Arena Travel Blog

  • Cascais Bridge

    News from Cascais Bridge Our first trip to Cascais exceeded expectations. As well as enjoying some fantastic bridge sessions, guests also had time to relax on the resorts beautiful beach, play golf or rejuvenate in the hotel spa. We stayed in the luxurious Grand Real Villa Italia Hotel and Spa where the hotel staff could not have been more helpful and efficient – nothing was too much trouble for them. Bridge sessions were played in the library used by King Umberto of Italy which, as might be expected, was a grand room. On two of the afternoons a group from the International Bridge Club of Estoril (just a short distance away) were invited to join us for a Pairs session. They added five tables of players to our numbers and both our guests and the visitors thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The hotel overlooked the sea, and on the days when the weather let us down the sight of the waves crashing on the beach was quite spectacular. Cascais centre is just a ten minute stroll from the hotel and there were a variety of restaurants, museums, galleries and shops. Also, a trip to Sintra was arranged and proved to be very popular. For those who wished to venture further afield, there was a train station with a regular direct service into Lisbon (at only €2.20 fare), well worth a visit. Finally, thanks to Jacquie Corbyn who was a great help and whose cheerful manner added to the atmosphere in the bridge room. From Jacky Baker News from the Bridge Room Bidding a Grand Slam We all look forward to picking up a real powerhouse of a hand. It is only when the bidding progresses beyond the inevitable Acol 2♣ (or Benji 2♦) opening bid and the equally inevitable negative response from partner that we begin to worry. In a hand from one of the evening sessions in Cascais South, with neither side vulnerable, picked up the following impressive collection: ♠ void  AKQ62  AK2  ♣ AKQJ6 Players who were using standard Acol were happy to be able to open with a 2♣ bid and, over the negative 2 response, rebid 2, game-forcing. Good news arrived at this point when partner raised to 4. Although this is weaker than a simple raise to 3 (which leaves more space to explore slam possibilities) it is still encouraging, as it is almost certainly based on four or more trumps. The problem now was how to proceed. With a slam almost certain there is perhaps an urge to bid 4NT, Blackwood. However, this urge must be resisted. The reply, almost certainly denying an ace, will hardly tell you whether a grand slam is on – only the most pessimistic of players will be thinking of stopping short of a small slam after partner’s heart support. Instead of relying on a convention, South should apply logic. Surely if there were any diamond losers then they could be discarded from dummy on declarer’s club suit, after first drawing trumps of course. For this to not be possible, dummy would have to have something like five diamonds and three clubs, when it would be possible to discard just two of the diamonds, perhaps leaving a losing diamond in dummy. However, assuming the raise to 4 is based on four trumps, this distribution (four hearts, five diamonds and three clubs) would leave room for only one spade. Surely the opponents, with twelve spades between them, would have found some way to enter the auction. So the only worrying distributions for partner are 1-4-4-4, when only one diamond discard on the clubs is available, or 0-5-3-5 (i.e. the same as the South hand) making it even more likely that the opponents would be bidding. Even then partner may contribute Q – a card that it is difficult to discover even for the most advanced bidders. All in all, it must be a reasonable gamble to bid the grand slam. For the record, partner (North) held  ♠ KQ6  108754  953  ♣ 75 and although the spade honours were not the cards that South needed, the contract was cold once the opening (diamond) lead was not ruffed. Declarer simply drew trumps and discarded a diamond from dummy on his club suit, as anticipated, before ruffing his third diamond in dummy. And the winners were... Championship Pairs winners Random Teams winners-1 Teams winner Teams winners
  • Cyprus Bridge

    News from Cyprus Bridge

    Whilst England fought the wettest January since 1766 the First For Bridge group were enjoying sunnier climes at the luxurious Athena Royal Beach Hotel in Paphos. Guests had the opportunity to relax on the beautiful beach, enjoy a massage at the tranquil Elixir Spa or try their hand at complimentary dance lessons and free bowling. It was lovely way of relaxing after the Christmas and New Year festivities. A first class hotel, managed superbly with wonderful staff and facilities. Having been a policeman for 30 years and running bridge holidays for 18 years you would have thought that we would have been past surprising but it did come as a bit of a shock when one of our regular female guests started giving us a demonstration of belly dancing saying she had been doing it for many years. Excellent food, excellent bridge directing by Andrew Kambites  and of course excellent company.  Many thanks to all concerned. Martin & Judy

    News from the Bridge Room

    Bridge throughout the fortnight was played in good humour and was enjoyed by all. Hands where both sides can make game are always of interest. There was a wide variety of results when this hand appeared in a pairs session. bridge   South usually opened a weak 2♠. After West's pass the spotlight was on North.   Although 4♠ is unbeatable for North/South because of the secondary club fit it is hard for North to envisage this.   When North passed the way was open for East to use a very useful gadget, called Leaping Michaels. After a weak two opener in a major by opponents a leap to four-of-a-minor shows the other major and the minor bid. Hence East could have bid 4 to show diamonds and hearts, at least 5-5 shape. 4 is not forcing but it clearly shows a good hand. The East hand is ideal. It is perfectly reasonable for East to assume his partner has something useful and at least tolerance for one of the red suits. West would then bid 4. This particular East/West pair were not playing Leaping Michaels so East just bid 4 and struck lucky. One North jumped to 4♠ over 2♠. East guessed 5 and seemed to strike lucky, but 4NT would be a far better bid, provided partner would understand it. 4NT is not Blackwood, for one thing no suit is agreed. In a contested auction with no suit agreed 4NT should show two places to play (at least 5-5 shape). West would initially assume East had the minors. On this hand he would clearly bid 5, but it is worth noting that if West had bid 5♣ East would have converted to 5, showing diamonds and hearts. Note that in both of these scenarios an expert East would have had a two suited overcall available. Two suited overcalls are very valuable in the contested auction because if you can show both of your suits it doubles your chances of finding a fit. Most Norths raised 2♠ to 3♠, pre-emptive rather than a game try. East could have bid 4NT to bring both suits into play, but given the opportunity to bid 4 he quite reasonably chose that option. The East who played in 5 initially misplayed it but subsequently gave North a chance to misdefend. South led the ♠K, ruffed by declarer. The correct way to tackle trumps is to start with the K, because it is then possible to pick up J 10 4 3 in the North hand by taking two marked finesses. (It is never possible to pick up J 10 4 3 in the South hand). However East took his eye off the ball by starting with the A. Now he had an inescapable trump loser. He continued with two more rounds of trumps and cashed the A K. He now had three inescapable losers, but he entered dummy with the ♣A and led a diamond. North fell from grace by using his master trump to ruff. He was effectively trumping his partner's winning diamond. North protested that he couldn't have known that South had a winning Q, but how could North possibly gain by trumping? Don't use a winning trump to ruff what might be a loser! And the winners were....  bridge 1 bridge2                                               bridge3bridge5       bridge4 Main winners Cyprus 2014 Random Teams Dot & Peter Kelly  &   Heather & Eric Wood Consolation pairs Clive & Rosemary Froggatt Main pairs Naomi Moltan & John Shand Swiss Teams Ken & Betty Baxter, Donald & Sheila Goodyear Swiss Pairs Michael Owen & Margaret Scurlock                              
  • News from Bristol Bridge

    New Year at Bristol

    While the rest of Britain coped with the worst storms in twenty years the First for Bridge group were enjoying a cosy New Year bridge break at the Mercure Hotel in Bristol. Guests had the opportunity to enjoy a dip in the pool or relax with a beauty or spa treatment between bridge sessions. If they wished to venture outside the hotel which is close to St Mary's Church in the heart of Bristol they could stroll around the refurbished docks area, or take a trip around the SS Great Britain or have a bargain seeking visit to the sales. The hotel staff were attentive and polite at all times and guests all commented on the delicious New Year's Eve Gala Dinner with champagne provided by Arena. Allan Sanis gave two excellent seminars on the Lebensohl Convention and Cue Bidding. These were well received by our group and Allan was persuaded to offer a 'run through the previous evening hands' talk. This lead to much discussion between partners! This was the first time Chris and I had hosted a First for Bridge holiday and we loved it! We hope to see again guests we met in Bristol on our next Arena holiday in Turkey in March. Until then Judith, Allan, Chris and I send you our good wishes for 2014. Ro & Chris
    News From the bridge room
    I was pleased to be asked to direct the fourteen bridge sessions offered over the New Year holiday in Bristol. The Mercure Hotel provided us with a lovely bridge room. We had windows all down one side, complimentary coffee and tea and even our own Christmas tree!
    The bridge was generally played in good humour and our varied programme was enjoyed by all.
    We had pre-dealt hands every evening and hand records to mull over during a drink at the bar after the bridge.
    This hand caused much discussion:
    The dealer was East with no-one vulnerable.
    KILLARNEY Bridge Hand
    After 2 passes West had to make a decision.  Many of our guests opened a Benji or Acol 2C followed at one table by North bidding a pre-emptive 3S.  East chose to pass.  Now South who had been to a seminar on bidding to the level of the fit, bid 4 Spades.
    Now what should West do? Options seemed to be:  a) 5C  b) 5H c) X  d)4NT (2 places to play? Blackwood?)
    West has to make a bid on a valuable 2 suited hand at the 5 level.  He doesn’t know if his partner has any points. Is he missing a slam?  Does he have to make a guess at which game to be in?  It is pairs, so is it important to play in a major suit?
    Some of us suggested that he should not have been in that position to start with.  It is often difficult to describe a 2 suited hand after an artificial bid.  How about opening a natural 1C?  It is unlikely to be passed and certainly makes it easier to later bid the heart suit.  It is still true that he might still be a little upset by a spade barrage from N/S.
    The power of the pre-empt continues!
    Happy New Year!
    Judy Sanis
    And The Winners Were...
    2.Chris with Arthur and Ann Kent – Winners of Open Pairs 2. Chris with Arthur and Ann Kent – Winners of Open Pairs
    Chris with Carolyn Fisher and Pat Watson – Winners of the New Years Eve Pairs Chris with Carolyn Fisher and Pat Watson – Winners of the New Years Eve Pairs
    Allan with John Wright, Hazel Drexler, Bob & Margaret Ainsworth  - Winners of Open Teams Allan with John Wright, Hazel Drexler, Bob & Margaret Ainsworth - Winners of Open Teams
    Allan with Patsy Ashford and Alan Fell – Winners of the Cabot Teams Allan with Patsy Ashford and Alan Fell – Winners of the Cabot Teams
    Judy with Janet and Tony Cundy –Winners of Welcome to Bristol Pairs 2 Judy with Janet and Tony Cundy –Winners of Welcome to Bristol Pairs 2
  • Stitchtopia In The News

    News of the STITCHTOPIA Festival (17 - 20 February 2014) is spreading with details appearing  in both Good Housekeeping and the Radio Times. Stuart Hillard from BBC's Great British Sewing Bee was interviewed for Good Houskeeping and, of course, he is one of our team of experts at STITCHTOPIA. To read the interview click here The Radio Times is running a competition linked to the STITCHTOPIA Festival. To see it (and enter), click here And - STITCHTOPIA also features in Mail Online. Click here to read the article.
  • Bridge in the Algarve Newsletter

    From Martin & Judy Holcombe It was exactly 12 months ago in October when Arena Travel took over the mantle of First for Bridge from Judy and myself. I don’t know how they manage it but their organisation of the weather is far better than Judy and I ever achieved; four weeks of wall to wall sunshine in Menorca during October followed by almost exactly that here in the Algarve during November. I have to say that Bob & Jacky Baker, Barry &  Maggie Watts record of sunny days exceeded ours in that they achieved  14 out of 14 whereas myself the two Judy’s and Allan only managed 12. The hotel was in a delightful position above a beautiful unspoilt beach.  Some of us took advantage of the glorious weather to walk to local villages or play golf at the excellent courses nearby. Trips to explore the Algarve proved very popular. The bridge room was very well appointed and the hospitality staff looked after us very well. Myself, Judy, Allan & Judy Sanis took over after the first 14 day, and it was really gratifying to hear the compliments about Barry, Maggie, Bob and Jacky who were directing and hosting during the first 14 days.  They were really a difficult act to follow. Bridge players are of course very discerning and those who were already in situ actually put us at our ease whilst embracing the new guests making them and us feel very much at home.  This was Judy and Allan Sanis’s first time in this particular role, they were excellent. I would like to thank them, Bob, Jacky, Barry & Maggie plus of course my Judy for making our first visit to the “Grand Real” Santa Eulalia resort hotel and spa so easy and enjoyable. Our thanks of course to all of you who participated during the four weeks. On behalf of the 8 of us and Arena Travel we wish you a merry Christmas, a happy and prosperous New Year. From Bob Baker One of the seminars which I give on holidays and usually proves popular is “Hands from the Night Before”. The set examined on the recent holiday (taken from the first session of our Swiss Pairs event) appeared at first sight to have fewer than usual hands of interest. However, when we came to look at them there were several with interesting points The first hand was as follows: North dealer. North South Vulnerable Bridge Hand North was the dealer, and at most tables West reached a contract of 4♠. This game usually made, sometimes with an overtrick after the reasonable opening lead of either the J or J. However, the hand records indicated that although a 4♠ contract played by East could not be defeated, when played by West the limit of the hand, on best defence, was nine tricks. Careful consideration showed why this was so. Suppose North finds the lead of the ♣Q - reasonable, as after two passes it is likely that South would open with 1♣. The ♣Q lead is covered by dummy’s ♣K and South’s ♣A, and at trick two South cashes ♣J. A third club from South would be ruffed by declarer’s ♠J (to avoid North winning a trick if he held ♠9 or ♠8) and when this holds, West cashes a top trump. He would be relieved to see South’s trump queen appear, and with North originally holding ♠986 the next play in trumps has to be a low card from declarer’s hand to dummy’s ♠10. First, though, declarer needs to cash K so that, when he is in dummy, he can take a trick with A. So, after ruffing the third club with ♠J, a top trump and K, declarer plays to dummy’s ♠10 (leaving one trump, ♠9, in the North hand). He can now cashA, discarding a low diamond - however, he cannot discard a second diamond on dummy’s ♣K as North would ruff this and the defence would still have ♦A to make. Instead, declarer could lead a diamond from dummy towards his ♦K, playing for South to hold A, as the bidding suggests. If South is awake he will step in with A on this trick (the third trick for the defence). Now a fourth round of clubs from South will promote North’s remaining trump into the setting trick - if declarer ruffs high then North’s ♠9 becomes a winner, if not then North ruffs with ♠9. Of course, played from the East hand there are no similar problems as it is the club lead from North at trick one that paves the way to the successful defence. Well done if your bidding methods get the spade game played from the East side (I don’t think I could manage that!) From Judy Sanis The power of the pre-empt. The bridge hands from the second half of our Algarve holiday were never dull.  So many times the brave bidder, taking full advantage of a fit and a few points, was amply rewarded. Take this hand from the Swiss Pairs as an example: Dealer W N/S Vul. Bridge Hand West opens 2.  A weak bid showing 5-9 points and a 6 card suit. Partner announces it as weak. North passes. East has just been to a First for Bridge seminar where he learnt about the Principle of Total Trumps!  He adds his 4 to his partners  known 6 card suit. As this comes to the sum of 10 he now bids to the level of the fit - 4.  Poor South has 22 points and  the only game that makes is 3NT. The best he can do is double and collect 300 for a bad board.  Without any competitive bidding S can open 2NT (20-22), N transfers to H and then bids 3NT over his partner's response. Contract made! And the winners were: Multiple Teams 1 Ulla Adilz, Kirsten Thompsett, June Retter and Kay O’Gorman Multiple Teams 1 Ulla Adilz, Kirsten Thompsett, June Retter and Kay O’Gorman Multiple teams 2 Frank  Yvonne Gutsell, David  Pat Jones             Multiple teams 2 Frank  Yvonne Gutsell, David  Pat Jones Random Teams Jo  Malcolm Thompson, Nigel Maggs and Jenny McDermott             Random Teams Jo  Malcolm Thompson, Nigel Maggs and Jenny McDermott Swiss Pairs Malcolm  Jo Thomson             Swiss Pairs Malcolm  Jo Thomson                  

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