News from the Bridge Room in Malta

Host Report by Chris & Andy Simmons

Malta is an island between Sicily and North Africa in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. For our first visit we were blessed with lovely sunny weather so guests were able to enjoy the many good value trips to explore the culture and heritage of this special place. Buses were plentiful and extremely cheap so guests could easily go off on their own ventures. Geared up for British tourists the hotel was exceptionally friendly towards our group. Rooms were comfortable and well equipped and staff made a special effort to keep the bridge room serviced with refreshments.

There was lots of choice on offer for meals where guests could book into Brazilian, Italian or Asian specialty restaurants to get something a bit different although the main buffet was magnificent in itself. A nice touch was that on two evenings the hotel gave First For Bridge guests exclusive access to two of these restaurants and opened them early so we could enjoy the experience and still get to bridge on time afterwards. The lobby bar area was popular for post competition discussions and socialising. Late all-inclusive drinks were available including cocktails like the much loved “After 8” or the “db Special”. For the active there were interesting walks to nearby sites like Popeye Village that was created for the film starring Robin Williams, and The Red Tower with magnificent views of Gozo and Comino.

Once again, First For Bridge succeeded in having all tables fully occupied with no sit-outs. We never quite knew how many tables were going to play and Rob’s support keeping up the numbers up was invaluable so many thanks to him. With a full and varied programme bridge organised by our distinguished bridge director, many interesting trips and lots of socialising this holiday was altogether a huge success.

Director Report by Andrew Kambites

This hand was played in a Malta teams-of-four session. The right contract for East/West is clearly 3NT, however at only 3 of the 16 tables at which it was played did East/West find this contract. Some pairs failed to reach game, others played in 5♣ by West which is likely to fail on a heart lead.

Against 5♣ North will lead his singleton heart. South takes the ♥Q, cashes the ♥A and continues with a third heart. Declarer can succeed in elegant fashion by trumping with the ♣K, finessing dummy’s ♣9, cashing the ♣A and ♠A, returning to hand with the ♦A and running his trumps. Just before he leads the last trump is played here are the remaining cards. The ♣2 now squeezes North, who has to discard a diamond in order to keep his spade guard. The ♠J is discarded from dummy and declarer can make four diamond tricks with the aid of the diamond finesse. Not surprisingly this elegant and successful line was not found!

Note that an expert declarer can make life tricky for South by following smoothly with the ♥J at trick 1. South cannot then tell whether North started with ♥9 5 doubleton or the ♥9 singleton. If declarer started with a singleton ♥J then South must avoid leading a second heart.

So how can East/West get to the far easier contract of 3NT? Some East/West pairs had no good excuse, but life is made hard if North/South are playing weak jump overcalls and the auction starts like this: It looks natural for West to bid 4♣, however West should be reluctant to bypass 3NT. The flexible call is double. Double of a suit bid below 3NT should not be penalties. Negative doubles of one and two level can have quite specific meanings, for example most people play that 1♣: 1♠: Dbl shows four hearts or four cards in each of the two unbid suits (in this case the red suits). Higher doubles have to be more flexible: showing general values. Here double has two advantages over 4♣.

  1. It leaves room for partner to bid 3NT, which he gratefully accepts here.
  2. Occasionally East will have good enough heats to pass the double, effectively turning West’s takeout double into a penalty double. At one table South played in 3♥ doubled, giving East/West an excellent score of +500.
Remember, if opponents pre-empt you they have taken away your bidding space, but they have also given you another option, double. Double is frequently the most practical answer.

Prize Winners

Random Teams Red Section: Lamorna Burwood-Smith, Tony Burwood-Smith, Daphne Woodard & Christine Matteucci Random Teams Green Section: Pat Roundhill, June Gallant, Christine Dean & Barrie Cavell Swiss Pairs winners: Sandra Richman & Max Richman Malta Teams Red Section: Beverley Thomson, Christine Wright, Jackie McNeil & Bernard Cullen Malta Teams Green Section: Mike Kelsey, Marion Kelsey, Christine Dean & Barrie Cavell Championship Pairs: Valerie Wormleighton & Chris Wormleighton Consolation Pairs: Alan Foan & Pam Penfold (absent from photoshoot) Swiss Teams: Mike Appleton, Maggie Appleton, Valerie Wormleighton & Chris Wormleighton