Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Bridge Blog 971: Second hand low

That's what partner Usha Khurana says Tuesday, Aug. 29, when I play her King of Hearts on the opening lead in a 3 No Trump contract in the next-to-last round in an 11-table game at the Airport Bridge Club.
The King gets swallowed by Eleanor Whelan's Ace, but it sets up my sequence of lesser honors in the Hearts very nicely. A few plays later, I lead a Club from my hand to dummy's 10 for a safety play, to insure that I can cash the remaining four Clubs in hand. The 10 holds, miraculously, and I proceed to win all the other Clubs.
Ruth Wurster, sitting South, could have won that first Club trick with her Queen or Jack, but followed Usha's suggestion. Bridge wisdom, to be sure, but in this case, it secures an extra trick for me. The hand record says it's only good for 3 No Trump, but I wind up with two overtricks. Top board. One of the few bright spots in a 44.71% game.

Board 5. North-south vulnerable. North is dealer.

North (Eleanor Whelan)
Spades: A-10-9-6; Hearts: A-4-2; Diamonds: K-6-4-2; Clubs: 9-4.

East (moi)
Spades: Q-8; Hearts: Q-J-10-9; Diamonds: Q-5; Clubs: A-K-8-7-6.

South (Ruth Wurster)
Spades: 4-3-2; Hearts: 8-7-5-3; Diamonds: J-10-8; Clubs: Q-J-2.

West (Usha)
Spades: K-J-7-5; Hearts: K-6; Diamonds: A-9-7-3; Clubs: 10-5-3.

Lead is 8 of Hearts. 

Bridge Blog 970: TWTWTW Aug. 21 to Aug. 26 (augmented)

Monday: Art Matthies and I click again. 53.01%. Third in the A strat, first in B. 2.36 points.
Tuesday: A near miss with Usha Khurana. 50.55%.
Wednesday: Uptick with June Feuerstein, who's fun as usual. 55.66%, but it doesn't get our names in the paper. Sixth in the A strat, fourth in B. 0.94 of a point.

Partner June Feuerstein brightens a fairly miserable 46.06% game a week later by recalling the takeout double that I left in place during this session. The contract was 2 Spades doubled vulnerable. Plus 800. Top board. Here's the deal:

Board 22. East is dealer. East-west vulnerable.

East (Joyce Greenspan)
Spades: K-J-10-9-7-3; Hearts: K-9-5-2; Diamonds: 7-4; Clubs: 8.

South (June)
Spades: void; Hearts: A-Q-8-3; Diamonds: A-Q-9-8-3; Clubs: J-10-3-2.

West (Sandi England)
Spades: Q-8; Hearts: J-7-6-4; Diamonds: 5-2; Clubs: K-Q-9-7-5.

North (moi)
Spades: A-6-5-4-2; Hearts: 10; Diamonds: K-J-10-6; Clubs: A-6-4.

Did Joyce pre-empt 2 Spades? Don't remember, but I think she did, prompting June's double after two passes. Do I have a bid? Diamonds. Hand record says it will make 6 Diamonds, but nobody goes there and we wouldn't either.

June's lead is Jack of Clubs. Playing in Spades, our obvious tricks are two Diamonds, a Club, a Heart and a Spade, right off the top. The rest are ruffs. Joyce thinks she could have held it to down two, but hand record says we deserved eight tricks.   

Thursday and Friday: Adventuring in Cleveland. Indians vs. Red Sox Thursday night, Cleveland Botanical Gardens Friday afternoon, Donald Fagen from Steely Dan with his hot young band, the Nightflies, on Friday night in the Hard Rock Rocksino in nearby Northfield.
Saturday: Seriously sleep-deprived session after a hair appointment at 9 a.m. Nevertheless, it's my best game of the week, thanks in no small part to club master point race leader Denise Slattery. 61.51%. Second overall, first in B, in a four-table Howell game. 1.97 points.
Total for the week: 5.27. Month's tally to date in the Airport Bridge Club shows me with 14.91. Add the 0.75 from the Unit 116 Picnic and 0.49 from the St. Catharines club and I'm safely beyond my 15-point goal. Whew! 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bridge Blog 969: TWTWTW Aug. 14 to Aug. 20

Eight days of bridge this week. Once every day and twice on Sunday at the Unit 116 picnic (see Blog 969-A). Four fruitful, one also-ran, three absolutely abysmal.

Monday with Marilyn Sultz. 47.72%. Actually a close one. One more match point and we would have edged out Cleveland Fleming and Margaret Zhou for third place in the B strat. I should have kept a Spade against the No Trump contract on Board 15.

Tuesday with Usha Khurana. 42.11%. Last North-South.

Wednesday with Dottie May. 48.26%. Should have been an also-ran, but we’re on top of a bunch of pairs in the upper 40s. Fourth East-West. 0.83 of a point.

Thursday with Marietta Kalman. 41.12%. Next to last North-South.

Friday in St. Catharines with Selina Volpatti. 51.74%. Fourth North-South, on top of a cluster of players right around 50%. 0.49 of a point. I arrive late because of a 40-minute wait to get over the Peace Bridge and director Keith Burkell sits in for me on Board 3. It’s a bottom, the only one where East-West makes a 3 NT contract and, reviewing it on the website, I see why. Selina leads the 9 of Clubs from A-Q-J-9-4, taken by dummy’s singleton 10. The two North-Souths who beat 3 NT lead the Queen.

Saturday with Art Matthies. Best game of the week so far. 56% in a three-table session. Second overall. 1.83 points. Art gives only a few sighs of exasperation, notably in the final round of the day, Board 24, against Christine Malarkey and Ron Henrikson. Ron makes a 4 Spade contract that Art says would be defeated with a different lead. Here’s the hand:
West is dealer. Nobody vulnerable.

West: (Ron)
Spades: A-K-J-9-8-3; Hearts: A-Q-J; Diamonds: A; Clubs: K-8-7

North: (me)
Spades: 5-2; Hearts: 10-8-7-3-2; Diamonds: K-2; Clubs: A-J-6-3

East (Christine)
Spades: 6-4; Hearts: 9-5; Diamonds: J-10-9-7-5-4-3; Clubs: 10-9

South (Art)
Spades: Q-10-7; Hearts: K-6-4; Diamonds: Q-8-6; Clubs: Q-5-4-2

According to the hand record, it’s all East-West, making 2 NT, 3 Spades, 1 Heart, 3 or 4 Diamonds and even 1 Club. I wish I recalled the bidding, but I’m pretty sure Ron doesn’t do a strong 2 Club opener and steer things into Spades, which is what I would do. At any rate, I think he opens1 Spade and, emboldened by not being vulnerable, I overcall 2 Hearts, Art supports the Hearts and Ron winds up at 4 Spades.
My lead is my fourth-best Heart. Ron plays the 5 from the dummy. Art puts up the 6. Ron wins with the Jack. Art maintains that I should have led my best Heart, the 10, because he infers an honor from my lowball lead. I contend that the 10 is an honor, albeit a low one, and he should have risen with the King anyway.
At any rate, I shall follow his precept when I’m playing with him. I suspect that it makes no difference in the play of the hand. Here I suspect the key to setting the contract is the Clubs. We should hold Ron to five Spades, three Hearts and the Ace of Diamonds.

Sunday morning with Florence Boyd at the Unit 116 picnic. Absolutely abysmal. I'd have more to say about it if I could figure out how to access the results on the Common Game. Since I can't and because the Unit 116 result list only recounts the point winners, I'm not even sure what our score was down there on the bottom. Something like 33.7%

Sunday afternoon with Florence Boyd at the Unit 116 picnic. Redemption. 58.81%. Ninth overall, which wasn't good enough to pick up points in the A strat, but sixth in the B strat, which earned us 0.75 of a point.

Total for the week: 3.90. And for the month so far: 10.88. Short week ahead because I'll be out of town for a couple days. All of a sudden, hitting that goal of 15 points per month looks like it might be a stretch. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Bridge Blog 969-A: Unit picnic

Not at the Erie County Fairgrounds like in recent years – this is the last day of the fair – but at another favorite unit venue, the Rescue Fire Hall social hall in North Tonawanda, which has a huge parking lot and the additional virtue of windows, so that those of us facing that direction can see the sunshine on the trees next door.
The picnic is my favorite unit event. Picnic food is the reason. Paul Zittel is in charge and he gets sweet corn picked from his farm that morning. Super fresh. Super tender. There’s also Weidner’s barbecued chicken, which is always good. And there’s corn salsa, which I originally thought that Paul or his wife Linda concocted, but which actually is made by folks down in southeastern Pennsylvania. They sell it at their farm stand.
There are only two empty places left in the rear of the parking lot when I arrive with a couple minutes to spare just before 11 a.m. Not only is it a big crowd, but it’s record-breaking, Betty Metz announces. 33 tables, split into three sections. A lot of Lockport players on hand.
Among the players are youngsters from the Unit’s summer bridge lessons and in-school lessons at Transit Middle School in Amherst. They’re introduced before the game and seem a little shy. I’m told later that some of the girls were a bit tentative in their bidding, but not those two Transit Middle School boys we play in the final round of the morning session. They hold their own against us and finish far better than we do.

Jim Gullo, left, introduces the young student bridge players at the beginning of the morning game.
Betty also puts out the call for candidates for the unit board. Three vacancies coming up and only one person running. If there isn’t a full nine-member board to share the work, she says, they’ll have to cut back on unit functions, like the picnic. Her announcement works. By the end of the afternoon, she has candidates. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Bridge Blog 968: TWTWTW Aug. 7 to Aug. 12

Monday: Art Matthies and I salvage a shred of pride with a 50.46% and a sliver of a master point – 0.69. Two top boards – a double on an opponent's ill-advised 4 Diamond bid, down three; and a nicely executed 3 Club contract by Art. Two bottoms – a down-three sacrifice by me that goes down four instead and a 3 No Trump contract by the opponents which we can't figure out how to crack.
Tuesday: Not much luck with Usha Khurana. 47.10%. Mistakes by both of us. At least we're not last.
Wednesday: June Feuerstein and I have our usual loopy good time and manage to finish second East-West in a low-percentage six-table game. Our 53.75% is worth 1.27 points.
Thursday: No partner so club manager Bill Finkelstein offers me on Wednesday to the first available player who speaks up. That would be Eva Schmidt, a nonagenarian marvel and Holocaust survivor. We come in fourth North-South with 51.94% and earn 0.69 of a point.
Friday: Canadian partner unavailable, so no trip to St. Catharines. Myra Razik accepts Bill Finkelstein's general offer this time and we have a 50.84% game, third in B East-West, 0.75 of a point.
Saturday: Will my end-of-the-week date with the current August master point leader, Denise Slattery, depress her or lift me up? The latter. One of my best games of the year, in fact. 
When the results are posted, we're tied with Alan Greer and Nancy Wolstoncroft at the top with 65%. Then Shirley Cassety finds an incorrect score. Not the first time she gets a correction that bumps me back. 
Alan and Nancy stay at 65%, Denise and I drop to 64.17%, second overall, but still first in the B strat for 2.25 points. For the week: 5.65 points. For the month so far: 6.98. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Bridge Blog 967: Goodbye to July

         Club points for the year, through July 31: 85.32, up 19.70 since June. I've passed David Millward, who was out of action all month, and moved ahead to second place in the Ace of Clubs race (club play only) among Ruby Life Masters (1,500 to 2,500 points) in Unit 116 (Buffalo only).                    Here's the Top 10: Mike Silverman, 120.13 (also first among all players in the unit); me, 85.32 (sixth overall); David Millward, 81.37 (tenth); Ken Meier, 80.72 (12th); Fred Yellen, 63.23 (22nd); Allen Beroza, 61.15 (25th); Gene Finton, 52.63 (29th); Dorothy May, 45.15 (38th); Chuck Schorr, 27.94 (77th); and Art Morth, 27.20 (82nd).
         Among all Unit 116 players in the Ace of Clubs race, the Top 10 looks like this: Mike Silverman still on top, 120.13; Jerry Geiger moving up from fifth to second, 99.71; Liz Clark, 98.16; Mike Ryan (ninth to fourth), 87.74; Meg Klamp, 87.30; me, 85.32; Judi Marshall, 81.64; John Ziemer, 81.59; Denise Slattery, 81.42; David Millward, 81.37. And let's add these folks nipping at our heels – Martin Pieterse, 81.08; Ken Meier, 80.72; Ron Henrikson, 80.28; and Sharon Benz, 78.91.
         Overall points for the year, as of July 31: 103.39. I've broken through the century mark and almost reached my 15-point-per-month goal. Here again I move up a notch in the Mini-McKenney race (all points earned everywhere) to third place among Ruby Life Masters in Unit 116, past inactive David Millward. 
         Here's how the leaders look: Ken Meier, 171.07 (sixth among all Unit 116 players, down from fourth); Mike Silverman, 125.58 (12th overall, up from 16th), me, 103.39 (22nd, up from 25th); David Millward, 95.63 (27th); Fred Yellen, 90.99 (28th); Allen Beroza, 86 even (33rd); then a big step down to Gene Finton, 59.65 (50th); Dorothy May, 50.69 (61st); Art Morth, 38.70 (78th) and Bill Rushmore, 30.36 (101st).
        Two of the Unit 116 Mini-McKenney leaders have broken through the 200 point mark. Here they are: Davis Heussler, 215.15; Mike Ryan, 200.12; John and Martha Welte, both with 196.91; Jay Levy, 174.02; Ken Meier, 171.07; John Ziemer, 148.58; Linda Burroughsford, 147.19; Christy Kellogg, 138.25; Bert Hargeshimer, 134.87; Liz Clark, 131.13; Mike Silverman, 125.58.
         District 5 (Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. I’m third in my division, up from fifth, and 17th overall, up from 28th. We Buffalo players have four of the top five spots, starting with Mike Silverman at 120.13. He's fourth among all District 5 Mini-McKenney players.
         Second is Allen Selling of Erie, Pa.; 87.50 (14th overall); me, 85.32 (17th); David Millward, 81.37 (23rd); Ken Meier, 80.72 (25th); Susan Konig of Bridgeville,Pa., 78.33 (31st); Chantal Whitney of Bratenahl, Ohio, 78.16 (32nd); Patrick Slaven of Mogadore, Ohio, 69.01 (49th); Doris Kirsch of East Springfield, Pa., 66.98 (57th); Fred Yellen, 63.23 (64th); and Allen Beroza, 61.15 (70th).
         District 5 Ace of Clubs overall. Here the leader continues to be Robert Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, with 136.44; followed by Arlene Port of Pittsburgh, 122.97; Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, 120.60; Mike Silverman, 120.13; Patricia Katz of Pittsburgh, 104.66; Richard Katz of North Versailles, Pa., 103.09; Asim Ulke of Monroeville, Pa., 101.99; Jerry Geiger, 99.71; Barbara Belardi of Pittsburgh, 98.28; and Liz Clark, 98.16.
         District 5 Mini-McKenney. Ruby Life Masters.  Sue Lan Ma of Kirtland Hills, Ohio, continues on top by a wide margin. She’s got 507.18. First in the division and first in the district overall. The rest of the Top 10: Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, 335.34 (seventh overall); William Lindgren of Slippery Rock, Pa., 191.10 (23rd); Ken Meier, 171.07 (33rd); Russell Sheldon of Pittsburgh, 132.81 (51st); Mike Silverman, 125.58 (59th); Charles Ladiha of Vermillion, Ohio, 125.25 (60th); Jean Picone of Pittsburgh, 111.38 (78th); Jayne Stahr of Stow, Ohio, 107.30 (86th); and me! 103.39 (up from 15th, also 94th overall, up from 109th).  
         District 5 Mini-McKenney overall. Sue Lan Ma, 507.18; Reanette Frobouck still second, but only advancing about 15 points to  438.32; Kathleen and Don Sulgrove of Twinsburg, Ohio, 376.62 and 372.06, respectively; with Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh coming between them with 284.66. Then Bernie Greenspan of Beachwood, Ohio, moves up to fifth with 362.90; followed by Philip Goulding of Wexford, Pa., 347.76; Craig Biddle of Pittsburgh, 335.34; Robert and Stephanie Alexander of Mentor, Ohio, 315.27 and 299.43; and Brian Ellis of Beachwood, 263.61.

Nationwide. Ace of Clubs. Ruby Life Masters. Thomas Roberg, Raleigh, N.C., 202.79; Dennis Harris, Corvallis, Ore., 193.43; Gary Waldron, Laguna Beach, Calif., 192.53; Ben Franz, Edgewood, N.M., 191.02; Mohan Bali, Columbia, S.C., 188.84. Mike Silverman is 76th. I just missed the list last month, now I'm 320th. David Millward is tied for 386th. Ken Meier is 394th. The list cuts off at 75.82.
Nationwide. Ace of Clubs overall. Top three are repeaters. Bella Ionis-Sorren, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., 378.82; Bill Kulbersh, Atlanta, 377.21; Kay Schulle, Purchase, N.Y., 332.12; Sheila Gabay of Newton, Mass., 306.15; Irva Neyhart of Corvallis, Ore, 303.71. No Unit 116 players here and only Robert Alexander from District 5. He's 356th. The list cuts off at 126.20.  
Nationwide. Mini-McKenney. Ruby Life Masters. Here it's Gillian Miniter of New York City, 681.05; Sudhakar Divakaruni of Scottsdale, Ariz., 570.12; District 5's Sue Lan Ma, 507.18; Jeff Edelstein of Riverview, Fla., 427.03; and Layne Noble of Ottawa, Ont., 410.41. Unit 116's Ken Meier is 181st. Mike Silverman is 473rd. The list stops at 123.96.
Nationwide. Mini-McKenney overall. Now there are 27 players with 1,000 points or more. Leader is still Chris Compton of Dallas, 1,812.91; then it's Kevin Dwyer of Melbourne, Fla., 1,563.46; Mike Passell of Plano, Texas, 1,557.61; Jeff Meckstroth of Clearwater Beach, Fla., 1,472.94; and Greg Hinze of San Antonio, Texas, 1,436.35. Former Buffalonian Joel Wooldridge is 20th with 1,106.32. Sue Lan Ma is 133rd. Reanette Frobouck is 193rd. Eight District 5 players make the list before the it ends at 301.84. 

Bridge Blog 966: TWTWTW: July 31 - Aug. 5

Monday: Three top boards, four bottom boards, but Art Matthies and I manage to rise above the 50% mark. 51.53%, to be exact. Fourth North-South. 0.93 of a master point is not enough to break the 20-point mark for the month, but it's close.
Tuesday: I neglect to tell club manager Bill Finkelstein that I don't have a partner until 9 a.m. I think he pairs me with novice Ted May as punishment. He also makes us the bumping pair in a 9½ table game. But I stick to a basic game with Ted, don't take too many chances and we bring it home at 53.25%. First in B. 1.33 points. Only August points this week.
Meanwhile, on Board 12, I pick up what may be my worst hand ever. An ultra Yarborough.
Spades: 7-3; Hearts: 8-6-2; Diamonds: 8-6-4-2; Clubs: 8-4-3-2. 
(The odds of picking up a Yarborough turn out to be pretty slim [see the mathematical formula for it here]. One in which the highest card is an 8 must be even more rarified.) 
Ted, on the other hand, has a 19-pointer. He bids the opponents up to 3 Spades, they go down one, it's an average board.
Wednesday: June Feuerstein and I always have a good time, but we don't always have a good game. 43.92%. Almost, but not quite, last.
Thursday: Like my partnership with Art Matthies, my games with Marietta Kalman never quite live up to their potential. This time we come close to 50%, but fall short at 48.38%.
Friday: A change of pace over at the Bridge Centre of Niagara in St. Catharines, Ont., at the start of their civic holiday weekend. Sometimes Selina Volpatti and I are up, sometimes we're down. This time we take the bid on 17 of the 26 hands, but we go down on 13 of them and most of the scores are on the opponents' side of the line. We finish 15th out of 17 North-Souths with 44.59%.
Worst moment: An ill-advised 3 Heart bid where I go down 5 vulnerable and should have gone down 2, according to the hand record. Miraculously, it's not a bottom board. Three other pairs went to 4 Hearts, got doubled. Two of them went down 3, one went down 6. Best moment: Doubling the opponents' 4 Spade bid and seeing them go down 4 vulnerable. That one was a top. We needed more of those. 
In retrospect, a downer kind of week. I'll need better real soon to reach that 15-point-per-month goal.