News from the Bridge Room in Majorca 2017

Host report by Toby & Janette Mace:

We returned once again to the splendid Bella Playa Hotel, with its excellent spa and capacious bridge room, that we manged to fill with 19 tables every evening and 20 at the peak. The beautiful weather didn’t dent the afternoon sessions much with a peak turnout of 9 tables during our stay. In fact there was only one day of rain over the two weeks, preceded by some impressive overnight thunder. The outdoor pool always looked very inviting but I only saw one person in it over the 2 weeks – you really need a wetsuit to enjoy it in late March, easier just to work on the sun tan on a poolside lounger. Many people opted for the indoor pool with its hot tubs, saunas and steam room.

The nearby beach at Cala Agulla is a very short stroll away and this must be one of the prettiest beaches in Majorca because it lies in a protected zone and the backdrop is simply a large pine forest. Keen walkers could branch out from here to head off to the sand dunes at Cala Mesquida or climb up through the forest to reach the impressive views over eastern Majorca from the ruined tower at Son Jaumell.

Occasional lunchtime sessions of mini golf and ping pong were well attended, and the overall facilities, care and good service offered by the hotel shows why this holiday proves so popular every year for our Spring and Autumn visits.

This was our first time hosting a First for Bridge Holiday and Janette and I really enjoyed meeting and spending time with everyone, and we would like to thank Andrew for doing an excellent job directing, and John for all his help and assistance.

Director’s report by Andrew Kambites:

This hand from the Swiss Pairs in Majorca raised some interesting points for players who have embraced modern ideas. Amusingly beginners might bid the grand slam without a care in the world.

3♠ shows 10-12 points. 5♠ shows 3 Aces. 7♠ says: ‘I can see 13 tricks’.

The first test comes for West players who are devotees of the losing trick count (LTC). If East talks himself into bidding just 2♠ because he has 9 losers, no doubt West will sign off in 4♠. With balanced hands I don’t use the losing trick count. 10-12 points = 3♠. It isn’t wrong to use the LTC with the West hand, but if you do you must understand that your number of losers needs adjusting for the fact that you have three aces and no queens. Used crudely, the LTC can value aces and queens as the same. They are certainly not of equal value and here East should certainly subtract a loser.

After 3♠ is the West hand worth going unilaterally beyond 4♠? Certainly the five level might not be totally safe. If East has hand (a) 5♠ has three aces missing. Even if East has an ace, eg. hand (b). 5♠ is in danger if South wins the ♣A and leads a diamond through West’s K.

Nevertheless I think chances of 6♠ making are good enough to make Blackwood reasonable, but what if East/West are playing Roman Key card Blackwood? The 5♣ to 4NT response shows 0 or 3 key cards, and remarkably West cannot tell which! I have never before seen a perfectly reasonable 4NT bid have an answer which leaves the asker in doubt! In the past I have been very scathing about people who use Blackwood and on hearing the response of 0 or 3, or 1 or 4, cannot tell! West signs off in 5♠, resigned to one off if East has (a), but here we have another very unusual situation. Usually if your partner asks for aces, hears your response, and signs off it is automatic to pass, but East should ask himself what on earth was West doing? West is looking for key cards: East only bid 3♠ in response to 1♠: he cannot have more than three key cards so unless West has taken leave of his senses East must have what West is looking for. East should now bid 6♠ and now it is the turn of West to think. The only logical explanation for East’s 6♠ is that 5♣ was showing three aces. In that case West can count 13 tricks in spades, and also in no-trumps. Hence the following auction:

It sounds bizarre but it is perfectly logical. Note that if East has three aces he can only be 4-3-3-3 shape, otherwise he would be too good for 3♠, so West can see that unless the missing clubs are 5-0 they will run for five tricks.

I am asked: ‘Would you allow 6♠ as director if West has hesitated before bidding 5♠ over 5♣? I would ask East why he bid 6♠. If, and only if, East described the thought processes described above I would allow 6♠. East does have unauthorised information (UI) after the hesitation before 5♠ and the UI certainly makes it clear that West was contemplating a higher bid than 5♠. However the logic of bidding 6♠ is unanswerable with or without UI. The law requires East to bend over backwards to avoid any favourable action that is suggested by the UI, but if an action is clearcut East has every right to take that action. This demonstrates that the often quoted phrase: ‘You can’t bid after your partner’s hesitation’ has no basis in bridge law.

Note also that if a cautious West is worried about East having hands (a) or (b) for 3♠, he can certainly do better than just sign off in 4♠. He loses nothing by trying 4♣ over 3♠, a cue bid NOT Gerber. East cue bids the A so West can be pretty sure now that 5♠ is safe. Interestingly, if West anticipates he may have a problem if East responds to 4NT with 5♣ he may think to cue bid 4♣ over 3♠ before using Roman Key Card Blackwood.

The hand was played 17 times. Only once was a grand slam reached. 7 pairs reached a small slam. 9 pairs played in game.

Prize Winners:

Championship pairs winners: June Gallant & Patricia Roundhill

Consolation pairs winners: Ian & Sarah Lund

Swiss teams: John Stewart, Liz Kelly, Rose Windler & Graham Walker

Swiss pairs: Dick & Sue Davies

Mixed, Mens & Ladies pairs: Dick Degeling & Peter Thornton, Jacqueline Darts & Catherine Reffold, Jenny Flood & Phil Palmer

Multi teams blue: Tony & Sue Dundas, Viv & John Carroll

Multi teams pink: Paul Samson, Sue Hazlehurst, Amanda & Michael Bowden

Open Golf Championship winner: Chris Mewes

Open Golf Championship winner (2nd week): Heather Woods