News from the Bridge Room in the Rhine Valley

A message from Tom Townsend:

"I hope you all had a superb time in the Rhine Valley, and a safe journey home. It was good to meet you there, and talk about bridge and other things.
We had three seminars. As well as discussing a few hands from your tournaments, we worked our way through my problem sheets on opening leads. E-mail me if you would like to receive these, or if you ever have what you feel may be suitable material for my Daily Telegraph column: I'm always pleased to hear from my readers.

The answers to some problems were perfectly clearcut. Others were designed to be more debatable. Everyone chipped in with their opinions about those, which certainly livened things up, and a few awkward questions were asked: "Lead a singleton trump? Last time you said don't do that. And now you want us to lead away from a King!?"
Five tips you can take to the bank:

  1. When opponents bid 3NT without exploring majors, which usually means 1NT-3NT, don't lead a broken four-card minor.
  2. Lead King from AKJ10 and Queen from KQ109 against no-trump. When partner holds the card below the card led, he will know to unblock it.
    When you don't want an unblock, for example KQ987 or AK1082, lead top of touching honours and get an attitude signal.
  3. When the auction demands a trump lead, try and lead a trump, even from an unattractive holding.
  4. Unless the auction suggests otherwise, prefer safe leads against suit part-scores and games. Low doubleton leads are not bad.
  5. This is far the most important tip: listen to the bidding!

The next destination on the Telegraph Bridge Tour is Slovenia, early September. Subject for discussion: slam bidding. Hope to see a few of you there.
All the best
Tom Townsend"

Host report by Rob Richardson

The Bellevue Rheinhotel is beautifully situated overlooking the Rhine, with a backdrop of woodland on the opposite bank. Boppard’s market square is less than a minutes walk with a wonderful ice cream parlour (that appeared to drag you in as you tried to walk past) and several cafes bars and restaurants.

The main bridge sessions were very well attended with almost 100% turnout.

On day three of the holiday we embarked upon a cruise from the jetty almost opposite the hotel down the Rhine and up the Moselle, negotiating the biggest lock that I have ever seen on the way. The following day we cruised up the Rhine to Rudesheim, with it’s World famous Drosselgasse shopping street. This is a very narrow pedestrian street that looks like it is from a 19th century German film set. On the way we passed the famous Lorlei rock. The hills either side of the river on both trips were either covered in woodland or vineyards, and I lost count of the number of castles that we passed.

On other days our guests ventured out and about, some crossing the river on the ferry and taking a trip on the Emmelshausen railway line as featured in the BBC programme Great Continental Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo. Others took a ride on the cable lift (a bench suspended from a cable) over the towns vineyards to take in the wonderful elevated view of the river. I preferred to walk up the rather steep footpath. A few guests even travelled, by train, into Cologne.

On day five our star attraction arrived, England international and Telegraph columnist Tom Townsend who gave us three very informative and entertaining seminars on opening leads all followed by a discussion of the previous nights hands.

The final day of the holiday consisted of a seminar and afternoon of bridge and a pre dinner wine tasting. All of the wines were from local vineyards that we would have passed on our cruises and included one from the hotel’s own vineyard. The day was rounded off with a short session of Chicago bridge, played in a very light hearted mood, by those guests with any remaining energy.

Championship Pairs

Winners of the Championship Pairs: Crombie and Helen McNeil with Bridge Director Colin Simcox (left) Tom Townsend (centre) and host Rob Richardson (right)

Knock Out teams

Winners of the Knock Out teams: Carol and Brian Shepherd (left) and Rodney and Lesley Inglesfield (right) about to be presented with four bottles of wine from the Hotel’s vineyard by Tom Townsend with host Rob Richardson in the background

Host report by Colin Simcox:

It has been discussed recently that minor suit slams are difficult to bid, particularly at pairs. However, plenty of good major suit slams also seem to escape us at the table.

Of course, when you see both hands (or better still, all 4 hands), most contracts are very easy to bid (and make!), but the fact that not one pair bid a slam on the following deal suggests that it was not entirely obvious.
This hand is from the afternoon open pairs on the recent Daily Telegraph Rhine Cruise holiday:

rhine valley handtrick hand in spades, many souths will be only too happy to take the easy way out and bid 4S, as they can clearly contribute 2 tricks. North is unlikely to proceed any further.

Strong 2-suited hands can often cause problems, as bidding space soon disappears (especially if the opposition are unhelpful and stick their oar in). Consider opening at the one-level. Yes it is a bit risky, as partner may pass, and a game could be missed. However, often on these occassions the opposition are now helpful and will protect, giving you the opportunity to jump in your second suit.

On this deal surely south will respond 3S (or something similar that shows a good raise to three). Now north must be considering a slam. They have an excellent 4-loser hand and will assume about 8 losers for south (do you play the losing trick count?). In addition there is a 10-card fit and south must have some pictures somewhere. It is just a case of how well the hands fit together. Bid 4D, a cue bid showing first round control, and definite slam interest.

South, knowing for certain that North has one or more club losers (if void, north would have cue-bid 4C), should co-operate with 5C (thereby denying A and showing ♣A (or a void). This is music to north’s ears, who continues with 5D (also second round diamond control, ie singleton ace or AK).

As a general rule, responder should continue to show useful features unless they have a good reason to sign off. Here, although the Q is clearly waste paper, the rest of the hand seems to be working well – the Q could well be very useful indeed. Bid 6C to show ♣K. North bids 6S.

rhine valley bids

As we can see this contract is an excellent one. Viewing the N-S cards in isolation, the only real risk is one hand having a singleton diamond, and getting a ruff when their partner gets in with the ♠A. A highly improbable layout.

So why not consider opening some strong hands at the one-level, and brush up on your cue-bidding!

Bridge on the Slovenia Riviera with Tom Townsend


6 September 2017 – 7 nights half board

Join us on our next bridge holiday to the delightful Slovenian Riviera, where we will again be joined by England international and Telegraph columnist  Tom Townsend who will give some very informative seminars.

As well as our usual bridge sessions with our bridge director and host Tom Townsend will join our group for a few days and provide some interesting seminars which he will report afterwards in his Telegraph bridge column.

Portoroz is a delightful beach location close to the historic walled town of Piran. INCLUDED are two fabulous excursions – we visit the Lipica Stud Farm where the famous ebony foals turn into white horses, and we tour the eerie underworld beauty of the Postoja Caves.

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