News from the Bridge Room in the Rhine Valley

Host report by Jacky Baker

Our first visit to the Rhine Valley saw us staying at the splendid Bellevue Rheinhotel in Boppard, which is situated right on the banks of the imposing river. Boppard is a delightful town, with a central square offering a good variety of pavement cafes and many fine buildings, some of which date back over five hundred years. Its location fairly central in the Upper Middle Rhine is ideal for discovering the region.

The area known as the “Upper Middle Rhine” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the sixty seven kilometres between Rudesheim and Koblenz is generally recognised to be the most beautiful part of the whole Rhine between the Alps and the North Sea. As our bridge holiday included two river cruises, one South to Rudesheim and the other North to Koblenz and beyond, where the Rhine meets the Moselle, our guests were able to enjoy the wonderful scenery along the whole of this stretch of the river. In addition the local rail station provided fast and efficient services to places such as Koblenz, which offered further scope for exploring the region.

The Rhine Valley is an important wine-growing area, and the most famous of its grapes is the Riesling (the “Queen of the Grapes”) from which a range of award-winning wines is produced. Early in the holiday the group was treated to a wine tasting in the historic cellars of our hotel, and the hotel owner guided us through several of these local wines, an experience which proved very popular. This wine tasting preceded dinner, and the bridge session which followed (appropriately, this was the Random Teams) produced some lively bidding and play.

The bridge itself was played in a room overlooking the river, and it was difficult at times to ignore the terrific variety of craft passing the windows – at least that was the excuse offered by some of the players!

Although we were only here for one week we were able to play a variety of bridge sessions, and the winners of the principal events were:

Championship Teams – Margaret & Ian Cowe, Julia & Barrie Newall

Random Teams – Helen & Stuart Walker, Julia Newall and Mary Dickinson

Swiss Pairs & Championship Pairs – Eve & Lawrence Thorne

Many thanks to Judy Petran, who was the third member of our First for Bridge Team and was available to play when needed and generally help in the bridge room. She proved a cheery presence both in the bridge room and, especially, on the river cruises.

Director’s report by Bob Baker

The following hand from the Championship Teams event presented some interesting problems in the bidding:

North South took no part in the bidding, and the first problem was the choice of opening bid by West. This is the sort of hand which would have been opened with a strong, forcing, 2 bid in traditional Acol. However, for the pairs who use different methods there is more of a problem: a “Benji” 2♣ opening bid will mean that diamonds must be shown at the three-level (also the hand will be played by East if there is a 2 “relay” response) and a 2 opening bid will have the additional disadvantage of overstating the strength of the hand. Almost certainly the best solution is to open 1♦, hoping to be able to show the extra strength later in the auction.

Over East’s 1♠ response West should probably rebid 3, although this is in fact a slight underbid. Inventing a reverse by bidding 2 is possible – if East raises to 3 then West could try 3NT, although that would be taking a chance on the club suit. Alternatively West could try a slightly distorted rebid in no trumps, although as the hand is worth rather more than 18 points this may mean a (clumsy) 3NT bid – again, clubs are a worry.

Over the normal choice of 3♦ East should think in terms of a possible slam, although the quality of his spade suit is a bit of a worry, and the most helpful bid is 4, showing his support for partner’s six-card suit. This start (1 – 1♠, 3 – 4) led to several pairs reaching the 6 slam, usually after control bids of 4 from West and 5♣ from East.

The contract proved easy on the usual heart lead – I might have preferred a club, hoping for partner to provide some help in the suit in order to set up a trick for the defence. In fact on any lead declarer draws trumps and takes a successful finesse in clubs; this may be repeated and his losing spade is discarded, giving an overtrick.
Although, as the cards are, a spade lead from North is most unlikely, the contract would then depend on the ♣K being in the North hand – otherwise the defence would take a club and a spade. This means that the hand would become a “five or seven” hand – in other words declarer (on a spade lead) would make either eleven or thirteen tricks, depending on the club finesse.