should take eight tricks in Diamonds. We take nine. Otherwise, it’s our hand and we should make 2 Spades or 3 Clubs.
Hey, now that I look at my copy of the game summary, there’s an error in scoring this hand. We're credited with plus 100, only 3 match points instead of 4. OK, let's look at the posted scores (which I photographed Friday on my phone to transcribe into the newspaper bridge news column). It’s been corrected. We now have our extra match point, 50.52% instead of 49.52%. No silver points, but at least we salvage some pride.
No compunctions about wild bidding with Selina Volpatti on Thursday. The morning hands agree with our freewheeling style and we sail to a stellar 63.08%, second overall at the club and fourth overall in the district: 4.51 points.
The magnificent morning then turns sour in the afternoon. Our 46.14% is last North-South.
Friday morning begins with more high hopes for a partnership with Bob Linn, a far more experienced player than I am, but once again we fail to live up to our potential. 44.91%. Ninth out of 11 pairs.
Bob can’t stay for the afternoon and I wind up playing with director Bill Finkelstein, who is even less forgiving of my misplays that Bob is. Despite my duly noted bidding and defensive errors, we come in third overall, second in B, with a 53.85% game. 0.85 silver points.
A check just now with the e-mailed STaC summary (it’s pretty prompt) brings more good news. Third in the club also is third in the district for small games. That 0.85 is bumped up to 1.48.
Total for the week so far: 7.02. Hey, I’ve made my goal, and then some. The two Saturday sessions with Denise Slattery will be gravy. Or better yet, whipped cream on top.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bridge Blog 956: Too soon, too soon, the First of June

Losing a week in May by being out of town didn't help. Nor did I rediscover the winning streak I enjoyed back in January, when I was monthly master point race leader at the Airport Bridge Club. No, in May I accumulated only 11.81 points, all in club play, well below my monthly goal of 15. On the bright side, I passed the 2,200 mark career-wise.
Underachievement like this doesn't compel me to do my monthly check of the ACBL master point races. But the calendar does. June is almost half over. Let's see where things stand.
Unit 116 (Buffalo only). Ace of Clubs (club play only). Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points). I have 49.36 points through May 31, which puts me in third place, ninth in Unit 116 overall, well behind the leaders. Here's the top 10.
David Millward, now back from Florida, 77.81 (first in Unit 116, too). Mike Silverman, 72.62 (second in the unit). Me, 49.36 (ninth). Ken Meier, 48.54 (11th). Gene Finton, also back from Florida, 38.01 (26th). Fred Yellen, 37.70 (27th). Allen Beroza, 37.52 (28th). Dorothy May, 34.05 (34th). Chuck Schorr, 21.95 (61st). Vince Pesce, 21.93 (62nd).
Unit-wide, the Top 10 Ace of Clubbers are: David Millward, 77.81; Mike Silverman, 72.62; Liz Clark, 72.56; Meg Klamp (still in Florida?), 68.55; John Ziemer, 55.22; Sharon Benz (!), 52.67; John and Martha Welte, both with 50.02; me, 49.36; Barbara Libby, 49.28.
Now the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney, which counts all points earned everywhere. I have 59.36 points overall, which puts me in fifth place among Ruby Life Masters, 31st in the unit.
Top Ruby Life Masters are Ken Meier, 127.85 (fourth in the unit); David Millward, 90.89 (16th); Mike Silverman, 73.56 (23rd); Fred Yellen, 62.33 (28th); me, 59.36 (31st); Allen Beroza, 57.63 (32nd); Gene Finton, 43.13 (48th); Dorothy May, 35.35 (64th); Art Morth, 27.03 (73rd); and Bill Rushmore, 24.83 (81st).
John and Martha Welte top the overall Unit 116 Mini-McKenney list. They've both got 146.33. Then comes Davis Heussler, 143.83; Ken Meier, 127.85; Mike Ryan, 123.02; Christy Kellogg, 188.70; Jay Levy, 118.68; Bert Hargeshimer, 188.08; John Ziemer, 107.98; and David Hemmer, 106.99. Also over the century mark are Linda Burroughsford, 101.42; and Saleh Fetouh, 100.06.
Now for District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh). Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. Here I'm sixth, 34th overall in the district. The leaders are the top two Unit 116 guys: David Millward, 77.81 (sixth overall); Mike Silverman, 72.62 (ninth); Susan Konig of Bridgeville, Pa. 71.31 (11th); Allen Selling of Erie, Pa., 57.35 (19th); Chantal Whitney of Bratenahl, Ohio, 55.09 (24th); me, 49.36 (34th); Ken Meier, 48.54 (36th); Ronald Sain of Indiana, Pa., 48.04 (38th); William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., 45.40 (50th); and Patrick Slaven of Mogadore, Ohio, 44.24 (54th).  
Overall District 5 Ace of Clubbers are led by couples, or at least four people who share last names. Richard Katz of North Versailles, Pa., 95.09; Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, 90.37 and 88.14; Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh, 85.03; W (William) Tordella of Bemus Point, 78.68; David Millward, 77.81; Arlene Port of Pittsburgh, 74.55; good old Reanette Frobouch of Pittsburgh, 73.92; and a pair of Buffalonians, Mike Silverman, 72.62; and Liz Clark, 72.56.
District 5 Mini McKenney Ruby Life Masters continue to be led by Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, with 323.15. She's third overall in the district. Next is Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, 268.94 (fourth), then William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., 161.28 (17th); a pair of Buffalonians, Ken Meier, 127.85 (31st) and David Millward, 90.89 (59th); Jean Picone of Pittsburgh, 88.41 (66th); Charles Ladiha of Vermilion, Ohio, 86.52 (69th) ; Monica Early of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, 84.77 (72nd); Susan Konig of Bridgeville, Pa., 82.70 (74th); and closing out the top 10, Unit 116's Mike Silverman, 73.56 (92nd).
Overall District 5 Mini-McKenney leaders are: Kathleen and Don Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, with 344.13 and 342.05, respectively. They've nudged Sue Lan Ma down to third with 323.15. After that, it's Craig Biddle, 268.94; Bernie Greenspan of Beachwood, Ohio, 240.97; the aforementioned Robert and Stephanie Alexander, 226.02 and 223.79; Richard Katz, also aforementioned, 217.96; and Brian Ellis and Phillip Becker, both of Beachwood, Ohio, with 212.60 and 195.09. Reanette Frobouck, often a leader here, is 11th with 185.83.
Nationwide Ruby Life Master Ace of Clubs leaders look like this: Russ Pearly of The Villages, Fla., 151.55 (45th overall); Barry Nish of Little Neck, L.I., 137.58 (77th overall); Paul Hassett of The Villages, 135.48 (83rd); Thomas Roberg of Raleigh, N.C., 133.83 (88th); and Robert Shearer of Diberville, Miss., 132.75 (90th). Among us Unit 116 people, David Millward is 123rd; Mike Silverman is 170th; and I miss the Top 500. It cuts off at 54.05.
Nationwide Ace of Clubs leaders among all players are Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 271.50; Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta, 264.42; Kay Schulle of Purchase, N.Y., 244.08; Irva Neyhart of Corvallis, Ore., 221.59; and Mason Barge of Atlanta, 203.69. None of us Unit 116 players here.
In the Nationwide Mini-McKenney, District 5's Sue Lan Ma and Craig Biddle come in fourth and fifth among Ruby Life Masters, behind Gillian Miniter of New York City, 500.56 (Only 47th nationwide); Sudhakar Divakaruni of Scottsdale, Ariz., 410.90 (88th nationwide); and Jeff Edelstein of Riverview, Fla., 328.24 (170th).
Among all players, there are five who finished the month of May with more than 1,000 points so far this year. Leader is Chris Compton of Dallas with 1,269.13. Then it's the legendary Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., 1,224.82; Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., 1,072.10; Mark Itabashi of Murrieta, Calif., 1,044.12; and Eric Rodwell of Clearwater, Fla., 1,024.30. District 5's Kathleen and Don Sulgrove are 147th and 149th. District 5 Ruby Life Master leader Sue Lan Ma is 175th. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Bridge Blog 955: Is I Is or Is I Ain't?

I asked myself that question all weekend. Just 0.06 of a point shy of 2,200 master points, I failed to pass that milestone Friday and again Saturday.
On the first four boards Friday, in St. Catharines, Ont., Selina Volpatti and I blew it and we knew it. Had we simply avoided our early mistakes and achieved average boards, we would have had a better-than-50% game and a milestone-passing quarter of a point, according to my review of the hands online that night.
On Saturday, it was over before it started. With a hair appointment running late, I arrived at the end of the first round to hear partner Burt Freiman confess that he was over-bidding when club manager Bill Finkelstein sat in for me. Burt was unable to correct it and I was unable to overcome whatever else came along. We barely made 40%. Dead last.
Nevertheless, when I checked the Airport Bridge Club master point race for May after Saturday's game, it showed me with 8.07 for the month, not the 7.97 that I tallied up. Math error? Belated recalculation? Who knew? 
To erase all doubt, what I needed was another trip to the winners' circle. Happily, that happened Monday with Marilyn Sultz, confirmed with 20 out of a possible 21 match points in the final round, lifting us to second East-West with 55.10%. 1.17 points. So there!  

Friday, May 19, 2017

Bridge Blog 954: On the verge

My partners have started winning again (ref. Blog 945). Even Marietta Kalman, who took regrettable dives on at least two hands Thursday at the Airport Bridge Club where she should have cruised to game. Alas, if she had only (1) exploited a long Club suit in dummy in a 3 No Trump contract – everybody else made it and one of them took 12 tricks, despite missing two Aces – and (2) ignored the possible ramifications of a 4-4-4-1 trump distribution in a 4 Spade attempt and ruffed her two minor suit losers to give herself an overtrick like the other South players did, instead of going down.
Yes, Marietta and I managed to scratch out a 51.96% effort, best game we’ve had together since a 63% in February, and that one was a major anomaly considering our history. Thursday was second overall in the B strat, rewarding us with 1.42 master points, thanks to the near-universal extra-point regimen in effect at the Airport Club.
That point bonanza has paid off to the tune of 7.97 points so far this month, despite the seven sessions I missed while I was away in New York City, where I had no bridge opportunities. Add that to what MyACBL says is my career total – 2,191.97 – and that's just 0.06 away from a milestone. If my partners can overcome the odds and continue their winning ways (Selina Volpatti today against that tough crowd in St. Catharines, Ont.; newbie Bert Freiman on Saturday at the Airport Club), I’m there. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bridge Blog 953: Appraising April

We haven’t seen David Millward in Buffalo yet this year, but he’s on top of Ace of Clubs list (club play only) for Unit 116 Ruby Life Masters in the latest update of the master point races on the ACBL website. Amongst us folks with 1,500 to 2,500 points, David makes his first appearance of 2017 with 68.50 points, all earned in Florida, apparently. Must not have been a great winter for golf, which often draws him away from the tables when he’s up North.
David’s sudden materialization at the head of the list demotes Mike Silverman, who was away for half of April, to second place. And now I’m third, thanks to another wretched month, though not quite as wretched as March. I added 10.36 club points, bringing my total to 37.55 and lifting me out of a tie with another snowbird who’s still in Florida – Gene Finton. Here’s the new lineup:
David Millward, 68.50; Mike Silverman, 57.43; me, 37.55; Gene Finton, 35.78; Ken Meier, 35.58; Fred Yellen, 31.92; Dorothy May, 27.43; Allen Beroza, 25.53; Vince Pesce, 17.30; and Chuck Schorr, 15.91.
David Millward is second overall among all Unit 116 players and Mike Silverman is third. Me, I’m lagging way behind in 15th place, but that’s one notch higher than a month ago. The Unit 116 leader is Meg Klamp, another snowbird, who’s on top with 68.55, just barely ahead of David Millward’s 68.50.
Then it’s Mike Silverman with 57.43; Liz Clark, 55.12; John and Martha Welte, tied with 44.15; Jay Levy, 42.63; Jerry Geiger, 42.03; Martin Pieterse, 41.84; Sharon Benz, 41.10; John Ziemer and Bud Seidenberg, tied with 40.84; soon-to-depart Tom Koralewski, 39.79; Joyce Greenspan, 39.04; then my 37.55, which is the barest fraction ahead of Ron Henrikson’s 37.51.
Moving on to the Mini-McKenney race, which includes all points in tournament competition and everywhere else, once again David Millward muscles onto the top rung among Ruby Life Masters with 81.58 points, though that places him only 12th among all Unit 116 players. I’m in fifth place, 30th overall, still sinking. Last month I was fourth and 26th. Here’s the rundown:
David Millward, 81.58 (12th); Ken Meier, 77.30 (13th); Mike Silverman, 58.37 (21st); Fred Yellen, 56.55 (24th); me, 47.55 (30th); Allen Beroza, 45.64 (32nd); Gene Finton, 35.78 (42nd);  Dorothy May, 28.73 (54th); Bill Rushmore, 24.06 (63rd); and Art Morth, 20.81 (73rd).
Overall Unit 116 Mini-McKenney leaders are John and Martha Welte (!), tied for first with 120.27, boosted by that 33.50-point showing in the Toronto Easter Regional. Third is the player they displaced, Davis Heussler, the only other Unit 116 player who’s surpassed the century mark. He has 114.81.
Other leaders: Mike Ryan, 97.89; Tom Koralewski, 96.30; Meg Klamp, 92.08; Christy Kellogg, 87.16; Saleh Fetouh, 86.80; Bert Hargeshimer, 86.54; Linda Burroughsford, 86.32; John Ziemer, 84.54; and David Millward, 81.58.
 Moving on to District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh), Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. David Millward has reclaimed top spot for Unit 116, displacing last month’s usurper – Susan Konig of Bridgeville, Pa. I’ve slipped from a sixth place tie to ninth place. Here’s the list.
David Millward, 68.50; Susan Konig, 63.87; Mike Silverman, 57.43; Chantal Whitney of Bratenahl, Ohio, 52.71 (Bratenahl, we discover via Wikipedia, is a rich little lakefront village that’s completely surrounded by the City of Cleveland and which gets 10 percent of its municipal income from speeding tickets on the I-90); Allen Selling of Erie, Pa., 49.92; Nancy Steele of Bridgeport, W.Va., 40.60; William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., 38.36; Sandra Brand of Pittsburgh, 37.85; me, 37.55; and Annemarie Gordon of Sewickley, Pa., 37.15.
In the overall District 5 Mini-McKenney standings, David Millward is fifth, Susan Konig is ninth, Mike Silverman is 12th and I’m 51st, which is actually an improvement. A month ago, I was tied for 62nd. Here’s that list:
Richard Katz of North Versailles, Pa., 83.97: Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh, 80.96 (is there a catfight in the Katz house?); D. Pierce of Parkersburg, W. Va., 70.71; Meg Klamp, 68.55; David Millward, 68.60; W. (William, I just looked it up) Tordella of Bemus Point, 67.50; Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh, 65.77; S. Ruskin of Pittsburgh, 64.50; Susan Konig, 63.87; and Arlene Port of Pittsburgh, 60.53.
District 5, Mini-McKenney, Ruby Life Masters. Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, continues on top with 241.27. Then it’s Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, 175.52; William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., 88.65; David Millward, 81.58; Ken Meier, 77.30; Susan Konig, 75.26; Jean Picone of Pittsburgh, 67.34; Mike Silverman, 58.37; Fred Yellen, 56.55; Chantal Whitney of Bratenahl, Ohio, 54.70. My 47.55 puts me at 14th.
District 5, Mini-McKenney overall. Sue Lan Ma still on top with 241.27, followed by the Sulgroves of Twinsburg, Ohio, Kathleen and Don, tied for second with 210.66. Then it’s Richard Katz with 191.27; Reanette Frobouck with 177.68 (a slow year for her); Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh with 175.52; and Patricia Katz, 161.15. Unit 116’s Weltes are tied for 11th. Davis Heussler is 16th. I’m 122nd.
Now let’s go nationwide. Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. Leader is Gary Waldron of Laguna Beach, Calif., who must spend all his time indoors. He has 103.84. Then it’s Barry Nish of Little Neck, L.I., 101.22; George Wood of Gulfport, Fla., 100.69; Robert Shearer of Diberville, Miss., 99.53; Sidney Perutz of Dallas, 99.51; Mohan Bali of Columbia, S.C., 97.39; Russ Pearly of The Villages, Fla., 96.37; Michael Boreson of Kalispell, Mont., 95.42; Dennis Harms of Corvallis, Ore., 95.17; and Paul Hassett, also of The Villages, 94.01.
Unit 116 and District 5 leader David Millward is 77th. Mike Silverman is 165th. I’m not among the big 500 anymore. The list cuts off at 43.04.
And now all the Ace of Clubbers. Omigod. Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta is up to 219.19. Also over the double-century mark is Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale, Fla, with 211.29. Then it’s Irva Neyhart of Corvallis, Ore., 185.33; Key Schulle of Purchase, N.Y., 181.91; Neil Silverman of Fort Lauderdale, 169.67; and Mason Barge of Atlanta, 169.27. No Unit 116ers on this list. District 5’s Richard Katz is 254th. This list cuts off at 71.02.
Nationwide Mini-McKenney. Ruby Life Masters. District 5’s Sue Lan Ma has moved up. Seventh last month. Now she’s third. The two leaders are still solid. Gillian Miniter of New York City, 405.71; Sudhakar Divakaruni of Scottsdale, Ariz., 334.55; Sue Lan Ma, 241.27; Jeff Edelstein of Riverview, Fla., 228.59; Mark Blanchard of Bay Shore, L.I., 221.25; and Arti Bhargava of Mill Valley, Calif., 202.49. District 5’s runner-up Craig Biddle is 12th. Unit 116 also is represented, albeit well down the list. David Millward is 340th. Ken Meier is 411th. The list stops at 72.03.
Nationwide Mini-McKenney. All players. Chris Compton of Dallas has cracked the 1,000 mark. He has 1,016.02, well out in front of Mark Itabashi of Murrieta, Calif., with 890.03; the legendary Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla, with 848.62; Eddie Wold of Houston with 838.83; Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., with 811.38; and Mike Passell of Plano, Texas, with 806.66.
Other notables: David Sabourin of Ottawa, Onto, 666.90 (14 th); former Buffalonian Joel Wooldridge, now of Astoria, Queens, 407 even (41st); Ruby Life Master leader Gillian Miniter, 405.71 (42nd); Sally Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., 383.07 (54th); District 5 leader Sue Lan Ma, 241.27 (201st). No Unit 116 players here, either. List ends at 164.21. 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Bridge Blog 952: Not So Merrie Month of May

          How much did I look forward to the return of the Rochester Regional Tournament, just an hour or so away down the Thruway? Ever since they announced the dates nearly two years ago.
During the tournament’s first revival in Rochester in 2015, I was facing cancer surgery in a few weeks and only managed to make it to the RIT Inn and Conference Center in Henrietta for two days. Very valuable days as it turned out, since partner Judie Bailey and I hooked up with a hot pair from Central New York and won our knock-out game.  
This year, family matters have intervened. A tombstone unveiling on the last day of the tournament Sunday. A drive to New York City two days before that. A week of work to do in advance so I can take time off from my newspaper gig. Top that off with that miserable cold that’s been going around, which twice forced me back to bed in the middle of the afternoon. Propped up with decongestants all week, I wouldn’t have been able to keep my head up in Rochester.
It was hard enough here in Buffalo. I brought my foggy brain and runny nose to the Airport Bridge Club on Monday and discovered partner Carolyn Siracuse to be among the missing. Didn’t answer her phone. Didn’t see her all week so don’t know what happened to her.
Club manager Bill Finkelstein called in a sub – a very good sub, Tom Koralewski, departing next week for the next stage in his retirement in Indianapolis – and it turned out to be one of my best games all year. Our 63.89% tied us for second overall and brought in 1.44 points.
I was still in a fog Tuesday with Usha Khurana, but we had what felt like one of our better games. Not spectacular, but 51.85%, third North-South, 0.70 of a point.
Wednesday’s turnout at the club was so sparse that we would up playing home-style pairs – two tables, three rounds, 10 boards a round. I have one of my rare games with Chuck Schorr, who’s a seasoned player. I fully expect that we’ll blow away this diminished field, but we wind up in a three-way tie for top. Not very rewarding, but any fraction of a master point, even this 0.30, adds up.
Thursday found me partnerless once again. Thrown together with the agreeable Burt Freiman, a newbie who makes his fair share of mistakes, we steered ourselves to 50.30%, good enough for second in the B strat North-South and 0.86 of a point. How miserable a week is it if it yields up 3.30 points? 

Bridge Blog 951: Long Look Back at the Sectional

          I could only play one session Saturday in the Buffalo Spring Sectional Tournament two weeks ago with Art Matthies, but it turned out to be time well spent. It accounted for most of my silver points – 2.61 out of a tournament total of 3.51. That figure landed me in 42nd place among the 151 players who collected points.  
          Point leader was Chris Urbanek with 18.71 – 9.29 for second place in the Saturday two-session pairs and 7.70 as part of the first place foursome in the Sunday Swiss team competition. Second was her Swiss teammate Bud Seidenberg with 17.29, which included 9.02 for second place in the Friday two-session pairs.
          Other point leaders – Judy Graf, 15.57, 12.03 of them from winning two-session pairs Friday; Saleh Fetouh, another Chris teammate Sunday, 14.78; and Fred Yellen, Judy Graf’s Friday partner, 14.78. No question about which path is paved with the most silver points. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Bridge Blog 950: Buffalo Spring Sectional

To make a long story short, here’s the summary:
Two sessions Friday with Florence Boyd. One of the few pairs who struck out entirely. Morning session: 45.42%. Afternoon session: 49.46%. Interesting hands, though. See Blog 950-A on what seemed at the time like a brilliant maneuver.
Only one session Saturday because of an obligation to go to Rochester and visit distressed friends, but it counted. Art Matthies and I pulled off a 59.22% game, which I thought was tops East-West until I saw the final results. But second was good, too. 2.61 silver points. See Blog 950-B on the sudden departure of Rita Sofia.
Uncertain arrangements for Sunday’s Swiss teams fell apart, as I suspected they would, but I was lucky enough to pick up Rita Sofia’s partner, Anne Watkins, and the two of us were lucky enough to team with some very good players, Christy Kellogg and Bert Hargeshimer.

We win the first round, but according to Christy, this is not her finest day. We needed to win four rounds to collect extra points in the A strat, but we win only three and wind up with .90 of a silver point. See Blog 950-C to see why this will may have been the final Dupli-Swiss game. 

Bridge Blog 950-A: Brilliant?

Friday afternoon. Board 5. Jim Gullo and Donna Steffan are East-West and work their way up into slam territory, where Jim plants the flag at 6 Clubs. Not what I expected with these hands, but it’s odd enough to turn into a winner. Partner leads the 5 of Spades.

East (Jim)
Spades: 8-2; Hearts: A-Q-J-4; Diamonds: 3; Clubs: K-9-8-5-4-2.

South (Art Matthies)
Spades: Q-J-6-5-3; Hearts: 7-6-3; Diamonds: Q-J-4-2; Clubs: 7.

West (Donna)
Spades: A-7-4; Hearts: K-10-6; Diamonds: A-K-10-6; Clubs: A-J-10.

North (moi)
Spades: K-10-9; Hearts: 9-5-3; Diamonds: 9-8-7-5; Clubs Q-6-3.

What seemed brilliant at the time was not only the offbeat Club bid, but Jim’s preservation of a low card in his hand to reach the dummy late in the play. Turns out it wasn’t quite that brilliant. The hand should make 7 Clubs and Jim made only 6. Plus it’s good for grand slams in No Trump and Hearts, as well as Clubs.

It’s still good for them, though. They’re tied for second with another pair at 6 Clubs, just short of the people who bid and make 6 No Trump. Meanwhile, four of the pairs take 13 tricks in Hearts and No Trump, but they don’t bid the slams. 

Bridge Blog 950-B: Sudden Exit

Given the average advanced age of bridge players, it’s a wonder that we aren’t always falling by the wayside with cards in our hands. But it turns out to be rare. Rarer still at tournaments.
So it was unsettling Saturday morning when Art Matthies and I arrived at the Rita Sofia-Anne Watkins table, picked up our cards and started to bid the contract when Rita excused herself and withdrew to the ladies’ room. After a few minutes she returned and said she had to leave. Anne said Sunday she was feeling faint. I hope this was just an anomaly and she’s feeling better now.

One never knows. Someone Sunday mentioned a game in the Gatlinberg, Tenn., regional where a guy actually died at the table. To which I noted that bridge players are a lot like golfers, no matter what happens they just play on. 

Bridge Blog 950-C: Dupli Dumped

Smaller than usual turnout for Swiss teams Sunday at the Spring Sectional. I could tell by all the empty spaces in the parking lot at the Main-Transit Fire Hall. 18 tables. Small enough to reduce the point payout in the game.
Once again this is Dupli-Swiss with pre-dealt hands. Not only does it provide hand records, but it eliminates the need for caddies, since all the teams sit in pods of four tables and pass the boards around.
I rather like this game, but it turns out not to be popular. One of the better local players vowed she would not play Dupli-Swiss again because of the potential for cheating, since players in pods can overhear discussion of hands at adjacent tables. (Indeed, a neighboring table calls us on this breach of decorum while we're playing with the guy who set it all up and warned us about it, David Hemmer.)
Betty Metz further notes that a table’s worth of players from Jamestown and Olean decided not to come when they heard it was Dupli-Swiss. Furthermore, David Hemmer apparently won’t be available to set up Dupli-Swiss hands for the next sectional in September. I’d heard that setting up the hands was arduous, but David says it took him less than three hours with help from his sons, who were eager to earn a couple bucks putting cards into the dealing machine.
Still, I like this arrangement. It always helps to have hand records to assess what you should have done. What’s more, it seems more fair to have everyone playing the same boards instead of the pot-luck hands when every pair of teams shuffles them independently.

On the other hand, Sunday’s deals were seriously unsatisfying and didn’t allow for any of the swashbuckling play that I love to indulge in. Partner Anne Watkins didn’t take a bid until the third round. I went without playing a contract for two rounds later in the session. Mismatches abounded. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bridge Blog 949: Thank God It's ... Monday???

Like Garfield the cat, I had an aversion to Mondays. But then my schedule put me in the office on Sunday nights, which defused the dread of that first day of the working week. And for the past two weeks, Monday's been one of the brightest days of the week at the bridge table.
Bob Kaprove helped lift the gloom back on the 10th (Palm Monday?) with the best game I've seen since Feb. 9 – 59.17%, good for 1.75 points, second overall, losing to Mike Silverman and Martin Pieterse by half a match point.
The percentage was lower but the reward was better on Easter Monday as Carolyn Siracuse joined me in a game that improved from a fourth-place 51.67% finish to a first-overall 55.83% when I found a scoring error that reversed a minus 790 to a plus 790 (4 Hearts doubled vulnerable made against Joe Rooney and Bill Boardman) and bumped us up 5 match points. 2.33 master points, thank you.
According to the hand record, we should have made that 4 Heart bid anyway. The very next hand, however, was another top, and I believe it was because my partner broke one of the cardinal rules of the game (See Blog 948).

Meanwhile, let's also haul aboard that Saturday game with Denise Slattery – where our 55.30% made us second overall, first in the B strat for another 1.90 points – and April starts to look pretty good. 9.88 points overall so far.  

Bridge Blog 948: Happy Unreturns

Carolyn Siracuse and I wind up defending against a 4 Heart bid by Joe Rooney and Bill Boardman on this layout.

West (Joe)
Spades: 10-8-2; Hearts: A-K-9-6-4; Diamond: 4; Clubs: A-K-J-3.

North (moi)
Spades: Q; Hearts: Q-J-10-3; Diamond: A-Q-J-7-3; Clubs: 9-8-6.

East (Bill)
Spades: K-J-6-4-3; Hearts: 8-2; Diamonds: 10-6-5; Clubs: 10-7-4.

South (Carolyn)
Spades: A-9-7-5; Hearts: 7-5; Diamonds: K-9-8-2; Clubs: Q-5-2.

It's Board 8. Nobody vulnerable. West is dealer. Joe opens 1 Heart. I overcall 2 Diamonds. Bill bids 2 Spades. Carolyn supports the Diamonds. And if I remember correctly, Joe jumps right to 4 Hearts. I'm pretty sure he won't make it, but I only see three tricks in my hand. I pass.
Opening lead is the singleton Queen of Spades. King. Ace. But then Carolyn follows one rule – lead the suit your partner bid, i.e., a Diamond – while breaking another – return the suit your partner led.
I win with the Jack of Diamonds, reckon Joe's 4 is a singleton. Least damaging option is lead a Club, or is it? Carolyn's Queen is finessed.  
He wins the Club, pulls one round of Hearts, then leads a Spade. I discard a Club. He draws a second round of trumps and leads another Spade. This time I ruff and return a Diamond. He ruffs and sends back a Club and another Club. I ruff Club #2 and send back a Diamond. For the final three tricks, I have a winning Heart and two winning long Diamonds. Down three.
Did Carolyn's switch to Diamonds give us an extra trick by delaying my ruffs until the long Diamonds were good? I keep looking at it now, several hours later, and I'm not sure where that extra trick came from (Did Joe play an unnecessary high card somewhere?), but I thought at the time it was Carolyn's move that set us up for a top board. 
The hand record says East-West should make 2 Hearts (they do one trick better in Spades). And North-South can bring home a 3 Diamond bid, a plus 110 versus a plus 100 for 4 Hearts down two.

In actual play in this six-table game at the Airport Bridge Club, three North-Souths get to play 3 Diamonds. One goes to 4 Diamonds and falls one short. None of the East-Wests find their eight-card Spade fit. Judi Marshall and Sharon Benz are the only ones lucky enough to get to play it at 2 Hearts. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Bridge Blog 947: March Badness

Was this my worst month of March ever? I’ll have to check. (Yes, even in my first year of competitive play, 2005, I earned 5.28 points in March.) Needless to say, my grand total of 2.52 club points surely has lowered my standing in the ACBL master point races. For the first quarter of 2017, my tally is 27.19 club points, 33.68 points overall. Now that they’ve been posted on the ACBL website, let’s see how bad the damage is.
Unit 116 (Buffalo only). Ace of Clubs (Club play only). Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points). Mike Silverman is way, way, way ahead with 49.46 points and is second among all Unit 116 players. Gene Finton, who’s down in Florida for the winter, has upped his total to 27.19 and has tied me for second place. We’re both 16th overall in the unit. Last month I was fifth overall.
The rest of the top ten: Ken Meier, 25.96 (19th overall); Fred Yellen, 24.37 (21st); Dorothy May, 23.29 (23rd); Allen Beroza, 16.12 (44th); Chuck Schorr, 13.78 (53rd); Sue Bergman, 11.67 (71st); Art Morth, 11.29 (72nd); and Vince Pesce, 11.11 (74th). (OK, that’s actually 11).
Who is the overall Ace of Clubs leader in Unit 116? Meg Klamp, who’s still down in Florida. She’s got 55.07. The other leaders: Mike Silverman, 49.46; Liz Clark, 40.30; John and Martha Welte, both 35.03; Tom Koralewski, 34.84; Chris Urbanek, 34 even; Jerry Geiger, 32.72; Jay Levy, 32.59; John Ziemer, 30.43; and Bud Seidenberg, 30.31.
Next is Mini-McKenney. All points earned everywhere. Ruby Life Masters.
Leader here is Mike Silverman again, but he’s only 14th overall in the unit. Last month I was second and 15th. Now I’m fourth and 26th. Here are the leaders:
Mike Silverman, 50.40 (14th overall); Ken Meier, 37.33 (20th); Fred Yellen, 34.22 (25th); me, 33.68 (26th); Allen Beroza, 27.92 (37th), Gene Finton, 27.19 (40th); Dorothy May, 24.59 (43rd); Bill Rushmore, 20.31 (52nd); Art Morth, 15.73 (65th); and Chuck Schorr, 14.15 (76th).
Overall Unit 116 Mini-McKenney leaders are: Davis Heussler, 82.84; Christy Kellogg, 78.07; Berg Hargeshimer, 78.01; Meg Klamp, 76.76; Martha and John Welte, both 68.88; Saleh Fetouch, 66.92; Mike Ryan, 62.57; Tom Koralewski, 61 even; and Liz Clark, 60.27.
Onward to the races for District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh).
Ace of Clubs, Ruby Life Masters. For the first time ever, a Unit 116 player does not top this list. Outpointing Mike Silverman is Susan Konig of Bridgeville, Pa. She has 51.56 to Mike’s 49.46. Gene Finton and I are tied for sixth place. Between Mike and us are Chantal Whitney of Bratenahl, Ohio, 37.12; Doris Kirsch of East Springfield, Pa., 30.18; and William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., 29.33. Ken Meier’s 25.96 makes him eighth.
Susan Konig is sixth among all District 5 Ace of Clubs players. Mike Silverman is seventh. Gene Finton and I are 62nd. Overall leader is this W. Tordella person from Bemus Point with 67.50, followed by Richard Katz of North Versailles, Pa., 63.80; S. Ruskin and Patricia Katz, both of Pittsburgh, with 58.11 and 56.41, respective; and our Meg Klamp with 55.07.
District 5 Mini-McKenney. Ruby Life Masters. Once again it’s Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio. Now she’s got 161.12. She’s also first among all players. Second is Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, with 138.36, who’s fifth overall. Then there’s a big step down to Susan Konig, 62.95 (39th); William Lindgren, 55.43 (49 th); and Buffalo’s sole top 10 entry, Mike Silverman, 50.40 (61st). They’re the only ones with more than 50 points.
Among all District 5 players, 11 racked up more than 100 points in the first quarter of 2017. Here they are: Sue Lan Ma, 161.12; Richard Katz of North Versailles, Pa., 152.06; Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh, 143.96; Bernie Greenspan of Beachwood, Ohio, 143.27; Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, 138.36; Philip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, 128.98; Mary Chilcote of Cleveland, 127.99; Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh, 117.56; Don and Kathleen Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, 110.32 and 107.73, respectively; and Brian Ellis of Beachwood, Ohio, 102.22.
Going nationwide, Ruby Life Master Ace of Clubs leader is Mohan Bali of Columbia, S.C., with 81.05; followed by Barry Nish of Little Neck, L.I., 80.90; Darrell Fung of San Ramon, Calif., 73.49; Gary Waldron of Laguna Beach, Calif, 71.62; and Scott Donaldson of Scottsdale, Ariz., 69.74. Mike Silverman is 97th. The Top 500 list ends at 32.92.
National Ace of Clubs leader overall is Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta, 163.84; followed by Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale, 158.23; Mason Barge of Atlanta, 146.25; Sheila Gabay of Newton, Mass., 140.65; and Kay Schulle of Purchase, N.Y., 133.80. Only Buffalo player on this Top 500 list is Meg Klamp. She’s 433rd.
National Mini-McKenney leader among Ruby Life Masters is Gillian Miniter of New York City, 314.17; followed by Sudhakar Divakaruni of Scottsdale, Ariz., 227.57; Jeff Edelstein of Riverview, Fla., 199.28; Maya Alela of Teec Nos Pos, Ariz., 196.71; and Connie Queller of Hudson, Fla., 174.80. District 5’s Sue Lan Ma is seventh. The list cuts off at 54.41 points.
National Mini-McKenney leader among all players is the amazing Chris Compton of Dallas with 830.27. At this pace, he’ll finish the year with more than 3,300 points. Then there are five guys in the 600s – Mark Itabashi of Murrieta, Calif., 673.31; Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., 663.86; Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., 639.80; Eddie Wold of Houston, 611.89; and Billy Miller of Las Vegas, 600.13. Buffalo native Joel Wooldridge, now based in Astoria, Queens, is 36 th with 354.75. District 5’s Sue Lan Ma is 276th. The list ends at 127.37.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Bridge Blog 946: Glug, glug, glug ...

Fifty percent is the magic marker. It's the dividing line. It's sea level. Below that and you're drowning, you're not racking up half the match points.
Well, the just-concluded month of March saw me foundering below the surface all month long. The only time I managed to come up for breath was March 16, the first day the Airport Bridge Club reopened after the big snowstorm. Teamed up at the last minute with Ron Henrikson, I enjoyed a 54.46% game.
It was the only 50-plus game of the month. It made no difference that I was off for a week of bridge-less vacation in Arizona. I came back to finish the month with a 48.75% with June Feuerstein, 49.40% with Marietta Kalman and 45.94% with Selina Volpatti over in St. Catharines, Ont.
Fortunately, the miracle of stratification smiled in those games with June and Marietta, resulting in point payoffs of 0.22 and 1.14, respectively. That more than doubled my total for the month, which has got to be the most pathetic in recent history.
April seems like a point deluge in comparsion. In two games so far, I've almost matched March's output, helped along by the resumption of double point games at the Airport Bridge Club.
A 51.98% effort with Denise Slattery on April 1 turned out to be second overall and rewarded us with 1.78 points. And today, Monday, April 3, a 49.70% game with Florence Boyd netted us second place in the B strat East-West and another 0.69 points. Here's hoping this April shower keeps pouring down. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bridge Blog 945: My partners are on a losing streak

When I tell Selina Volpatti today (Friday, March 10) that I'm going to write a blog with this title, she denies being complicit. Then we turn around and have a 45.86% game. A couple weeks ago a score that low actually earned us points at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., but not this time. We're 11th of 15 North-Souths and we'd need at least 48.25% to finish fourth in the B strat.
Actually, I think I can let Selina off the hook. I blew this day off on the very first two hands. First there's the slam we don’t reach.
K J 6 4 3 2
A 4 2
A 4

Q 5
10 8 7
Q J 10 5 2
6 5 4
10 8 7
J 9 5 3
10 9 7 3 2
A 9
K Q 6
K 9 8 7 3
A J 8
 It’s all in the bidding. Selina’s North, opens a Spade. I bid 2 Diamonds. She rebids 2 Spades. I look at my 17 points, could have opened 1 No Trump, and ponder. What to bid? I put down the 4 Spades card. Wrong choice. I should bid 4 NT, asking for Aces. East leads a Diamond and Selina takes all 13 tricks. Turns out even 6 Spades gives us an average-minus result – 6 match points out of 14 instead of 2. The good contract is 6 NT.
Next board, I double our opponents at 3 Spades. According to the hand record, they shouldn’t make it, but these guys do. At most tables, East-West only take eight tricks. Not here. Instead of tying for top, we get a bottom board. If these two hands went our way, we’d be fourth in B.
J 10 7 4 2
A J 10 9 3

10 9 7 6
Q 9
K Q 7 5
K 7 5
K 8 5 4
K 8 5 3
A 6
Q 4 2
J 3 2
A 6
J 10 9 8 4 3
8 6
 Elsewhere, we’d finish even better if I don’t push to not one, not two, but three disastrous doubled sacrifice bids. Here I'm in love with my void and my seven-card suit, so I go to 5 Hearts rather than let the opponents play in Spades. We’re vulnerable, they’re not. They can’t make 4 Spades.
Q J 8 2
6 4
A Q 10 9 5 2

A K 10 9 5 4
A 8 5
Q 8 4
7 6 3
J 8 6 3
A J 7 5 3
K J 10 9 7 3 2
K 4
K 10 9 2
That’s a bottom board instead of an average-plus of 8.5 match points. Later on, we pick up a couple minus 800s. On the first one, I thought our advantage in vulnerability and our big Spade suit would save us with a minus 500. Not!!!
10 9 4 3
6 2
9 8 7 2
9 4 3

K Q 10 9 5
A Q 10 4
K 10 7
6 2
A J 3
K J 5 3
A Q 5 2
A K Q 8 7 5
8 7 4
J 8 6
East-West can make 6 Hearts, but only a couple of them bid the slam. If we let them play it at 4 Hearts, it’s an average board. This next one is an absolute bottom.
10 9 6 5
10 6 5 4
A K J 3

A K 8 2
J 9
A K J 10 9 5
K Q 8 3 2
Q 10 8 6 5 4
8 7
Q J 7 4 3
A 7
9 7
6 4 3 2

What happens here is that Selina doubles West’s 1 Club opener, I bid my Spade suit and, between the two of us, we wind up at 4 Spades doubled. East-West can make 5 Clubs, but our opponents decide not to play it there. If we stop competing and let them go for less than game in Clubs, we’re average-plus. If we could resist our sacrificial urges, we’d finish over 50%.