News From the Bridge Room in Madeira

Host report by Barry & Maggie Watts

Have some madeira, m'dear
You really have nothing to fear
I'm not trying to tempt you, that wouldn't be right
You shouldn't drink spirits at this time of night
Have some madeira, m'dear

Madeira, roughly 500 miles south of Portugal and 500 miles west of Morocco, was one of the first discoveries of Henry the Navigator in 1419 but it is now discovered by over a million tourists a year. The Capital, Funchal, historically a safe port for vessels heading to South Africa and South America is today a popular stopover for commercial and trans-Atlantic passenger cruises between Europe, the Caribbean and North Africa. It is the richest part of Portugal after Lisbon and is a vibrant, beautiful city set in a staggeringly beautiful Atlantic island.

The island is noted for its Madeira wine, but its real beauty is its stunning landscapes and its flora and fauna. Its mountainous interior is high, rugged and challenging countryside but it is crossed by many roads and a surprising number of relatively easy walking paths following the route of Levadas; which are water channels bringing water from the wet, northern, side of the island to the more sheltered and dryer southern side. Most of the population live in the south where it is warm all year round with 4-8 hours of sunshine every day. The island has few flat surfaces; even the airport is built on stilts! Every building is built and farmland is terraced on slopes which are often precipitous.

The Pestana Bay hotel faces south west on a long sheltered pebbled beach in a quiet area west of Funchal. Every room is spacious with a balcony looking out at the Atlantic. The dawn is warm and welcoming and dramatic sunsets are laid on every night. At night, relaxing on the hotel terrace, the lights of the local fishermen and the occasional departing cruise liner are reminders of just how remote this beautiful place really is.


First for Bridge Team have been returning to Pestana Bay for many years. Andrew Kambites was again the Director, Barry and Maggie Watts were Hosts assisted by John Barker. The hotel is relatively small but spacious and comfortable. It runs like a family hotel so it is easier to get to know the staff who are always welcoming and helpful. The big change in recent years is that this holiday is now all-inclusive so the bridge can be less competitive at times! This didn’t deter us from running the usual variety of pairs and teams events which were popular as always. However, on this holiday it did lead to longer analyses of hand records and post-mortems in the bar afterwards. Andrew was on hand, for the price of a Poncha, or a glass of Madeira, to dispense solutions and amusing anecdotes.

Director's report by Andrew Kambites

This hand from the Madeira Championship Pairs finals illustrates typical thought processes from a slam auction:

If North/South are quiet a good auction without too many gadgets might well be as shown.

(i) Nowadays experts only jump shift as responder with a two-suiter if one of the suits is a fit with partner.
(ii) 3♦, a new suit at the 3-level, is game forcing.
(iii) Cue bids.
(iv) What does West know when he hears 5♦? Many players nowadays play a 1NT rebid as 15-17 and a jump rebid to 2NT as 18-19, but I will look at it from the point of view of those who play a 2NT rebid as 17-18. In that case West knows East has 17-18 points, including both minor suit aces. Could the second round of clubs be a problem? If East has either the ♣K or ♠A that card will look after West’s ♣9, so if he has neither of these cards what could he have? Maybe this hand:

In this worst case scenario 7♥ depends on the ruffing spade finesse.

How about if East has either the ♠A and/or ♣K? In that case the only card that matters is the ♦Q. If East has it the contract is lay down. If it is missing the contract is at worst on the diamond finesse and may well be much better, eg if East has:

If East has this hand West can discard all his diamond losers on dummy’s clubs if the ♣J falls in three rounds. Equally if a spade is led it might set up a spade winner for a diamond discard and you can then afford to ruff the fourth round of clubs to make dummy’s fifth club good. The diamond finesse is there as a fallback.

All these possibilities have one thing in common: 7♥ may be lay down and is at worst on a finesse. If you know that a grand slam is on a finesse you should avoid it but if it is at worst on a finesse but might be considerably better that is reasonable odds, especially as it seems likely here, that everybody will be in a slam.

Note that if West launched into some form of Blackwood after hearing 3♥ from East he would discover two aces (or key cards) opposite but would have no realistic way of discovering which ace was missing.

Of course if North/South use their huge fit to make life difficult for East/West then it may be impossible for them to bid a grand slam with any degree of confidence, for example:

The hand was played 13 times. Nobody bid a grand slam and five pairs missed slam altogether.

Random Teams Winners:

This was a two week holiday so we had two prize-giving sessions. The first week usually starts with a Random Teams event. It’s a good way to get to know each other but it is always a challenge.

Left to Right: Laurie and Maureen McIntosh, Andrew Kambites, Ingrid Kalisher and Gordon Powell.

Swiss Pairs Winners:

The Swiss Pairs competition is always a popular event because it presents a very good challenge for the best pairs in the room. Mike and Joan Bennett established a commanding lead on the first evening giving a target for the chasing pack. A strong start on the second evening almost put them out of reach but a strong performance on the last night by Phil Palmer and Jenny Flood left them only 5 VPs short.

Mike and Joan Bennett with Andrew Kambites.

Saturday Teams and Swiss Teams Winners:

A Teams of Four event during the first week was won by Amanda Barnes and John Hirons who partnered Andrew and Carol Gilmour. Flushed with success, they teamed up again to win the Swiss Teams event in the second week.

Left to right: John Hirons, Amanda Barnes, Andrew Kambites, Carol and Andrew Gilmour.

Championship Pairs Winners:

In the Championship Pairs event, after the qualifying heat Maureen and Laurie McIntosh were ahead with the teams winners, John Hirons and Amanda Barnes and Andrew and Carol Gilmour in 5th and 6th place. On the final evening the Gilmours pipped John and Amanda by 0.45% to take the prize.

Carol and Andrew Gilmour with Andrew Kambites.

Championship Pairs Consolation Winners:

In the Consolation Pairs Competition, David and Alex Sparkes were clear winners with 66.27%.

David and Alex Sparkes with Andrew Kambites.