Host report by Pauline Durie:
I confess to having no knowledge of the Azores prior to this holiday. They are an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic. São Miguel – the largest – has lake-filled calderas, a spectacular coastline and even boasts a tea plantation and a ceramics factory renowned for handmade and hand painted pottery.
Left: Volcano crater and both sides of the island, Right: Green and blue crater lakes, Sete Cidades
The Royal Azoris Garden hotel is beautifully and tastefully decorated with many comfortable seating areas. The most popular of these was the bar where reasonably priced cocktails often made a lively end to enjoyable bridge sessions. The dining room offered a good variety of food with complimentary wine or alternatives included. Some interesting bids were the result for some! The hotel staff were exceptionally helpful, especially the front door porter who smiled continually.
The typical warm, showery weather interspersed with many sunny spells did not stop guests from exploring the local area with the beautifully decorated pavements and old shops of Ponta Delgada – the capital city of São Miguel. A slightly longer stroll led to the president’s palace gardens and the botanical gardens, both of which boasted a magnificent selection of trees from almost every country in the world.
We were fortunate to have some excellent tours arranged that allowed us to visit the main sights, driving through beautiful green pastures and rolling hills populated by a myriad of trees and over 300,000 cows – the latter making up the main industry of the island. There are over 60 volcanoes on the island and we watched as our lunch was pulled out of a fumarole in a caldera, where it had been cooking since dawn. Several guests took the opportunity to swim in the thermal pool in terra nostra – the largest of the many botanical gardens on the island. A trip to Lagoa do Fogo (Fire lake) in the second week offered more thermal bathing in pools and under a waterfall whilst being serenaded by very loud croaking frogs!
Left: Swimming in the thermal pool, Terra Nostra botanical gardens, Right: Caldera lake at Furnas
Carnival day was a delight with children dressed in many different costumes parading through every town and village on the island. Fortunately no guests were hit by the water bombs that marked another day of the festivities!
Well done First for Bridge for coming up trumps with this beautiful venue.
Director’s report by Nigel Durie:
This was an interesting hand, from the first week, which formed the basis of some discussion in one of the seminars:
Can N/S bid to slam in spades and can North make the 13 tricks indicated on the hand copy?
What does North bid after:
North has a very useful looking hand with, unfortunately, a void in partner’s suit. A bid of 4♠ will set the trump suit and show the strength of the hand:
Now South, with excellent support for spades, will like the idea of slam. If she decides to cue bid then the bidding will probably go:
Whereas a Roman Key Card Blackwood auction would probably lead to:
On the day no pairs bid the slam. 7 pairs made 12 tricks and 3 made all 13 tricks in the 4♠ contract (one pair made 11 tricks and there was one pair in 3NT +2).
How can 13 tricks be made on a safe lead of a heart?
As long as North thinks positively, she will know that only 2 clubs can be thrown on North’s hearts so that the only option to aim for a top score with 13 tricks is to establish the diamond suit to discard North’s clubs, so:
♠A then small to the ♠Q followed by another diamond ruff.
When the ♦A falls, North then knows that she can use a ruffing finesse on the diamonds to throw her clubs:
♠5 to the ♠10
♦K to discard one club followed by ♦J to discard the second club if not covered. If West covers then North ruffs and can get back to South’s hand with the ♣A to discard the second club on ♦10.
♥KQ and the remaining spades score the final tricks.