News from the Bridge Room in Estoril

Host report by Rob Richardson:

The Hotel Londres is a 45 minute transfer from Lisbon airport. It has a very relaxed atmosphere and the large amount of money that has been spent on upgrades in the last two years gives it a very clean modern appearance. Most of our party passed comment that the food served in the hotel was very good quality. A red and a white wine from a different region of Portugal were served with our evening meal each night, and the wines were good enough to tempt even those of us that rarely drink wine to indulge in a glass or two!

Our group loved how convenient it was to explore this beautiful region on local transport. The majority of our group took the public bus to the historic town of Sintra with its impressive palace & Moorish castle. Practically everyone took the train or the “hop on hop off” sightseeing bus into Lisbon on at least one occasion.

The 30 minute coastal walk alongside the Atlantic Ocean into Cascais; a picturesque little town with a harbour, smart shops and many lunch time eateries was extremely popular. The large, modern Estoril Casino also proved to be a big attraction. All in all this was just a very relaxing, laid back holiday in a nice hotel.

Director’s report by Colin Simcox:

The Championship Pairs was contested over consecutive evenings and two pairs did particularly well. Tony Ward and Val Scott were very consistent, scoring 58% (2nd) and 59% (1st=) in the sessions, but even this was not enough to win overall. Jan Jay and Mac Taylor managed 64% and 59% to win the competition; very well done to them.

My featured hand comes from an earlier event, the Butler Pairs. Board 16, you are the dealer, west, and vulnerable. What do you open with:

estoril puzzle 1

Well, there must be at least three options. Many players are happy to open 2NT with a singleton ace. Not my first choice, but at least it gets most of the hand attributes across in one go. If you chose to open at the one level, is it a club or a heart? Judging from the traveller, I would say the votes were about 50/50.

So let’s look at both hands:

estoril puzzle 2

What about:

estoril puzzle 3

Can you empathise with any of these auctions? Maybe not, there are plenty more permutations, but I don’t think any of these are poor. West’s hand is very powerful, especially when partner is known to have five hearts (as in the first auction), and East’s hand improves when west shows the A (as in the second one). Ironically, west’s hand devalues in the third sequence opposite a singleton diamond. It just goes to show what a problem singleton aces can be!

Anyway, let’s suppose we’ve arrived in 6H by west. A diamond has been led and dummy goes down. Do you fancy your chances? No peeking ahead, how are you going to play this? Don’t forget, you are playing butler pairs (i.e. teams tactics) so don’t worry about the overtrick!

Given that you can afford a trump loser if you can pitch dummy’s club, how about playing three rounds of spades straight away? Is it worth cashing the ace of trumps first for a small extra chance, in case one defender can ruff a spade with a singleton trump (or there is a singleton K)? Probably not, because this loses out when north ruffs the third spade in front of dummy and you would have to fall back on the trump finesse.

Overall chance of success? Whenever spades are 4-3 (62%) plus if north has 2 spades and the K (over 7.5%), in all about 70%. Did you take this line?

The full deal:

estoril puzzle 4

Wow, talk about bad break! You just went off in a cold slam! If you took the inferior (50%) line of tackling trumps straight away you would have made it. Isn’t bridge a great game? I don’t think it is a terrible slam, and I thought the one pair that did bid it were a bit unlucky.

Someone once told me ‘it is never wrong to lead an ace against a slam.’ What happens here if north cashes his ace? You have no choice but to take the heart finesse – 12 tricks thank you very much.

Prize Winners: