News from the Bridge Room in Madeira 2018

Host report by Janette & Toby Mace

Madeira was named the wooded island (Ilha da madeira) when it was discovered in 1419 on an expedition sent out by Henry the Navigator. It and the neighbouring islands of the archipelago, Porto Santo and the Ilhas Desertas, are actually 5 million year old volcanoes rising out of the Atlantic with spectacular cliffs and ravines.

The climate is pleasant all year round with sub-tropical vegetation and some beautiful gardens, such as those created by the English Madeira wine producers Blandys. Madeira is famed for its levada walks, accessible via carefully constructed irrigation channels (levadas) criss-crossing the island.

Our guests enjoyed a day long minibus trip capturing the spectacular cliff tops and views, with an easy levada walk followed by a sumptuous tea at a local house. There were also opportunities for pilot whale and dolphin watching, as well as a jeep safari into the wild countryside.

Our hotel faced directly onto the sea, with every room having a wonderful sea view. The dining room had an outside terrace – great for sunny breakfasts and lunches and wonderful sunsets over the sea.

There was a regular free shuttle bus into the capital Funchal (the place where fennel grows). Funchal has a lively fish and vegetable market (although they are wise to us tourists and grapes are cheaper on street corners). There is also an atmospheric old town and cathedral. Fish is plentiful and cheap, as is poncha (punch), the fishermen’s local tipple.

Director’s report by Andrew Kambites

This fascinating hand came during the random teams of four.

Auction A looks fairly standard. 2♥ is game forcing and should show either a truly excellent heart suit or a good heart suit and at least four card support for diamonds. In other words, responder only jumps in a new suit if he has a pretty good idea of the final denomination. It is not sensible to jump shift just because you have 16 points if your hand doesn’t meet one of these conditions. While it might be comforting to have forced to game you will learn far more about partner’s hand if you simply bid a forcing 1♥. Partner is then quite likely to make a limit bid which will give you a good indication of the appropriate level, whereas if you jump shift partner will feel he can keep the bidding low.

North’s 3♥ shows truly excellent hearts. If South chooses to try 3NT North may feel tempted to check on aces before bidding a slam, but would 4NT be Blackwood? No suit has been agreed and normally if no suit is agreed and the last bid was no-trumps then 4NT is quantitative, and South would be justified in passing. From North’s point of view it is highly unlikely that two aces are missing so 6NT is a practical bid.

West’s obvious lead is a passive club. South takes the ♣A and cashes ♥A K Q, conceding the fourth round to West when hearts break 3-2. East is on lead in this position.

East has seen West discard the ♣9 so it is clear that West has led passively from a MUD holding like ♣ 9 8 5. Therefore a club exit is safe. Declarer takes the ♣Q but is one trick short and seems to need either the spade finesse or the diamond finesse. Which should he take? The answer is that he should try to combine the chances in both suits. First cash the ♠A K (in case the ♠Q is doubleton) and then if the ♠Q doesn’t fall he can fall back on the diamond finesse. Of course this may involve going more than one off if the diamond finesse fails as the defenders might have spade tricks to cash, but playing teams of four it pays to give everything to fulfilling your contract.

So should North always succeed in 6NT? Suppose East chooses to exit with a diamond on winning the fourth heart? This looks a slightly unnatural play, after if declarer has a finesse position in diamonds it is working for him and East might feel reluctant to help declarer take it. However if declarer needs the diamond finesse he will surely take it and a diamond switch by East now has the merit of making declarer decide whether he needs the diamond finesse before he has explored the spades. In practice declarer is likely to rise with the ♦A and rely on the spades. This features an aspect of defence that players find very hard to appreciate. East knows any diamond finesse is working for declarer, but declarer doesn’t know this.

Of South might choose to raise to 4♥ rather than bid 3NT, as in auction B. After all, North has jump shifted in hearts and then rebid hearts.

Now North is declarer and he has another option that combines chances in spades and diamonds. Suppose East avoids the singleton spade lead and tries a club, the unbid suit. This is perfectly reasonable because a spade lead is all too likely to expose any spade honour West might hold unless it leads to a ruff. Now declarer wins the ♣A, cashes ♥A K Q and can try to ruff out the ♦K in three rounds, falling back on the spade finesse if this fails. He lacks the entries to dummy to ruff three diamonds and the ♦K fails to fall so does this line end in failure? He now cashes both black kings. Look at the position with three cards left.

Declarer leads a spade, intending to finesse dummy’s ♠J. East has no spades left but what can East do? If he ruffs he is using a winning trump to trump his partner’s spade trick. If he discards the ♦K then declarer takes dummy’s ♠A and discards the spade loser in his hand on dummy’s master ♦Q. So East throws the ♣J, but declarer can now win dummy’s ♠A and trump the ♦Q with his ♥9, leaving East with the frustration of trumping West’s spade winner at trick 13. Pretty!

Prize Winners

Hover over image to see captions.

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