News from the Bridge Room in Porec, Croatia

Host report by Toby & Janette Mace

The Valamar Diamant hotel is a scenic twenty-minute walk from the harbour town of Porec, through pretty landscaped gardens and pine trees (housing red squirrels) along the water’s edge. Porec has an impressive basilica overlooking the harbour, with Roman remains and a large floor mosaic. There’s also a rooftop bar on top of a squat old tower, with great views. Great for a sundowner (Aperol spritz if you’re asking).

We organised three excursions, first driving to two hill towns to see how they had coped in very different ways with depopulation over the years. One is now an artists’ haven, and the other derelict and abandoned. The day ended with a typical Croatian meal, where we bought homemade produce – the grappa was pronounced to be very smooth! Mistletoe grappa is also a speciality.

The boat trip to Rovinj, a beautiful Venetian harbour town, started with a toast on board (grappa at 10.30 am, but it would be rude not to). We saw dolphins from a distance on the way and tucked into plentiful supplies of freshly caught mackerel and local wine on the way back.

Finally we visited Pula, capital of the province of Istria, and famous for its mightily impressive Roman amphitheatre, the sixth largest in the world.

We found the Croatians very friendly and welcoming, and it was fascinating to hear about the area’s turbulent history at first hand from Mauro, our knowledgeable guide. For historical reasons Italian is the second language, and much of the food had an Italian feel. Istria is famed for its gastronomic produce (wine, olive oil and truffles).

Back in the hotel itself, there was a choice of two outdoor and one indoor swimming pools, plus an extensive spa and various massage treatments and hairdressing, so plenty to do if you didn’t play bridge in the afternoon. The larger outdoor pool was heated – a very rare thing – which made it particularly popular, with an attractive outdoor café.

Andrew Kambites, Toby Mace and John Barker completed with great success the First for Bridge team, led by Andrew, who gave some very interesting seminars and displayed his usual wit. Our Scottish ladies’ contingent did well in the teams – non-playing captain Nicola Sturgeon, Andrew said. We were also pleased to welcome six Croatians from the local Porec bridge club, playing in teams for the first time. They did come back for more, so must have enjoyed it (or perhaps they just wanted to practise their English?).

Director’s report by Andrew Kambites

porec puzzle 2

This hand occurred in the championship pairs qualifying round. I would expect the above auction to be widely followed, though I would give some
consideration to passing 1NT with the South hand. The point is that North/South have a maximum of 25 points, and game is unlikely to be better than borderline, even if opener is maximum. One of the themes of the Porec holiday has been the special criteria that should govern your bidding at duplicate pairs. Unlike vulnerable at teams, it doesn’t pay in the long run to bid thin games at pairs. However there are three things that would sway me to investigate game with the South hand. First the shape of 4-4-3-2 is far better than 4-3-3-3 because you have two suits that you might develop for length tricks. Second, while there are no tens the three nines look very useful. In particular the black nines in suits you are likely to want to develop look very useful. Third, there are no unsupported queens or jacks.

However the real point of this hand concerns how the play might develop after the various possible opening leads. So what would you lead as East? If the bidding had been straight 1NT-3NT a fourth best heart lead would be obvious, but the above auction has told East that declarer has four hearts. It is usually a bad idea to lead from a broken suit in your opponents’ suit, however you have five good hearts and almost any heart honour in partner’s hand would leave you with very powerful hearts sitting over declarer’s suit.

What are the alternatives? The bidding indicates that North/South have nothing much to spare for their contract so how about a passive lead? Maybe the ♦8 or ♣7 (MUD). In fact neither of these leads turns out to be as passive as you might think!

Declarer seems to have 8 obvious tricks: 2 spades (I told you the ♠9 was likely to be useful), one heart, 3 diamonds and the ♣A K. He will need to play on spades but he will still require to find a ninth trick.

Suppose East leads the ♣7. Dummy plays the ♣9 and suddenly declarer has four club tricks. If declarer played clubs himself he would undoubtedly finesse dummy’s ♣J, losing to West’s ♣Q. Leading away from tens is not necessarily passive.

Alternatively East might lead the 8. Dummy covers with the 9. Normal practice is that West should play the lower of touching honours, the ♦10. However here declarer wins the A and can later finesse his 7, knowing that West must have the J. West can do better than this. The 8 cannot be a fourth highest (only the A and Q are missing) and if their methods are to lead MUD (Middle/UP/Down) from three small it cannot be a MUD lead either because he can see the 9 and 10. Therefore it must be top of a doubleton. West cannot conceal from declarer who has the J because there is no holding that East could have with the J that would result in the 8 being led, but he can muddy the waters by concealing the 10. West should play the J rather than the 10 at trick 1! After either of these leads the defenders cannot recover if declarer reads the hand correctly. Even if West gains the lead with the ♠A and switches to the 10 declarer covers with the K. East wins the A and returns a low heart but declarer allows West’s 8 to win. Declarer’s 7 is just high enough to prevent the defenders taking three heart tricks.

How about a heart lead? East leads the 6 to West’s 10 and declarer’s K. Declarer leads a spade, taken by West’s ♠A. West continues with the 8. Declarer doesn’t cover with the Q but East knows that North has no more hearts left because of his 2 reply to Stayman. East overtakes the 8 with his 9 and with the ♠K as an entry he continues with the A and J, setting up a third heart trick which he cashes when he regains the lead with the ♠K. Three heart tricks and the ♠A K beat 3NT.

Both sides need to carefully watch the small cards here: an exercise in concentration and attention to detail.

Week 1:

Butler Pairs winners Ashley Nicklin, Russell Nicklin, (kambo), Brian and Sheila Stockdale

Butler Pairs winners: Ashley Nicklin, Russell Nicklin, Brian and Sheila Stockdale

Championship Pairs final winners Ashley Nicklin (kambo) Anna Clegg

Championship Pairs final winners: Anna Clegg & Ashley Nicklin

Consolation Pairs winners Gill Curtis (kambo) Wally Curtis

Consolation Pairs winners: Gill Curtis & Wally Curtis

Swiss Teams winners Ashley Nicklin, Pat Nicklin (kambo) Anna Clegg, Russell Nicklin

Swiss Teams winners: Ashley Nicklin, Pat Nicklin, Anna Clegg, Russell Nicklin

Week 2:

Swiss Pairs winners David Stone (kambo) Chris Kennedy

Swiss Pairs winners: David Stone & Chris Kennedy

Multi Teams winners Anne Macleod, Christina Macpherson, (kambo) Lorna McCaig, Liz Smart

Multi Teams winners: Anne Macleod, Christina Macpherson, Lorna McCaig, Liz Smart

Men's, Mixed and Ladies pairs winners David Stone, Steven Roswald, Pauline Kenton, (kambo) David Stoddart, Gizela Martin, Ursula Henzell

Men’s, Mixed and Ladies pairs winners: David Stone, Steven Roswald, Pauline Kenton, David Stoddart, Gizela Martin, Ursula Henzell

Random Swiss Teams winners Christine Higgison, Imre Tessenyi, Douglas Smart, Slavoljub Katancevic

Random Swiss Teams winners: Christine Higgison, Imre Tessenyi, Douglas Smart, Slavoljub Katancevic