Host report by Barry Watts:
The Istrian Peninsula of Croatia lies at the North-Eastern end of the Adriatic. It is unlike other parts of the Mediterranean because the limestone Karst geology makes it a region of beautiful islands and mountains. The red soil in the plains and the region’s higher rainfall have led to centuries of prosperous agriculture; most notably, wine and olive farming. Occupation of the area by Rome, Venice and then Austria has produced towns and villages of great beauty with all the architectural influences of these cultures.
Our holiday was in the town of Poreč on the western shore of the Istrian peninsula. The Island of Sveti Nicola lies across the entrance to the bay, making it a natural harbour that has been occupied for over 2000 years. Today it is part of the most popular tourist areas of Croatia.
The Valamar Riviera hotel sits in a prime position on the harbour of the old town of Poreč. Part of the hotel complex is the Villa Parentino on the end of the Poreč promontory. The villa built by the family Polensi in 1887 looks across the Northern Adriatic and on a clear day Venice can be seen across the bay. That alone puts the history of this natural harbour into perspective.
Today, the hotel is in a perfect position to enjoy the harbourside yet explore the ancient town of Poreč immediately behind. It is a bustling holiday destination with narrow streets and ancient buildings including the 6th century Euphrasian Basilica, which in 1997 was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hotel itself has won prizes as Croatia’s best boutique hotel and the service provided by the helpful and cheerful staff showed us why.
We enjoyed our bridge immensely in this comfortable and welcoming atmosphere. We invited the local Poreč Bridge Club to join us and they came with a team of four on three nights. They played with enthusiasm and enjoyment that infected the whole group and by the end of the week we were firm friends. They were as amused as we were by the young shop assistant in the street opposite the bridge room windows who, having noticed the frequent movement followed by intense concentration, couldn’t wait to ask, when first visited by two of our guests, if we were ‘speed-dating’!
This was a relatively small group for First for Bridge including players of all abilities. Evening bridge was as competitive as always with more informal sessions in the afternoon. In one afternoon session one of our less experienced players, recently introduced to RKCB, enthusiastically bid five clubs in response to 4NT. This was alerted by partner who, when asked, explained it as 3 or no key cards. Our less experienced player interjected: “and in this case it is none”! Her partner explained that she shouldn’t say that and, to some amusement, said: “In a club in England you would be taken out back and shot”. One of their opposition was Italian. He added: “In Italy you would be shot at the table!”
Director’s report by Mark Hooper:
The Welcome Pairs featured several hands with potential slams in a minor suit. A notoriously difficult area of bidding. Because our partscore and game bidding is focused in playing in NT rather than a minor suit, it is difficult to find slams in a minor. And of course if you are not going to be in slam, then at pairs it is be essential to play in the high scoring NT contract. Maybe it was the long day, but no-one found any of the slams on this set.
In fact in all cases, you could also make the slam in NT as well, but having less than the usual 33 HCP, if you were going to bid slam, it would be in the minor.
Hand 12 looked eminently suitable, but no-one found slam. Maybe a weak 2 opening by West put people off, but it still looks biddable.
If West does not open, North will show a strong NT hand (after opening 1♥ if playing a weak NT), and South now has a monster of a hand. An opening hand, a 7 card suit and a void. Plus 1st or 2nd round control in every suit, surely worth a slam try. The only slight negative is the void being in the suit opened by partner, but still the hand has plenty to spare.
A bid of 4 of a minor, over a NT bid, is forcing, showing slam interest. It is not a weak hand looking to play in the 4 of a minor rather than 3NT. After the 2 or 3NT rebid by North, South should bid 4♦ as a slam try. The North hand is full of controls, and surely the slam will be found.
The other problem with minor suit slams is that using 4NT to ask for Aces will often take us past 5 of the minor. No such problem here, where North has 3 Aces, no response can take us too high.
At some tables West opened with a weak 2♥; North has a very suitable hand for a 2NT overcall, in range, and with 2 stops (2NT here shows 16-18 HCP). South is in the same position as without opposition bidding, North having shown a strong NT; again 4♦ would be the bid.
The play is not too taxing, you just need to find the minor suit Queens. The trump Queen drops with the odds play of cashing Ace and King, and then the run of the diamond suit is likely to reveal the location of the ♣Q. A diamond contract will be played by South, and you can see that West has no good lead. A trump lead saves declarer the guess in that suit, a club lead picks up the ♣Q; and a major suit lead gives a free finesse, producing a 2nd club discard to avoid needing to find the ♣Q.
At the table, half the field played in diamonds (1 in a partscore, the rest in game), but with no-one bidding slam, the matchpoints went to those in 3NT. No-one had any problem with the play, everyone making 13 tricks.
The whole holiday was enjoyed by all and the group was small enough that we all finished the week firm friends.
The Swiss Pairs event was won by Richard Tyler and Aldo De Nardi although they were almost caught on the second night by Fred and Angie Kissack.
Swiss Pairs Winners – Left to right: Aldo De Nardi, Mark Hooper, Richard Tyler
Richard Tyler also won the Men’s Pairs event. This time partnering John Robert.
Men’s Pairs Winners – Left to Right: Richard Tyler, Mark Hooper, John Robert
The Ladies’ Pairs event was won by Sue Hazlehurst and Rosemary Hodder.
Ladies’ Pairs Winners – Left to Right: Sue Hazlehurst, Mark Hooper, Rosemary Hodder
The Multiple Teams event was won by Tony and Sheila Cockerill partnered by John Robert and Sue Hazlehurst.
Multiple Teams Winners – Left to Right: Tony and Sheila Cockerill, Mark Hooper, Sue Hazlehurst, John Robert