Host report by Pauline Durie:
The chateau of the Counts of Challes, is a beautiful and charming hotel and restaurant located in Challes les Eaux close to Chambéry in the Savoie region. It stands within the walls of the former 15th century castle of the Counts of Challes. The chateau has been completely renovated by the Treves family who bought it as almost derelict in 2002. This wonderful accommodation is surrounded by a park of more than 2 hectares that is an arboretum and has several places to sit in the sun, or the shade, and enjoy the stunning panoramic views. Accommodation in the chateau is often referred to as ‘quirky’ as all rooms are different. The chef prepared typical French cuisine made entirely of fresh produce and dinner was accompanied by wine from the cellars. Guests were invited to visit the cellars for a wine tasting session – enjoyed by all! Bridge sessions were well attended and closely contested in an excellent air conditioned room. The lounge area near the bar was often filled with a mixture of French staff and bridge players enjoying some friendly banter in front of the large screen watching both football and Wimbledon. Good luck to France in the final!
Further afield a short stroll into Challes les Eaux with its local shops and Friday market was enjoyed on a regular basis. In temperatures of between 29 and 36 degrees walking further was a little draining though some hardy souls enjoyed the many splendid walking paths in the area. Some guests enjoyed a flight in a glider from the local airfield including Allan Spence (pictured below).
Two trips were included in the holiday, the first to Chambery allowed people to learn some of the history of the Savoie region and to visit the extensive market. In the Middle Ages the Earls of Savoie and the House of Savoie first gained great renown and power. At times, the territory of Savoie included parts of what is now France, Switzerland (including Geneva) and northern Italy, and has only been part of France since 1860!
A second tour to Aix-les-Bains included a boat trip on Lac du Bourg (the second largest in France) which allowed us to visit the very impressive Abbaye de Hautecombe – home to a growing community of young people and to some beautiful works of art.
The optional tour to Annecy – a place renowned for its charm and beautiful situation in the Alps – was also joined by several guests. The canal network in the old town, leading down to the lake, is lined with an array of restaurants and shops. A lovely place to stroll, browse and have lunch though this was the hottest day of the holiday at nearly 35 degrees so strolling was limited. A boat trip on the lake offered the opportunity to take in the majesty of the surrounding mountains.
Director’s report by Nigel Durie:
This was a hand from the Championship Pairs Qualifier illustrating a seminar topic on Fourth Suit Forcing. Before you read further, decide whether you would find the excellent NT slam rather than the club slam bid by 50% of the pairs on the night (the other 50% were in 3NT).
Can N/S bid to 6NT? What does South bid after:
South has a very useful looking hand with 16 points after partner’s 3♣ rebid. It is tempting to aim for the club slam at this point, but why not investigate a little further with a fourth suit bid of 3♥ to see what partner can tell you?
3NT shows a heart stop and probably no extra length in spades or clubs. Playing 4NT as a quantitative bid by South at this point (asking North to bid 6NT if holding more than he has already shown with the game forcing bid of 3♣), then North will gladly accept the invitation.
If you play 4NT as Blackwood then South will bid 6NT on finding three aces in North’s hand. At pairs 6NT will give you a good board so risking 7NT on the finesse is not worth it. Needless to say both my partner and I thought of bidding 6NT or converting 6♣ to 6NT on the night but didn’t and hence achieved just a joint top on the board.
In the same set a later board was not quite so dramatic but illustrated an important aspect of the play:
8 pairs reached the expected 3NT contract but 5 went 1 down (the other 3 pairs were in 4♠ or 5♦ all going 1 down as well).
The best lead of the ♥10 by South is probably indicated by the suit bids by EW. Now East needs to be careful to hold up the Ace until the third round, noticing that North overtakes the ♥9 to continue leading Heart honours. This suggests that North holds the heart length and will be the danger hand when it comes to deciding which minor suit finesse to take. Now East can safely finesse diamonds into the South hand losing, but bringing home the contract when the diamonds break 3-2.
Championship Pairs Winners: Gill & David Gold
Swiss Pairs Winners: Graham Walker & Rose Windler
Random Teams Winners: Graham Walker, Rose Windler & Margaret Major (Aileen Cunningham missing)
Teams Joint Winners: Richard Taylor, Heather Harvey, Mollie Bell, Barbara Fisher and Moyra Booth, Mark Zeffertt, Sylvia Finnimore, Olwen Parry