News from the Bridge Room in Aguilas

Host report by Pauline Durie

It is well known amongst First for Bridge guests that Val manages to find amazing venues for our bridge holidays and she has come up ‘trumps’ again! This venue had it all – situated on a beach front with an easy promenade into the town with its tapas bars and hill top castle in one direction, whilst in the other direction we were treated to paella on the beach for lunch in one beach restaurant and a fish lunch in the other.

The hotel provided a comfortable terrace for a snack or a drink or to sit and read a book in the sunshine – yes we had two weeks of glorious sunshine though the wind was a bit chilly at times. The hotel chefs provided a variety of excellent dishes and were always on hand to cook special requests to order. Fresh fish cooked on a skillet while we waited was very popular. The hotel also provided paddle tennis courts (a game with elements of squash and tennis) where several energetic guests (led by the director) enjoyed hours of competition.

The tours were excellent with very knowledgeable and interesting guides. Cartagena was particularly popular – the first electrically powered submarine is proudly displayed in the harbour and the discovery of a Roman theatre under several layers of buildings was quite remarkable. The Roman amphitheatre is yet to be excavated because it has been buried under the now-disused bull ring; next time? A boat trip around the lovely harbour and coast line ending with a walk in a British-engineered rail tunnel, leading to the pier in Aguilas, gave a real insight into the industrial past of the town. Continuing the industrial theme, the hotel arranged an extra impromptu tour to the desalination plant – a vast automated complex overseen by just 20 employees; a glimpse into possible solutions to water shortages world-wide. Not sure how many of our guests expected to learn about reverse osmosis on a bridge holiday! On the same tour we visited a cherry tomato nursery and their packing factory. A very different tour but given the thumbs up by the 24 people that came along.

Bumble bees were used to pollinate the tomato plants thus reducing the need for insecticides.

The bridge room was large and bright and all sessions were well attended with Chicago played on several afternoons. People enjoyed the usual discussions in the bar at the end of the session. The exception being when a large group of Spanish guests arrived and some of our guests joined in with the music and dancing into the early hours whilst others resorted to ear plugs!

An excellent holiday with many thanks to our guests who made our life easy. Look forward to seeing you again.

‘A Spanish Reverse’ by John Bulmer & John Jackson

One might be familiar with the reverse bid in ACOL showing extra strength and distribution; hopefully bringing rewards at the bridge table: our companions, enjoying a bridge holiday along the sunny, southern Spanish coast at Aguilas took the opportunity to examine a far more important reverse process; providing much-needed success at dining tables internationally.


The vast plains along the Aguilas coastline are blessed with rich soil and ample sunshine, but given rainfall at a paltry average of only 14 inches per year, have insufficient water to cultivate the vegetable and fruit crops under their extensive rows of protective polythene tunnels and giant plastic greenhouses, which stretch impressively for kilometre after kilometre into the distance … often surrounded by almond orchards, delightfully in flower during our February stay (Japanese tourists especially would revel in this Hanami).

Desalination Technology

The agricultural industry is supported by a massive desalination plant, designed by the global construction company Sacyr; whose local manager was kind enough to offer a presentation in English, then conduct a tour of the facility, all at short notice.

The critical reverse osmosis process pumps seawater under very high pressure around the outer ring of specially-designed tubes. An inner ‘skin’ (think onion) acts as a series of semi-permeable membranes which pass most of the water but only 1/80th of the salt content into a central collection pipe. To achieve the necessary 65 atmospheres of pressure (30 times that of your car tyre) requires enormous electrical current.

Output is a staggering 180,000 cubic metres daily, or 2 cubic metres per second … equivalent to 2 tonnes of water for drinking/irrigation each second. The by-product is carefully returned to the sea as strong brine.

I have selected this picture above many others for the following elements:

  • In the centre-foreground, huge green and pink pipes. The noise levels in this building were such that I could not ask and can only guess that one colouring contains the desalinated water and the other the concentrated briny by-product.
  • Also receding from the foreground, rows of heavy-duty cables, no doubt carrying the immense electrical currents powering the installation.
  • Centre, flanking to the left and right, blocks of the specialist white-coloured plastic ‘tubes’, supporting the critical reverse osmosis process.
  • In the distant centre, the diminutive control room, barely discernible but with two windows gleaming.

And that water is used in part for…

Tomato Production

The Dutch firm of Looije Agrotechnics have been growing cherry tomatoes in Holland for many years and in Aguilas for the last 21 years. The site manager here too provided a tour (of 2 facilities) in English – and free product tastings, complete with tasting guidelines!

The company’s huge, plastic-covered greenhouses – 20 feet in height – accommodate a very carefully controlled ecosystem:

  • Bumble bees are purchased from Nautpol to aid pollination
  • The atmosphere is enriched with CO2 to increase growth
  • Artificial heat is rarely required (perhaps 2 or 3 days a year)
  • Yellow fly-paper, visible top-right, is used to trap a proportion of unwanted insects
  • Natural pesticides are employed in almost all cases

Plants are grafted to sprout in bags of perlite. Whilst this may look like a grow-bag of compost, the perlite simply acts as an anchor for the roots; water and nutrients are fed systematically by two tubes, so the culture is essentially hydroponic. The fruit is picked weekly by hand.

Looije have just (we could smell the paint drying!) opened a €4.8 million sorting and packing centre to handle both their own tomatoes and those of 12 other growers in a cooperative venture. The facility can handle up to 12 million Kg of produce per year, distributing to 10 countries (bought any toms. or salad boxes from M&S or Waitrose recently?).

Thank You

This marvellous, informative, impromptu tour; over and above those offered for the area’s newly-burgeoning tourism (the historic cities of Lorca, Murcia and Cartegena), was arranged courtesy of our hotel contact Olga and our bridge host Pauline Durie. We toasted their efforts with an of Rioja during lunch at the smashing fish restaurant next door to the hotel!

Hasta luego amigos!

Director’s Report by Nigel Durie

The two hands that follow occurred in our Butler Pairs event and hence bidding and making a game contract was a priority without worrying about overtricks. The opposition’s priority, of course, will be to defeat the contract if possible.

In the first the game contract of 4 was generally bid and made, although careful play was needed to ensure the contract.

A possible auction:

South’s singleton ♠J is a wasted point but the shape is attractive with the remaining points in the long suits. After North bids the second suit South can see game is on, having a 6-loser hand with the heart fit.

North also has wasted points in the form of singleton Q so if South decides to pass initially, they should still reach game via the sequence:

North ends up as declarer and needs to be careful if the initial lead is a club. This is fairly obviously a singleton, in which case losing to the ♣K followed by a club ruff and entry to the West hand via a diamond honour and another club ruff will mean the contract goes down. Thus South must rise with the ♣A and draw trumps, avoiding the finesse since losing to the Q when there is still a trump at large could mean defeat if East has the third trump (North would lose ♣K, K, club ruff and Q). As it happens the Q falls in 2 rounds of trumps and so North can make 11 tricks losing only ♣K and a top diamond.

If North does take a club finesse on the initial lead losing to ♣K followed by a club ruff, can EW ensure the entry back to East for the second ruff? How does E show the diamond entry? By leading his smallest club (♣3) for the first ruff suggesting an entry in the lower ranking of the two remaining suits so that East can underlead the A. West must trust his partner as indicating the only way to take the contract off.

The EW pair who got into the bidding with diamonds suffered the worst score on the night when 5 doubled went 3 off for -500 compared to the game score of -420 or -450.

The second hand led to some lively discussion. I’ll leave you to decide on the best bidding sequence:

Several Souths ended up in 3NT after devaluing their 15 points to open 1NT because of the doubleton QJ honours in the short suit. They were defeated by up to 4 tricks with the 6 diamond and 2 spade losers available to EW. Presumably North had gambled on making all those club tricks plus two more before EW could make more than 4 tricks. Those NS pairs who found the 4♠ contract fared much better and avoided the trap of trying to draw trumps immediately after a club lead from East.

A club lead is very likely to be a singleton so a spade continuation after winning with Q will lead to: 2 spade losers, 1 diamond and a club ruff. One down. A little thought before playing to the second trick will enable South to see that the singleton diamond in dummy can be discarded on a heart, hence destroying communication between the EW hands. So at trick 2 the A is used to drop the K followed by the Q to discard the diamond. Now, on the lead of a spade, West can duck to let East win and give him a club ruff, but he will be ruffing with the ♠K which is a natural trick anyway. Otherwise West can take the ♠K straight away but has no means of getting to East to give him the club lead for the ruff.

From now onwards careful play with diamond ruffs in dummy and discards of losers in hand on the clubs from dummy will enable the contract to be made with the loss of three spade tricks.

Prize Winners

Please click on the images to see the captions.

Comments (1):

  1. Richard Cleminson

    March 14, 2019 at 10:35 am

    A very nice week of bridge with a great Director and Host. The hotel and area grew on me during the week. I especially enjoyed that lack of tourists. A venue to return to.

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