Sunday, January 29, 2017

Bridge Blog 934: Buffalo Winter Sectional, Day 3

David Hemmer (orange shirt in the distance) explains how to share boards for Dupli-Swiss
I got it. The prize. The sheet that the tournament director and his minions use to keep the running total for the Swiss teams. It was just lying there on a table as I was giving the Social Hall at the Main-Transit Fire Hall a final scan for trash as part of the clean-up crew.
Ordinarily this would be the Holy Grail. But in this day of results posted on the internet, it’s detritus. Nevertheless, it’s a running total, which follows us, the Anderson team, Team 1, as we struggled to a successful finale. 5-17-47-76-78-106. Second in B. And it tells us what we got. 3.22 silver points.
First in B was the Olszewski team, which included Paula Kotowski, the alt director at the Airport Bridge Club, and the Pieterses, Barbara and Martin. They were only five Victory Points ahead of us (28-31-55-60-86-111). We didn’t play them. In fact, the only bunch ahead of us that we played were the fourth-overall finishers, the Pollock team. At our table, that was Dian Petrov and Bill Rushmore. They shut us down almost completely in the fifth round, 28-2 Victory Points.
Our team – Florence Boyd (my partner), tournament chairman Betty Metz and her partner, Barbara Landree, only won three rounds, but we won them big. And one of our losses was by a single IMP point. We finished seventh overall. 
What helped actually was that fifth round loss to the Pollock team. It put us up against much weaker opponents in the finale – the Jones team, mostly Lockport players, which at our table meant Jim Lanzo and Gay Simpson, who recruited me for clean-up detail. We beat them handily, 28-2 VPs.  
My take for the tournament – 5.97 silver points. Was this my best sectional ever? Let’s go to record books. Aside from STaC competition, it looks like this was my second-best silver point effort, topped only by the April 2012 Buffalo Spring Sectional, when I won 7.52 points. I commonly get one or two.   
Note: Second experience with Dupli-Swiss and a much smoother one than the first taste of it in the Fall Sectional. David Hemmer, who set it up, advised us all at the start how to put the boards we played onto the bank of chairs in the middle of our four-table clusters, which shared eight boards each round. In our cluster, at least, it worked just fine. Plus the hand records gave us something to mull over after every couple rounds. 
Incidentally, the Hemmer team  Bud Seidenberg, Saleh Fetouh and Kamil Bishara, all heavy-duty players  won five rounds, tied their finale, and finished first overall, winning 9.35 points. Overall, there were 24 teams. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Bridge Blog 933: Buffalo Winter Sectional Days 1 & 2 (corrected)

Missed Day 1. Late-breaking medical appointment and a quickly rescheduled time slot at Towne BMW for New York State inspection, due to expire Tuesday. So instead of sitting all day in a bridge game while the X-1 was getting checked over, I sat all day in a clinic office and then in the car dealer’s waiting room, where a couple of the sleek sedans on display had six-figure sticker prices.
Snow flurries were in the air Saturday morning, a harbinger of the lake effect snow watch in effect all day, when I arrived at the Main-Transit Fire Hall for Day 2. My hopes were high. Partner was Art Matthies, a solid player who doesn’t make many mistakes.
I committed enough errors for both of us soon enough, failing to take sure tricks in defense, missing a chance to draw trumps and losing ruffs unnecessarily, ignoring the obvious when the bidding showed a misfit and going for No Trump anyway.
Plus we were primarily on defense, although we sat North-South at a stationary table throughout the Howell game. Mostly we were just grinding out the contracts. I considered it a minor miracle that we finished the morning session with 50%.
There are two games playing simultaneously during the pairs competition at the sectional – a two-session game where scores are aggregated and a morning and afternoon single-session game for players who can’t or don’t want to stay all day. Although Art and I were there for the long haul, he wanted to play the single sessions and I soon saw why. All the expert players were in the double-session game. The single-session bunch at the far end of the social hall was like a tournament version of a club game. And they were a much smaller bunch as well – 11 pairs in the morning, 10 in the afternoon.
The afternoon was another Howell game and, although we were on the move this time, we were having more fun. We even bid and made a slam. Art took a look at the partial results with two rounds to go and reported that we were way ahead.
And we stayed there, finishing at 65.80%, first in the A and B strats, collecting 2.75 silver points. My best game of the year so far. Art was right about the side game. Or was he? Hard to say. The tournament hasn’t been reported on the ACBL Fast Results service. I’ll have to ask why not when I go back for the Swiss team finale on Sunday. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bridge Blog 932: Cakewalk

           It took almost all month to do it, but it’s happened. First overall. Marilyn Sultz and I did it in a four-table Howell game Wednesday, Jan. 25, at the Airport Bridge Club.
Marilyn and I don’t expect to win big when we play together and this certainly didn’t feel like a success story in the early rounds, especially after I steered her into a 5 Diamond doubled sacrifice bid that went down four against Walt Olszewski and Martin Pieterse on the second hand of the day. Otherwise, it seemed like we were always on defense. In the first 21 boards, the opponents won the bidding 14 times.
The tide turned on the home stretch, however. We capped it with final rounds of 66.67% against Allen Beroza and Liz Clark and 75% against Nadine Stein and Joyce Greenspan. The result: 63.10%. My best game of the year so far. First in A, first in B, first in C. 2.04 points. That leapfrogs right over my goal of 15 master points per month. Everything from now through the 31st, including the Buffalo Winter Sectional Tournament this weekend, is icing on the cake. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bridge Blog 931: One of my greatest pleasures (corrected)

           One of my greatest pleasures in bridge comes when my partner and I succeed in a hand that leaves our opponents in a protracted discussion with each other. I enjoyed a fine example of that today, Monday, Jan. 23, at the Airport Bridge Club.
As the dealer on Board 2, sitting East with a miserable 4 high card points, I began the bidding with a pass. Marietta Kalman, sitting South, opened 1 Diamond, if I’m not mistaken, then went to No Trump. My partner, Joyce Greenspan, who was West, inserted a Heart bid somewhere. North, Carole Bedell (I originally identified you as Barbara Landree -- sorry, Barb, it was late) threw in some Spades and nudged things into slam territory with a bid of 6 Clubs.
         I bid 6 Hearts, figuring that we could take maybe seven tricks. They were vulnerable, we weren't. Carole went to 6 Spades. Hmm. A small slam would give them 1,430 points. Seven Hearts doubled, down five or even six, would cost us less. I bid 7 Hearts. Marietta doubled.
          Undeterred, Carole went to 7 No Trump, figuring that they would make it and get a better score. It also left Marietta with a contract she did not want to play. Here are the hands:

          South (Marietta)
          Spades: Q-6; Hearts: Q-J; Diamonds: A-Q-J-7-4; Clubs: A-8-6-5.

          West (Joyce)
          Spades: 8-7-2; Hearts: K-10-9-8-4-3-2; Diamonds: K; Clubs: J-4.

          North (Carole)
          Spades: A-K-J-10-9-3; Hearts: A-6; Diamonds: 9; Clubs: Q-9-7-2.

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

          Joyce led a low Heart, of course, taken by the dummy’s Ace, but a few cards later she allowed my King of Clubs to win a trick. I laid down my remaining Heart and Joyce ran her suit. Down six. A top board for us. Marietta and Carole were still debating the hand two hours later when the session was over. 
          Worse yet, the hand record shows that a grand slam can be made in either Spades or No Trump. Six clubs also is makeable. Had we bid Hearts, according to the hand record, we would have taken only six tricks. Down seven would have been a minus 1,700.
          Despite what the hand record promised, nobody who bid slam made one. A six Spade bidder went down one. A six Club bidder went down two. One of the three four Spade bidders won 12 tricks, but the other two only took 11.
The winning strategy, however, seems to involve capitalizing on a couple lucky breaks – the West’s singleton King of Diamonds falling on the Ace and the King of Hearts being a sitting duck. So there are six guaranteed Spade tricks, two more in Hearts, the Ace of Clubs and a successful squeeze to produce a fourth Diamond trick.
That would be easy if the bid was 6 Spades or 6 NT. Playing at 7 NT, however, Marietta didn’t have the luxury of seeing whether the King of Diamonds would drop. Nor did she apparently feel secure in assuming that Joyce held the King of Hearts, since she put up the dummy’s Ace on the opening lead. In any event, she should have run the Spades before venturing into the minor suits. 

Bridge Blog 931-A: Eternally an also-ran (updated)

Joyce Greenspan and I were overall leaders when partial results were posted after 16 and 20 boards were tabulated Monday at the Airport Bridge Club, but we sank from over 55% to an even 55% with the final four. That still left us first East-West, but just third overall, good for 1.31 points. It also was my second-best game of the month/year so far.
On Friday, Jan. 20, playing in the Airport Club during the Trump inauguration (my Canadian partner was unavailable, so no trip to St. Catharines), I came in dead last with Usha Khurana with 43% in a three-table game.
Saturday was another small game – four tables – and Denise Slattery and I chalked up 52.98%, good for first in the B strat, third overall and 1.64 points. Total for the month now – 13.10 points. Even without any outright winners, it feels like the year is off to a solid start. 
P.S. on Tuesday: First game in a long, long time with Ruth Wurster turned out for the better. We got off to a roaring start. After the first nine hands, we had a 74.60% game going. Then we hit a couple bumps in the road, settled back to about 60% and then came down hard in a wretched final round. 
Still, it was better than Monday. 55.29%. New second-best game of the year. 
Not second-best when it came to master points, though. Despite the extra points from being an ACBL Junior Fund game, we only collected 0.97. No miracle of stratification this time. Second in A in our direction, but fifth in A overall. January total now stands at 14.07. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Bridge Blog 930: Bits 'n pieces

          It took a game without a prearranged partner to derail my upward trajectory for the start of 2017.
Eva Posener, a lovely octogenarian who will tell you herself that she’s the weakest player in almost any room she enters, was pulled away from her usual role as kibitzer to her partner, Ted Kahn, to play with me on Monday, Jan. 9. It was something of a miracle that we finished over 50%.
          Nevertheless, the trendline clearly had topped out and it’s been a bumpy ride ever since. But not an unproductive one, point-wise. Here’s the recap:
          Monday, Jan. 9, with Eva Posener. 51.42%, fourth in B strat overall, 0.62 of a point.
          Tuesday, Jan. 10, with Pawan Matta. 46.25%. The downturn is real. No points.
          Wednesday, Jan. 11, with Marilyn Sultz. 54% in a three-table game. A dead cat bounce?  Second in B. 0.95 of a point.
          Thursday, Jan. 12, with Marietta Kalman. 59.58%, bouncing still higher with the best game of the year so far. Second in A, first in B. We get our names in the paper along with 1.90 points.
          Friday, Jan. 13, with Selina Volpatti at the Niagara Bridge Centre in St. Catharines, Ont. 52.53%, sixth in A, third in B in a 15½ table game. 0.44 of a point. No bonus points here.
          Saturday, Jan. 14, with no partner, assigned to play with Denise Slattery. Slid in with 46.82%, but still third in B and second in C (Denise has hardly any points). 1.09 master points.
          Monday, Jan. 16, no partner and unable to play both Martin Luther King Day games at the Airport Bridge Club. New orders at The Buffalo News oblige me to start my shift as night rewrite man at 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. Assigned to play the morning session with Joe Rooney, we had a safe and sane game. 51.37%. Third in A, second in B in our direction. Fourth in B overall. 0.91 of a master point.
          Tuesday, Jan. 17, last game with Barbara Sadkin before she goes into the Cleveland Clinic for colon surgery and it’s a good send-off. 54.17%. She’s declarer in something like a dozen hands. I’m declarer just twice. Third in A North-South, fifth in A overall. 0.83 of a point.
          Wednesday, Jan. 18, Marilyn Sultz and I are the best of the gang of people bunched up in the second tier, well behind the leading group. 48.61%, fourth in A, third in B. 0.92 of a point.
          Thursday, Jan. 19, no partner (Barbara Sadkin canceled), so Pawan Matta came in as a sub. A joy to play with her, but results are just about as poor as last week. 47.14%. Once again, no points.  
          Unspectacular, to be sure, but points seem to be accumulating incrementally anyway – 9.40 at the Airport Bridge Club, 0.75 in St. Catharines. Eleven days to go and I’ve hit double digits. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Bridge Blog 929: Closing out 2016

Despite the big winter storm that shut down the ACBL offices south of Memphis on Friday, they’ve managed to get the year-end master point race results posted. And thanks to Bill Finkelstein submitting his Airport Bridge Club numbers comfortably ahead of the deadline, we know what we got and where we stand.
For me, no surprises. Ace of Clubs total (club play only) is 140.73. Mini McKenney total (all points collected everywhere) is 185.17, slightly surpassing my goal of 15 points per month. Lifetime total is now 2,144.42. Continuing at this pace, Gold Life Master will come along somewhere around Christmas 2018. So what’s my place in the big picture? Let’s see.
Unit 116 (Buffalo) Ace of Clubs Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points). I’m a lonely third. Ken Meier’s on top with 177.78, then it’s Mike Silverman, 170.20; me, 140.73; Fred Yellen, 115.04; Gene Finton, 103.59; Allen Beroza, 97.48; Vince Pesce, 86.89; Bill Finkelstein, 59.48; Anne Watkins, 55.55.
Unit 116 Ace of Clubs (all players). I’m ninth. First, as expected, is Jerry Geiger, 242.96. Then it’s Judi Marshall, 178.31; Ken Meier, 177.78; Ron Henrikson, 174.63; Tom Koralewski, 170.29; Mike Silverman, 170.20; Liz Clark, 164.40; John Ziemer, 153.07; me, 140.73; Martin Pieterse, 140.27; Mike Ryan, 139.04.
Unit 116 Mini McKenney Ruby Life Masters. I’m fifth in a cluster of players bunched second to fifth. Way out ahead is Ken Meier with 283.84. Then it’s Fred Yellen, 194.06; David Hemmer, 189.99; Mike Silverman, 185.75; me, 185.17; Allen Beroza, 129.01; Gene Finton, 122.56; Vince Pesce, 102.63; Art Morth, 90.64; Chongmin Zhang, 62.39.
Unit 116 Mini McKenney (all players). I’m 22nd. Leader is Saleh Fetouh with 459.70. Then it’s John Welte, 393.09; wife and partner Martha Welte, 384.18; Jerry Geiger, 374.25; Tom Koralewski, 333.86; Mike Ryan, 324.78; Dian Petrov, 311.01; John Ziemer, 298.35; Ken Meier, 283.84; and Jay Levy, 279.21. Fred Yellen, David Hemmer, Mike Silverman and I hold down 19th to 22nd spots. In 23rd, the eminent Dan Gerstman with 184.25.
District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) Ace of Clubs Ruby Life Masters. We Buffalonians hold the top three spots. Overall, against all District 5 club players, we’re 10th, 14th and 30th. Then it’s Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, with 124.81, and Doris Kirsch from East Springville, Pa., with 123.71. Fred Yellen is seventh. Gene Finton is 12th. Allen Beroza is 15th.
Leader among all District 5 Ace of Clubs players is our Jerry Geiger, with 242.96. He’s followed by Arlene Port of Pittsburgh with 236.66; Charles Smith of Erie, Pa., with 207.60; Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 207.10; and Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh with 205.58. Judi Marhsall is ninth with her 178.31. Ken Meier is 10th with 177.78. Ron Henrikson is 11th with 174.63. Tom Koralewski is 13th with 170.29. Mike Silverman is 14th with 170.20. Liz Clark is 164.40 and 16th.
District 5 Mini McKenney Ruby Life Masters. Ken Meier is second, I’m 11th. Here’s the lineup: Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, 544.98; Ken Meier, 283.84; Charles Ladiha of Vermillion, Ohio, 247.85; Peter Merker of Mentor, Ohio, 237.89; Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh; 219.42; Unit 116’s Fred Yellen, 194.06; Ami Ellis of Pittsburgh, 192.46; Martin Kumer of Monroeville, Pa., 190.95; then three Buffalonians in a row, David Hemmer, 189.99; Mike Silverman, 185.75; and me, 185.17.
Ken Meier is 37th among all District 5 players. Sue Lan Ma is sixth. I’m 96th. Here’s how they line up: Reanette Frobouck of Pittsburgh, 926.07; Philip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, 715.21; Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, 613.89 and 586.99, respectively; Kathleen Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, 550.42; Sue Lan Ma, 544.98; Don Sulgrove, also of Twinsburg, 474.42; Unit 116 overall leader Saleh Fetouh, 459.70; Mary Chilcote of Cleveland, 459 even; and Jan Assini, formerly of Cleveland, now of Pittsburgh, 443.74. Buffalo’s John Welte is 14th. His wife Martha is 17th. Jerry Geiger is 19th.
Now let’s go nationwide. Ruby Life Master Ace of Clubs leader is Robert Shearer of Diberville, Miss., with 348.07. Then come Billie Brown of Evansville, Ind., with 314.45; Ariel Libovitz of Houston with 314.23; Ricky Dashefsky of Delray Beach, Fla., with 306.14; Edward Rauch of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with 305.46; and Ben Franz of Edgewood, N.M., with 304.34.
Ken  Meier is 132nd. Mike Silverman is 158th. I’m tied for 383rd with Wayne Kooiker of Sun City, Ariz.
Get to the overall Ace of Clubs list nationwide and the point counts are astounding at the top. Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta leads with 744.20. Then come Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale, 617.73; Kay Schulle of Purchase, NY, with 574.31; Sheila Gabay of Newton, Mass., with 522.70; and Gail Wells of Dallas with 508.56. The top Ruby Life Master guy from Mississippi is 47th. None of us Unit 116 people are on the list. Wait, there’s Jerry Geiger at 306. You need at least 213.10 points to make the Top 500.
And (drum roll, please) here are the really big guys, the nationwide Mini McKenney players. Amongst Ruby Life Masters, leader is Oren Kriegel of Chicago with 1,294.90. Won’t stay Ruby for long. He’s 46th overall. Then come Mary Jane and Michael Gladfelter of Columbus, Ohio, with 791.22, both 174th overall, followed by Sherman Gao of Laguna Woods, Calif., 706.75; and Jay Segarra of Ocean Springs, Miss., with 644.23.
Topping all players nationwide is Chris Compton of Dallas, who racked up 3,420.55 points in 2016. Following are Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., 3,145.22; Mark Itabashi of Murrieta, Calif., 2,680.31; Eddie Wold of Houston, 2,608.26; and Mike Passell of Plano, Texas, with 2,572.66. The legendary Jeff Meckstroth is eighth with 2,385.91. Buffalo native Joel Wooldridge, who currently hangs his coat in Astoria, Queens, is 29th with 1,665.96. District 5 champ Reanette Frobouck is 115th. You need 503.66 to make this Top 500 list. No Unit 116 players are on it.

Bridge Blog 928: No place to go but up

          Could 2017 have gotten off to a worse start? No, I’m not talking politics or the weather. I’m talking my game on Monday, Jan. 2, with Tish Schiffman, who helped me establish a new all-time personal low back in September (see Blog 904). We descended to the occasion again to kick off a new year at the tables with a 39.83%, dead last. No place to go but up.
          Sure enough, Tuesday was up. Joyce Greenspan and I turned in a 46.68% game. Not last. Sixth out of eight North-Souths. Improvement continued Wednesday with Pawan Matta, who came in as a substitute when the prospective partner I had in my datebook said I wasn’t in her datebook. A marginal step forward to 47%.
          Thursday the miracle of stratification smiled on me and Marietta Kalman, blessing us with 0.95 of a point, our first reward of the year. Despite a mere 48.15%, we were second in the B strat.
          A drive Friday to St. Catharines, Ont., where there was even less snow than we lucky Buffalo people got Thursday outside the lake-effect storm area, brought me over the 50% boundary, although not by much. Selina Volpatti and I fashioned a 50.15% score out of a boom or bust session that yielded three 13-point absolute tops (including a victory in a 3 Hearts doubled vulnerable contract – see Blog 928-A) and two absolute bottoms. Not surprisingly, our final score was 50.15%. Better than Thursday and good enough for another miracle of stratification – fourth in the B strat (seventh overall) and 0.31 of a master point (no double points over there).
          Airport Bridge Club manager Bill Finkelstein lured Dottie May in to play with me in a four-table game Saturday and our play felt kind of hit-and-miss. And it was. If not for a good round against Paula Salamone and Eva Posener (9 out of a possible 12 match points), the upward trendline would have broken. Final score: 50.80%. Second in the B strat. And thanks to extra master point awards at the club: 1.23 points. 

Bridge Blog 928-A: Best hand(s) of the year (so far)

           I pick up the South hand and don’t even have to sort it to know that I’m not going to bid on Board 13 on Friday, Jan. 6, at the Niagara Bridge Centre in St. Catharines, Ont.
          Spades: K-7-5; Hearts: Q-6-5-4; Diamonds: 9-7-5; Clubs: 9-8-4.
          Plus we’re vulnerable. Partner Selina Volpatti is the dealer. She opens the bidding 1 Heart. Sitting East is Ineke Bezuven and I forget whether she bid. I think not. If she bid, I’d overcall 2 Hearts, just to be competitive. Selina and I are aggressive, if nothing else. Ineke’s husband, John, bids 2 Clubs. Selina goes 2 Diamonds. After Ineke bids 2 Spades, I take a deep breath mentally and put down the 3 Hearts card. John doubles and the double holds.
          Ineke leads the Ace of Spades and Selina artfully accumulates nine tricks, losing only the four outstanding Aces. According to the hand record, North-South should take only eight tricks. East-West, meanwhile, should make 4 Spades or 4 Clubs.
          Turns out that it’s a case of North-South holding all the secondary honors with every King offside. Here’s North:

          Spades: Q-3; Hearts: K-J-7-3-2; Diamonds: K-Q-J-10; Clubs: K-7

And East:
          Spades: A-10-8-4-2; Hearts: 9; Diamonds: 8-6-3-2; Clubs: J-10-2.

And West:
          Spades: J-9-6; Hearts: A-10-8; Diamonds: A-4; Clubs: A-Q-6-5-3.

          Our 730 match point reward is unmatched. Next best North-Souths bid 1 or 2 Hearts and make overtricks for 140. Another bids 2 Hearts and makes it exactly. Two other 3 Heart bidders fall one trick short, but aren’t doubled.
          Surprisingly, only five East-Wests find a Spade contract (one was in 4 Clubs) and only two of them bid game. Topmost is 4 Spades doubled and made for 790 match points. Only one other E-W bid 4 Spades. The E-W winners, Diane Gordon and Andrew Russell get to play it at 2 Spades. They come to our table after the Bezuyens and we trade near-top boards with them.
On Board 15, Andrew bids the makeable 5 Clubs and we deprive them of an overtrick. Only one other E-W goes all the way to 5 Clubs and they make an overtrick. 
On Board 16, discretion wins the day for us. Diane opens a Diamond. Selina, with a 6 HCP hand, passes. Andrew, with 5 HCP, bids his four-card Spade suit. I have 17 HCP, but my best suits are Diamonds and Spades. I pass.
Diane goes to 1 No Trump. I still have nothing to say and that turns out to be just fine. I get to run off a lot of Diamond tricks and Diane’s down two vulnerable. Better than if we bid the 2 NT that’s makeable in our direction. Turns out two other E-Ws meet the same fate.

West (dealer):
Spades: 5-2; Hearts: K-10-2; Diamonds: Q-9-5-4-2; Clubs: A-K-6.

Spades: A-J-9; Hearts: J-9-8-5; Diamonds: 6; Clubs: 10-9-8-4-2.

Spades: K-7-6-4; Hearts: 7-4-3; Diamonds: 7-3; Clubs: Q-7-5-3.

South (me):

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