Monday, July 31, 2017

Bridge Blog 965: The weather in my head

Monday's partner Art Matthies is distressed with me and I can't blame him. After Buffalo Garden Walk weekend, I'm in a fog. I don't have game. I go down on a 4 Spade contract everybody else makes because I fail to draw the last trump. I go down two, vulnerable, on a 3 Heart contract where I should have been down one.
One hand that Art is particularly distressed about is this one, the second hand of the day. Board 14. Nobody vulnerable. East is dealer.

East (Nancy Kessler)
Spades: J-5; Hearts: Q-8-6-2; Diamonds: A-8-6-4-3; Clubs: K-2.

South (Art)
Spades: A-10-7-4; Hearts: 7-3; Diamonds: 10-9; Clubs: A-Q-J-7-6.

West (John Kirsits)
Spades: Q-9-8-3; Hearts: A-J-9-4; Diamonds: 7-5-2; Clubs: 8-4.

North (moi)
Spades: K-6-2; Hearts: K-10-5; Diamonds: K-Q-J; Clubs: 10-9-5-3.

Amazingly, the bidding starts with three passes. I'm sitting with 12 high card points. We're not vulnerable. Maybe my partner has a long suit. I bid a Club. Nancy goes 1 Diamond. Art offers 1 Spade. I'm ready to do a 1 No Trump-new minor forcing bid, but John raises to 2 Diamonds.
So do I bid 2 NT, perhaps showing more strength than I've got?  No, I support Art's bid by going 2 Spades, knowing full well that we may only have seven Spades between us. Art, revaluing his hand, jumps to 4 Spades. I smell disaster.
And it is. Though the hand record says North-South could make nine tricks in Spades, we make only eight. It's a bottom board. According to the hand record, we also can make 4 Clubs or 3 NT.
This hand haunts Art for several rounds. He concedes that he maybe should have opened. He contends that I never should have raised his Spades with only three of them in my hand. Given that a No Trump bid would have been more successful, he's got a point. Given that he passed, then bid a Spade, that made me think 2 Spades was a safe destination. And so it would have been.
Such are the perils of partnership. Fortunately, Art wasn't in a fog and plays pretty darn well as declarer when I don't screw him up. And we both have a knack for defense. Those three top boards of ours are all defensive. We manage a 51.53% game, fourth North-South, 0.93 of a master point. In this birthday month, that's icing on the cake. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Bridge Blog 964: High point

July is my favorite month. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s my birth month. Moreover, here in Buffalo, it’s the height of summer, the best weather anywhere in the U.S., 31 glorious days that make up for all those bleak times at the other end of the calendar.
This July has been particularly glorious. I turned 75. Three-quarters of a century and very glad to have made it this far, a point that is driven home to me with every obituary I write for The Buffalo News.
As a bridge month, it peaked with not one, but two birthday celebrations, in which I bought a free game for the first time for everyone at The Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., on my customary Friday visit July 14, and repeated my annual freebie at the Airport Bridge Club in Cheektowaga on the evening of my actual birthday July 18.
In Canada, they trotted out a terrific marble cake, accented with a layer of custard and hands of cards drawn into the frosting. At the Airport Club, it was a big old potluck dinner, but no cake, which is just as well. By then, I was caked out. Also part of the celebration was another player whose birthday is July 18. Val Derenda. He turned 90. I’d already given him a present back on June 27 when we were paired at the last minute and had a 62.81% game, to the great surprise of both of us (see Blog 960).
St. Catharines had 17½ tables, 70 players, which at $6 a head cost $420 Canadian. I asked the internet what that would be in U.S. funds and it came out to around $330. The Airport Club had 11½ tables, 46 players, which at $7.50 a head cost $345.
Across the table from me at both games was my Canadian partner, Selina Volpatti. In St. Catharines, we turned in a respectable 53.97% game, seventh North-South, fourth in the B strat, fifth in B overall, 0.34 of a master point. At the Airport Club, not so good. 47.53%. At least we weren’t last. 

Bridge Blog 964-A: But how high?

There were peak bridge moments in July, even though they didn’t coincide with the birthday moments.
Best game of the month came the day after my birthday, on July 19. My scheduled partner Barbara Sadkin canceled and I was paired at the last minute with Dr. Brian Block (his daughter, Sandra, is a neurologist – my sleep doctor – and a novelist – I’m in the middle of her third book). Brian has gotten to be a good player, maybe from his winters in Florida, and we put together a 60.71% game, second overall, first in B, 2.39 master points.
I also had a long overdue breakthrough with Art Matthies. We finally lived up to our potential on July 13 by coming in first overall with a 59.63% game. 3.94 points. Since then, we’ve been back in the doldrums – 45.11% on July 17; 45.32% on July 24.
What I’m wondering, though, is if I’ve lived up to my monthly goal of 15 master points, which amounts to a little less than four per week. Let’s break it down:
July 3 with Usha Khurana. 52.94%. 0.19 point.
July 5 with Bill Regan, 55.23%. 1.58 points.
July 6 with Art Matthies, 53.28%. 0.94 point.
July 7 in St. Catharines with Selina Volpatti, 55.13%. 0.84 point.
July 8 with Denise Slattery, 53.17%. 1.97 points.
July 10 with Marilyn Sultz, 53.37%. 0.48 point.
July 12 with Marilyn Sultz, 51.28%. 1.19 points.
July 13 with Art Matthies, 59.63%. 3.94 points.
July 14 in St. Catharines with Selina Volpatti, 53.97%. 0.34 point.
July 18 (day) with Dorothy May, 49.77%. 0.44 point.
July 19 with Brian Block, 60.71%. 2.39 points.
July 22 in St. Catharines with Selina Volpatti, 55.36%. 0.82 point.
July 26 with June Feuerstein, 55.42%. 1.69 points.
July 27 with Marietta Kalman, 53.01%. 1.25 points.
Missed July 28 and July 29 getting ready for the Buffalo Garden Walk and our annual Garden Walk porch pary.
OK, let’s do the math.
Week 1. 5.52.
Week 2. 5.95.
Week 3. 3.65.
Week 4. 2.94.
If my calculations are correct, the early half of the month was my salvation. Total is 18.06. Nothing too special, but perfectly acceptable. And there’s still July 31 to go.Who’s my partner? Art Matthies. Hey, maybe this will be another bounce back for us. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Bridge Blog 963: 2017 midpoint (completed)

Club points for the year, through June 30: 65.62.
That puts me third in the Ace of Clubs race (club play only) among Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points) in Unit 116 (Buffalo only), well behind the leaders, but with a little breathing room between me and the man in fourth place. Here’s the Top 10:
Mike Silverman, 95.36 (first overall among all players in the unit, as well); David Millward, 81.37 (third overall); me, 65.62 (seventh); Ken Meier, 61.95 (12th); Fred Yellen, 46.95 (26th); Allen Beroza, 45.83 (28th); Gene Finton, 42.02 (31st); Dorothy May, 41.13 (33rd); Chuck Schorr, 23.51 (69th); Vince Pesce, 21.93 (80th).
Among all Unit 116 players in the Ace of Clubs race, the Top 10 looks like this: Mike Silverman, 95.36; Liz Clark, 86.62; David Millward, 81.37; Meg Klamp, 77.85; Jerry Geiger, 67.70; Sharon Benz, 65.78; me, 65.62; John Ziemer, 64.25; Mike Ryan, 64.08; and Judi Marshall, 63.33.

Overall points for the year, as of June 30: 83.69.
That places me fourth in the Mini-McKenney race (all points earned everywhere) among Ruby Life Masters in Unit 116. Here’s how the leaders stack up:
Ken Meier, 152.30 (fourth among all Unit 116 players); Mike Silverman, 100.81 (16th overall); David Millward, 95.63 (20th); me, 83.69 (25th); Fred Yellen, 74.71 (31st); Allen Beroza, 70.68 (33rd); Gene Finton, 49.04 (53rd); Dorothy May, 46.67 (55th); Art Morth, 31.75 (81st); and Bill Rushmore, 29.26 (88th).
And how many Unit 116 Mini-McKenney leaders have hit the century mark at midyear? Turns out there are 16:
Davis Heussler, 166.03; John and Martha Welte, both with 157.24; Ken Meier, 152.30; Mike Ryan, 144.79; Jay Levy, 134.22; Christy Kellogg, 126.92; Bert Hargeshimer, 123.97; John Ziemer, 121.67; Liz Clark, 115.93; Linda Burroughsford, 112.05; David Hemmer, 111.98; Saleh Fetouh, 104.71; Meg Klamp, 101.38; Dian Petrov, 101.12; and Mike Silverman, 100.81.

(to be continued with notations on District 5 and national leaders)

OK, many days later, let’s finish this off while the June results are still up.
District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. I’m fifth in my division, 28th overall. We Buffalo players have four of the top six spots, starting with Mike Silverman, 95.36 (seventh overall). Then it’s David Millward, 81.37, 12th overall; Susan Konig of Bridgeville, Pa., 74.48; 17th; Allen Selling of Erie, Pa., 69.36, 21st; me, 65.62 (28th); and Ken Meier, 61.95 (33rd). Then we Buffalonians thin out. There’s only four more in the Top 30.
District 5 Ace of Clubs overall. Here the leader is Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 111.50, followed by Arlene Port, Patricia Katz and Richard Katz, all of Pittsburgh (though Richard is officially from North Versailles, Pa.), with 105.04, 100.56 and 99.19. Then it’s Asim Ulke of Monroeville, Pa., 98.48; and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, 95.66; before we get to Mike Silverman’s 95.36, followed by another Buffalonian, Liz Clark with 86.62. Rounding out the Top 10 are Barbara Belardi and good old Reanette Frobouck, both Pittsburghers, with 85.59 and 84.78. Bubbling under are W. (for William) Tordella of Bemus Point, 83.77; and our David Millward, 81.37.
District 5 Mini-McKenney. Ruby Life Masters. No change in leadership here. It’s Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, by a country mile. She’s got 443.82. First in the division and first in the district overall. The rest of the Top 10: Craig Biddle, Pittsburgh, 284.66, sixth overall; William Lindgren, Slippery Rock, Pa., 187.97 (15th); Ken Meier, 152.30 (28th); Charles Ladiha, Vermilion, Ohio, 109.02 (59th); Jean Picone, Pittsburgh, 103.31 (65th); Mike Silverman, 100.81 (71st); David Millward, 95.63 (80th); Jayne Stahr, Stow, Ohio, 91.46 (90th); and Monica Early, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, 87.99 (97th). I’m 15th, 109th overall in the district.
District 5 Mini-McKenney overall. Sue Lan Ma, 443.82; Reanette Frobouck on the rebound, 423.47; Kathleen and Don Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, 361.07 and 355.84; Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, 290.33 and 274.49, with Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh coming between them with 284.66. Then it’s three guys from Beachwood, Ohio – Bernie Greenspan, 254.63; Phillip Becker, 240.48; and Brian Ellis, 239.33.
Nationwide. Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. Thomas Robert, Raleigh, N.C., 171.41; Paul Hassett and Russ Pearly, both of The Villages, Fla, 168.05 and 165.76; Barry Nish, Little Neck, L.I., 164.17; and Robert Shearer of Diberville, Miss., 164.11. Unit 116 and District 5 leader Mike Silverman is 103rd. David Millward is tied for 205th with someone named Lee Maddocks from Modesto, Calif. The list of 500 cuts off at 65.69. I’ve got 65.62.
Nationwide. Ace of Clubs overall. Totally stratospheric. Bella Ionis-Sorren of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 349.95. Bill Kulbersh of Atlanta, 311.56. Then there are 28 more with 200 or better, led by Kay Schulle of Purchase, N.Y., 279.54; Gail Wells of Dallas, 262.04; and Irva Neyhart of Corvallis, Ore., 252.96. No District 5 players on this list. It cuts off at 107.43.
Nationwide. Mini-McKenney. Ruby Life Masters. District 5’s Sue Lan Ma is third. It’s Gillian Miniter of New York City, 587.13; Sudhakar Divakaruni of Scottsdale, Ariz., 469.63; Sue Lan Ma, 443.82; Layne Noble of Ottawa, Ont., 391.75; and Jeff Edelstein of Riverview, Fla., 387.53. Eight players in all have more than 300 points. Unit 116’s Ken Meier is 164th and he’s our only representative. The list stops at 105.99.
Nationwide Mini-McKenney overall. Seventeen players with more than 1,000 points at midyear, led by Chris Compton of Dallas, 1,492.10; followed by Mike Passell of Plano, Texas, 1,324.96; the legendary Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., 1,296.02; Eddie Wold of Houston, 1,213.76; and Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., 1,190.96. Former Buffalonian Joel Wooldridge, now of Astoria, Queens, is 43rd with 621.49. District 5’s Sue Lan Ma is 118th. To earn a spot on this list, you need at least 252.61 points. 

Bridge Blog 962: Frisky over 50

     June’s funky finale oozed over into July. The month started with a mediocre 47.69% game with Denise Slattery last Saturday, not miserable enough for last place, but far from winning points.
     Usha Khurana and I overcame our point drought together on Monday, but our seemingly respectable 52.94% was just sixth overall in a 13-pair one-winner game and yielded only 0.19 of a point.
     I took the holiday off on Tuesday for gardening, then had Wednesday’s partner call late Tuesday night to cancel. Arriving at the Airport Bridge Club as a free agent, I was paired with Bill Regan, a player admirable for his agreeability, and diminished my expectations. 
     I shouldn’t have. It felt like we were having a good game. Over 50%, I predicted as I ran out before results were announced (hair appointment). I didn’t learn until the next morning just how much over 50% we finished. It was 55.23%, first in B in our direction, 1.58 points. 
     Thursday gave Art Matthies and me another chance to see if we could live up to our potential. Though Art found plenty to inspire his impatience, it turned out to be one of our better efforts – third in the B strat in our direction, 53.28%, 0.94 of a point.
     Friday took me back to St. Catharines feeling frisky from the 50%-plus week so far, despite a severe sleep deficit (too late at work Thursday night, cranking out not one, but two feature obituaries). 
     This time Selina Volpatti and I mostly kept our heads about us (despite the minus 1,100 from an ill-advised 5 Clubs doubled sacrifice that I pushed her into). We wound up with 55.13%, third out of 17 North-Souths, fourth overall, collecting 0.84 of a master point. 

Bridge Blog 961: Bright point

     I would chalk up June 30 as an undistinguished Friday at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., except for all the high hopes I carried into the game. It was the last chance to pile on master points for the month. Those points would be amplified by the fact that it was a North American Pairs qualifier.
     And then there was Board 10, which Selina Volpatti and I encountered in the second round of the afternoon. It looked like this:

North (me)
Spades: A-K-Q-9; Hearts: Q-4; Diamonds: A-K-5-3; Clubs: A-Q-6.

Spades: J-8-7-2; Hearts: 5-2; Diamonds: Q-J-10-9-2; Clubs: 10-7. 

South (Selina)
Spades: 10-4; Hearts: A-K-J-8-6; Diamonds: 7-6-4; Clubs: K-9-3.

Spades: 6-5-3; Hearts: 10-9-7-3; Diamonds: 8; Clubs: J-8-5-4-2.

     Everybody’s vulnerable. South is dealer. Selina shrugs off the weakness of her holding and opens 1 Heart. I add up my high cards. Then I add them up again. Yes, it’s really a 24-point hand. Twenty-four points opposite an opener? We’ve got a slam. A grand slam.
     I bid 4 No Trump, key card Blackwood, asking for Aces and the King of Hearts. Selina’s 5 Hearts says she has two. The top two Hearts. I pause to ponder. Do we make 7 Hearts? Without a doubt. Or do we score a little higher with 7 No Trump? Well-l-l-l, OK. 7 No.
     Soon as East makes his natural lead –Queen of Diamonds – it’s a lay-down: Two Diamond tricks, three Spades, five Hearts, three Clubs. Plus 2,200. That, I declare as I punch the data into the Bridge Mate scoring gizmo, will be an average board.
But is it? The summary sheet at the end of the game and shows that out of a possible 15 match points, we got 14.5. Only one other pair (Bob Forster and Bob Starfield) bid it.
     What happened to the others? Eleven stopped at 6 NT. All but one of them made an overtrick. Two others wound up at 6 Hearts, also making overtricks. And one unfortunate pair played it at 3 NT. Theirs was the bottom board. That partnership, however, finished the day above 50% and won a fraction of a master point. Selina and I wound up at 41.41%, 14th out of 16 North-South pairs.