News from the Bridge Room in Austria

Host report by Janette & Toby Mace:

You couldn’t find a more picture-postcard Tyrolean town than our base in Seefeld, which lies on a 1200-metre high plateau near Innsbruck. Our hotel, the Seespitz (literally ‘top of the lake’) is just that, lying right beside the Wildsee. In fact it even has a wild swimming platform. There is a very convenient circular walk of around 45 minutes from the hotel around the lake. This family-run hotel truly has the best position in town, just five minutes’ walk from the pedestrian area with all its cafes, restaurants, supermarkets and rather upmarket shops.

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The hotel amenities were outstanding, with a heated outdoor swimming-pool beside which you could sunbathe with views of the distant mountains, and a spa (free of charge). The waiter-service meals were inventive and tasty, with a main-course option of a meat, fish or vegetarian dish each day. The cheese board, accompanied by local condiments made from figs and truffles, was outstanding.

Andrew adapted the bridge programme slightly, to cater for England’s progress to the World Cup semi-finals. Luckily the hotel satellite received a wide choice of international channels, including BBC and ITV.

We left our guests to plan their own excursions in consultation with hotel reception and the tourist office, as there were so many possibilities. Andrew also led a few guests astray as far as Merano in Italy and Bavaria. Innsbruck was popular, just over half an hour by train. (The journey itself providing gorgeous mountain views.) There was also a spectacular gorge walk in the Leutasch valley. Mountain walks are spectacular, and some of us hired E-bikes to get up high with minimal effort – just don’t fall off!

bikes

The local Seefeld discount card offered daily suggestions for free activities e.g. a history of Seefeld tour, nature walks. A very efficient network of trains and buses made it easy to get around.

However, it was perfectly possible, for those with limited desire or mobility, not to venture beyond the town and hotel and have a perfectly enjoyable time, as Seefeld itself is so flat and the centre pedestrianised. The weekly Tuesday market proved a good source of locally crafted and produced presents. (Janette liked the liqueurs, wood-crafted items and alpine herbal stuff.)

The bridge room was one of the best we’ve seen, light and airy, and even from here we had a spectacular mountain view. There was quite a good spread of prizewinners, although the Potels and Ritchies proved to be particularly good at teams, prevailing both at random and self-select.

It was quite a feat of multitasking to play bridge, follow the World Cup and Wimbledon and go sightseeing and mountain walking, but the exhilarating mountain air certainly helped. We were sad to leave. However there are compensations: next stop Venice Lido in September.

Director’s report by Andrew Kambites:

puzzle-1

How many points do you need for a good slam? This question might be relevant for a no-trump slam but it is frequently irrelevant for a suit slam. You are West. East opens 1♣ and South overcalls 1. How do you view the West hand in the diagram above? What sort of hand could East hold?

puzzle-2

a) makes 7♣ excellent, depending only on a 2-1 trump split. Only 11 points. All the ingredients for a good suit slam are present: good trumps, lots of trumps, good controls and a source of side suit tricks (diamonds).

b) is suitable for 6♣. Only 7 points. East must have far more than this for his opening bid.

c) should be played in 3NT. 17 points but 5♣ could easily lose the ♠A and two trump tricks. And even if 5♣ makes this is pairs and those in 3NT will score far better. 6 has reasonable chances.

Normally if a fit emerges in one minor suit it is pointless to introduce the other one but here you are certainly not prepared to commit the hand to clubs. Your excellent side suit control cards and running diamond diamonds certainly make you want to investigate a slam, but you need to hear a rebid from partner. So you bid 2, and partner rebids 3♣. The auction has been:

puzzle-3

Partner is very likely to have six clubs. Suppose he has only five. He sounds minimum (3♣ can be passed). With 5-3-3-2 shape he would have opened 1NT. Suppose he has 5-4-3-1 shape? With four spades he would rebid 2♠ rather than 3♣. With four diamonds he would raise diamonds. With four hearts I think he should bid 2. Bidding the opponent’s suit isn’t natural and normally shows a strong hand, but here it is the cheapest bid available in a forcing auction.

I certainly want to investigate a slam now but how to do it safely?

Blackwood of any kind with clubs as trumps is fraught with danger because the wrong response can take you above the safety of 5♣. However there is some safety here because if 4NT shows too many aces or key cards are missing you might be able to pass a response of 5. 4NT (as Roman Key Card Blackwood) should lead to auction A.

puzzle-4

(5♠ shows two key cards and the ♣Q).

puzzle-5

Which approach do I prefer? I think 4 over 3♣ is best, but 4NT (as Roman Key Card Blackwood) has two advantages.

First, if partner has the ♠A and ♣A K it enables you to bid 7♣.

Second, at least 4NT avoids confusion, a crucial component of good bidding. It is not helpful to bid 4 and then spend the rest of the evening discussing why you have ended up in a stupid contract.

Those of you who use 4 as RKCB when clubs are trumps certainly have an advantage here, though that needs a lot of discussion, otherwise 4 over 3♣ might be taken as natural.

The hand was played 12 times. Only three times was a slam bid.

Swiss Pairs Winners: Ruby Schnalke & Nick Hunter:

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Random Teams and Self-Select Teams Winners: Alastair & Meg Ritchie and Gill & Sol Potel:

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The Championship pairs were also won by Gill and Sol Potel, and the Consolation Pairs were also won by Alastair and Meg Ritchie.