Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bridge Blog 943: Too short

Even if February stretched out to 31 days like January, it wouldn't have helped my master point production. My midwinter slump has been total. Evidence? Three sub-40% games in the past week, just in time for the Airport Bridge Club's latest round of extra-point offerings.
Things brightened a little on the final day of the month as Dottie May and I managed 52.58% to come in fourth North-South, collecting 0.49 of a point. That was my third-best game in the past four weeks, which shows just how low things have been.
It brought my point total at the Airport Club to an anemic 4.71 for the month. But wait! I have Canadian points to add – 0.52 from the St. Catharines Sectional and another 0.69 from the Bridge Centre of Niagara. Still pretty bleak though, even for a February.
Here are recent Febs:
2016 – 8.68.
2015 – 1.84 (undergoing chemo).
2014 – 6.85.
2013 – 17.52.

2012 – 10.32.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Bridge Blog 942: High Hopes

It’s STaC Week all across Canada – Sectional Tournament at the Clubs, Pancanadien, as they say in Quebec – and my best chance yet to make up for my miserable luck at master point accumulation so far this month.
I’m already primed for a really high score at the Bridge Centre of Niagara and I’m pumped even more after Selina Volpatti and I play our first four hands. They feel good and, as the summary later affirms, they are very, very good – 31.5 match points out of a possible 40. That’s 78.75%.
Not a pace we could ever hope to sustain, but we keep better than a 50% rate for a while. At almost the midway mark, after 11 boards, we still stand at 62.27%. But then things fall apart. I can feel it, beginning on the hand where we go down two vulnerable at 3 Clubs against Percy Harcourt and Dee Glover. Shouldn’t happen, but we can’t help it.
In the second seat, South, after a pass by Percy, it seems reasonable enough for me to open the bidding at 1 Club with this hand.
 Q 2
 Q 3 2
 A Q 4
 A 9 6 4 2
Dee kicks in with a takeout double.
 A 10 4 3
 K J 10 6
 K 10 9 5
          Selina does the reasonable thing too, and bids two Clubs. After all, we've done so well so far by being aggressive. 
 J 8 6
 9 8
 J 8 7 3 2
 K Q 3
          Percy passes.
 K 9 7 5
 A 7 5 4
 J 10 7 5
So do I, but Dee doubles again. This time Selina passes and Percy has to bid. 2 Hearts. I pass. Dee does too. Selina bumps the bid to 3 Clubs and it’s passed all around. Despite our better high-card point holding, they win a Club, two Hearts, two Spades and a Diamond.
The hand record shows later that we shouldn’t take more than six tricks and, more importantly, we shouldn’t be taking the bid at all. At all the other tables, it’s East-West. They have the potential to make game in Hearts or Spades, but nobody bids it in Spades (which would have spared us a bottom) and nobody makes 4 Hearts at all (3 Hearts actually goes down a couple times).

From there forward, our momentum is broken – only three good boards vs. nine bad ones. We finish at 46.01%, far out of the winning circle. For that, we’d need better than 52%. At 62%, we'd be second N/S and second overall, good for 1.58 silver points at the club and probably three silver points Pancanadien. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bridge Blog 941: Short Ain't Sweet

February is short in more ways than one. After that jump start in January, master point production is wayyyy down. The summary so far:
Feb. 1 with Tish Schiffman, 50%, no points.
Feb. 2 with Marietta Kalman, 40.49%, no points.
Feb. 3 with Selina Volpatti, 54.01%, 0.44 of a point in St. Catharines.
Feb. 4 with Denise Slattery, 47.98%, no points in the ACBL International Fund Game, one of the few extra-point opportunities this month.
Feb. 6 with Nadine Stein, low for the month so far, 37.50%.  
Feb. 7 with Dottie May, 51.69%, but no points.
Feb. 8 with June Feuerstein, back from her cruise around the tip of South America, 42.71%, but stratification allows us to be second in C, 0.22 of a point.
Feb. 9 with Marietta Kalman, best game of the month so far, 63.51%, first overall, 1.5 points.
Feb. 10 with Selina Volpatti in the St. Catharines Sectional, 49.24% in the afternoon open pairs, 0.52 of a silver point.
Feb. 11 with Selina in the Sectional again, 44.71% in the afternoon A/X pairs.
Feb. 13 with Florence Boyd, 52.27%, 0.41 of a point.

If my math is correct, the mid-Feb total is 3.09. Double digits this month?  It'll take a miracle.   

Bridge Blog 940: St. Catharines Sectional Roundup

Did Buffalo players have much of a presence in the St. Catharines Sectional Tournament this year? Not much, aside from Bert Hargeshimer and Christy Kellogg, who notched 11.68 points and tied for 29th. Bert and Christy played all three days and finished fourth overall in the Sunday Swiss teams game.
I certainly had little impact in my Friday and Saturday afternoon appearances in the pairs games. My 0.52 points left me tied for 337th, along with partner Selina Volpatti and two ladies from Puslinch, Ont. (Where is Puslinch, you ask? Out in the country on Highway 6 south of Guelph, just below the 401.)
Other Buffalonians showing up included Kathy Pollock and Chongmin Zhang, both 7.05 points, tied for 55th; Dian Petrov, 4.67, 85th; Mohan Prabhu, Dian's partner in the pairs, 3.10, 106th; Linda Burroughsford and Judy Padgug, both 3.07, tied for 110th; and Davis Heussler, Dan Gerstman and Brian Meyer, all at 1.78, tied for 183rd.
Overall winners were a pair from Oakville, Debbie Feldman and Christopher Cowan, with 35.06 points. They picked up 16.23 on the winning Sunday Swiss team and the other 18.83 coming in second in the Saturday A/X pairs. Tied for third were players we see at the St. Catharines club, Diane Gordon and Andrew Russell, with 32.33. In all, 338 players earned points.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Bridge Blog 939: St. Catharines Sectional

To make a long story short – Friday afternoon: Bad day, good result. Saturday afternoon: Good day, bad result.
Friday my cold, the nasty one that's going around, is kicking my ass. Propped up on Vitamin C, Echinacea and decongestants, I arrive at the Holiday Inn on Ontario Street, look around for partner Selina Volpatti, who always beats me to the game, and she's not there.
I get our table assignment, starting time approaches and she's still not there. To hell with the international roaming charges for a phone call, I ring her up. She's two minutes away, she says. She had the starting time wrong.
At least I'm not sneezing and mopping my nose, but I'm in a fog. I miss an opening bid on a vulnerable slam hand and watch Selina jump to 4 Hearts, my void suit, and take 12 tricks. We would get 21 match points, tying three other E-Ws who bid it and made it, instead of 11.5. Here it is:

West (Selina)
Spades: A 4 Hearts: K Q J 6 5 4 2 Diamonds: A 9 Clubs: A 9
Spades: 6 5 3 Hearts: A 8 3 Diamonds: 10 8 7 Clubs: 10 7 6 3
East (me)
Spades: K J 9 8 7 Hearts: — Diamonds: Q J 5 3 Clubs: K J 8 4
Spades: Q 10 2 Hearts: 10 9 7 Diamonds: K 6 4 2 Clubs; Q 5 2

A little later, I push a bidding competition to 5 Clubs and she misses cashing 13th Heart from the dummy. Down one. Turns out to be the difference between 8 match points and a tie for top board, 22.5. Only one other E-W bid and made 5 Clubs. Several make only 4 Clubs. Here's that one:

West (Selina)
Spades: K J 6 Hearts: J 5 Diamonds: J Clubs: A Q J 8 7 6 2
Spades: A Q 8 7 Hearts: K Q 6 2 Diamonds: 9 8 4 Clubs: 10 3
East (me)
Spades: 10 9 5 2 Hearts: A 10 9 7 Diamonds: A 10 Clubs: 9 5 4
Spades: 4 3 Hearts: 8 4 3 Diamonds: K Q 7 6 5 3 2 Clubs: K

In the end, even though we have just 49.24%, a lot of East-Wests are clustered around 50%. We wind up fifth in our section, fourth in the B strat, collecting 0.52 of a silver point. Correct our two bad hands and we're third in B, double the points. I drive home at 45-50 mph on the Queen Elizabeth Way in the snow that started falling mid-game. More decongestants and I conk out in front of Seinfeld reruns on TV.

Long line to sign in for Saturday afternoon's game

Saturday feels much better. The roads are clear. No snow in sight. Huge turnout. Record turnout, they announce, 20% bigger than last year. Then director asks if there's anybody in the B/C/D section with more than 2,000 points. Me!
Reassigned to the A/X section, we're up against one tough pair after another. There's Bert Hargeshimer and Christy Kellogg from Buffalo, who win a lot and did well Friday. There's Andrew Russell and Diane Gordon, who won Friday afternoon and who we see frequently in St. Catharines. He's a pro, she might as well be one. Still, it seems like we're holding our own. Andrew makes an overtrick at 4 Hearts on this hand and he plays it so well it seems inevitable.

North: (Andrew)
Spades: K 8 5 Hearts: A 9 6 4 Diamonds: A K J 7 5 Clubs: 2
East: (me)
Spades: A Q J 10 2 Hearts: K 2 Diamonds: Q 10 6 Clubs: A K 3
South: (Diane)
Spades: 9 3 Hearts: Q J 10 7 3 Diamonds: 2 Clubs: 9 8 7 6 5
West (Selina)
Spades: 7 6 4 Hearts: 8 5 Diamonds: 9 8 4 3 Clubs: Q J 10 4

According to the hand record, East-West should take the bid at 3 Spades, down one. Many East-Wests get to play it at 2 Spades and collect top match points. Four North-Souths take the bid at 3 Hearts, make an overtrick. Andrew went right to 4 Hearts.

A lot of our hands feel good and aren't. We finish at a dismal 44.71%, not last, but third from the bottom. To earn that half a silver point we earned Saturday, we'd need better than 52%. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Bridge Blog 938: Roaring January Start

What happened to everybody else in January? The ACBL has posted the master point races for the first month of 2017 and the figures for Unite 116 (Buffalo only) are pathetic. At least for the Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points) in the Ace of Clubs race (club play only).
Mike Silverman leads us Ruby Life Masters with 22.59 points and is first overall in Unit 116. I'm second with 19.20 points, third overall. The only other players in double digits are Dorothy May, 12.42; Gene Finton, who's down in Florida, 10.46; and Fred Yellen, 10.45. Ken Meier, who's seventh with 5.39, should be among the leaders, but he was on vacation for a couple weeks.
Among all Unit 116 players, the unsinkable Meg Klamp is second with 20.57, and she's also down in Florida. The rest of the top ten include Tom Koralewski, 18.80; Art Matthies, 13.39; Liz Clark, 13.13; Dottie May, 12.42; Mike Ryan, 11.13;  and Joe Rooney, 11.10. Also worth mentioning are Sharon Benz, 11.09; and David Heussler, 11.01. Gene Finton is 17th. Fred Yellen is 18th.
Onward to the Mini-McKenney race, which counts all points earned everywhere. Among the Ruby Life Masters, I'm on top (!) with 25.17, thanks to the Buffalo Winter Sectional, but only 13th overall. Mike Silverman is second with 23.53, 15th overall.
Then come Fred Yellen, 20.30, 17th; Ken Meier, 16.76, 28th; Dorothy May, 13.72, 33rd; Bill Rushmore, 12.76, 36th; and Gene Finton, 10.46, 47th. That's the end of the Ruby Life Masters in double digits. Clearly the action is in the other point divisions.
Leading all Unit 116 players is Christy Kellogg, who has 45.18. Then it's David Hemmer, 43.12; Christy's frequent partner Bert Hargeshimer, 41.87; Tom Koralewski, 39.32; David Heussler, 37.58; Mike Ryan, 37.55; John Ziemer, 34.47; Liz Clark, 33.10; Linda Burroughsford, 30.25; and Bud Seidenberg, 29.05.
The Cleveland Rock and Roll Regional rocketed most of these folks to the top, with the exception of Liz Clark, the point queen of the Buffalo Winter Sectional, and Bud Seidenberg, who also did well in the sectional.
David Hemmer got 33.42 in Cleveland. Bert Hargeshimer and Christy Kellogg each earned 20.74. Davis Heussler and Linda Burroughsford each got 18.76. Tom Koralewski, Mike Ryan and John Ziemer brought home 17.68 apiece.
Now let's look at the District 5 level, which includes Cleveland and Pittsburgh, as well as Buffalo. Among Ruby Life Masters in the Ace of Clubs race, Mike Silverman and I are still 1-2. Dorothy May is fourth, behind William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., who has 13.39; and ahead of John Bernhard of Sewickley, Pa., with 11.28, and Doris Kirsch of East Springfield, Pa., with 10.81. Gene Finton is seventh and Fred Yellen is eighth.
Mike and I are fourth and ninth, respectively, in the overall District 5 Ace of Clubs race. Leader here is the semi-anonymous D. Pierce of Parkersburg, W. Va., with 28.79, followed by Richard Katz of North Versailles, Pa., 27.26; Arlene Port of Pittsburgh, 22.99; Mike Silverman, 22.59; Patricia Katz and S. Ruskin, both of Pittsburgh, with 22.44 and 21.67, respectively; W. Tordella of Bemus Point (!) with 21.61; Meg Klamp with 20.57; me with 19.20 and Tom Koralewski with 18.80. Art Matthies is in a three-way tie for 15th. Liz Clark is 20th.
Different story over in the District 5 Mini-McKenney races. Leading the Ruby Life Masters is a familiar face, Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, who's way out in front with 105.25, of which 35.35 came from the Cleveland Regional.
Then it's Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh with 54.55; John Bacon of Shaker Heights, Ohio, 33.73; Monica Early of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, with 32.66; and me and Mike Silverman with 25.17 and 23.53. Fred Yellen is ninth with 20.30.
Among all District 5 players, Sue Lan Ma is second, I'm 53rd and Mike is 57th. Overall leader is Mary Chilcote of Cleveland with 123.32. She earned 42.88 in the regional.
After Sue Lan Ma's 105.25 are Phillip Becker of Beachwood, Ohio, 56.46, all earned in the regional; Susan Stark of Pepper Pike, Ohio, 56.39, 51.36 in the regional; Bernie Fudor of Murrysville, Pa., 54.78, all from the regional; Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh with 54.55, 50.95 in the regional; Stephanie and Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, both with 54.20, 46.85 in the regional; Mary Paulone Carns of Trafford, Pa., 53.27, 48.42 in the regional; and Jan Assini of Pittsburgh, formerly of Cleveland, with 51.59, 45.40 in the regional.
Note to self: To be a District 5 contender, a trip to Cleveland is mandatory.
Do we make a ripple nationwide? Let's check it out.
In the Ace of Clubs race for Ruby Life Masters, the leader is Mohan Ball of Columbia, S.C., with 40.38, more than twice my total. Next are Carole Maeder of Bonita Springs, Fla., 35.51; Mary Bray of Atlanta, 34.43; Barry Nish of Little Neck, L.I., 34.31; Roger Hendrick of Western Springs, Ill., with 31.97; and Paul Hassett of The Villages, Fla., with 31.49. Mike Silverman is 51st. I'm 114th. Dorothy May is at the bottom of the list, tied for 500th with Carole Everitt of Hockessin, Del.
Among all Ace of Clubs players, the leader is Mason Barge of Atlanta with 66.21; followed by Judy Zhu of Romeoville, Ill, 58.75; Jeff Koltenuk of The Villages, Fla., 56.62; Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta, 56.48; and Kay Schulle of Purchase, N.Y., 53.03. Ruby Life Master leader Mohan Ball is 26th. District 5 and Unit 116 leader Mike Silverman is 380th. Me? I'm off the charts. The list ends at 20.84.
The figures are even steeper in the Mini-McKinney races. Leading the Ruby Life Masters is Gillian Minter of New York City with 166.23. District 5's Sue Lan Ma is second with 105.25. They're the only ones in triple figures. Then it's Patti Martin of Richmond, Va., with 84.99; Steve Vaughn of Humble, Texas, with 82.95; and Linda King of Crossville, Tenn., with 80.42. 
I'm in 380th place on this list, ahead of Ken Hardcastle, our sometime visitor from Decatur, Ga., who's 383rd with 25.15. Mike Silverman is tied for 442nd with Larry Anfinson of Waterloo, Iowa.

Neither Mike nor I appear on the big overall list of 500. Neither does anyone else from Unit 116. 
There the leader is Chris Compton of Dallas with 403.57, followed by Billy Miller of Las Vegas, 360.65; Mike Passell of Plano, Texas, 333.14; Ron Smith of Chicago, 310.30; and John Kranyak of Las Vegas, 291.25. Compton and Kranyak each earned only 42.88 in the Cleveland Regional. They struck it rich elsewhere. 
For Compton, there were 79.53 in Monterey, Calif.; 123.73 in Albuquerque, N.M.; and 74.35 in Destin, Fla. He and Kranyak followed that up last weekend in Indianapolis with 80.44 apiece. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Bridge Blog 937: Error in our favor

I don’t usually check the results at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont. Don't need to. Scorekeeping there is electronic. Since East or West approves what North puts into the clicker, that should be the last word, right?
Nonetheless, at the end of the game there Friday, with Selina Volpatti and me finishing fifth North-South, I looked over the scores and found one amiss. The opponents had been credited with making a 3 Diamond contract. On my scorecard, I had them down one, with a notation that we should have set them by two tricks.
Director Diane Kunselman was dubious. And our opponents on that round had already left. Brian Macartney said he could catch up with them at a bar, but we both noted that the hand record says East-West should only make one Diamond on that board. So down one it was. The difference of three more match points boosted us from 53.04% to 54.01%, from fourth place in the B strat to fourth place in the A strat, and from 0.28 of a master point to 0.46 of a master point.
That fraction represents the only points I’ve earned so far in February. I had high hopes for the ACBL-wide International Fund game on Saturday, where a score over 60% would be rewarded with extra points on a district level. Partner Denise Slattery and I stood at 62.5% after two rounds and 59.73% one round later, but then we hit the skids against the Weltes, who were the big winners, and, a couple rounds later, against John Ziemer and Judi Marshall, who came in second.

 Our 43.98% wasn’t last. We were seventh out of 10 pairs, but only a percentage point behind the B strat pair who won points despite their low score. Had we taken one more trick somewhere, or bid accurately on one of those games, that would have been us. 

Bridge Blog 937-A: Exception to the rule

As a student of the spots on the cards (see Blog 902), I know well which cards are not palindromes, i.e., not the same right side up as they are upside down. Among the Diamonds, only the 7 is not palindromic, while in all the other suits the 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 have spots that can be inverted.
But at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., on Friday, we ran into a vintage deck of cards that broke the rule. These were cards with bar code marks on them for automatic dealing machines – a feature that newer machines no longer require. And whoever designed them made sure that the 6s looked the same whichever way they were turned.

Afterthought: If they could put one of the middle spots facing up and the other one facing down on the 6, they could easily do that on the 8 and the 9, as well. I should have looked for it.   

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bridge Blog 936: Heat Wave

Could be my hottest January ever. That monthly goal of 15 points was well behind me when I went into the Buffalo Winter Sectional Tournament and added another 5.97 silver points to the total. And then there were the final two extra-point games of the month at the Airport Bridge Club.
The miracle of stratification smiled on me and partner Nadine Stein on Monday. Finishing only at 49.58%, we still were second in the B strat North-South and picked up 0.62 of a point.

Tuesday was a very different story. Ruth Wurster and I sailed to a 60.52% finish, first overall in a seven-table game, collecting 2.48 points. Total for the month may turn out to be around 25. Good thing, too. Looks like extra-point games of any sort will be scarce in February. 

Bridge Blog 935: Buffalo Winter Sectional Roundup

Hindsight can be sobering. Initially, I felt good about the 5.97 points I earned in the Buffalo Winter Sectional Tournament last weekend in the Main-Transit Fire Hall Social Hall in Amherst. Then I look at the list of point winners and it's small beans.
I'm 32nd overall, just ahead of Stan Kozlowski (5.68) and Walt Olszewski (5.60), but well behind Raj Puri, whom I gave a ride home Saturday evening. He's sitting 31st with 6.69 points.
Top of the heap is someone we don't usually see there – Liz Clark, with 19.97 points. She collected 11 of those points by winning the two-session pairs game Saturday with Barbara Libby and another 7.01 by coming in second in the Swiss teams game on Sunday.
Other point leaders included Christy Kellogg and Bert Hargeshimer, tied with 18.73; Bud Seidenberg,  part of the winning Sunday Swiss team, 18.28; Dian Petrov, 17.57; Kathy Pollock, 16.76; Saleh Fetouh, 15.54, also one of the Sunday Swiss winners; and Judy Padgug, 15.22.
In all, 135 players earned 588.20 points and the tournament filled 145 tables. How does this compare with previous winter sectionals?
2016 – 137 players earned 594.02 points, 136 tables. Big winner: Saleh Fetouh, 27.01 points.
2015 – 162 players earned 646.48 points, 156 tables. Big winner: Bud Seidenberg, 32.32 points.
2014 – 142 players earned 441.30 points, 132 tables. Big winner: Davis Heussler, 13.70 points.
2013 – 162 players earned 526.56 points, 151 tables. Big winner: Saleh Fetouh, 19.04 points.

2012 – 145 players earned 508.52 points, 133 tables. Big winner: Saleh Fetouh again, 20.58 points.