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News from the Bridge Room in Madeira, Feb 2020

Host Report by Pauline Durie

It was a welcome return to this beautiful island of flowers. A new venue – The Baia Azul – was friendly and welcoming in a wonderful setting on the sea- front. The hotel provided many wonderful places to sit and relax in the lovely sunshine – the deck bar terrace proved very popular as did the pool and poolside bar. Breakfast on the terrace afforded lovely sunrise views across the bay. The bridge room was bright and comfortable with a view out to sea.

Saturday night at the carnival was splendid with an amazing array of floats and extravagant costumes. Sympathy went out to the people wearing elaborate headdresses as the strong wind threatened to send them out to sea!

A tour of the island provided a good insight into the different lifestyles amongst the hills which were dominated by forests of eucalyptus and banana plantations. Every inch of land is used to cultivate something whether edible or floral!  A visit to the glass platform – 580 metres above sea level – is a must when visiting Madeira but not for the faint hearted who took in the stunning views from behind the barrier.

The levada walk and excellent history of a mountain village, provided by Rita, was fascinating, and a glimpse of how hard life used to be could still be seen as people worked on the steep terraces.

Several people took advantage of the sea-front promenade to take in the lovely sea views and some hardy souls walked all the way way into Funchal, almost 4 km, to see first-hand the enormous cruise ships that were a daily feature in the harbour. Reids hotel – a blast from the past frequented by Winston Churchill – provided a sumptuous afternoon tea enjoyed by some.

Something for everyone on this beautiful island.

Prize Winners

(Click on the images below to see captions)

Director’s Report by Nigel Durie

Usually I deliver a seminar on a holiday and then find no convenient hands from the play for illustration.  This time I was lucky and two hands were brought to my notice from the evenings preceding a seminar on splinter bids.

In a vacuum, in the absence of any interference, this looks like an ideal hand to illustrate splinter bidding:

  1. Splinter showing at least 4-card heart support, values for at least game opposite a minimum response from partner and a singleton or void in clubs.
  2. Roman Key Card Blackwood (RKCB)
  3. 0 or 3 of the 5 Key Cards (4 Aces and the K of trumps).

With at least a 10-card heart fit and a singleton herself, West can envisage slam if partner has the Key Cards and hence uses RKCB and finds all the desired controls.  She does not need to investigate the Q of trumps with a 10-card fit, and knows that the partnership probably has a combined 29-30 point count at the most (partner did not open with a strong bid) and hence subsides in 6 since she has no way of finding out about the strength of partner’s diamond suit.

Naturally things were not quite as simple on the night and opponents interfered as they are prone to do.  Could EW reach the slam?

  1. Cue Bid agreeing hearts and slam interest.
  2. RCKB
  3. 0 or 3 Key Cards

The next hand depends on the opening bid from South to a certain extent.  The slam is much easier to find after 1♣:

A possible bidding sequence:

A possible bidding sequence:

  1. Splinter showing a singleton heart, 4-card spade support and values for game at least opposite a potential minimum response by North (perhaps as few as 5-6 points).

Does North bid 4♠ or investigate slam?  On the plus side: it looks as though NS have no losers in the red suits, a 9-card spade fit and North has an excellent fit for South’s clubs.  On the minus side: North’s spades are not impressive.

Investigating aces will not really give North any more information as to whether to bid slam since it is the quality of South’s spade suit that matters. If she doesn’t have ♠AKQ then she will have most, if not all, of the missing points outside the heart suit.  The North who reported this hand found the best way to find out: he bid 5♠ asking partner to bid 6♠ if she had a strong spade suit.  South, of course, expects North to have the ♠K (or the ♠J at the very least) and hence bids 6♠.

As you can see there is no problem in the play since the spades break 2-2.  But what if East has three: K J 9 (If West has this combination then the slam always fails)?  Declarer cannot afford to ruff two hearts in dummy and draw trumps so has to focus on diamonds after ♠A and low towards ♠Q.  Luckily the ruffing finesse works and so 6♠ will still make.

And lastly here’s one I didn’t make the most of  as North in a teams competition recently:

As you can see 7♠ is cold – I didn’t even consider trying to find out about Kings outside the trump suit (not suspecting the heart singleton to be the K).  Having cursed my underbidding I was very relieved to find that our opponents were only in 4♠ so we gained 13 IMPs on the board.  My partner didn’t say a word.

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