News from the Bridge Room in Malta

Host’s report by Barry & Maggie Watts:

For the first time visitor to Malta the island is a revelation. From the moment you fly over Malta’s airport you are immersed in the island’s history. From the air the island’s geology seems simple; it is a golden limestone and virtually all the buildings are built of this material. Seven Neolithic temples built 1000 years before the Egyptian pyramids, churches, palaces and fortresses of all kinds most noticeably the huge fortifications built in the 16th Century by the Knights of St John seem to be grown organically from the base rock.

Throughout history the island’s strategic position in the centre of the Mediterranean has made it a prize for a succession of occupying cultures from every part of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Today the population of the islands is a mix of all these cultures. The Maltese language is based on that of the earliest Arab inhabitants yet today most of the people speak English and many still consider themselves to be English regardless of Malta’s status as an independent member of the EU. As usual the bridge programme was interwoven with tours of this fascinating island.

The tours to the three cities and Valletta were as popular as always but an impromptu tour to the island of Gozo was immensely successful.

The db Seabank Hotel Resort and Spa is a holiday complex on Melieha Bay in the quiet North East of the island. The helpful and cheerful staff of the hotel came from all over the world, reflecting both the island’s complex history and their new membership of the EU. The holiday package was all-inclusive and the hotel produced high quality food and drink in several themed restaurants which helped evening bridge to flow and lengthened the post-match discussions in the bar! A wonderful place to relax and enjoy bridge.

During the two weeks125 people joined us for one of the biggest holidays we have ever run; reaching 25 tables on one night. This holiday also saw the trial of the First for Bridge Bridgewebs site: www.bridgewebs.co.uk/first which was an instant success with many guests who were already familiar with its features.

With so many guests there were a number of good players. Some stood out but competition was fierce and honours were shared for many events.

Directors’s report by Andrew Kambites:

If partner opens 1NT many of our guests play Stayman and red suit transfers and also that 2♠ shows 11 points while 2NT shows 12 points. In my view there are good elevens (good intermediates, good shape eg. 5-3-3-2) and bad elevens (no intermediates, isolated honours, bad shape eg. 4-3-3-3). In my view if partner opens 1NT and you have a bad eleven (eg. ♠ J 8 7 ♥ Q 7 5 ♦ A K J ♣ 6 4 3 2) game is highly unlikely and it is best to pass 1NT. I don’t think it is good use of bidding space to use two bids to show a game try, so suppose you put all game tries without a 4-card major into 2♠, leaving 2NT to show some agreed sort of minor suit hand. That is better, but I can help you to improve on that.

Opposite 1NT 2♠ shows either a raise to 2NT without a 4-card major or a balanced hand worth a slam try. Opener rebids 2NT if minimum or bids his lowest 4-card suit if maximum. Look at some sequences:

1NT 2♠ 3♣ 3NT P Opener is maximum and has 4 clubs. Responder has the raise to 2NT.

1NT 2♠ 3♣ 3♦ etc Opener is maximum and has 4 clubs. Responder has 4 diamonds and is looking for a slam.

1NT 2♠ 2NT 3♦00 3♠ etc Opener is minimum but responder is looking for a slam. Responder has four diamonds but not four clubs. Opener has four spades but not four hearts.

Now look at this hand from the Malta random teams.

South has an 18 point hand with very good controls opposite a 12-14 1NT opening bid. He wants to investigate a slam if a 4-4 fit can be found. Stayman might uncover a 4-4 spade fit but won’t help find a 4-4 diamond fit. South bids 2♠ and North, with a maximum, bids his cheapest 4-card suit. South isn’t interested in clubs but bids 3♦ to try to discover a 4-4 diamond fit. North needs to trust his partner. South must have a reason to look for a 4-4 diamond fit so North raises 3♦ to 4♦. South might want to employ Blackwood but the value bid opposite a maximum 1NT with four diamonds is 6♦. 6NT makes with spades breaking 3-3 but 6♦ is by far the best contract because you can make five diamond tricks (by some cross ruffing) rather than four. If you are bidding a slam with just 32 points and no 5-card suit the 4-4 fit can make all the difference.

Those of you who understand squeezes might like to consider the play in 6NT. You need to duck a heart early to rectify the count in case one defender has four cards in each black suit.

The hand was played 18 times. Only one bid to the best contract of 6♦. Five pairs bid a no trump slam, while 12 pairs played in 3NT.

Random Teams Winners (Green Section) Left to Right: Alan and Eileen Dunmore, Andrew Kambites, Terry and Barbara Neil

Random Teams Winners (Blue Section) Left to Right: David Willson and Jan Whynne, Andrew Kambites, Vaughan and Ann Williams

Multiple Teams Winners Left to Right: Mary Green, Victor Ridding, Andrew Kambites, Tony Garland, Alan Foan

Swiss Pairs and Swiss Teams Winners Left to Right: Victor Ridding, Andrew Kambites, Mary Green

Championship Pairs Winners (A Final): Paul and Wendy Sherwood with Andrew Kambites

Championship Pairs Winners (B Final) Left to Right: Richard Tyler, Andrew Kambites, Phil Sutton

Consolation Final Winners Left to Right: Andrew Kambites, Lew Gray, David Willson