News from the Bridge Room in S’Algar, Menorca

Host report by Pauline Durie and Jacky Baker

Menorca is a fabulous island and S’Algar resort is in a wonderful location that offers everything needed for a bridge holiday. A first-class hotel with excellent staff, led by Javier, that couldn’t be more attentive to our every need. Walk out of the door and be greeted by a promenade along the sea front or wander over to the pool bar for a coffee. The dining room has a lovely terrace that offers beautiful views over the sea. The food is very good and is always freshly prepared by the team of chefs. The playing room is spacious and overlooks the pool and the sea so when the bridge is tough it is easy to remind ourselves of the finer things in life.

The hotel provides a regular shuttle bus service into the capital Mahon with its fabulous harbour where you can board a tram to sightsee the area or take a boat trip round the harbour. The hotel also offers a shuttle to Punta Prima, just minutes away, with its lovely beach and promenade of shops, bars and restaurants. Hire a car for the day or join an excursion to explore more of Menorca with its innumerable archaeological sites and beautiful bays. Walking is popular and the island offers very well -maintained routes that allow you to explore less accessible spots. The old capital of Ciutadella with its imposing cathedral, cobbled shopping streets and bustling harbour is well worth a visit.

We were fortunate that the weather was excellent for the whole holiday and lounging by the pool or swimming in the sea were popular activities. Several guests followed the lovely walk along the sea front to Alcaufar which has a small beach and a terraced restaurant to enjoy tapas overlooking the sea. Some ventured onwards to the fortified tower and even further on to the popular seaside resort of Punta Prima.

The bar terrace was the meeting place for many guests following the bridge and discussions of the play were lively at times. First time visitors to the resort were made to feel very welcome by the many returning First for Bridge guests. We are delighted that we will be returning here next year and that many guests have already indicated they will be joining us.

Prize Winners

(Click on the images below to see captions)

Director’s Report by Nigel Durie

One theme of the holiday was Safety Play and the other was the Losing Trick Count (LTC).  The LTC is a very useful tool to supplement the normal point count when evaluating your hand.  It can only be used when you have a known suit fit of 8 or more cards and is particularly useful on distributional hands.

A very brief and basic summary:

In order to determine your losers consider only the first 3 cards in each suit, longer cards are counted as winners since the fourth card in a suit is always a potential winner.

With three or more cards in a suit, count the ace, king and queen as winners – any other card is a loser.
With only two cards in a suit, count only the ace and king as winners.
With a singleton count only the ace as a winner. Any other card is a loser.
With a void you have no losers.

Once you become more experienced in using the tool you will realise that it can be more sophisticated than this (obviously A x x in a suit is a definite 2 losers whereas Q x x is likely to be more than 2 and should probably be counted as 2 ½ losers). I’ll leave those considerations to your further reading.

Once you have counted your losers and estimated partner’s (e.g. an opening bid is assumed to be at most 7 losers) then add the two numbers together and subtract the total from 24.  The final result is the number of tricks you should expect to make in your suit contract.

This hand from the second week illustrates the LTC and some safety:

  1. New suit at the 3 level sets up a game forcing situation.
  2. West may as well show the 4 card suit with values that could not be shown earlier due a lack of strength.
  3. “I have a 6 card suit partner and think the spade contract would be better than NT if you have some support”
  4. Now West is aware of the 8 card spade fit and can use the LTC.  East can be assumed to have 7 losers at the most since he is forcing to game when West has shown a minimum opening of 7 losers.
    7 + 7 = 14, and 24 – 14 = 10, so West can see 10 tricks at least in spades and can bid game.

The best lead from South is probably a small heart which goes round to the J and A.  There are definitely 2 losers in spades and possibly one in clubs but there seems to be only one entry to dummy in hearts and this is needed for making the K and K Q.  Thus declarer needs to play A before tackling the spades.

How should the trump suit be played to score 4 tricks? 

It is no use playing towards the ♠Q because when this loses to a high honour the ♠J will fall next time to the other honour and only 3 tricks will be made.  Thus after the A West leads towards the ♠J.  If it is taken by South with the ♠K then there are only 2 spade losers since the ♠Q J will handle the ♠A 10 for one more loser only.  If South ducks (unlikely)  and the ♠J is taken by the A then East will need to duck a spade in both hands next time he gets in, hoping that the ♠K was doubleton.  Before then, however, East will need to take the club finesse to maximize his tricks at pairs. Thus if North leads a club,  it should be run round to the ♣Q, otherwise a red suit lead is taken in dummy followed by the cashing of the red suit winners (discarding clubs from hand) and then the club finesse.  The result will be 11 tricks for EW and a top board since those who opt to play in 3NT will only score 10 tricks against good defence.

The second hand from week 1 illustrates the fact that all our bidding tools, such as LTC, are very good most of the time but can come unstuck on occasions:

1  West has 3 – card support for spades and a little better than a minimum opening.

2  East has 5 spades so even if West has only 3 they have a fit.  West has 7 losers with spades as trumps and combining these with the 7 losers anticipated in the West hand he can see 14 losers and hence 10 tricks in a spade contract.  Thus East bids 4♠

As you can see the contract will drift at least one off because there are 4 losers in the minor suits even if the opposition do not find the heart lead for ruffs in the North hand.  Even then 8 tricks would appear to be the maximum available.   So, just like the point count for assessing hands, the LTC is not infallible, but is a very useful addition to your armoury.

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