News from the Bridge Room in Makarska

Host report by Rob Richardson

The Valamar Meteor Hotel on the Dalmatian coast in Croatia must be one of the most relaxing places on Earth at this time of year (late October). It is situated overlooking the mill pond calm deep blue Adriatic Sea in which many of our guest swam daily. The Sea temperature was reported to be about 20C. Behind the hotel is the stunningly beautiful Biokovo Mountain, a view which many of us woke up to every day. We only had one cloudy day in the entire two weeks we were there, with temperatures in the mid to high 20’s for the other 13 days!

The daily organised walks from the hotel proved popular as did the aqua aerobics in the outdoor pool. One or two of the more intrepid guests had a longer walk up into the Biokovo Mountain, which is a nature reserve. The bus station is only a short walk from the hotel and most of our group took the 45 minute panoramic bus trip along the coast to Omis. Omis is situated at the mouth of the Cetina River and as such has always been strategically important to whoever has ruled this area. It has a very interesting and  beautiful old town dating from when it was part of the Kingdom of Venice. The more intrepid travellers climbed the top of the Peovica Tower dating from the 13th century. This involved countless stairs and a final ascent of a metal ladder. The view is worth the effort. On the way up we passed a pill box built by the Italian Army during World War Two which served to confirm the strategic importance of this spot. As the Cetina leaves Omis it flows through a very beautiful gorge, and may of us took the boat trip up and down the gorge.

The highlight of the holiday for me however was the day near the start of the holiday when most of us had a day out on a boat on the Adriatic. We walked down to the harbour and boarded the Vruja, an 80 year old wooden boat with 2 decks and 2 masts. We sailed gently along the coast, in brilliant sunshine to the small harbour at Brela where we picked up a group of Polish pilgrims, and then across to Povlja on the island of Brac. En route we were served a small clear spirit. After drinking this a discussion ensued as to if it was meant to be drunk or if it was for cleaning the table. Eventually it was agreed that it was a drink and furthermore once the first sip killed all taste buds it became quite pleasant.  At Povlja most of us accompanied the pilgrims up a hill to the Ranokrscanska Basilica, which was the purpose of their visit. This is the oldest basilica in Europe. Whilst we were ashore the small crew prepared a lunch for us of mackerel (or chicken), salad and bread served with excessive quantities of wine (none of which was wasted). My taste buds having fully recovered from their earlier experience I thoroughly enjoyed the meal. After visiting the small harbour at Pucisca we returned to the mainland just in time for our evening meal. The whole experience was so pleasant that some of us repeated it the following week, this time visiting Sumartin on Brac and the other nearby island of Hvar.

Here’s hoping we come back soon.


Prize Winners

(Click on the images below to see captions)

Director’s Report by Mark Hooper

Here is an interesting bidding decision, from the first day of the Championship pairs.   As North you pick up the following hand

West passes, to you ?

This is close to an Acol strong 2 opening, and some might do so.   But with only 14 HCP in the hand, partner could have a lot which is wasted and we get too high.   And with this number of points missing, 1 isn’t going to get passed out

Assuming you do choose to open the hand with 1 what do you continue with when partner bids 1♠ ?

I hate to not show partner 4 card support, but the difference in suit quality gives you a decision.   The problem is the lack of values in spades.   It is possible to construct hands for South where a heart contract makes more tricks than spades.   Even if South has very little in hearts, they could have values outside of spades which allow the small spades to be discarded.   E.g. give partner Txxx of spade, AK of diamonds and AK clubs.   Now we just need the hearts to break reasonably to have 12 tricks in hearts (or NT), but we need the spades 3-2 to make even 11 in spades

There are lots of other reasons why hearts might make more tricks:

If partner has only 4 spades, then a bad break in the suit could again mean a spade contract making fewer tricks.   In hearts, you are much better able to cope with a bad break.

The North hand might get forced by diamond leads playing in spades.   Give partner QJxx of spades and 1 heart (and ♣KQ).   Then hearts is losing just 1 clubs and 1 spade, but on a diamond lead a spade contract could go several off.   We have to ruff the lead, we have to ruff again when we lose to the King of spades, and we have no quick entry to draw the last trump.

If I had to just choose which game to bid, I might bid 4 for the above reasons.   But of course if partner has a good hand I want to look for slam.   It seems much more likely we will find a slam by showing South our spade support, than repeating the hearts.   It is difficult to find a bid which describes the hand if bidding hearts other than 4; which partner might pass, even with a good hand, without heart support.   Whereas if I support spades, partner is much more likely to be encouraged.   The best bid in this case, is a splinter bid of 4.   A bid of 4 here shows a hand with the playing strength for game, 4 card spade support and a void or singleton diamond.   The difficulty of finding slam was borne out by the results.   More people were in hearts, but some missed the slam; whereas all the pairs in spades bid slam.

On the day both slams were good, and should be reached even if you bid 4.   South’s hand was

As you can see the heart slam is where you would prefer to be.   With 9 hearts between you, solid down to the Jack, even a 4-0 break doesn’t cause a problem.   Ruffing a diamond doesn’t harm you at all.   But in a spade contract a 4-1 break would cause problems.  On a diamond lead you would ruff, but could not draw all the opponent’s trumps.   If you draw 3 rounds of trumps you don’t have any left in the North hand, and when the opponents ruff hearts they have the A to cash.   As it happened there were no bad breaks so either slam made.

No-one found the grand slam, which would need quite sophisticated methods to find the missing Ace was opposite a void.   Of course, as happens in pairs, the top spot went to the 1 pair in 6NT, making 13 tricks.   Unlike the major suits slams, 6NT can be held to 12 tricks on the lead of A.   When this wasn’t found, 6NT scored a top.

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