News from the Bridge Room in Montenegro

Host report by James & Jane Tullett

The small and beautiful country of Montenegro provided many picturesque places to visit during this 10-day holiday. With a population approximately the same as Sheffield, this unspoiled gem has many stunning and varied landscapes of sea, mountains and pastures, with beautiful towns and villages.

The Tara Hotel is ideally located next to the sea with its private beach and provides a promenade walk to the nearby medieval town of Budva. The old town with its winding alleys has lots of boutique shops, bars and coffee shops to explore. Many of our guests enjoyed losing themselves in the old town for a spot of retail therapy and sampling the local delicacies. As an alternative to walking back to the hotel, several guests took the water taxi and enjoyed views of the bay.

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We enjoyed the all-inclusive package at the hotel, with a good selection of local drinks and food being available throughout the day and evening. One evening we were entertained by a local group who treated us to traditional music and dance in colourful costumes.

Our friendly group of guests enjoyed daily evening bridge sessions, with optional afternoon bridge and our director Mark Hooper provided three morning seminars.

Three optional excursions were provided by local tour company with very helpful guides who gave an insight into Montenegrin life and some of its recent history. The highlights of Montenegro tour took us to the old royal capital city of Cetinje and tour of King Nicholas’ Palace. We wound our way round the mountain roads to enjoy stunning views over Boka Bay and Tivat and admired the luxury yachts in Porto Montenegro. This trip was the Saturday of the Royal wedding; being half way up a mountain in a remote village didn’t stop us from watching the bride’s entrance and raising a glass to the happy couple.

The half day trip to Kotor (mini Dubrovnik) was a definite highlight. Some guests chose to go back by private taxi (£12 approx) to explore at leisure the labyrinthine medieval city with its beautiful Renaissance architecture.

The final excursion to Albania provide an interesting insight into this little known country that has only recently opened its borders to visitors. We thoroughly enjoyed their hospitality and in particular the local lunch that was recommended by our guide.

If you are looking for somewhere new to visit, we highly recommend Montenegro to you and hope you will enjoy this beautiful county as much as we did.

Director’s report:

One of the classic problems of bidding is opening with 4441 hands. And the most difficult of these to deal with is the singleton club. I was asked about this hand on the final evening, which caused problems for many pairs.

What do you open with this hand?

♠ KJ105
K1062
AQ94
♣ 9 555
 

One of the cornerstones of constructive bidding is that when you open and rebid in a different suit, you ‘promote’ the length of your first bid suit to 5 cards. This allows responder to support the 1st suit with only 3 cards, at their second bid. The idea is that if your hand is balanced you either open 1NT, or rebid in NT. When you open and rebid in a suit you are therefore showing an UNbalanced hand. ‘All’ unbalanced hands contain a suit of at least 5 cards. Like many ‘rules’ at bridge this one has an exception, the 4441 hand shape, which is neither balanced, nor has a 5 card suit. If we open and rebid in a suit partner will play us for having 5 cards in our first suit. With 3 card support, they will try to play in this suit. Even worse, thinking you have an 8 card fit, partner will add points for any distribution they have, and we can end up playing at too high a level.

Rather than responder have to worry that opener might be 4441, they continue to rely on opener having 5 cards in their 1st suit; and opener has to find the least ‘lie’ to avoid ending up in the wrong contract. To minimise problems we therefore prefer to open with a minor suit. If we open with a major, and partner has 3 card support, then when our rebid shows 5+ in the major suit, partner will not look for any other strain, they will select to play in the major. However if we open with a minor suit, even when our rebid suggests an 8 card fit, partner will prefer to play in NT. If intending to play in NT, responder will not add points for shortages, as they might with a major fit, so you are less likely to get overboard. So with a singleton spade we are recommended to open 1♦, rebidding 2♣ if responder bids spades. With a singleton in a red suit we open the suit below the singleton; if responder bids our singleton suit, we bid the next suit up (1♦1♥-1♠ or 1♣-1♦1♥). In all 3 of these cases we are opening with a minor suit, and showing 5 cards in that suit, but not lying about our major suit length.

But what do we open with the singleton club hand, such as the one above? The ‘book’ (standard Acol) opening is 1♥. This means that if partner responders 2♣, you rebid 2♦, telling responder that you have 5 hearts. If responder has 3 hearts then you are likely to end up playing in a 4-3 fit. Some teachers recommend a 1♦ opening, which means over a 2♣ response you have to rebid 2♦. You have lied in a minor, but you have only offered partner only 1 suit to play in. They may end up passing and leaving you in a very poor fit. To bid 2♣ they should have the values to bid 2NT, but it is possible that they don’t have control of 1 of the majors, so have a difficult bid even when 2NT is right.

This was both hands in this case

♠ KJ105
K1062
AQ941
♣ 9 1111

♠ 63
A87
1063
♣ AQ1032

Responder has 3 diamonds and 3 hearts, with a 10 count. If you open 1♥, and rebid 2♦, then responder will jump to 3♥ at their next turn. If you start with 1♦, and rebid 2♦ over the 2♣ response, then responder has a difficult bid. 2NT is where you want to be, but partner has only 1 honour in the 2 majors, they might raise to 3♦, hoping that opener can bid NT. Indeed opener does have the major suit holdings to play in NT, but 3NT is too high.

I have tried both the 1♥ and the 1♦ openings over the years with this hand shape, but experience has led me to a different solution. Note that if opener’s hand was 15+ then they could rebid NT over the 2♣ response, this suggests a 2nd club, but again partner is going to prefer to play in NT, even if they think there is an 8 card club fit, so problems are avoided. The problem point range is 12-14.

My own tip is to consider passing with this problem hand (4441 shape with a singleton club, and 12-14 HCP). Certainly if someone else opens, the hand is very easy to bid. If partner opens, then we will find a fit very quickly if one exists, or end up in 3NT if not. If the opponents open (usually in our singleton suit), a takeout double describes our hand perfectly. Yes in theory you could end up passing a hand out if no-one else has an opening bid, but in my experience you will get far more good boards than bad ones.

Would passing have worked here ? No-one else had an opening bid, so the board would be passed out. In theory this gives a below par score, partscores being available in diamonds, hearts and NT. But in practice it would have led to an above average score, only 3 of the 11 pairs managing a plus score with these cards (one in 2♥, one in 2NT and 1 making 3NT). Half the room played in a suit contract, mostly at the 3 level; the hand records said 9 tricks could be made in either diamonds or hearts, but no-one playing in a suit above 2♥ made their contract. In NT the hand records said that 8 tricks were the limit, but only 1 pair in NT managed to stop in 2NT, the rest getting to 3NT.

Passing isn’t without risk, so don’t expect it to always work in your favour, but I have to say it has worked well for me.

Prize Winners:

Swiss Pairs winners:
Hilary & Robin Nunn

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Championship Winners:
Richard & Carol Moore

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Team Winners:
Carol & Richard Moore, Hilary & Robin Nunn

Montenegro_teams_1

Ladies Pairs Winners:
Mary Johnson & Lyn Hilton

Montenegro_Ladies_pairs_winners_Lyn_Hilton_and_Mary_Johnson_1

Mens Pairs Winners:
John Robert & Phil Sutton

Montenegro_mens_pairs_1