News From The Bridge Room In Jersey

Host report by Barry Watts

We could be in the South of France! St Brelade’s Bay is a crescent of the softest sand and shallow sea sheltered in the arms of rugged rocks and cliffs characteristic of the Channel islands. The sun shone for us virtually the whole week warming the sand and sea. Swimming and water sports continued as though it was high Summer. Most of the Summer holiday makers had gone so we could enjoy relatively clear beaches and walk into any of the beach restaurants to enjoy the excellent seafood.

The St Brelades Bay Hotel, we were told, is the most popular hotel on the Island. After 24 hours we knew why. The hotel was full. Its staff were excellent and were tireless and cheerful in meeting our every need. The Hotel, its rooms, the gardens and its wonderful position on the bay make it a beautiful place to stay. Most of all, the restaurant was outstanding. The restaurant rooms and the terrace facing the Bay were busy all day as guests and private parties enjoyed long lunches drifting into lavish teas, creating a charming mix of British and continental tastes.

The good weather drew everyone out to explore Jersey. The Island offers great walks and numerous interesting sites to visit. Especially popular were the War Tunnels, excavated by forced labour for the Germans during the 5 year occupation of the second world war and now preserved as a fascinating history museum of the occupation.

Not surprisingly, there was very little call for afternoon Bridge. It was also difficult to tear everyone away from the superb evening meals so most nights bridge started late. No-one complained and the cry, “We’re on holiday” was heard more than once. It was a mark of this excellent hotel that the bar stayed open until we came out of the Bridge Room and stayed open for us until we went to bed.

Despite all the distractions, we did play Bridge and the competition was as hot as usual. Most First For Bridge holidays start with Welcome Duplicate Pairs on the first night followed by Random Teams on Night 2. The Random Teams were won by Peter and Rita Jordan paired with Martin and Suzi Jennings.

Two days of Swiss Teams followed. After the first night Mary Waterfield and Jan Saunders were ahead by 8 VPs but ten teams were then in contention with only 10 VPs separating them. Alan and Jill Hickson quickly caught them on the second night and held on to Table 1 to win the event. Alan and Jill reinforced this success by teaming up with Richard and Chris Prior to win the Multiple Teams event on the following night.

On the final evening of the holiday we presented the prizes for the Men’s and Ladies’ pairs. The Men’s event was won by Mike Stott and John Castle with Liz Stevens and Susanne Treloar taking the Ladies’ prize.

Director’s report by Mark Hooper

Winning the competitive auction

The topic of the seminars in Jersey was bidding when we have a suit fit with partner. Bidding in the non-competitive auction, and bidding in the competitive auction. One of the points of the competitive auction seminar was that with both sides having a fit, making the right decision as whether to bid or pass over the opponent’s contract can result in a larger exchange of matchpoints than the decision on whether to bid game or not.

The seminars had been focused on the tactics and tools used to exchange information about how well hands fitted together once we have found a trump fit. Inevitably when the bidding gets competitive the tactic of ‘bidding to the level of the fit’, i.e. competing to the level of the number of trumps held by your side, comes in to play. ‘Bidding to the level of the fit’ is a corollary of the ‘Law of Total Tricks’.

The following hand from the evening of the day of the 2nd seminar demonstrated that when both sides have a big trump fit, lots of tricks can be made. The bidding gets competitive and it is not always clear who is making what. The hand occurred on the Saturday evening, when we were playing Men’s and Ladies’ pairs. We were playing in separate sections but playing the same boards

Board 15 : Dealer South : NS vulnerable

Each side holds 10 trumps in their best fit, they can both make 10 tricks playing in that suit. North / South can make 4♠, drawing trumps and giving up 2 diamonds and a club, and cross ruffing the rest. East / West can also make 10 tricks in their club contract, needing to set up a heart trick to discard their diamond loser (finessing the J on the way). The diamond suit is frozen, so the defence can’t set up a trick in the suit before declarer can set up the heart trick. Here the Law of Total Tricks correctly predicts that the number of tricks makeable by the 2 sides adds up to 20.

After likely Passes by South and West, North will open ♠1. East will overcall 2♣, and South must decide how far to raise spades. With only a 9 loser hand, and a scattered 9 count, we are not good enough to invite game, but the 4 card trump fit (partner will usually have 5), suggests that in the competitive auction we should be prepared to compete to the 3 level (the level of the fit). As always when considering pre-emption, you are much better to bid to the limit of your hand straight away; don’t bid 2♠ this time and then 3♠ next time. One of the topics covered in the seminar was having a bid here to distinguish between pre-emptive and constructive raises. Here we bid 3♠ as a pre-emptive raise (based on the 4 trumps), and would use 3♣ to show a full value raise (4 trumps and 10-11 points). This latter bid is an unassuming cue bid, many people use this after we have overcalled, but it can also be used after we open and the opponents overcall.

The spotlight now falls on West, they have only 6 HCP but 4 card support for their partner and a singleton spade; you might be a little cautious vulnerable, but non-vulnerable, as here, the hand is definitely worth 4♣.

What should North bid now? Whether or not West raises to 4♣, North should bid 4♠. Even though partner has shown only a pre-emptive raise in spades, they have promised 4 trumps. With a 10 card trump fit, and a singleton in the opponent’s suit (so partner is less likely to have wasted values there), game is a good shot. But even more so if E/W have bid to 4♣. Our 10 card spade fit suggests that one or both sides is making a contract at the 4 level, so even if our 4♠ goes off, it will score better than the opponents making 4♣.

The par contract is for East to now bid 5C. It may not be as clear to E/W that this is a 10 card fit deal, but at the favourable vulnerability, 5♣ seems right. If they do bid, with the points split 20 / 20 and a 20 trick deal, it is not clear to North who is making their contract and who is sacrificing, so this may not be doubled.

On this particular hand, the men were more aggressive than the ladies (what’s new). 2 pairs in the ladies’ and 1 in the men’s didn’t bid to game. But all the ladies N/S pairs who did bid 4♠ were allowed to play there. While in the men’s pairs, only 1 N/S pair was allowed to play in 4♠, with E/W bidding 5♣ at the other 3 tables. 1 N/S then made the wrong decision to bid on to 5♠, and went off.

So in the Men’s pairs making the right decision as whether to bid or pass over the opponent’s contract, resulted in a larger exchange of matchpoints, than N/S’s decision as to whether to bid game or not. With only 1 N/S pair failing to bid game; in a non-competitive auction, their E/W would have got a complete top. But in fact this E/W got a 2nd bottom, due to their failure to compete. E/W’s -170 only beating the -420 of the E/W pair who did not bid over the opponent’s game. With 5♣scoring at worst -100 for E/W, all the other E/W pairs got better scores by competing to 5♣.

Prize winners

Random Teams Winners Left to Right: Martin and Suzi Jennings, Rita and Peter Jordan

Swiss Pairs Winners: Alan and Jill Hickson

Multiple Teams Winners Left to Right: Chris and Richard Prior, Jill and Alan Hickson

Men’s Pairs winners Left to Right: Mike Stott, Mark Hooper (Director), John Castle

Ladies Pairs Winners Left to Right: Liz Stevens, Mark Hooper (Director) Susanne Treloar