News from the Bridge Room in Crete 2019

Host report by Jane & James Tullett

If you like history, Greek mythology and beautiful scenery, Crete is the island for you. It was lovely to visit the island in spring and see the meadows awash with wild flowers and snow on the distant mountain tops.

We were staying just outside Rethymnon in the Pearl Beach and Aegean Pearl hotels, next to the golden beach in the north of Crete. The guests enjoyed visiting the old town, either catching the local bus or strolling along the promenade to explore the narrow streets or watch the boats at the marina. With plentiful shops and tavernas, it was easy to spend the whole day leisurely wandering from one taverna to the next, with a little retail therapy in between. Several guests enjoyed the “hop on, hop off” bus which provided a tour of the town and took them out into the hills and the Mili Gorge. The more adventurous, including your hosts and director, walked the length of the gorge, which was a little more exciting than usual, as the heavy winter rains had washed away parts of some of the bridges.

Many of the guests joined us on the excursion exploring the hills, gorges and south of Crete. We stopped in Spili to sample the fresh mountain spring water flowing from the Venetian lion heads and were amazed at the selection of locally produced soaps made from olive oil and also donkey milk! We next sampled some locally produced wine at a family vineyard before stopping for lunch at St Anthony’s Gorge.

The scenery and gorges we travelled through were stunningly beautiful, but we saw the destructive force of nature where the road had been destroyed by heavy rains. It made for a great photo stop by the dam and the guests breathed a sigh of relief that our driver had no intention of taking us any closer to the undercut tarmac!

With so much to see on Crete and the convenience of numerous trips offered by local tour companies, many of our guests used their free days to explore Chania, Knossos, Heraklion and some of the amazing monasteries in the area.

The hotels were situated on the beach front with golden sand and planked walkway to a wonderful fish taverna. The 4 and 5 star hotel each had a main outdoor pool, plus smaller pools tucked away for private use by the surrounding bedrooms, with the indoor heated pool being the location for aquafit which was enjoyed by the more energetic. Only a solitary host was spotted in the well equipped gym; the more discerning guests were clearly enjoying the sunshine! We enjoyed themed meals in the restaurant, with Greek night and fish night being particularly good.

Director’s report by Mark Hooper

Listening to the bidding

We think of intervention by our opponents after we have opened the bidding, as only being a hindrance to our bidding.   Perhaps the intervention is useful when it comes to the play of the hand, identifying how to play suits based on who we expect to have the points and the suit length.   But it is rare for the opponent’s bidding to actually help us bid to the right contract.   Such was the case here.

I only got to play a couple of times during the holiday, and this was my personal favourite hand, from the 1st session of the Championship Pairs

I was sat East here with a 15 count and 6/5 in the majors.   When my partner opened 1NT, I was immediately thinking of a slam, but how best to bid the hand ?   In order to bid a slam you first need to agree a suit, and then you want to ask for Aces or start cue bidding.   Normally we would look to use Roman Key Card Blackwood, so as to be able to ask about the trump King and Queen (to find out about the K or ♠Q depending on the suit agreed).   But here, with a void diamond, any form of Blackwood is going to tell us the number of Aces, not whether West has the Ace of hearts or the Ace of diamonds.   If on the other hand we agree hearts and then I cue bid and don’t use RKCB, we might end up bidding a slam missing the Ace and King of hearts

But first to get across my hand shape.   The normal way to bid the hand is to start 2 as a transfer to spades, and then show the hearts by bidding 3.   The problem will come if partner has 2 spades and 3 hearts, when they will bid 3NT.   Now 4 will show East’s hand shape, but is not forcing.   West is almost certain to pass and we could miss a slam

One of the guests told me that they started with stayman.   Their plan was that if partner bid 2 they would continue with 3. This is a convention called ‘extended stayman’, showing 5/5 in the majors, asking opener to bid a 3 card major. This would have the advantage that West would end up bidding a major (West must have 3 cards in at least 1 of the majors), which would set the suit, with no danger of the bidding stopping before slam was investigated. The disadvantage with this approach is that it doesn’t suggest the 6th spade; with equal length, West might choose hearts, when the spade slam was better.   Here the spade suit, as well as being 1 card longer, is much better quality than the heart suit, so I would definitely prefer to stress the spades

Here with West having 3 spades, either approach would work.   I decided to take the transfer route, starting with 2.

In reality whatever plan East made, was obstructed by South.   South had a biddable diamond suit, and duly bid diamonds over whatever East bid (in my case 3 over the 2 transfer).   East’s strength is unknown at this point, so despite knowing of an 8 card spade fit, West passed 3.   Having already shown my spades I could now bid 3.

At my table South wasn’t finished, having a hand with no defence and prospects of a profitable sacrifice to our game, he now bid 4.   West might have bid 4♠ at this point, but with a minimum decided to pass.   What does East bid next ?   At the 4 level with no suit agreed, would 4NT even be RKCB now ?

This is where we can take advantage of the opponent’s bidding. In order to make slam partner needs at least 2 specific cards out of AK, ♣K; as well as cover the for ♠Q (either the ♠Q itself, or if playing in hearts, opener presumably will have doubleton spade, so can ruff a spade). With only half the missing points (I have 15, partner has at least 12 out of the other 25), it is against the odds that partner has the specific cards required. That is, until South bids. South must have very good diamonds. If we assume that South’s diamonds are headed by the AKQ this accounts for 9 of the missing 25 points; leaving 16, of which partner has at least 12. If this is the case, it is impossible for him NOT to have at least 2 out of the AK and ♣K. Even if South only has 2 of the top diamonds, the chances are still high that West has the cards required for slam. So instead of being purely obstructive, South’s bidding has actually solved the problem of identifying where West’s points are. Based on the bidding so far it is reasonable to assume that West has the right cards to allow us to make a slam, we just need to decide which suit. Having already shown at least 5/4 in the majors, I completed the shape description of my hand by bidding 6. Showing enough for slam with a 5/5 or 6/5 shape. Here West having 3 spades and only 2 hearts bid 6♠, but even with equal length they should prefer spades as East may have longer spades.

Although I had shown spades with my 2 bid, the first time the suit was actually bid was at the 6 level !

Given the intervention, starting with 2 had worked out to be the best start, allowing me to unambiguously show my 2 suits.   Had I started with 2♣, the bidding would probably have continued with me bidding 3 over South’s 2 and then 6 over their 4.   Not the sort of bid you want to be making with an irregular partner.

Although that ended the auction, the excitement wasn’t over.   North was also listening to the bidding, and found the excellent lead of the A.   Declarer is known to have at least 2 hearts, dummy 5 and North has 4, leaving at most 2 for South.   With any luck South will have a singleton or void, and the slam can be defeated by a ruff.   I had an anxious moment when the 2nd heart was played, but South had 2 hearts, and there was no ruff.   There was nothing to the rest of the play, the slam was lay down at this point.

Prize Winners

Please click on the images to see the captions.

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