News from the Bridge Room in Paphos

Host report by David Gold

Due to popular demand First for Bridge were delighted to return to the extremely popular Athena Royal Beach Hotel in Paphos.

With its justified reputation for facilities, comfort, excellent food, and personal service it again lived fully up to expectations. In addition to its spa, and pools, the hotel offers outdoor and indoor bowls facilities, which were taken up by several of our guests.

The hotel is on the seaside promenade, and there is a delightful easy walk into the harbour, and the town, for those not wishing to take the local bus from outside the front door.

Paphos combines the new with the old, and just next to the harbour is the archaeological site with its spectacular mosaics, particularly in the House of Dionysos.

Also for those interested in times gone by, is the Tomb of the Kings. This is a huge site with a large number of underground burial chambers, in the style of catacombs. It is on the edge of the cliffs, and there’s lots of potential to explore the enormous number of ancient burial places.

There are several tours available to take you all over the island, going to Famagusta, Keryneia and Nicosia, and several guests hired cars to visit as much as they could, on their own.

A memorable trip is up the Troodos mountains, and a visit to the spectacular Kykkos Monastery which was the home of Archbishop Makarios, and whose tomb is guarded by armed soldiers.

A few miles to the east of Paphos, and a pictuesque drive along the clifftops is the city of Limassol, with its quaint little streets and amazing castle.

Director’s Report by Mark Hooper

Breaking the rules

Rules in bridge are made to be broken. They are often guidelines, not laws to be slavishly followed. The following hand occurred on the penultimate evening, with a number of instructive points about bidding and defence. Starting with a good example of breaking the rule about the card to play when returning partner’s suit.

You are West on the above hand. South is in 1NT, after North has opened 1. The lead is the ♠J, dummy covers with the Queen, and you play your King, declarer playing the 6. What spade should you play back?

The ‘rule’ for returning partner’s suit says to play back the original 4th highest if we started with 4 or more, otherwise to play back our highest card. So it says to play the ♠8 here. The idea is that partner can usually work out how the suit lies from which card we play. If partner has 4 spades and we play back the 2, they will think that we started with only 2 spades and that declarer has the last spade. But here there is a problem with the 8, can you see it? Try to visualise the layout of the spade suit

  • Declarer has not bid spades so has a maximum of 3, partner having least 3
  • The lead of the J suggests top of a sequence or an interior sequence, so the Jack suggests that partner has the Ten and either the 9 or the Ace
  • The fact that our King won the trick makes it very likely that East has AJT (with 1 or more other cards)

If this is the case, we can work out that most of the time partner doesn’t need us to tell them how many spades we started with. If East started with 5 spades then declarer will show out on our return, and partner’s AT9 will draw all of dummy’s spades, leaving the 4 as a winner. If East started with 3 spades, then we cannot ever make more than 3 spade tricks. The relevant layouts are when East has exactly 4 spades, when the card we play will tell him who has the last spade. If we play the 2 East will think that declarer has the last spade, but if we play the 8, then the fact that declarer played the 6 the first time will suggest that we have the last spade. But even then, if East started with AJT9 they don’t need to know who has the last spade, they can see that they have all of the tricks. There is 1 further clue from the play to the first trick, declarer played the 6, who has the ♠4? It is possible that declarer false carded, but it looks like East started with specifically AJT4. Suggesting (as indeed was the case), the following layout:

Can you see what will happen if we ‘slavishly’ return the 8 of spades? Declarer will play the 9, partner will win with the Ten and the remaining spades will be:

Our side only have 1 more spade trick, and we have generated a spade trick for declarer.

However if we return the ♠2, then the following cards will remain

Our lowly 8 has become a winner and we can take the 2 more spade tricks

Of course the problem with returning the ♠2 is that when declarer follows, partner will know we didn’t start with 4 spades, so will take us to have started with only 2, and declarer to have the missing 8; so they won’t find the play of the ♠4 back to our 8. But if declarer has the ♠8, East should not be playing spades at all, because it will set up a winner for declarer. On the above hand we will win a trick later with the A, and can cash the ♠8; leaving partner with the winning Ace. It still needs careful play to come to all 4 spade tricks’, but if we had returned the 8 we would have been left with no way of coming to more than 3 tricks

While on the subject of ‘breaking the rules’, what about the rule about returning partner’s suit at all. This is a good rule, but again there are times we shouldn’t follow it. Partner made the lead without sight of dummy, we have a lot more information to go on. It is always good practice to consider whether it is right to play another suit instead. With 4 spades in dummy, we might be setting up length tricks for declarer. Here the diamond suit looks tempting, with only a singleton in dummy. But let’s look more deeply, there are 9 missing diamonds, who has them? If declarer has only 4 diamonds East would have 5, and might have led one in preference to a spade. So it is very likely that declarer has more diamonds than East. Leading diamonds is then going to establish length tricks for declarer. These auctions where responder bids 1NT over 1 of a major opening, can present an illusion about suit lengths. Usually leading or switching to an unbid suit is the right thing to do; a 5 card or longer suit will have been mentioned in the auction. But when responder bids 1NT, they were not strong enough to bid at the 2 level, so have been unable to bid any lower ranking suit than the opened suit. So here the bidding tells us that South has no more than 3 spades (higher ranking than the opening heart bid), but they might have 5 (or even more) in either minor suit. On the actual hand East did indeed have 4 cards in both diamonds and spades, the auction suggested spades as the better lead, it was impossible that either opponent had a 5 card spade suit, but a 5 card diamond suit in South, was a distinct possibility.

Here is the full layout, South did indeed have the ♠9, and a 5 card diamond suit. On best defence, East should win the ♠2 return, switching to a diamond; West wins, unblocks their ♠8, before returning the diamond suit, leading to 7 or 8 tricks for the defence

A final word on the bidding, the correct bidding is for South to raise 1 to 2, even playing 4 card majors. Most of us were taught to only raise out partner’s suit on the 1st round with at least 4 card support; another rule which should be often broken. When you are in the 6-9 point range, you are much better to raise partner’s major on 3 card support than bidding 1NT. Partner will usually have a 5 card suit, and even when they don’t, you will score just as well playing in the 7 card fit. Here, when South chooses to bid 1NT, North is correct to pass (trusting that South would have raised hearts with 3 card support). Players often bid 2 with the North hand, worried about having only 4 cards in the minors. As long as South would raise hearts with 3 card support, then when they bid 1NT they have at least 8 cards in the minors, giving us at least 12 to the opponents 14. 1NT is likely to be a better contract than 2, which at best will be a 5-2 fit.

Prize Winners

Please click on the images to see the captions.

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