News from the Bridge Room in Lanzarote 2018

Host report by Barry Watts:

As you approach Lanzarote Airport from seaward there is a hint of golf links looking unnaturally green. Other than this the island of Lanzarote resembles a giant cinder. Leaving the airport, heading south, the island looks barren and as the drive continues it becomes a wild broken landscape of old volcanic peaks and huge solidified lava flows. In this black, red and brown volcanic chaos it seems incongruous to be heading for the Playa Blanca (white beach!) and the name of the Hotel, Rubicon Palace, sounds like one step beyond.


The hotel is beautiful. The Rubicon Palace has been upgraded to five stars since our last visit and the main entrance hall, in which the Reception sits, is now magnificent. The rooms are spacious and most have glorious sea views across the straits to the island of Fuerteventura to the South.

It is a very comfortable hotel in a very special setting and once we had all settled in and slowed the pace from UK pace to Spanish (plus a further few hundred miles South) we relaxed into the holiday. Our local guide said we would only appreciate the island if we went on his day trips. Despite this, many of us did go on the day trips to see the Island and found he was right.


From 1730 to 1736, the island was hit by a series of volcanic eruptions, producing 32 new volcanoes in a stretch of 11 miles. Lava covered a quarter of the island’s surface, including the most fertile soil and 11 villages. Another, less violent, volcanic eruption occurred in 1824. The island’s volcanic history and the effects of relatively recent volcanic activity dominate but the impact of this savage landscape is softened by the way human settlements harmonize with the terrain.

The islanders revere the artist and ecological visionary Cesar Manrique who had enormous influence before and after his death in 1992 in focusing Lanzarote’s history, art and its civic pride. He built some of the most beautiful dwellings and public buildings on the Island by using the natural volcanic lava tunnels and bubbles and had enormous influence on the Island’s planning regulations such that almost all buildings are built less than three stories high and painted white. Windows and doors inland are painted green or brown whilst those by the sea are blue.

Roads and roundabouts use the various coloured volcanic gravels and ash in crisp patterns as a canvas for exquisite planting. This pride and care for the environment is reflected throughout the Island in public and domestic gardens and the whole effect is enchanting.


As we toured the Island with our guide we began to understand why she was still there 30 years after arriving for a three week stay. Lanzarote began to work its magic on all of us and we all agreed that one holiday is not enough.

With a total of 113 of us attending the two week holiday there was bridge every afternoon and evening. As usual, we had a variety of events designed to offer something different for the club player. We started with Welcome pairs and Mixed Pairs – designed to get every pair playing against as many others as possible. Then we played the Championship Pairs won by our guests from Sweden: Bengt Hammar and Katherine Ekblad who pipped Ian and Irene Hunter by just over 1% for the prize.

Director’s report by Mark Hooper:

lanz puzzle

This was one of the talked about hands from the week, a test in bidding judgement, particularly for East. The hand came from the Farewell Pairs at the end of week 1. The hand contains an interesting judgement decision and illustrates some points about pre-emptive hands.

The East hand is very difficult to evaluate. An 8 card suit and a 10 count might look like a pre-empt, particularly with the 8/4 shape. However it has a number of negative factors in terms of a pre-empt:

  1. It contains too much defence. The normal rule is that a pre-empt should not have 2 defensive tricks. The point is that if you have too much defence the opponents aren’t making game. Sometimes it can be difficult to judge (unsupported Queens in side suits) but here we have 2 Aces which are almost certain defensive tricks
  2. The hand is also deceptive in terms of playing strength. The broken trump suit means you are likely to have 2 trump losers and 2 or 3 clubs losers as well. The extreme nature of your hand means that unless partner has some very specific cards (a minor suit King), you are never going to get to their hand to take a trump finesse
  3. We are at adverse vulnerability, we are vulnerable the opponents are not. Meaning that even if the opponents are making game we can only afford to go 1 off in our own contract

On the other hand:

  1. It doesn’t take much from partner to make game (the 2 minor suit Kings)
  2. Having only 1 card in the majors suggests that the opponents have a big fit
  3. With an 8 card suit, there is a significant probability that one of the opponents is void in diamonds, and we only have 1 defensive trick

Not evaluating the defensive strength of a hand is a common mistake made by inexperienced players. Too much defence reduces the chance that you are keeping the opponents out of a contract, making it more likely the pre-empt is ineffective. Imagine the above East hand with the same shape and both suits headed by KQJ. Now we have much more playing strength AND no defence. This would be a clear cut pre-empt, and would be worth a jump to at least 5.

Here the auction started either 1♠-2♠ or 1♠-2 from the opponents. What should East bid? If you jump you sound as if you have less defence and more playing strength. Partner will not be well placed to judge if the opponents bid game. On the other hand if you go more slowly (3 or double), then you have not got your hand across at all, and are going to want to bid again over the opponents 4♠ contract. If you bid twice you make it much easier for the opponents to double your final contract. The bidding so far suggests that it is not our hand, but partner could still have some values (South actually has 6 more points than they have shown, which could be with West). Does it make a difference what North bids? A 2 bid suggests more high card strength and also that no primary fit has been found (North has less than 4 spades). A 2♠ bid is weaker in terms of HCP and the trump fit makes it more likely that E/W have a fit.

The opponent’s bidding suggests that this is unlikely to be our hand, so it is a case of judging the level to pre-empt to. 4 here seems about right, although it is not a success here.

With a standard pre-empt you should look to bid once and then keep quiet. Here I think the same applies, you know that if you go slowly it is going to come round to you at 4 of a major. In fact even more so, because your defence suggests that the opponents might not make. N/S also need some good judgement at this point, and again the vulnerability affects their decision. The lack of trump tricks might deter South at a different vulnerability, where the penalty might not be enough and bidding on is the winning action. But it should be clear for South to double. North’s trumps are under the bidder, and those that responded 2 originally may worry about the fact they have overstated the defensive strength of their hand and haven’t shown the 8 card major fit; but again the vulnerability suggests passing.

Several Easts made the mistake of bidding more than once, making it much easier for the opponents to double.

Perhaps bizarrely for a hand with such distribution, and an 8 card major fit; the par contract is a partscore in spades by N/S for 140 (the hand records show that 3NT makes by N/S, but that is an impossible resting point with 2 distributional hands and an 8 card major fit). But perhaps this just demonstrates the point that the East hand is not a pre-empt, having too much defence. Of course even if N/S could make game, the E/W penalty in even 3x exceeds the game score.

The room was almost evenly split between N/S going down in spades and E/W going down in diamonds. The difference being that the E/Ws were doubled. While the minus scores were mainly 50 or 100, the plus scores for N/S ranged from 800 to 1400.

Prize Winners:

Championship Pairs Winners:

Left to Right: Catherine Ekblad, Bengt Hammar, Mark Hooper

Championship Pairs B Final Winners:

Left to Right: Bridget Hopkins, Mark Hooper, Elizabeth Jones

Championship Pairs C Final Winners:

Left to Right: Guus Glass, Mark Hooper, Jeannette Glass

Swiss Pairs Winners:

Left to Right: Catherine Boyack, Mark Hooper, Malcolm Boyack

Swiss Teams Winners:

Left to Right: Guus Glass, Jeannette Glass, Mark Hooper, Margaret Shelley, Roger Shelley

Multiple Teams Winners:

Left to Right: Sean and Colleen Haffey, Mark Hooper, Catherine Ekblad and Bengt Hammer

Men’s Pairs Winners:

Left to Right: Kevin Holden, Mark Hooper, Michael Dubock

Ladies’ Pairs Joint Winners:

Left to Right: Margaret Ainsworth, Pat Henry, Mark Hooper, Kitty Schreiber, Gail Davis