News from the Bridge Room in the Algarve 2017

Host report by James & Jane Tullett:

If you are looking for a relaxing time away over Christmas to enjoy bridge and sunshine, Armacao de Pera is the place for you. The Holiday Inn Algarve has recently been renovated and is decorated to a high standard throughout and the hotel staff could not have been more helpful. Many of the rooms have sea views which provide wonderful vistas over the sandy beach, rock formations and heated outdoor pool.


Breakfast and dinner are buffet style, plenty of choice every day and complimentary wine, beer, soft drink provided with your evening meal. Afternoon tea, coffee, cake and biscuits are served in the Bar Boa Vista. This is also the venue for sunset cocktails and entertainment after the evening bridge session has finished. The bridge room is light and spacious, adjoining the restaurant and offers wonderful sea views and seating terrace. We were welcomed with wonderful weather, sunny and warm (compared to back home). It was lovely to explore the village without having to don thick coats or even a sweater. We enjoyed wondering round the local market with impressive displays of fruit, vegetables and exotic looking seafood.

Don’t worry about missing out on any festivities whilst you away; we were treated to singing from a local choir visiting the hotel on Christmas Eve afternoon and everyone was invited to wear Christmas hats and join in the singing . In the evenings, live music is provided over Christmas and on New Year’s Eve, with many guests gracing the dance floor with new friends and fellow guests. Christmas Day started with a charity Santa dash into the sea with a number of the group (including your hosts and director) participating and many more watched from the beach. Father Christmas and his elf helper visited the restaurant during the festive dinne, distributing presents to all. The New Year’s Eve gala dinner was sight to behold, dancers, live music, tables groaning under food and even an ice swan.

ice swan

Optional excursions to explore the local area are available and many guests enjoyed visiting the old town of Lagos. Our guide took us to the Church of St Anthony and explained the history of the area, which includes a slave market. After a light lunch, we rejoined the coach and visited the stunning rock formations near Lagos and then on to St Vincent’s and the lighthouse looking out over the western most point of the Algarve, towards America.


The other excursion took guests to visit Silves, the Moorish capital of the Algarve and then on to Monchique, which is an old Roman spa, where the waters are reputed to have rejuvenating properties!

Director’s report by Rob Richardson:

The bridge on this holiday was very well attended with 12 tables every day on the first week and 10 on the second week. This included players registered with all five of the home bridge unions! There were, as you would expect, several interesting hands over the two weeks but the star of the show was probably hand 12 on the second day of the New Year Swiss Pairs.

You are dealer, not vulnerable against vulnerable opponents, would you open a weak two with this WEST hand?

alg puzzle 1

One of the seminars covered weak two openings, and part of the advice was to be very aggressive with them at this vulnerability, so I would open Two Hearts hoping to show clubs later. Unfortunately, this seminar was of no use to any players as it was delivered the following day!

NORTH holds

alg puzzle 2

Now we can test our defence to weak two openings. I like a simple approach to bidding so I like to agree with partner that over a weak 2 we say nothing unless we have an opening hand (or near opening hand in the pass out seat). Therefore with this approach when North bids Two Spades and EAST holding

alg puzzle 3

passes, or (my preferred option), bids Three Hearts SOUTH with

alg puzzle 4

can use losing trick count, the subject of another seminar. North has an opening hand (7 losers) and South has five, which indicates a small slam. However the seminar also advised that if slam was indicated we should still go ace asking and warned against just bidding it. A closer examination of South shows five possible losers, barring an early rough by the defence, two in hearts, two in clubs and one in diamonds. (If EW have the Queen of spades it will drop in two rounds as North’s over call shows at least five they can only have two.) Who has the ace of hearts is the question of most interest to South. If East has not bid Three Hearts we can bid it, (assuming this is not natural in our system), to invite North to bid 3NT with a stop. Otherwise we can start cue bidding, or we can just make an ace asking bid.

Over the ace ask, which will happen eventually, West may form the pinion that having such a distributional hand, a wild distribution all around the table is likely, and with NS clearly having a good fit and the vast majority of points slam is very likely. In which case a bid of Five Clubs will test NS partnership understandings, and prepare the ground for a possible sacrifice.

An excellent convention for NS to use in this situation is D0P1 (dopey). Simply put, a double shows no aces and a pass shows one. The lowest available bid shows two etc. I find that this works very well with married pairs as in a complicated auction the wife will think what on Earth does that old fool mean by his double, and then look at her partner and think ah dopey.

Further bidding will establish for South that NS have all four aces, but are missing two Kings. Cue bidding may bring to light the club void in North, but this is not that helpful. Six Spades is a very good contract. NS will hope to play there. However if West has opened a weak two in Hearts and introduced Clubs at the five level, the true nature of the hands will be apparent to East and this along with the favourable vulnerability indicates that a sacrifice in seven Clubs will prove profitable. If doubled EW can afford to go 6 off for 1400 as opposed conceding 1430 for a vulnerable Six Spades making. 6 off, however is not at all likely, 3 off for 500 or 4 off for 800 looks more realistic. The possible auction to this point is

alg puzzle 5

  1. 5-10 points, six or more Hearts
  2. Opening hand, 5 or more Spades
  3. Lets get in their way
  4. Insert your preferred ace asking method but we will use ordinary Blackwood for simplicity
  5. At least 5 clubs as well as 6 Hearts, what about a sacrifice partner?
  6. D0P1, I have one ace
  7. We have all the aces, how many Kings do you have?
  8. One
  9. OK small slam is enough
  10. Having fully described his hand it is now up to East

At this point South must either double or bid on, as he knows more about the hand than North. North must trust South’s judgement. If South judges that most NS will bid and be allowed to play in Six Spades there is no point in not bidding Seven Spades as the EW bidding has made a near bottom for NS highly likely unless 7C goes 7 off. If however he judges that Six Spades is not a normal contract Double will be the best bet.

If South bids Seven Spades it is vital that EW have the Lightener Double in their armoury. This bid is based on the premise that any slam going off is a good score for the defenders, hence a penalty double is unnecessary. Therefore a double asks the person on lead, in this case East, not to lead the obvious. In this instance West has bid Hearts and Clubs and does not want East to lead either. The Lightener Double also forbids a trump lead, therefore West clearly wants East to lead a Diamond, which is the only lead to defeat Seven Spades. If a Lightener Double is not available there is a danger that East will lead one of partner’s suits and the grand will make.

In practice every NS played in Spades, all, apart from one, making 12 or 13 tricks, three pairs were in Six Spades and the rest in game. This is a very complex hand requiring good partnership understandings, which on a holiday with most guest not playing in a regular partnership will have been difficult. But what a wonderful, informative hand! Have a healthy and enjoyable 2018.

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