News from the Bridge Room at the Chateau des Comtes de Challes

Host Report by Pauline Durie

What a pleasure to return to this beautiful chateau situated on the edge of the Rhone Alps, with its breathtaking views of craggy mountains and forested hillsides. The  grounds boast an arboretum with several seating areas providing welcome shade from the heat wave as an alternative to swimming in the pool.

Accommodation at the chateau is often described as ‘quirky’ with each room having its own character – no sign of endless corridors of rooms to get lost in! Just one of the things that makes this holiday different to others:  a visit to the wine cellar (hosted by the owner and involving tasting several good vintages).  A selection of wines was provided with fine-dining French cuisine in the evening, complimenting the special nature of this venue. I don’t think the wine affected the bridge results too much but it may have softened the blow when the scores were posted! The bridge room itself is bright, air-conditioned and provided with a constant supply of iced water.

A short walk into Challes Les Eaux (or a lift from the director in the car provided by the chateau), offered the opportunity to visit the shops, the local park or stroll around the lake by the small airfield. 

Temperatures of 36 and 37 degrees did not deter people from taking advantage of the included tours to Chambery to visit the chateau and market, and to Aix Les Bain. Our tour guides were very keen to share the history of the region which really brought the area to life. The boat trip on Lac du Bourg (the second largest in France), at Aix Les Bains, culminated in a visit to the very impressive Abbaye de Hautecombe – home to a retreat for 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 most of the guests. The old town of cobbled streets with a canal network running through it is why it is known as ‘Venice of the Alps’ – A lovely place to stroll, browse and have lunch. A boat trip on the lake gave us the opportunity to take in the majesty of the mountains that surround the lake in all directions.

As always we take away fabulous memories of this splendid venue.


Prize Winners

(Click on the images below to see captions)


Director’s Report by Nigel Durie

This was the maiden First for Bridge holiday with our new bridgemates and I am pleased to report that everything went well bar a couple of glitches caused by myself, but easily rectified with the welcome help of some of the guests who had more experience with the system.

Today’s hand comes from our Swiss Pairs competition and illustrates a seminar topic on checkback:  when opener rebids 1NT after opening a suit, responder can bid the lowest unbid minor in order to ask opener to give more details of his hand.  The objective is to find a major suit fit if one exists.

The NS contracts were some number of either Spades (making 10 tricks every time) or NT (usually making only 8 tricks).  On best defense 3NT fails while 4♠ will make exactly 10 tricks (with a better score than 3NT making 8 or 9 tricks). 

Let us assume, first of all, that West does not open the bidding (the 5 card diamond suit looks attractive but the 11 points and unsupported ♠J make the hand a very borderline opening bid).

If North decides to open 1 or 1 – depending on your preference with the two 4-card suits and 15 points – the bidding will progress:

1. Checkback asking for greater description of the hand
2. North describes any undisclosed major suit features and clarifies his strength. Here 2 says “I am at the lower end of the range of the 1NT rebid (15 – 17) and have 4 hearts and may have 3 spades.
3. Perhaps a little risky, but with such a distributional hand it is worth a forcing bid to investigate whether there is a 5-3 spade fit and game in the major.

If North opens with 1 then the bidding is a little simpler:

1. Checkback asking for greater description of the hand.
2. Only 4 hearts but 3 spades and minimum end of the range.
3. With good distribution and an 8-card fit this is worth a try.

10 tricks are available in the spade contract as long as declarer counts possible tricks: 4 spades, 2 hearts, 1 diamond and 1 club only adds up to 8.  The only source of extra tricks will be clubs, with the hope that they are 3-3 so that the third round can be ruffed in dummy and the last 2 clubs make up the missing 2 tricks.

If West decides to open 1 the optimum contract of 4♠ can still be reached, but with North as declarer sitting over the strength in West’s hand:

After the 21 transfer South can rebid an invitational 3♠ which North accepts knowing where the majority of outstanding points lie.

Should NS end up in a NT contract they will find it difficult to make more than 8 tricks if EW can establish 1 heart winner to go alongside 1 spade, 1 diamond and at least 2 clubs.  Unfortunately if West has opened 1 and North plays the contract in NT, a diamond lead will have to be ducked in order to avoid North making 2 tricks in the suit.  North will then have time to both establish spades and create a second club winner before the hearts can be established for EW (North will need to hold up for 1 round in Hearts so that East cannot gain entry on the third round.

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