Duff at Bridge Sectional

The Bright Leaf bridge club did a great job hosting the Chapel Hill sectional tournament last week-end. I played on a team which did OK, though not great, but had fun. We came within one point of making it to the third round of Knock-Outs, and finished about in the middle of the Sunday Swiss Teams event.

Hillary Duff milk poster

It’s been a while since I’ve been in a high school, so maybe I was thinking out of context when I saw the above poster. Not recognizing the entertainer as Hilary Duff, my first thought was that “Duff” was a reference to Duff Beer as a promotion for the upcoming Simpsons movie.

Cape Fear MABC Regional 2007

My mother and I played bridge for three days solid at the Cape Fear MABC Regional in Wilmington last week. Actually, we only played about 11 hours per day, skipping the midnight sessions. We hoped to play a fourth day but got knocked out of a single elimination event in the second round and decided not to start a new event on the fourth day.

On the bright side, we won our bracket in a two-day compact knock-out event when we teamed up with a pair we’d never met before from Cary (Thanks Maryann and Dianne), which gave us a couple of coveted gold masterpoints. Plus we won a pairs event, and picked up some fractional points for other finishes.

The tournament attendance summary shows 1188 players playing 2336 session-tables, which means with 4 players per table per session that each player played on average about 8 sessions (2336 * 4 / 1188).

It’s interesting to note that 1118 (94%) players earned masterpoints at the event, suggesting performance is more random than expected. Masterpoints are generally awarded to the top third of the finishers of an event, and my crude conclusion is that anyone who plays about 8 sessions will likely get some masterpoints.
Looking a little further (but not far enough for much confidence), it would seem that placing is mostly luck. That is, if it were all luck, you would have a 1/3 chance of getting masterpoints for a single event, and the chance of getting some masterpoints over 8 events would be (1-(2/3))^8 = 96%. However, it more than just a matter of getting masterpoints. One might argue that skill is more of a factor in placing in the top 10% but not so much for placing in the top 33%.

Five Days of Bridge in Raleigh Regional

Mom and I played bridge for most of last week in the Mid-Atlantic Memorial Day Tarheel Regional in north Raleigh, NC.

We started out playing in my first Knock Out event, which is where you play in a team of four or more players against one other team for a three hour match. The winner advances to the next round and the loser is knocked out. Two from our team play the north-south cards against two from their team playing east-west, while the reverse happens at the other table, and we swap cards half way through so both teams end up playing the same hands from both sides. We had great teammates and won our first two matches, but lost the third by a small margin.

The next day we switched to pairs events, where it was just us against a bunch of other pairs playing the same hands. We came in first once thanks to some major gifts by our opponents and placed a couple other times. This was the last hand of the Friday afternoon session. My mother opened a 2â™  showing about 6 spades and 5-11 high card points.

Mom Xan
â™  AQJ9652   â™  K4
♥ J632   ♥ A
♦ 8   ♦ QJ1072
♣ J   ♣ AKQ54

I could see slam was quite possible, but I still don’t know if there’s a right way to bid it. I responded 2NT, which we play as the Ogust convention asking about opener’s bid quality. She rebid 3â™  to show a good suit and a good hand, though I might expect an outside honor for a “good hand”. Presumably, 4♣ by me would be a cue bid to see if she could bid 4♦ to show a first or second round diamond control. But lacking confidence to bid scientifically, I gambled and bid 6â™  directly.

The slam made after a spade lead without only minor communication difficulties between the hands. However, we didn’t get a top score. Two other pairs bid the slam and got doubled, earning a bigger score.

Two Week-Ends of Bridge

Raleigh Jaycee Center Ready for Bridge


Last week-end I played in the Raleigh sectional at the Jaycee Center (pictured) with a pick-up partner, Louise Watson, and this week-end I played in a Durham tournament for non-life masters with my mom. Louise has only been playing bridge for a year or so. We met her in Wilmington, and she and my mother kept in touch. Louise and I got along fine as partners, but we didn’t do well enough to place in the two sessions we played.

The Durham tournament was well attended, almost doubling the attendance from the previous year. Hard to tell that bridge is dying out.

Mom and I played in four sessions, getting an overall first place in one session and a placing in two others. The competition, at least at this level, is pretty friendly, and many opponents joked about being scared of us as they remembered our four first place finishes in the July Durham sectional. Usually, I’d remind them that we had come in last place on the final day of that event.

High-Low at Durham Sectional

Mom and I played every session of the recent Durham bridge sectional. Friday and Saturday we had an amazing run of finishing first overall for all four sessions. Well, “overall” for the 0-200 players, that is. That included a 70+% session on Saturday morning, which is pretty rare — 60% is often good enough to win. We collected about 9.5 masterpoints, which is almost as many as I’ve won all year before this.

Most of the competition wasn’t too strong, of course, but there was one quite good team that kept finishing second to us. They got their revenge on Sunday by handily winning the Sunday Swiss teams event, where you need a team of four players to compete. We drafted my friends Rob and Brad who are good players if a little rusty. They did fine, but Mom and I couldn’t get in sync for too many hands, and we ended up in last place out of 10 teams (except for the two teams that bailed out early).

The event was well-attended and stretched the resources of the organizers, but they were up to the challenge. For some sessions, they even had tables set up in the hallways. The location was the basement of Northgate Mall in Durham — a place I never knew existed. There’s nothing about the basement on the mall map except for a mention in the directory of the location “Office Area”, which includes a few service businesses.

Morganton Bridge Sectional

Mom and I played three sessions at the ACBL bridge sectional tournament in Morganton this week-end. (Actually Mom played two additional sessions with a partner from the partnership desk.) Each session is about 24 hands of duplicate bridge in 3-4 hours and is much more tiring than one would think. At the Raleigh sectional my legs were getting cramped from sitting that long in such a tense state. Fortunately for my legs, we were playing East-West, which meant we had to move tables after every few hands.

2005 Bridge Sectional at Morganton, NC,
That’s Mom in the magenta at the front table.

Our results weren’t too bad. I think our percentage results were 45%, 51%, and 56%, with 50% being average (and the vast majority of scores are between 40% and 60%). We earned a total of about 1.5 masterpoints, which is the ACBL cumulative rating system. I have about 25 points toward the 300 needed to get the coveted “Life Master” ranking. I’m currently tied for first in my unit’s Mini-McKenney Junior Master of the Year count, mainly on the strength of one good day at the Wilmingtion regional earlier this year, which was our first time playing duplicate together.

The Morganton sectional is the most popular in the region, and I can see why. The organizers were friendly and on the ball, and there was plenty of food all the time. Ham biscuits and bagels for breakfast, hotdogs and salads for lunch, and home-made desserts for snacks. I was also pleased to see fruit juice in addition to the usual array of sodas.

I’m encouraged by our results because we lost a lot of points from correctable mistakes, mostly on my side. So we have room to improve without changing our systems.