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We have a reciprocal arrangement with Effingham Bridge Club whereby, members can play (Duplicate) on Friday evenings, at South Bookham Space, Dorking Road, Great Bookham, Surrey, KT23 4PB at 7.30.p.m.   Table money only £2.50  per session.

 

 
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Traditions around the June Solstice

People take part in the 15th annual Times Square yoga event celebrating the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, in New York.

A significant turning point during the year - the days start getting shorter and the nights longer – the June Solstice is often associated with change, nature and new beginnings. People around the world celebrate the day, which is also known as the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, with feasts, bonfires, picnics, and traditional songs and dances. Celebrations surrounding the June Solstice have a time-honored history. In ancient times, the date of the June Solstice was used to organize calendars and as a marker to figure out when to plant and harvest crops. Traditionally, this time of year was also popular for weddings.

The summer and winter solstices mark the longest and shortest days of the year, depending on where you are in the world. In southern England, thousands gathered to watch the sunrise at Stonehenge on Wednesday morning, on the longest day of the year. Across the Atlantic, thousands of yogis travel to Times Square to celebrate the summer solstice with free yoga classes all day long in the heart of New York City. Not to be outdone, more than 1,000 Aussies celebrating the winter solstice down under bared it all in a skinny-dipping tradition with temperatures at 39 degrees Fahrenheit in the Derwent River as part of the Dark Mofo arts festival in Tasmania. Farther south in the Antarctic, researchers stationed at Australia's Davis Station marked midwinter's day by taking a chainsaw to the ice, cutting a small pool and taking a dip in water with a temperature of 28.76 Fahrenheit. The Davis Station is the most southerly Australian Antarctic station and is situated 2250 nautical miles south-south-west of Perth, Australia.

An expeditioner stationed at Australia's Davis Station takes the plunge to celebrate the winter solstice.

In ancient China, the Summer solstice was observed by a ceremony to celebrate the Earth, femininity, and the “yin” forces. It complemented the Winter Solstice that celebrated the heavens, masculinity and “yang” forces. According to Chinese tradition, the shortest shadow is found on the day of the Summer Solstice. In ancient Gaul, which encompasses modern-day France and some parts of its neighboring countries, the Midsummer celebration was called Feast of Epona. The celebration was named after a mare goddess who personified fertility and protected horses. In ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes, pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. After Christianity spread in Europe and other parts of the world, many pagan customs were incorporated into the Christian religion. In parts of Scandinavia, the Midsummer celebration continued but was observed around the time of St John’s Day, on June 24, to honor St John the Baptist instead of the pagan gods.

 

In North America, some Native American tribes held ritual dances to honor the Sun. The Sioux were known to hold one of the most spectacular rituals. Preparations for the event included cutting and raising a tree that would be considered a visible connection between the heavens and Earth, and setting up teepees in a circle to represent the cosmos. Participants abstained from food and drink during the dance itself. Their bodies were decorated in the symbolic colors of red (sunset), blue (sky), yellow (lightning), white (light), and black (night).

 

Some historians point to the Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, as evidence of the fact that ancient humans used the June Solstice as a way to organize their calendars. Some believe that Stonehenge's unique stone circle was erected around 2500 BCE in order to establish the date of the Summer Solstice. Viewed from its center, the Sun rises at a particular point on the horizon on day of the June Solstice. Some theories suggest that the builders of Stonehenge may have used the solstice as a starting-point to count the days of the year. On Wednesday morning, revellers watch the sunrise as they celebrate the pagan festival of summer solstice at Stonehenge in southern England. The festival, which dates back thousands of years, celebrates the longest day of the year, when the sun is at its maximum elevation. Modern druids and people gather at the landmark Stonehenge every year to see the sun rise on the first morning of summer.

People touch the stones of the Stonehenge monument at dawn on the summer solstice. 

People touch the stones of the Stonehenge monument at dawn on the summer solstice.

It was certainly warm enough in Oxshott last night as temperatures topped 34 degrees for the first time since 1976!! Maybe Members were returning from Stonehenge, taking a dive in the Antartic, or practising their Yoga in New York, but there were only 9 full Tables in attendance to contest our regular Club Night. The Star Performers were Daphne Pugh & Gillian Lowe who came First among the Pairs playing North/South; they scored an impressive 59.52% and scooped the maximum 30 Master Points!! Well done indeed!! They were seven Match points ahead of Mike Mulligan & Elisa Money who came Second with 57.44%, with Renate Lane & George Gardiner a further 12 Match points back in Third place with 53.87%. The scoring was much more tight among the pairs playing East/West. Congratulations must go to Jonathan Spring & John French who came First with 55.65%, but they were only 4 Match Points ahead of Elizabeth Gray & Rosemary Collin who came Second with 54.46; and Annemie Bisgood & Vernon Morton were just a further 7 Match points back with 52.38% in Third place. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!

It was East who received the “good cards”; they played the contract on 10 Boards, while North played a further 9 contracts. That left poor old South and West with only 4 Boards where they got to play the contract!!?? The split between “game” contracts and “part-game” contracts was slightly in favour of the former. There were 15 of the higher-scoring “game” contracts compared to 12 of the “part-game” contracts!! Slam Opportunities were difficult to deliver although there were one or two Boards that offered a Chimera??!! A “chimera” is defined as “a hope or dream that is extremely unlikely ever to come true” in the Cambridge English dictionary. Board 11 gave South 14 High Card Points with 4 Spades to the Axxx and four small Hearts; they might open 1 No Trump. North has 12 HCPs in support with 5 Spades to the KQJxx and 4 Diamonds to the Q10xx with a singleton Club; they would bid a “transfer” with 2 Hearts. South might move up to 3 Spades, because they have good Spades, and this allows North to move to “game”. Well last night one North/South Pair bid “game” in 3 No Trumps; they made 10 tricks for 430 points. Six more N/S Pairs bid 4 Spades; one made 10 tricks for 420 points; four made 11 tricks for 450 points, but one made 12 tricks for 480 points!! However one intrepid N/S Pair bid Slam in 6 Spades; sadly they made only 10 tricks and so gave up 100 penalty points!!?? Now the “Expert Analysis” – which you can find along with the Travellers in the “Results” section – informs us that – against the best of Defences – it is possible for North or South to make only 10 tricks in Spades on this Board. You see East has the Ace of Clubs which they will have to play early as North has only a singleton. Then North and South have three or four Hearts each without the King, Queen or Jack, so there should be two tricks there!! However it is interesting that five out of the eight Pairs who defended gave up at least 11 tricks here?? Oops!!

Board 12 gave West an amazing hand; they had 13 HCPs, 7 Diamonds to the KQ10xxxx, 5 Spades to the AJ10xx, a void in Hearts and a singleton King of Clubs; they would open a weak 3 Diamonds. North has 11 HCPs with 6 Hearts to the KJxxxx; they must be sorely tempted to bid but will probably “pass”. East had only 3 HCPs but three small Diamonds, so they too will “Pass”. But South has 13 HCPs with 5 Hearts to the A10xxx and a singleton Ace of Diamonds; they would surely bid 3 Hearts. Now it would be interesting to see who would bid the higher; would it be West with their Diamonds or would it be North/South with their spectacular hearts?? Well last night, one East/West Pair somehow bid game in 4 Spades; they made only 9 tricks and so lost 50 penalty points!!?? Two North/South Pairs bid game in 4 Hearts; one made 10 tricks for 620 points, while the second made 11 tricks for 650 points!! Two East/West pairs bid up to 5 Diamonds; they were both doubled; one made 10 tricks to lose 100 penalty points, but the second made only 9 tricks and so lost 300 points??!! Two more North/South Pairs bid up to 5 Hearts; one made 11 tricks for 650 points, while the second made 12 tricks for 680 points!! However one brave N/S Pair bid Slam in 6 Hearts; sadly they made only 11 tricks and so lost 100 penalty points and a top score to their Opponents!!?? Now the “Expert Analysis” confirms that it should only be possible for North or South to made 11 tricks in Hearts on this Board. South must win the Ace of Diamonds and they can draw the Ace of Spades from West, leaving the second Spade trick to fall to the Queen in North’s hand. So it seems that the Slam was a “chimera” again!!

Board 19 gave North 18 HCPs with 6 Hearts to the AK10xxx; they would open 1 Heart. South has 9 HCPs with 5 Spades to the Axxxx; they would reply 1 Spade. North would surely jump to 3 Hearts to show their strength, and South would move it on to “game” with 4 Hearts. Now it is up to North to decide if anything bigger is potential??!! Well last night all 8 North/South Pairs decided on a “game” contract in 4 Hearts; four made 11 tricks for 450 points; three made 12 tricks for 480 points, and one made all 13 tricks for 510 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” tells us that it is possible for both North and South to make a Slam contract in 6 Hearts on this Board!! You see with a fist-full of Hearts and the Ace and King of both Spades and Clubs, the only difficulty for North/South lies in Diamonds. Now North had the King and Jack, while the Queen sits with West and the Ace of Diamonds sits with East. If North remains calm and finesses a Diamond lead from West, then the contract is secured.

Finally there is Board 1 which is reproduced at the top of this Report. Have another look at these interesting hands to see how YOU would bid and play this Board to maximise the potential offered!!?? You can see that North has a whopping 9 Diamonds to the Axxxxxxxx but only 4 HCPs and a void in Diamonds; they would surely open 4 Diamonds!!?? East has a massive 19 HCPs with a 4441 distribution; they would double. South had only 6 HCPs so they will “pass”. West has 11 HCPs with 5 Hearts to the Qxxxx and 4 Spades to the AQ10x; they would respond 4 Hearts. Now there has got to be a temptation for North to bid on in Diamonds and so may East in Hearts!!?? Well last night one East/West Pair bid “game” in 4 Hearts; they made 12 tricks for 480 points!! Four brave North/South Pairs bid “game” in 5 Diamonds; all four were doubled; one made 9 tricks and so gave up 300 penalty points; but three made only 8 tricks and so gave up 500 penalty points!!?? Three more East/West Pairs bid up to 5 Hearts; one made 11 tricks for 450 points, while the other two made 12 tricks for 480 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” informs us that it is possible for South (but not North) to make a Slam in 6 Hearts on this Board!! In addition it tells us that both North and South can make a Slam in 6 No Trumps!! You see when the opening lead comes from South, they will almost certainly lead a small Spade which will be trumped by North who has a void. Then the Ace of Diamonds defeats the Slam contract in 6 Hearts!! Of course North cannot lead Spades so they will play the Ace of Diamonds which is their only winning trick. In No Trumps, a Slam is similarly delivered by finessing the King of Spades in South’s hand!! How did YOU do on revisiting this hand?? It is certainly a stressful decision to bid Slam in No Trumps when you can see that your Opponent has at least 8 Diamonds and you have only a singleton King of Diamonds in Defence!!??

Anyway there were no successful Slam contracts made last night, although there were two attempts that were unsuccessful. Maybe next week we will see an avalanche of Slam Opportunities. Let’s hope so. See you there, prompt at 7.30pm.!!

 

 

Last updated : 22nd Jun 2017 11:53 BST
Surprises and Innovations abound at Art Basel

A cast-iron tree by Ai Weiwei has been installed for the Art Basel fair in Switzerland.

Marc Spiegler, the global director of Art Basel, said Hong Kong has its galleries, while Miami is known for its private collections and Basel for its museums. For all the obvious differences among these cities, when the Art Basel fair visits them each year, it anchors its shows in the same way, with a large showcase of presentations by international galleries. “There’s a relatively standard way of handling booths,” Mr. Spiegler said. Level walls, good lighting and wide corridors are prerequisites. Indeed, the particular character of each city’s show begins to reveal itself only outside its Galleries sector, as these centerpiece exhibitions are known. “Where they get really distinct from each other is once you leave the fair halls,” Mr. Spiegler said. Even for an exposition as established as this one is (in 1970, the inaugural Art Basel was one of the first shows of its kind to be mounted), surprises and innovations abound this year. Artworks make their most decisive break with halls and walls in the Parcours sector, the slice of the Basel show dedicated to exhibitions of site-specific work in the public sphere. The city’s neighborhoods are temporarily overtaken by so-called interventions at plazas, classrooms, riverbanks, water fountains and more.

Although the main Art Basel compound is at the Messe Basel exhibition site, there are treasures to be found on the opposite side of the Rhine. A cast-iron tree by Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and political dissident, has been installed for the fair on Münsterplatz, in the shadow of the historic Basel Minster cathedral.

Amanda Ross-Ho’s installation consists of enlarged keys scattered throughout the city of Basel.

Samuel Leuenberger, the curator of Parcours and a native of Basel, likes to help the artists contributing to the sector get familiar with the host city, mainly by leading them on site visits. “So many times we have an archive, we have a list of locations that sound great over a PDF or over the internet,” Mr. Leuenberger said. But artists frequently deviate from whatever plans they may have had for their pieces after arriving in Basel and walking through the city with him. “Often the mind changes once we’re here,” he said, adding, “I’ve learned more and more that I shouldn’t have too much of a fixed idea.” Now in his second year as the Parcours curator, Mr. Leuenberger has seen how the city of Basel’s inclination to accommodate the fair can result in an extreme diversity of sites hosting installations. The artists themselves are often pleasantly surprised. “Almost — almost — anything is possible in the area that we’ve selected for Parcours,” he said. To wit: For the new work of the Los Angeles-based artist Amanda Ross-Ho, she has scattered enlarged replicas of keys across Basel.  “Once in a while, you’ll meet one of these keys: down in the river, in the sand; down the staircase, below the bridge; on the open street,” Mr. Leuenberger said. Ms. Ross-Ho’s exaggerated keys, modeled after functioning ones that open doors to real locations around the city, are almost certain to be come across by passers-by who had no expectation of a run-in with an Art Basel installation that day — chance encounters echoing the imagined accidents by which the keys were lost.

Claudia Comte’s participatory palindrome “NOW I WON.

Mr. Leuenberger’s familiarity with Basel is an asset to his work as Parcours curator, but his being Swiss also informed the mission of Salts, a nonprofit project space that he helped found in 2009 to promote young international and Swiss artists. One of those young Swiss artists was Claudia Comte, who five years ago staged a small show in Salts’ modest exhibition space — really, a backyard and a two-car garage. Today, Ms. Comte is the architect of the most prominent artwork at the 2017 Art Basel show: an enormous, participatory outdoor installation in the form of a carnival that the artist is calling “NOW I WON.” To fairgoers, the installation, directly in front of the main exhibition pavilions, will be all but unavoidable. Ms. Comte’s newly constructed funfair, which is not part of the Parcours sector, will encourage audience participation in activities including mini golf, arm-wrestling, bowling and darts. But the games — all of which bear vaguely menacing names, like “Drop ’Em All” (bowling, but with original Comte sculptures as pins), “Dance or Die” (a dancing competition) and “Bend or Break” (arm-wrestling) — are only half the exhibition. Ms. Comte also used 23 six-meter tree trunks to render the name of the installation in lumber, a monumental creation set atop an artificial hill overlooking the carnival games. Ms. Comte, who may be as fond of wordplay as a motif as she is of the chain saw as an artistic implement, described the phrase “NOW I WON” as “really one of the best palindromes that exists, I think, with great geometrical proportion.” The opportunity to show her work in a way that’s virtually impossible to miss, in the plaza that for one week in June is the undeniable center of the art world, is a thrill for the artist, who said she had always been drawn to public artworks on a grand scale. “I’m trying to reach a large public, and this mixture of audience really fascinates me a lot,” Ms. Comte said.

Back indoors, beyond the false hill, the fair’s Unlimited sector is showcasing 76 unconventional projects that could go toe to toe with Ms. Comte’s triumphal log signage in terms of sheer ambition. Unlimited was introduced at the 2000 fair as a platform for work that wouldn’t be at home in a traditional fair booth, including performance and video art, large-scale sculpture and painting, and massive installations that defy easy categorization. It now rambles across 16,000 square meters of exhibition space in the largest of the Messe Basel pavilions, Hall 1. Gianni Jetzer, curator of the Unlimited sector, selected this year’s projects from some 180 applications, each of which was considered by a committee in January. “It’s kind of a luxury nowadays to spend two days — two full days — discussing the relevance of art and the quality of specific artwork,” he said. The creation of the exhibition space itself is similarly deliberate: For each of the last six years in which Mr. Jetzer has led Unlimited, he has begun with an empty hall and created roughly a mile of wall space to accommodate the artworks. “It gives you a certain flexibility because I build the whole structure from scratch,” he said.

This year, the guiding conceit — inspired by the writings of Camillo Sitte, a long-dead Austrian urbanist — is a system of four squares that are variously dominated by a sprawling, inflated work from Otto Piene; a Sue Williamson installation consisting of glass bottles suspended from the ceiling with fishing nets, each one engraved with the name of a person ensnared in the slave trade, along with information about his or her country of origin, sale price and more; a 1967 Tony Smith sculpture; and a triangular array of steel tiles by Carl Andre. Mr. Jetzer estimated it would take at least two and a half hours to see everything in Unlimited, 45 minutes if you proceeded briskly (he does not advise that). That is not bad for a group show of this magnitude. “It’s a group exhibition,” Mr. Jetzer said, “but basically it’s like 76 small solo exhibitions, put together.”


An installation by Sue Williamson consists of bottles in nets, each engraved with the name of a person ensnared by slavery.

There were plenty of "creative artists" among the 14 full Tables who turned up at the Oxshott Bridge Club last night to contest the regular Club Night!!?? Many people say that it takes an age to create a partnership between two Players, but our "Host" system lays down the challenge each week. Once every two years, each Member has to act as a "Host" to be partnered by any Member who does not have apre-arranged Pairing for that week. Sometimes the new partnership flounders in the confusion of learning a new bidding system, but sometimes the new Pairing rises like a Phoenix to immediate success!! And that was what happened last night. Our "Host was Graham Morris and his new Partner for the evening was Elisa Money; they earn deserved congratulations for achieving the top score of the evening!! They came First among the pairs playing North/South with an outstanding score of 69.99%, and they also scooped the maximum 50 Master Points!! Well done indeed!! They were way ahead of the "chasing pack" who were led by June Buckland & Eileen Goddard who came Second with 59.29%, 6 Match points ahead of David Rotherham & Sue Osborne who were Third with 58.33%. Richard Burgess & Philip Duncan came Fourth with 55.13%, only three Match Points ahead of Tony Scott & Barbara Shaw who were placed Fifth with 54.65%. The scoring was much closer among the Pairs playing East/West. Congratulations must go to Fay D'Abo & John Taylor who came First with 60.58%, but they were just five Match points ahead of Alan & Pat Hammond who came Second with 59.78%. Jonathan Spring & Mike Mulligan were Third with 57.69%, some six Match Points ahead of Deanne & Kevin Goddard who came Fourth on 56.73%, with Philip Goldenberg & Dave Bowen just 5 Match Points further back in Fifth position. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!

It was North who received the "good cards" last night; they played the contract on no less than 10 out of the 24 Boards!! West got to play 7 contracts and East played a further 5 Boards; that left poor old South with only two Boards where they got to play the contract all evening!!?? There were a clear majority of Boards offering the higher-scooring "game" contracts; indeed it was 16:8 between them and the "non-game" contracts!! Among them, there were four Boards that offered some kind of Slam Opportunity and there were 10 actual Slam contracts bid and made during the evening!! Board 3 gave West an excellent hand with 17 High Card Points, a void in Hearts, 6 Spades to the AQ10xxx and 5 Clubs to the Axxxx; they would open 1 Spade. East has 11 HCPs in support with a balanced hand, 4 Clubs to the J10xx and 4 Hearts to the AQxx, as well as KJx in Spades; they might well jump to 2 No Trumps to indicate a points count. West then repeats their Spades with 3 Spades, and the prospect of a really big contract starts to loom into sight!!?? Well last night one East/West Pair bid 3 No Trumps; they made 11 tricks for 660 points!! Five more E/W Pairs bid "game" in 4 Spades; one made 11 tricks for 650 points, while four made 12 tricks for 680 points!! But seven E/W Pairs vraved a Slam bid!! Congratulations must go to Elizabeth Gray & Rosemary Collin who bid Slam in 6 Clubs; they made exactly 12 tricks for 1370 points!! But special congratulations must go to Philip Goldenberg & Dave Bowen, to Renate Lane & George Gardiner, to Katherine Kreuter & Dave Cowell, to Julie Minards & Pauline Harris, to Jonathan Spring & Mike Mulligan, and to Alan & Pat Hammond; they all bid Slam in 6 Spades; all six made exactly 12 tricks to share the top score of 1430 points!! Now the "Expert Analysis" - which you can find attached to the Travellers in the "Results" section - informs us that it is possible for both East and West to make a Slam contract in any of 6 Clubs, in 6 Spades, or in 6 No Trumps on this Board!! There seems to be no way to avoid losing one Club trick as South has a doubleton of the King and Queen of Clubs, but the other tricks fall quite easily; so the issue lies in effective communication of the strengths of the two hands!!?? Whatever, seven successful Slam contracts has to be pretty good??

Board 13 gave Dealer North a whopping hand with 20 HCPs, a balanced hand and 5 Spades to the AQ10xx; they would open 2 No Trumps. South has 8 HCPs with 5 Hearts to the Axxxx and 4 low Spades; they might try "Stamen" asking their Partner for a 4-card major?? When North responds with 3 Spades, South will move it on immediately to 4 Spades showing their agreement. Now North has to decide if there is a realistic possibility of a Slam contract here??!! Well last night, three North/South Pairs bid game in 3 No Trumps; one made exactly 9 tricks for 600 points; the second made 10 tricks for 630 points; and the third made 11 tricks for 660 points!! Ten more N/S Pairs bid game in 4 Spades; four made exactly 10 tricks for 620 points; five made 11 tricks for 650 points; but one made only 9 tricks and so gave up 100 penalty points!! However one intrepid N/S Pair bid a Slam contract in 6 Spades; sadly they made only 10 tricks and so lost 200 penalty points - and a top score - to their Opponents!!?? Now the "Expert Analysis" confirms that - against the best of Defences - it is only possible for North or South to make 11 tricks in Spades on this Board. You see, unfortunately, both the King and the Jack of Spades along with a third small Spade sit in East's hand and there is no way that North can extract either of them since the Ace and Queen sit with North. Some might say "C'est la vie!!" while others might regard the risk as too great. Sometines it works, and sometimes it does not!!??

 Board 15 presented some interesting hands to both sides. Dealer South had an excellent 16 HCPs with a void in Clubs, 6 Hearts to the AKQJxx and 4 Diamonds to the KJxx; they would open 1 Heart. West has 11 HCPs with a singleton Diamond, 5 Clubs to the A10xxx and 4 Spades to the AJxx; they might bid 2 Clubs. North has 7 HCPs with 3 small Hearts and five Diamonds to the A10xxx; they might bid 2 Diamonds. West has only 6 HCPs but they do have 6 Clubs to the KQJxxx, so they will probably raise to 3 Clubs. South has such good Hearts that they will bid 3 Hearts. Now it is anyone's guess where the final contract might land!!?? Well last night three North/South Pairs bid 3 Hearts; all three made 12 tricks for 230 points!! One East/West Pair bid 4 Clubs; they made only 9 tricks and so gave up 50 penalty points!!?? Seven more N/S Pairs bid "game" in 4 Hearts; one made 11 tricks for 650 points, while six made 12 tricks for 680 points!! One N/S Pair bid "game" in 5 Diamonds; sadly they made only 10 tricks and so lost 100 penalty points!!?? Another N/S Pair bid up to 5 Hearts; they made 12 tricks for 680 points!! but one intrepid East/West Pair braved a Slam bid in 6 Clubs; they were doubled; they made only 9 tricks to losr 500 penalty points - which was not a bad sacrlifice in the event !! Now the "Expert Analysis" informs us that - even against the best of Defences - both North and South can make a Slam contract in EITHER 6 Diamonds and in 6 Hearts. Certainly the Ace of Spades is a losing trick, but all the other tricks fall easily for North and South, with the void in Clubs in South and the total command of both the Diamonds and the Hearts!! But the danger of a "sacrifice bid" of 6 Clubs from East/West is that you might force your Opponent into making a Slam bid that they would not otherwise make??!!

Finally there was Board 8 which os reproduced at the top of this Report. Do take another look at these interesting hands to see how YOU would bid and play them to maximise the Opportunity offered??!! You can see that Dealer West has 15 HCPs with 5 Hearts to the AJ10xx and 4 Spades to the Kxxx; they would open 1 Heart. East has 13 HCPs with 5 Diamonds to the A10xx and 4 strong Hearts to the KQxx; they might jump to 3 Diamonds to emphasise their strength. West would then bid their second 4-card major with 3 Spades, and now East has a choice to make. Will they just indicate their Hearts strength by bidding "game" in 4 Hearts, or will the move to "Blackwood" in a search for Slam??!! Well last night 11 East/West Pairs bid "game" in 4 Hearts; five made 11 tricks for 450 points, while six made 12 tricks for 480 points!! However three brave Pairs bid a Slam contract!! Many congratulations must go to Katherine Kreuter & Dave Cowell, to Alan & Pat Hammond, and to Deanne & Kevin Goddard; they all bid Slam in 6 Hearts; they all made exactly 12 tricks to share an excellent top score of 980 points on this Board!! Now the "Expert Analysis" confirms that - even against the best of Defences - it is possible for both East and West to make a Slam in 6 Hearts. It turns out that the Diamonds are covered as the Ace in East's hand takes the singelton in West, allowing trumping of any further attempts in that suit. Similarly the Clubs are covered since the Ace and King from West take the doubleton in East, and again any further tricks will be trumped in that suit. The Hearts are easy, so the only losing trick turns out to be the third Spades trick after the Ace and King of Spades have been played; there is no way to discard this so 12 tricks is the maximum that can be made!! How did YOU do on revisiting these interesting hands?? Anyway many congratulations to all our Actual Slam Achievers of the evening!!

 

 

 

 

 

Last updated : 15th Jun 2017 17:57 BST
The Vanishing Glories of Suburbia

Como Street, Romford: In the Essex suburbs of 1908, behind wrought iron railings, saplings and hedges fill each plot. And now? Just acres of paving

The biggest vandal in Britain over the past century has been the car. For proof, just look at these heartbreaking photographs assembled by the Old Streets picture project. They come from the Francis Frith Archive, a fine collection of historical photographs of Britain. The new pictures are taken from Google Street View. The changes are huge and horrifying. The trim front gardens, trees and garden walls of Como Street in Romford, on the eastern fringes of London, in 1908 have been ripped away, replaced by hard standing for cars which are parked right up against the houses' handsome bay windows.

In Elmscott Gardens, Enfield, the neat walled and hedged front plots of 1955 are now car pull-ins covered with harsh paving or gravel. Throughout the suburbs of London, front gardens have been torn out at an unprecedented rate. Since 2005, more than three million front gardens have been paved over, claims the Royal Horticultural Society. Of the 19.1 million front gardens across the country, five million — more than a quarter — have no plants, while at least seven million are mostly paved. These are shocking statistics for a supposed nation of gardeners. This decline reflects the relentless rise in the number of cars on the road: from 21 million in 1995 to 31 million in 2015, according to the RAC Foundation. But a host of other factors — from the introduction of wheelie bins to council parking restrictions and even the boom in buy-to-let properties, whose tenants often have no interest in gardening — have only exacerbated matters.

Elmscott Gardens, Enfield: In 1955 every house had its wooden gate, path, brick wall and greenery. Now the shrubs and lawns have vanished under block paving

The result is rows of soulless, barren streets, devoid of the greenery that used to be such a feature of suburban life. But this is not just an aesthetic disaster. It is an environmental one as well. There is widespread evidence that paving over front gardens has contributed greatly to flooding disasters in this country because lawns and flowerbeds, which used to absorb water, have been replaced by impermeable paving, concrete and Tarmac. In London, a 2015 report warned that 17 per cent of permeable ground surface had been lost in the past 40 years, mainly due to homeowners paving gardens, and that if this continued, 'relatively light rainfall may overcome the drains and sewers'. Wildlife has also suffered. Bees and other pollinating insects benefit from nectar-producing flowers in front gardens, while trees, shrubs and hedges provide nesting sites for birds.

Burleigh Gardens, Southgate: Tree-lined in 1955 with not a parked car in sight; now it’s almost treeless and starkly stripped of its well-tended gardens

Hedges of hardy evergreens such as privet, yew and laurel also provide sound insulation and privacy and absorb street pollutants, while thorned varieties can deter burglars. Today, 84 per cent of us live in suburbia. When we started migrating there in our millions, from the late 19th century onwards, the dream was to escape the urban soot and gloom of industrial Britain for our own little Eden with airy accommodation and greenery — and, in particular, for a house with a front and back garden. 'That universal sense of a garden for everyman — for people regardless of occupation or status — is peculiarly British,' says Sir Roy Strong, the historian and gardening writer, who was brought up in a Twenties suburb in North London. 'It was an invention of the Victorian age when the population trebled in a century. Everyman was given a precious plot of earth in which to plant flowers and cultivate produce, a place to sit in the shade or in the sun, resting from his labours, escaping from the grim side of urban life to look at the petals unfolding or the fruit ripening. 'The suburbs are about privacy, about the Englishman's belief that his home is his castle,' he adds — literally so, where mock Tudor beams, crenellations and turrets are part of the design.

Sir Roy remembers the pride and almost competitive keep-up-with-the-Joneses spirit that almost all these new homeowners displayed over their suburban abodes. "I recall my father clipping the green privet hedge in front of the house," he recalls. "From the porch, hanging baskets would be suspended. Every evening there was the ritual watering. The border round the front lawn was planted with antirrhinums and edged with white and blue alyssum and lobelias." Alas, those watering, pruning and planting rituals are vanishingly rare today in Britain's front gardens. The pride has disappeared. The beauty, silence and privacy that front gardens afforded have been ripped away with the torn-up lawn and grubbed-up hedge. And, as these pictures show, a refuge that was once so green, peaceful and thoroughly British has been killed stone dead.

South Street, Braintree, Essex: In 1909, each tidy house has a green rectangle in front. Now the townscape is dominated by cars, vans and soulless street furniture

Well clipping the privet hedge and watering the hanging baskets was left behind last night as 12 full Tables turned up at the Oxshott Bridge Club to contest our regular Club Night. Congratulations must go to Tony Fincham & Elisa Money who were our Star Performers; they came First among the Pairs playing North/South with an impressive score of 64.96%; they also scooped the maximum 40 Master points!! They were well clear of the "chasing pack" who were led by Gail Norman & Eileen Goddard who came Second with 53.98%. They were 10 Match points ahead of Alan Hammond & Fay D'Abo who came Third with 52.08%, with Philip Goldenberg & Dave Bowen just two further Match points back in Fourth place with 51.70%. The battle for the top places among the pairs playing East/West was much closer. Many congratulations must go to Daphne Pugh & Gillian Lowe who came First with 60.23%, but they were only 8 Match points ahead of Susan & Mike Sadler who came Second with 58.71%. Joyce Gibbs & Jean Hutchinson were a further 10 Match points back in Third place with 56.82%, and Dorothy Steinart & Rosie Branch were Fourth with 53.60%. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!

It was South who received the "good cards" last night; they played the contract on no less than 10 out of the 24 Boards. That left East and West playing 5 Boards each, and poor old North got only 4 Boards where they played the contract!!?? There were slightly more of the "game" contracts for us to play; the split was 14 versus 10 in favour of the higher-scoring "game" contracts. There were three Boards that offered some kind of Slam Opportunity but there was only one actual successful Slam contract bid and made during the evening!!?? Board 15 presented West with 13 High Card Points and 5 Diamonds to the AQ10xx; they would open 1 Diamond. North has 15 HCPs with 5 Hearts to the AJxxx, 4 Spades to the AQJx and a singleton Diamond; they might well double to invite their Partner to bid their best suit. East has only 2 HCPs so they will pass. South has 10 HCPs, a balanced hand and 4 Hearts to the K10xx; they would respond with 1 Heart. Well North must have been delighted to have determined the matching suit so early, so the only issue is how high to bid??!! Well last night four North/South Pairs stopped at 2 Hearts; one made 9 tricks for 140 points; one made 11 tricks for 200 points; one made 12 tricks for 230 points; and one made the full set of 13 tricks for 230 points!! Five more N/S Pairs bid up to 3 Hearts; two made 11 tricks for 200 points, while three made 12 tricks for 230 points!! However three brave Pairs bid game in 4 Hearts; one made 11 tricks for 650 points, while the other two made 12 tricks for 680 points!! Now the "Expert Analysis" - which you can find along with the Travellers in the "Results" section - informs us that it is possible for both North and South to make a Slam contract in 6 Hearts!! The singleton Diamond in North restricts the lost tricks in that suit to only the Ace, and West's King of Spades can easily be finessed by North. The fourth Spade trick allows South to discard their losing Club and the Slam contract is delivered!! However sadly last night  Lady Opportunity had to move on without anyone bidding a Slam on this hand?? 

Board 5 gave South a really good hand; they had 19 HCPs with 5 Diamonds to the AJ10xx and 4 Spades to the AKxx; they would open 1 Diamond. North has 10 HCPs with 5 Spades to the QJ10xx; they would respond 1 Spade. South must be smiling broadly at this stage, but - careful not to "scare the horses" - they would now bid 3 Spades, indicating even greater strength than if they had bid 4 Spades. North would definitely move things forward to 4 Spades, and it is now up to South to decide if a Slam contract is in prospect??!! Well last night 10 North/South Pairs bid game in 4 Spades; nine made 11 tricks for 650 points, while one Pair made 12 tricks for 680 points!! However two North/South Pairs braved a Slam bid in 6 Spades; sadly one fell short by one trick and so gave up 100 penalty points - and a top score - to their Opponents!! But many congratulations must go to Rowena & Eric Austin who bid Slam in 6 Spades; they made exactly 12 tricks for a whopping top score of 1430 points!! Well done indeed!! Now the "Expert Analysis" tells us that - against the best of Defences - it is only possible for N/S to make 11 tricks in either 6 Spades or in 6 No Trumps on this Board!!?? You see East has the Ace of Hearts and the King and Queen of Diamonds. Once they win with the Ace of Hearts, they will play one of the two Diamonds to draw the Ace from South's hand. Then they would just sit back and wait until North has to offer the second Diamond trick to defeat the Slam contract!! Interestingly Rowena Austin revealed that they made their Slam contract by virtue of a "revoke"!! Like they say: "Sometimes you have to be good; sometimes you have to be lucky!!"

Finally there was Board 21 which is reproduced at the top of this Report. Do take another look at these hands to see how YOU would bid and play this Board to maximise the Opportunity presented? You can see East has an excellent 17 HCPs with 4 Clubs to the AQxx, 4 Diamonds to the AQxx, 4 Hearts to the KQxx and a singleton Spade; they would open 1 Club. West has 10 HCPs with 4 Clubs to the Kxxx and 4 Hearts to the 10xxx; to bid 2 Clubs would be to indicate a minimal supporting hand, so they might well respond with a jump to 3 Clubs. Now East will be keen to mention their four-card major with 3 Hearts; and West have to decide whether to repeat 4 Clubs or to show their 4-card support in Hearts by bidding 4 Hearts. Whichever they choose, it is up to East to decide whether a really big contract is in the offing or not??!! Well last night surprisingly two East/West Pairs stopped at 3 Clubs; one made 11 tricks for 150 points, while the second made 12 tricks for 170 points!! Again one E/W Pair stopped at 3 Hearts; they made 10 tricks for 170 points!!?? However one Pair bid game in 3 No Trumps; sadly they made only 8 tricks and so gave up 50 penalty points!!?? Then 7 E/W Pairs bid game in 4 Hearts; two made 10 tricks for 420 points; three made 11 tricks for 450 points; and two made 12 tricks for 480 points!! One E/W Pair bid game in 5 Clubs; sadly they made only 10 tricks and so gave up 50 penalty points??!! Now the "Expert Analysis" informs us that it is possible for both East and West to make a Slam contract in either 6 Clubs or in 6 Hearts on this Board!! The secret is to lead the 10 of trumps from West which forces out the Ace of Hearts while retaining the King and Queen in East to cover the Jack in North's hand. Playing the Ace and cross-trumping a second Spade trick, four Club tricks and 3 Diamond tricks means that the three remaining Hearts bring home the Slam contract!! How did YOU manage on revisiting this interesting Board?? Sadly last night no one braved a Slam bid in either 6 Clubs or in 6 Hearts!! Anyway well done to our single Actual Slam Achievers of the evening!!

 

 

Last updated : 8th Jun 2017 12:09 BST
World awaits Trump Decision on US Future in Paris Accord

Trump joins G7 leaders for a photo at the Ancient Greek

Trump joins G7 leaders for a photo at the Ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina on May 26, 2017, in Taormina, Italy.

President Donald Trump is expected to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Administration sources leaked that Trump is leaning toward leaving the historic climate accord, but has not yet made a final decision. The President himself said in a Wednesday evening tweet that he would officially announce his decision on the accord from the White House Rose Garden at 3:00 p.m. Thursday. Under President Barack Obama, the United States committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The Obama administration also pledged $3 billion to a fund established to help developing nations meet their Paris Agreement goals, the largest donation announced to date. Trump and many of his allies have long dubbed the Paris Agreement a "bad deal" for America. They say it forces the United States to make immediate sacrifices that will hurt the economy, while other countries such as China are allowed to put off action until later. Signs have been increasing for weeks that Mr. Trump was heading toward pulling out of the Paris agreement, apparently believing that a continued United States presence in the accord would harm the economy; hinder job creation in regions like Appalachia and the West, where his most ardent supporters live; and undermine his “America first” message.

Trump and Republicans have already begun chipping away at the Paris Agreement. In his first 100 days in office, Trump sought to undermine many of the Obama-era policies that would allow the United States to meet its commitments to the accord. He has set in motion the repeal of Obama’s signature plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, teed up a potential easing of automobile fuel efficiency standards, and rescinded a host of other energy industry regulations and guidelines in a bid to increase fossil fuel production.

President Donald Trump holds up an executive order on

President Donald Trump holds up an executive order on "energy independence," eliminating Obama-era climate change regulations, during a signing ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in March 28, 2017.

Leading US companies including Apple, Facebook, Google, Intel and Microsoft have taken out an advertisement in US newspapers on Thursday with an open letter to Mr Trump arguing that the Paris agreement generates jobs and economic growth by expanding the markets for innovative environmentally friendly technologies. It warns that withdrawal would limit US access to those markets. David MacLennan, chief executive of Minnesota-based Cargill, the world’s leading agricultural commodities trader, said the company would be “incredibly disappointed” if Mr Trump decided to take the US out of the agreement that the previous administration joined in 2015. “Signing the accord means being a champion for US economic growth and job creation,” Mr MacLennan said. “If the US exits international accords like the Paris agreement it will negatively impact trade, economic vitality, the state of our environment and relationships among the world community.”

Other countries are keen to take up the slack – in particular, China and the EU. Both have restated their commitment to the climate pact numerous times in recent months and are reportedly planning to issue a strongly worded joint statement this week. "From a foreign policy perspective, it's a colossal mistake – an abdication of American leadership," said R. Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state under George W. Bush. "I can't think of anything more destructive to our credibility than this."

 

Among the supporters for the resolution were the world's biggest investment managers: BlackRock, Fidelity, and, reportedly, Vanguard. Traditionally, these investment giants are reluctant to exercise their power to vote against board recommendations, but just in the past few months all three have begun to use their heft to get companies to respond to climate risks. It's not out of the goodness of their hearts. Investors are forward looking by nature and most of the world's listed thermal coal miners are in bankruptcy protection, after failing to anticipate that air pollution, climate change and technology would have demand for their products slump.

Trump walks with grandchildren Arabella Kushner and

Trump walks with grandchildren Arabella Kushner and Joseph Kushner, holding a model of Marine One, across the South Lawn of the White House on March 3, 2017, before boarding Marine One helicopter for the short flight to nearby Andrews Air Force Base.

Maybe it was "global warming" but it was a really beuatiful day -  even for the start of June - as 13 full Tables turned up to contest our regular Club Night at the Oxshott Bridge Club on Wednesday evening. The Star Performers were Renate Lane & George Gardiner who were the runaway Winners among the Pairs playing East/West; they scored an outstanding 67.99% to capture First place and they scooped the maximum 50 Master Points!! Well done indeed!! Leading the "chasing pack" were Philip Goldenberg & Dave Bowen who scored 58.33% in Second place, with Elizabeth Gray & Rosemary Collin coming Third with 54.17%. They were only one Match Point ahead of Gill Apted & Rosie Branch who came Fourth with 53.98%, with Pam Harries & Valerie Howe only four more Match Points back in Fifth place with 53.22%. Congratulations must also go to Pam Oliveira & Margartet Monaghan who were the clear Winners among the Pairs playing North/South; they scored an impressive 65.72% in First place!! Jonathan Spring & John French cane Second with 58.90%, some 12 Match Points ahead of David Rotherham & Sue Osborne who came Third with 56.63%. Mike Mulligan & Elisa Money were just one Match Point back in Fourth with 56.25%, and Gail Norman & Joan Low came Fifth with 54.36%. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!

There was a really strange ditribution of the cards between the four positions; both South and West received the "good cards" as they played the contract on 10 Boards each. North played the contract on 5 Boards, but poor old East got only one Board on which they played the contract. Maybe their practice of the defensive skills will pay off in the next few weeks?? Watch this space!! There were exactly as many "part-game" contracts and there were of the higher-scoring "game" contracts; there were 13 of each of them!! There were three Boards that offered some kind of Slam Opportunity, but there was only one successful Slam achieved during the whole evening!! Board 5 gave East an excellent 16 High Card Points with a balanced hand and 4 Spades to the Axxx; they would open 1 Spade. South has only 7 HCPs but they did have 6 Spades to the KQJxxx; they would inwardly smile broadly and quickly pass!!?? West has 13 HCPs with a singleton Spade, 5 Hearts to the KQ10xx and 4 Clubs to the AQ10x; they would respond 2 Hearts. East might show their point count with 2 No Trumps, and West would show their 4-card second suit with 3 Clubs. Now it is up to East to decide if a "big contract" is in the offing or not??!! Well last night four East/West Pairs bid game in 3 No Trumps; three made 10 tricks for 430 points, while one made 11 tricks for 460 points!! Six more E/W Pairs bid game in 4 Hearts; one made 11 tricks for 450 points, while five made 12 tricks for 480 points!! But two intrepid E/W Pairs braved a Slam bid. One bid Slam in 6 Hearts; sadly they mae only 11 tricks and so gave up 50 penalty points!!?? The second bid Slam in 6 No Trumps; they made only 10 tricks to lose 100 penalty points which gave a top score to their Opponents!!?? Now the "Expert Analysis" - which you can find attached to the Travellers in the "Results" section - informs us that - even against the best of Defences - both East and West can make a Slam contract in either 6 Clubs or in 6 Hearts!! The difficulty lies in Clubs; there is the King and the Jack missing and West has the AQ10 of Clubs. Surprisingly a calm finesse of the first Club trick gives the first trick to North with their King. Since the Jack lies in South's hand as one of a doubleton, it falls naturally in the second Club lead from East and the Slam contract is delivered. Isn't it always much easier with 20-20 hindsight??

Board 6 gave West 18 HCPs with 5 Spades to the AKJxx and 5 Hearts to the AQJxx; they would open 1 Spade. East has 10 HCPs with 5 Clubs to the AKxxx; they will respond 2 Clubs. West would then bid their second 5-card suit with 2 Hearts. East has some support in both Hearts and Spades so they may increase the bidding in one of them; and it is up to West to decide just how high they should aim for the final contract!!?? Well last night one E/W Pair bid 2 Hearts; they made 11 tricks for 200 points. Four more bid game in 4 Hearts; one made 10 tricks for 620 points; one made 11 tricks for 650 points; one made 12 tricks for 680 points; and the fourth made all 13 tricks for 710 points!! Four more Pairs bid game in 4 Spades; one made 11 tricks for 650 points; and three made 12 tricks for 680 points!! Two bid 5 Spades; they both made 12 tricks for 680 points!! But one Pair bid Slam in 6 Spades; many congratulaions must go to Vicky Bevan & Jackie Jennings who made a Slam with 12 tricks for 1430 points!! The "Expert Analysis" tells us that it is possible for West to make a Slam in any of 6 Hearts, in 6 Spades, or in 6 No Trumps; but East can make only 11 tricks in Hearts and Spades, and only 8 tricks in No Trumps!!?? The trouble lies in Diamonds where North has the AQxx. If the opening lead comes from South, they will lead the Jack of Diamonds. If West ducks playing the King, then South wins and plays a second Diamonds which defeats the contract. If North has the opening lead, then  they will bank their Ace of Diamonds but this leaves the second Diamond trick to West with their King and the Slam contract is secure!!

Then there was Board 8 which presented a really interesting set of hands!!?? They are reproduced at the top of this Report. Do take another look just now and see how YOU would bid and play these hands to maximise the Opprtunity offered??!! You can see that North has 10 HCPs with a 4441 distribution with a singleton Ace of Hearts, 4 Spades to the AJxx, 4 Clubs to the AKxx and 4 Diamonds to the KJxx; they might well open 2 Diamonds. South has 9 HCPs with 4 Diamonds to the Axxx and 4 Spades to the KQxx; they would respond 2 Spades. This might well prompt North to move to "Blackwood" to check out Aces and Kings. Well last night one North/South Pair bid a part-game in 2 Spades; they made 11 tricks for 200 points!! Another 10 N/S Pairs bid game in 4 Spades; one made only 9 tricks and so lost 50 penalty points; one made 10 tricks for 420 points; seven made 11 tricks for 450 points; and only one made 12 tricks for 480 points!! However one brave N/S Pair bid Slam in 6 Spades; sadly they made 11 tricks and gave up 50 penalty points!! Now the "Expert Analysis" informs us that it is possible for North and South to make a Slam in 6 Diamonds; but even against the best of Defences, they can both also make a GRAND SLAM in 7 Spades!!?? It turns out that the singleton Ace of Hearts is the key. This allows North to trump the other two Heart tricks as N/S extract trumps; that extend the successful Spade tricks to six, despite N/S having only four Spades each. A finesse of the Queen of Diamonds in West means there are 13 winning tricks for N/S. How did YOU do when you revisited these interesting hands?? Funny how important it is to see what is possible in a hand BEFORE you start to play. Anyway many congratulations to our single Actual Slam Achievers of the evening!! 

 

Last updated : 1st Jun 2017 14:51 BST
Cuba's new luxury hotels aim to lure US Tourists

HOTEL GROUNDS

In Havana’s Parque Central, shady stone benches and graceful palm trees beckon to mojito-sipping tourists and locals gathering to shoot the breeze. The gathering spot, in the centre of town, is surrounded by horse-drawn carriages and long lines of colourful finned-and-chromed 1950s cars. But more utilitarian vehicles have recently begun circling the square: construction equipment transforming old buildings into luxury hotels. “So many old buildings sat vacant for years with signs saying they were soon to be converted into hotels,” said Belmont Freeman, a Cuban-American architect based in New York. “Now I actually see cranes on construction sites. Cuban bureaucracy is easing up, and foreign hotel developers are finally finding ways to move these projects forward.” President Raúl Castro’s loosening restrictions on private enterprise, improving relations with the United States and financial necessity — Cuba’s gross domestic product shrank in 2016, for the first time in over 20 years, according to official figures — have fuelled rapid change in many areas.

And several obstacles lie between the pent-up demand and a successful lift-off of Cuba’s luxury hotels. Utilities are not always reliable, poverty is widespread and visible, and even getting ingredients for restaurant-quality meals can be dicey. But with Cuba suddenly an option for Americans exploring a culture kept off-limits for decades, the hospitality industry in particular has been supercharged. Over four million tourists visited in 2016, up 13 percent from the previous year, according to the Cuban Ministry of Tourism. Among those visitors were over 614,000 Americans, up 34 percent from the year before. Leading the wave of new luxury hotels is the 246-room Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, which stands in a restored European-style shopping arcade that stretches for a block. On the other side of Parque Central is the Hotel Inglaterra, which opened in 1875 and had Winston Churchill as one of its guests. Within shouting distance are several other luxury hotels managed by the French group Accor and Iberostar of Spain.

The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, left, near old Havana housing. Much of the city has been overtaken by poverty since the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, creating an uncomfortable juxtaposition between struggling locals and wealthy visitors.

After delays and months of mounting anticipation, Kempinski has finally revealed the name of its newest, first ever Havana property, expected for completion sometime this spring. Although no exact date has been given yet, we can confirm that the opening is going ahead as planned before the end of May 2017, so guests looking for the ultimate refinement in the Cuban capital won´t have too long to wait after all. The gleaming new Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana welcomes guests to what many industry experts regard as Cuba’s first five-star hotel, at least by most international standards. Many predict that the luxury levels the Kempinski brand will bring to the Cuban capital will be unmatched in the rest of the country and will remain thus for some time to come. Although many other self-proclaimed five-star hotels in Cuba do indeed exist, none is expected to rival the new Kempinski, which is poised to beat all other luxury favourites in the capital such as the Saratoga (where a long list of celebrities have recently stayed – from Beyonce to Madonna) or the Melia Habana (where the Obamas’ entourage famously stayed). In short, the new Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, is expected to go a long way in raising the bar and pushing up standards in Cuba’s developing hospitality industry.

From the Constante’s windows, guests can see El Floridita, one of Hemingway’s local watering holes (and where the drink was created). Rooms range in size from 430 to 1,615 square feet and will cost from $370 to $660 per night, according to Alessandro Benedetti, a director of Kempinski’s sales and marketing department. Five stories tall, the Manzana also has a rooftop terrace and swimming pool that offers views of the Great Theater of Havana Alicia Alonso, the National Museum’s Palace of Fine Arts and the Capitolio, a national government building that resembles the Capitol in Washington, though its architect is said to have modeled it on the Panthéon in Paris. The top floor also has a fitness area and spa that cover over 10,000 square feet. From the windows in the massage room, drying clothes can also be seen hanging from the broken windows of crumbling buildings nearby. This region of the city has been nicknamed “las sábanas blancas,” or “the white sheets,” for the laundry frequently seen fluttering in the breeze.

Indeed, the building boom is also bringing into sharper relief the disparity between visitors and the average Cuban. Many Cubans work for the state and earn the equivalent of $25 to $30 a month. The ceiling on state employees’ salaries has been a challenge when hiring hospitality staff for these new luxury hotels in Havana. While it remains to be seen how tightly it will control private enterprise, the Cuban government is betting that tourism will help solve its economic woes. In 2016, the government declared a goal of 10 million visitors by 2030.

The Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana, left, near old Havana housing. Much of the city has been overtaken by poverty since the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, creating an uncomfortable juxtaposition between struggling locals and wealthy visitors.     

Summer had clearly arrived as 13 full Tables turned out on a beautifully sunny evening to contest our regular Club Night at the Oxshott Bridge Club yesterday evening. Congratulations must go to our Star Performers, Richard Burgess & Philip Duncan, who came First among the Pairs playing North/South; the scored an excellent 61.74% and scooped the maximum 50 Master points!! They were 8 Match points ahead of Alan & Pat Hammond who were Second with 59.47%, with Mike Mulligan & Elisa Money 9 match points back in Third with 57.77%, and Daphne Pugh & Gillian Lowe just one more match points back in Fourth on 57.58%. Angie Watson & Ian Jeffrey were Fifth with 53.79%. Congratulations must also go to Joyce Gibbs & Jean Hutchinson who were the clear Winners among the Pairs playing East/West; they scored 58.14% in First place and were a good 13 Match points ahead of the two Pairs who shared Second place. Both Elizabeth Gray & Rosemary Collin and Barbara Shaw & Audrey Griffin scored 55.68% in Second place, 7 Match points ahead of Alan Gardner & Andrew Travers who were Fourth with 54.36%, and another 4 Match points ahead of Therezinha Gold & Fay D'Abo who came Fifth with 53.60%. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!      

It was South who received the "good cards", playing the contract on 9 out of the 26 Boards; that left North and West to play the contract on 6 Boards each and East played only 5 contracts during the evening!! The split between the higher-scoring "game" contracts and the "part-game" contracts was exactly even at 13-13, but there were five Boards that offered some sort of Slam Opportunity. Board 2 presented East with 12 High Card Points, a 4441 distribution and a singleton Heart; they would open 1 Club. West had an excellent hand with a void in Spades and 17 HCPs, with 6 Hearts to the AKJ10xx; they would jump to 2 Hearts. East would indicate their point-count bu responding 2 No Trumps, and it was up to West to decide if their was a possibility of a "big contract" or not!!?? Well last night two East/West Pairs settled for a "part-game" in 3 Hearts; one made 12 tricks for 230 points, while the other made all 13 tricks for 260 points!! Five E/W Pairs bid "game" in 4 Hearts; all five made 12 tricks for 480 points!! One Pair bid "game" in 5 Clubs; sadly they made only 9 tricks and so lost 100 penalty points!!?? Two more Pairs bid up to 5 Hearts; one was not doubled and made 480 points from their 12 tricks; but the other was doubled so they made a satisfying 750 points from their 12 tricks!! However two intrepid East/West Pairs braved a Slam bid!! One bid a GRAND SLAM in 7 No Trumps; sadly it was never on; they made only 10 tricks to lost 150 penalty points!!?? But many congratulations must go to Elizabeth Gray & Rosemary Collin; they bid Slam in 6 Hearts; they made exactly 12 tricks for an excellent top score of 980 points!! Well done indeed!! Now the "Expert Analysis" - which you can find along with the Travellers in the "Results" section - informs us that it is possible for both East and West can make a Slam in 6 Diamonds, but - against the best Defences - it is only possible for West to make a Slam in 6 Hearts!! You see North has a void in Clubs, so if the lead comes from South, North can trumps the first trick. Then N/S just have to be patient as South possesses four Hearts to the Qxxx; eventually they should capture the second trick with the Queen!!

Board 8 really looked good for East and West, but it was very much a mirage for most!!?? West had 12 HCPS with a singleton Club, 5 Spades to the AJ10xx and 4 Diamonds to the QJxx; they would open 1 Spade. East has a whopping 19 HCPs with only a singleton King of Spades, 5 Clubs to the KQJxx and 4 Hearts to the KQJx; they would not want to jump too early, so they might respond 2 Clubs. West will bid their 4-card second suit with 2 Diamonds. Now East might well move on to "Blackwood". Well last night four E/W Pairs bid "game" in 3 No Trumps; three made 10 tricks for 430 points, while one made 12 tricks for 490 points!! One E/W Pair bid "game" in 4 Spades; they made 11 tricks for 450 points!! Another Pair bid up to 4 No Trumps; they amde 11 tricks for 460 points!! However six East/West Pairs ventured a Slam bid in 6 No Trumps; one made only 9 tricks and so lost 150 penalty points; one made 10 tricks to lose 100 penalty points; and three made 11 tricks to lose 50 points!! But one E/W Pair was successful!! Congratulaions must go to Don Porter & Doris Butterworth; they bid Slam in 6 No Trumps; they made exactly 12 tricks to capture a top score with 990 points!! Now the "Expert Analysis" tells us that - against the best Defences - is is not possible for either East or West to make a Slam contract on this Board??!! North has the Ace of Clubs which is a certain winner, and their 5 Diamonds to the K10xxx should normally restrict E/W to only two tricks in Diamonds. Then South's 5 Clubs to the 10xxxx should limit E/W to 4 tricks in Clubs, and there is simply no route for East or West to make 12 successful tricks!! However it is always much easier to see these things with 20-20 hindsight!!??

Board 18 gave East 14 HCPs with singletons in Spades and Diamonds, 6 Hearts to the KQJxxx and 5 Clubs to the QJ10xx; they would open 1 Heart. South has 14 HCPs with an amazing 7 Spades to the AQJxxxx; they would jump to 2 Spades. West has 8 HCPs with great support with 4 Hearts to the A10xx and 6 Diamonds to the Jxxxxx; they might well jump to 4 Hearts!! North has only 4 HCPs but they do have a singleton Heart and 4 Spades to the 10xxx; they might well offer support with 4 Spades. Now it is interesting to see who takes the bidding further. Is there a Slam in prospect and which team has the better prospect? Well last night two North/South bid 4 Spades; one made 10 ricks for 620 points, while the other made 11 tricks for 650 points!! Seven East/West Pairs bid up to 5 Hearts; six were not doubled and so gave up only 50 points for their 10 tricks; but one was doubled so they lost 100 penalty points for their 10 tricks!! Three more N/S Pairs bid up to 5 Spades; two were not doubled and made 650 points; but one was doubled so they made an excellent 850 points from their 11 tricks!! Now the "Expert Analysis" informs us that it is possible for both North and South to make a Slam in 6 Spades!! Fortunately the King of Spades falls as each of East and West have singletons. Now clearly the contract cannot avoid losing a trick to the Ace of Hearts, but all others are trumped from North. Once South wins the King of Diamonds (taking the singleton Queen from East) a return Diamonds forces West to offer up their Jack or suffer a finesse from North's 10 of Diamonds!! That allows South to discard the losing Club on the Ace od Diamonds, and the Slam contract is secure!!

Board 25 presented East/West with some excellent cards. West had 21 HCPs with 5 Clubs to the AQJ10x and 4 Spades to the AKQx; they might open 2 No Trumps. East has 10 HCPs with 4 Hearts to the KJxx and 4 Diamonds to the Qxxx; they might well bid 3 Clubs to check for 4-card majors. When West responds 3 Spades, they would bid 3 No Trumps to suggest they have cover in Hearts. Now West has to decide if anything bigger is in prospect??!! Well last night 8 East/West Pairs settled for 3 No Trumps; seven made 11 tricks for 660 points, while one made 12 tricks for 690 points!! Two more E/W Pairs bid "game" in 5 Clubs; they both made exactly 11 tricks for 600 tricks!! But two intrepid Pairs bid up to a Slam contract!!?? One bid Slam in 6 Spades; they made 11 tricks and so lost 100 penalty points!! The other bid Slam in 6 No Trumps; they too made only 11 tricks and so lost 100 penalty points!! Now the "Expert Analysis" confirms that it is only possible to make 11 tricks on this Board. North has the Aces of Hearts and Diamonds, so a Slam contract is really not a possibility here!!??

Finally there was Board 19 which is reproduced at the top of this Report. Do take another look just not to see how YOU would bid and play these interesting hands. Take a little time and see if YOU can maximise the potential Opportunity offered??!!You can see that North has a gigantic hand with 26 HCPs, 4 Clubs to the AKQJ, 4 Hearts to the AQxx and AKQ in Spades; they would open a strong 2 Clubs. South has 10 HCPs with 5 Spades to the Jxxxx and 4 Diamonds to the AK10x; they will definitely respond positively, probably with 2 Spades to show their 5-card major. North might ask for more information by bidding 2 No Trumps, and South would then show their 4-card second suit with 3 Diamonds!! Now North will take the bidding on to "Blackwood" to check out the specific strength in South's hand. So where would YOU decide to settle the contract on these hands?? Well last night three N/S Pairs bid "game" in 3 No Trumps; one made 12 tricks for 490 points, while the other two made all 13 tricks for 520 points!! Another Pair bid "game" in 4 Spades; they made 11 tricks for 450 points!! The othe eight Pairs bid a Slam contract!! Four bid Slam in 6 Spades; sadly one fell short by one trick and so gave up 50 penalty points - and a top score - to their Opponents!! But congratulations must got to Alan & Pat Hammond, to David Rotherham & Sue Osborne, and to June Buckland & Janet Kefford; they all bid Slam in 6 Spades; all three made the full set of 13 tricks for 1010 points!! Congratulations must also go to Angie Watson & Ian Jeffery and to Margaret Wilson & Janet Robb; they bid Slam in 6 No Trumps; they both made 12 tricks for 990 points!! But special congratulations must go to Philip Goldenberg & Dave Bowen who also bid Slam in 6 No Trumps; they made the full set of 13 tricks for 1020 points. But the full panoply of congratulations must go to Richard Burgess & Philip Duncan; they bid a GRAND SLAM in 7 No Trumps; they made all 13 tricks to achieve a spectacular top score of 1520 points!! Well done indeed!! Now the "Expert Analysis" confirms that it is possible for both North and South to make a GRAND SLAM in either 7 Spades or in 7 No Trumps; incidentally they can both made a Slam in 6 Diamonds. The only tricky bit appears to be the need to finesse the Queen of Diamonds in East. Anyway well done to all our Actual Slam Achievers of the evening!!      

 

Last updated : 25th May 2017 14:04 BST
One of the World's most remote Islands is also the most Polluted!!

 

Human activity has turned what should be a pristine island paradise into a rubbish tip. More than 37 million bits of plastic junk – weighing some 17 tons - have washed up on its shores, threatening the island's wildlife

Human activity has turned what should be a pristine island paradise into a rubbish tip. More than 37 million bits of plastic junk – weighing some 17 tons - have washed up on its shores, threatening the island's wildlife
 

Henderson Island ought to be one of the most pristine places on earth: an uninhabited South Pacific atoll so remote that the nearest human settlement is the small island 120 miles away where the Bounty mutineers hid out. But the atoll’s white sand beaches are littered with tons of multicoloured plastic junk, deposited there by ocean currents. “I’ve been fortunate in my career as a scientist to travel to some of the remote islands in the world, but Henderson was really quite an alarming situation,” Jennifer Lavers, a research scientist at the University of Tasmania in Australia. The mess on the beach, she said, was “the highest density of plastic I’ve really seen in the whole of my career.”

Lavers, a scientist at Australia’s University of Tasmania, and her co-author, Alexander Bond, a conservation biologist, arrived on Henderson in 2015 for a three-month stay. They measured the density of debris and collected nearly 55,000 pieces of trash, of which about 100 could be traced back to their country of origin. The duo’s analysis concluded that nearly 18 tons of plastic had piled up on the island—giving Henderson the highest density of plastic debris recorded anywhere in the world—at least so far. When the researchers could discern where an item on the beach had come from, it was usually China, Japan or Chile. The most common items they found were everyday consumer goods that people use without a second thought, explained Dr. Lavers. “It speaks to the fact that these items that we call ‘disposable’ or ‘single-use’ are neither of those things,” she said, “and that items that were constructed decades ago are still floating around there in the ocean today, and for decades to come.”

“People are always surprised to find trash in what’s supposed to be an uninhabited paradise island. It does not fit our mental paradigms, and this might be the reason why it continues to be shocking,” says Enric Sala, a marine scientist who led a National Geographic Pristine Seas expedition to the Pitcairn Islands, including Henderson, in 2012. “There are no remote islands anymore. We have turned the ocean into a plastic soup.”

Henderson Island, a coral atoll in the south Pacific, is just 14.5 square miles (37.5 square km), and the nearest cities are some 3,000 miles (4,800 km) away

Henderson Island, a coral atoll in the south Pacific, is just 14.5 square miles (37.5 square km), and the nearest cities are some 3,000 miles (4,800 km) away

Henderson Island is British Crown Land within the Pitcairn Islands group, an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. The Wellington-based British High Commissioner to New Zealand holds the office of Governor of Pitcairn. While the Governor holds most formal powers, much day-to-day administration of the islands’ affairs is devolved to a Commissioner based at the Pitcairn Islands Administration office in Auckland. Access to Henderson requires a licence issued by the Governor (through the Pitcairn Island Administration office) in consultation with the Island Council. The local population on Pitcairn includes some 58 inhabitants, making pressure on Henderson Island, located 200 km to its northeast, low. However, visitors from yachts and fishing vessels hand somethmay arrive to Henderson before arriving at Pitcairn and not know that access is by permit only.

The Henderson Island Management Plan outlines a number of management goals with the principle of working with the Pitcairn Islanders to ensure on-site protection, and to review the legal status of the island with consideration for upgrading it to a Nature Reserve. Thus for example an ambitious Polynesian Rat eradication programme has been initiated. But there is no identified plan to clean up all the plastic debris or to prevent more arriving!!??

The worst and best of this study are the same – that the worst offenders found on Henderson are everday consumer items, single-use plastics that we don’t hesitate to use on a regular basis or consider where they’ll end up. This is awful because it’s our consumer habits that have created a huge part of this problem, but it’s simultaneously hopeful because habits can be changed by embracing a zero-waste lifestyle. Still, such a change would have to be implemented on a massive scale in order to make any kind of difference. What’s clear is that the manufacturers must be held accountable for the full life cycle of their products, such as Avon, whose former cream jar is housing the hermit crab pictured below. Lavers urges Governments to stop wasting breath on the decades-old climate change debate and start taking action on the things we do know. Plastic is saturating the Earth and something has to be done now!!

plastic debris on Henderson IslandHenderson Island is a territory of the UK and a sanctuary to a host of threatened species including the Henderson Petrel and Henderson Crake, and its beaches are a nesting site for the endangered green turtle.

There were some rare Petrels and Crakes who turned up at the Oxshott Bridge Club last night to contest our regular Club Night. Among the 12 + ½ Tables, the Star Performers were Fay D’Abo & Therezinha Gold who ran away with First place among the Pairs playing East/West; they scored an impressive 64.79% to scoop the maximum 40 Master Points!! They were a full 22 Match points ahead of Sheila Price & Carole Tuininga who came Second with 60.25%. Annemie Bisgood & Vernon Morton were at the front of the “chasing pack”; they came Third with 57.64%, just 6 Match points ahead of Jonathan Spring & John French who came Fourth with 56.40%. Congratulations must also go to June Buckland & Eileen Goddard who came First among the Pairs playing North/South; they scored an excellent 58.69%. They were 17.9 Match points ahead of Alan & Pat Hammond who came Second with 55.30%. There was then a bit of a gap before Richard Burgess & Philip Duncan came Third with 53.83%, just 0.3 of one match point ahead of Philip Goldenberg & Dave Bowen who came Fourth with 53.77%. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!

It was North that received the “good cards” last night; they played the contract on 10 of the 26 Boards, with East playing a further 8 contracts. That left West to play 5 contracts and poor old South got only 3 Boards where they actually got to play the contract!!?? The split between “game” and “part-game” contracts was slightly in favour of the former; there were 14 of the higher-scoring “game” contracts compared to only 12 “part-game” contracts. There were five Boards that attracted some kind of Slam Opportunity, and there were six actual Slam contracts achieved during the evening, three for North/South and three for East/West!! Board 5 gave North a very good hand with 18 High Card Points, a void in Clubs, 5 Hearts to the AQxxx, 4 Spades to the KQxx and 4 Diamonds to the AKxx; they might open 1 Heart. South had 9 HCPs with an excellent 5 Hearts to the KJxxx in support; they might jump to 3 Hearts. Now it is up to North to take the initiative; is there a possible Slam or is “game” the maximum target here?? Well last night 5 North/South Pairs settled for a “game” contract in 4 Hearts; one made 11 tricks for 650 points, while four made 12 tricks for 680 points!! Four more N/S Pairs took a look and bid up to 5 Hearts; all four made 12 tricks for 680 points!! But two intrepid Pairs bid a Slam contract!! Many congratulations must go to Renate Lane & George Gardiner and to Edwin Jones & Tony Scott; they both bid Slam in 6 Hearts; they both made exactly 12 tricks to share an excellent top score of 1430 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” – which you can find attached to the Travellers in the “Results” section – confirms that it is possible for both North and South to make a Slam in 6 Hearts on this Board. Clearly there is a “losing trick” with the Ace of Spades, and care must be taken to quickly discard the second losing Spade, but the void in Clubs and the long Hearts and Diamonds should bring the contract home safely!!

Board 13 was more difficult to spot!!?? West had a whopping 22 HCPs with a balanced hand and 4 Spades to the AK10x and 4 Hearts to the KJxx; they would probably open a strong 2 No Trumps. Now transfers might get in the way of effective bidding here, but East had 9 HCPs with a balanced hand and 5 Diamonds to the QJxxx. Some might be timid about jumping to 4 Diamonds, but there is enough strength there to suggest a strong contract??!! Well last night one aggressive North/South Pair made a sacrifice bid of 3 Clubs; they were doubled; they made only 6 tricks and so gave up a whopping 800 penalty points!!?? One East/West Pair got confused and bid 3 Diamonds; they made 12 tricks for 170 points!! Seven E/W Pairs bid “game” in 3 No Trumps; four made 11 tricks for 660 points, while three made 12 tricks for 690 points!! Strangely one E/W Pair bid “game” in 4 Hearts; they made exactly 10 tricks for 620 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” informs us that East can make Slam in 6 No Tumps and that it is also possible for West to make Slam in either 6 Diamonds or in 6 No Trumps!! The real boon is the five winning tricks in Diamonds. The only difficulty is securing a third trick in Spades by finessing the Queen which lies in South’s hand. Sadly not one pair ventured a Slam bid on this Board last night!!??

Board 19 looked to present an ideal Opportunity for a big contract, but – as so often happens – it turned out to be a “mirage” that was not deliverable when you came to play it!!?? Dealer South had a big hand with 20 HCPs and a balanced hand, with 4 Clubs to the AJxx and 4 Hearts to the AKxx; they would open 2 No Trumps!! North has only 5 HCPs but they do have 6 Clubs to the K10xxxx. Now some might simply slip the bidding up to 3 No Trumps, but the more ambitious might dream of a Slam contact in Clubs??!! Well last night 9 North/South Pairs bid “game” in 3 No Trumps; one made 9 tricks for 400 points; four made 10 tricks for 430 points; and four made 11 tricks for 460 points!! One N/S chose a “game” contract in 5 Clubs; they made only 9 tricks and so lost 100 penalty points??!! But one intrepid Pair ventured a Slam bid in 6 Clubs; sadly they made only 11 tricks and so gave up 50 penalty points!!?? Now the “Expert Analysis” confirms that – against the best of Defences – it is only possible to make 5 Clubs on this Board!! It turns out that the Ace of Diamonds is a certain “loser” and there is no way, it seems, to avoid losing a second trick in Spades!!

Board 22 gave East a particularly unusual hand with a void in Clubs, 10 HCPs, 6 Spades to the AQJ10xx and 5 Hearts to the 10xxxx. Using the “Rule of 20”, they would open 1 Spade. West has a whopping 20 HCPs with 6 Clubs to the AQxxxx and a singleton King of Spades; they might immediately go to “Blackwood” or they may – more cautiously – explore the strengths of both West and East before deciding on the optimal contract??!! Well last night, two East/West Pairs bid 3 No Trumps; both made 12 tricks for 690 point!! One E/W pair bid “game” in 4 Hearts; they made 12 tricks for 680 points. Another E/W Pair bid 4 Spades; they made 11 tricks for 650 points. Three more Pairs bid up to 5 Hearts; all three made 12 tricks for 680 points!! The remaining four E/W Pairs bid a Slam contract!! Congratulations must go to Jonathan Spring & John French who bid Slam in 6 Spades; they made exactly 12 tricks for 1430 points!! But three Pairs bid Slam in 6 No Trumps; sadly one made only 10 tricks and so gave up 200 penalty points!! Special congratulations must go to Annemie Bisgood & Vernon Morton and to Margaret Lawson & Rosie Branch; they both bid Slam in 6 No Trumps; they both made exactly 12 tricks to share an outstanding 1440 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” tells us that it is possible for both East and West to make a Slam contract in any of 6 Hearts, in 6 Spades or in 6 No Trumps!!

Board 23 presented some really unbalanced hands to each of the Players!!?? South had 15 HCPs with 5 Diamonds to the AKJ10x and 4 Clubs to the Kxxx; they would open 1 Diamond. West had 10 HCPs with 5 Hearts to the KQ10xx and 6 Diamonds to the Qxxxxx, and two singletons; they would maybe bid 1 Heart. North has an excellent 12 HCPs in support, but only one Diamond and 6 Clubs to the AQJxxx; they would bid 2 Clubs. East has 7 Spades to the QJ10xxxx but only 3 HCPs, so they will pass. Now South must bid carefully. It looks like “no trumps” might not be available since West is bidding Hearts; so the question is how high in Clubs can they afford to bid?? Well last night one North/South Pair settled for 3 Clubs; they made 12 tricks for 170 points!!?? Two more braved a “game” contract in 3 No Trumps; they both made 10 tricks for 630 points!! One more N/S Pair bid up to 4 Clubs; they too made 12 tricks for 170 points!!?? Finally eight N/S Pairs bid “game” in 5 Clubs; four made 11 tricks for 600 points while the other four made 12 tricks for 620 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” advises us that it is possible for both North and South to make a Slam in 6 Clubs!! It seems that care must be taken to force the Queen out of West while throwing away the losing Spades from North’s hand. Then cross-trumping and the remaining Diamond tricks bring the Slam contract home!!

Finally there was Board 24 which is reproduced at the top of this Report. Do take another look at these hands just now to see how YOU would bid and play them to optimise the contract available!!?? You can see that North has an outstanding hand with 23 HCPs and 6 Clubs to the AKQxxx; they will open a strong 2 Clubs. South has a useful 9 HCPs with 6 Spades to the KQxxxx. They have enough points to avoid a negative response about the possibility of a Slam; they would respond 2 Spades!! Given North has all the Aces, they may well go straight to “Blackwood”, but the big question is what is the best contract in which to play the Board?? What did YOU choose?? Well last night two North/South Pairs bid “game” in 3 No Trumps; they both made 10 tricks for 430 points!!?? One Pair bid “game” in 4 Spades; they made 12 tricks for 480 points!! One more N/S Pair bid “game” in 5 Clubs; they made 12 tricks for 420 points!!?? Another Pair went up to 5 No Trumps; they made only 8 tricks and so gave up 150 penalty points!! But seven N/S Pairs ventured a Slam contract. Five bid Slam in 6 No Trumps; all five made only 10 tricks and so gave up 100 penalty points!!?? The other two bid Slam in 6 Spades. Sadly one made only 11 tricks and so gave up 50 penalty points!!?? But many congratulations must go to David Rotherham & Sue Osborne who bid Slam in 6 Spades; they made exactly 12 tricks to record the top score of 980 points on this Board!! Well done indeed!! Now the “Expert Analysis” confirms that – against the best of Defences – it is possible for North and South to make only 10 tricks in 6 No Trumps; but equally it is possible for both North and South to make Slam in 6 Spades!!  The problem is the brutal split of Spades (4-0) and of Clubs (1-4) between the Defence; in “no trumps”, that puts paid to any dreams the N/S have of running either suit to throw away their losing Heart trick!! However when Spades are trumps, North can discard the losing Heart on the third Diamond trick from South, and the contract is easily delivered!! Isn’t it interesting to see how a difficult split between the two hands in Defence can completely change the prospects for a contract??!! Anyway many congratulations to all our Actual Slam Achievers of the evening!!

 

Last updated : 18th May 2017 19:23 BST
General Election 2017 - Key battlegrounds in London

The UK's General election

The General Election 2017 will be fought in the key marginal seats

Theresa May called a snap election for June 8th, after polling at the weekend showed the Conservative Party with a 24 point lead over the opposition. The Tories are on a sizeable 48 points, way ahead of its nearest rival Labour on 24, according to a YouGov survey. The Liberal Democrats are holding steady with 12 and Ukip slipping slighty to seven. Although with a first-past-the-post system it is not really just the share of the vote that counts but the party with the most seats, causing the real ferocious battles to take place in the marginal seats where elections are, largely, won or lost. The Prime Minister will no doubt increase her majority in the Commons. However, she may stand to lose some of her colleagues in the capital. A few Conservative MPs in London occupy seats that could swing to the Liberal Democrats or Labour, should Remain voters move against the Tories in protest against Brexit.

Labour MPs clutching onto London marginals face problems of their own: Jeremy Corbyn’s image, and the threat of Labour loyalists defecting to the Lib Dems, after Labour’s lacklustre campaign for Remain. Pollsters have identified a total of 14 marginal seats in London that could change hands at the 2017 General Election. The five seats below will be the most interesting battlegrounds in the capital on election night:

Bermondsey & Old Southwark (Labour) - Labour won this seat with a reasonable margin of 8.7% at the 2015 General Election. But in light of the Labour leadership’s poor showing for Remain during the EU referendum, the Lib Dems stand a good chance of claiming this pro-Remain seat if they target Europhiles irritated by Corbyn.

Brentford & Isleworth (Labour) - The Labour MP Ruth Cadbury is holding this seat with a needle-thin margin of 465 votes. A popular Conservative Party are hot on her heels, but Cadbury will avoid being fired if Brentford & Isleworth’s pro-Remain majority (56.7%) turn out in her favour to spite the pro-Brexit government. Yet, Cadbury could prove no more immune to the Corbyn-effect than her other colleagues. Should pro-Remain constituents divide between Labour and the Lib Dems, the Tories will bag the seat with little more than their base.

Eltham (Labour) - Eltham is another Labour seat that could swing to the Conservatives. The incumbents are defending a larger margin (6.2%) than they are in Brentford & Isleworth, but they are fighting on hostile turf: a constituency that voted in favour of leaving the EU. Had UKIP voters in Eltham opted for the Conservative Party at the 2015 General Election, the Tories would have taken the seat with a majority of 3,788 votes. It is easy to imagine former UKIP voters in Eltham sealing the seat for a pro-Brexit Conservative candidate this time around.

Ilford North (Labour) The Conservative AM Andrew Boff told the pollsters that his party believe Ilford North will “return to the fold”. It’s no wonder they are so confident. Wes Streeting, the incumbent Labour MP, won Ilford North at the 2015 General Election by a mere 589 votes. A vocal Corbyn-critic who campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, Streeting is going to be up against two forces at this year’s election: his pro-Brexit constituents and Corbynites who would rather see him deselected than re-elected.

Twickenham (Conservative) - With the Richmond Park by-election defeat fresh in their minds, local Conservatives may fling a lot behind their campaign in the neighbouring constituency of Twickenham. Their margin of error is slim (2,017 votes) and they will be up against Vince Cable, who won the seat four elections on-the-trot until the Lib Dem’s national downfall in 2015. A Vince Cable comeback victory would be any Lib Dem’s election night dream, and it’s hard to see the passionately pro-Remain stalwart of the seat coming second-place to Dr Tania Mathias. If the Conservatives retain the seat on the 8th June, it will be the biggest shock of the night.

The nine marginals not in our top five are: Croydon Central, Ealing Central & Action, Enfield North, Hampstead & Kilburn, Harrow West, Kingston & Surbiton, Richmond Park, Sutton & Cheam and Westminster North.

Maybe it was the beautiful weather on Wednesday evening, or maybe they were off canvassing for their favourite party, but – after large attendances in each of the last few weeks – there were only 11 full Tables present to contest our regular Club Night. Our Chief Scorer, Jonathan Spring, called for the more complicated Howell Movement, so Members had to be on their toes as they criss-crossed across the Oxshott Village Hall between the 12 Rounds. Congratulations must go to Stephanie Postlethwaite & Therezinha Gold who were the Star Performers; they came First with an excellent 62.96% to claim the maximum 42 Master points; they were 11 Match points ahead of Deanne & Kevin Goddard who came Second with 60.42%, with David Rotherham & Sue Osborne a further 4 Match points back in Third place. There were two more Pairs in close pursuit; Vernon Morton & Liam Creagh were Fourth with 58.80%, just four Match points ahead of Sheila Price & Jonathan Spring who came Fifth with 57.87%. Renate Lane & George Gardiner were Sixth on 55.32%, and two Pairs shared Seventh place; both Philip Goldenberg & Dave Bowen and Philip Duncan & Edwin Jones scored 54.63%. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!

There were some funny hands to play, but the distribution of the cards between the four Players was relatively balanced. East played the most contracts (7), while West and North both played 6 Boards each, and South played only 5 contracts during the evening. There were a clear majority of game-going contracts, there being 14 of them compared to only 10 of the lower scoring part-game contracts. There were two Boards that offered a clear Slam Opportunity, but there was not even one Slam bid made at all during the evening??!! Board 7 presented South with 9 High Card Points with seven Spodes to the AJxxxxx; they would almost certainly open a weak 3 Spades!! West has 10 HCPs with 7 Diamonds to the AQJxxxx and a void in Spades; they too might be tempted to bid. If not, then East will certainly bid!! They have 15 HCPs with 7 Hearts to the AK10xxxx and a void in Diamonds; they will bid 4 Hearts. Who knows where this bidding might end up from here??!! Well last night one North/South Pair played in 3 Spades; they made 7 tricks to lose 200 penalty points - which turned out to be quite a good sacrifice!!?? Seven East/West Pairs bid game in 4 Hearts; six made 11 tricks for 650 points, but one made only 9 tricks and so lost 100 peanlty points!!?? One intrepid N/S Pair bid up to 4 Spades; they too made 7 tricks and so lost 300 penalty points!! Then one East/West Pair braved a bid in 5 Diamonds; they made only 9 tricks and so lost 200 penalty points!!?? Now the "Expert Analysis" - which you can find attached to the Travellers in the "Results" section - informs us that it is possible for either East or West to make a Slam contract in 6 Clubs on this Board. Amazingly the Ace of Clubs sits with the Defence and this is the only losing trick. The Ace of Spades will be trumped in West as they have a void, and West also trumps the third Heart trick to capture the Queen of Hearts; that leaves the other four Heart tricks and the King and Queen of Spades as Winners, after trumps have been drawn. The only real difficulty is finding the courage to bid Clubs with these two hands!!

Finally there was Board 4 which is reproduced at the top of this Report. Do take another look at these interesting hands to see how YOU might bid and play this Board to maximise the Opportunity offered??!! You can see that West and North may well pass in the opening bidding, but East will definitely open; they have a whopping 18 HCPs with five Hearts to the AKQxx and might well bid 1 Heart!! West has 10 HCPs with 5 Spades to the KJxxx  and 4 Diamonds to the KQ10x; they will raise with 1 Spade. Now East shows a points count with 2 No Trumps, and West denies a No Trumps contract by bidding their 4-card second suit with 3 Diamonds. That allows East to make a big decision. Will they trust their Partner and go for Slam in Spades, or will they offer their own 5-card suit with AKQ cover in Hearts; to do either would need some luck in Clubs, since East has two unprotected small Clubs!!?? Well last night 8 East/West Pairs bid game in 4 Hearts; one Pair made exactly 10 tricks for 620 points; five made 12 tricks for 680 points; and two made all 13 tricks for 710 points!! Two more East/West Pairs bid game in 4 Spades; one made 11 tricks for 650 points, while the other made 12 tricks for 680 points!! No Pair even attempted a Slam bid on this Board last night!! Now the "Expert Analysis" tells us that it is possible - even against the best of Defences - for either East or West to make a Slam contract in 6 Hearts and in 6 Spades!! It turns out that West has a singleton Club which provides the required protection in that suit. The Queen of Spades falls to a finesse by East, and the Hearts fall naturally as East plays its Ace, King and Queen. That allows E/W to bring home the bacon of a successful Slam contract with winning Hearts and Diamonds!! How did YOU manage after revisiting this interesting Board?? Let's hope that there are many more Slam Opportunities next week. See you there, promptly, at 7.30 p.m.

 

 

Last updated : 11th May 2017 21:24 BST
Prince Philip to step down after 70 years

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, smiles during his visit to Lord's Cricket Ground  on Wednesday

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, smiles during his visit to Lord's Cricket Ground  on Wednesday

Prince Philip has today revealed he is to retire from all public royal duties at the age of 95 after 70 years dedicated to his wife the Queen who has given him her 'full support' to step down. The Duke of Edinburgh's well-earned retirement this autumn was announced at a top secret emergency meeting called by Buckingham Palace and attended by other royals including his daughter Princess Anne. The difficult decision was made by Philip himself and he will retire just before he and the Queen reach their 70 year platinum wedding anniversary in November.

Even at the age of 95 Philip has put the younger generation of royals to shame and undertook 219 official engagements in the UK last year, which was more than Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry put together.  Servants from royal residences across the country were ordered to London and addressed by the Lord Chamberlain, the most senior officer of the Royal Household, as well as Her Majesty's right-hand man, Private Secretary Sir Christopher Geidt. Even her longest serving staff were left in the dark about why the meeting was being called but multiple sources said it was 'highly unusual'. 

Royal couple: The 95-year-old Duke of Edinburgh's well-earned retirement was announced at a top secret emergency meeting called by Buckingham Palace today. The Queen will continue as normal

Prime Minister Theresa May said Prince Philip had given “steadfast support” to the Queen and served the country in a way which would be “of huge benefit to us all for years to come”. “From his steadfast support for Her Majesty the Queen to his inspirational Duke of Edinburgh Awards and his patronage of hundreds of charities and good causes, his contribution to our United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the wider world will be of huge benefit to us all for years to come.” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also had words of praise for the Duke, saying his “clear sense of public duty” had inspired people for more than 60 years. “His Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme has inspired young people for more than 60 years in over 140 nations. We thank Prince Philip for his service to the country and wish him all the best in his well-earned retirement.”

Known for his no-nonsense approach and acerbic wit, Prince Philip is the longest-serving consort in British history and also the oldest serving partner of a reigning monarch. The husband of one of the most famous women in the world, he is defined by his relationship to Elizabeth II and gave up a promising naval career to support his wife in her royal role. While the Queen takes centre stage, Philip has always been one step behind, ready to lend a hand. The Duke has had a profound effect on the development of the British monarchy and has been a moderniser of 'the Firm'.

The Duke helped the Queen through the deaths of both her mother and sister in the Golden Jubilee Year of 2002. He has enjoyed good health throughout much of his life - recovering from a blocked coronary artery in 2011 and a bladder infection in 2012 - the latter leading him to miss the majority of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. He continued to take part in fast-paced, dangerous carriage-driving events, competing at international level until the age of 85. When he turned 90 in June 2011 he insisted on no fuss, but the Queen bestowed on him a new title - Lord High Admiral, titular head of the Royal Navy. It was a touching tribute to the man who given up his military career to support his wife, and devote himself to royal service.

Doting dad: Philip with his wife the Queen holding Prince Charles and Princess Anne  in 1951 four years after they got married

Doting dad: Philip with his wife the Queen holding Prince Charles and Princess Anne in 1951 four years after they got married

In 1956, he set up the Duke of Edinburgh's Award - inspired by his time at Gordonstoun and his mentor and headmaster Dr Kurt Hahn. It has become one of the country's best-known youth self-improvement schemes, with million across the globe gaining their bronze, silver and gold awards. The awards recognise adolescents and young adults for completing a series of self-improvement exercises modelled on Kurt Hahn's solution to the "Six Declines of Modern Youth"; it has since been expanded to 144 nations. With assistance from adult Leaders, participants select and set objectives in each of the following areas:

  • Volunteering: undertaking service to individuals or the community.
  • Physical: improving in an area of sport, dance or fitness activities.
  • Skills: developing practical and social skills and personal interests.
  • Expedition: planning, training for and completion of an adventurous journey in the UK or abroad.
  • At Gold level, participants must do an additional fifth Residential section, which involves staying and working away from home for five days, doing a shared activity.

The Duke of Edinburgh's Award programmes take between one and four years to complete, and they must be completed by the participant's twenty-fifth birthday. There are around 300,000 participants annually. It provides a remarkable legacy from Prince Philip to Britain and to the world.

There were 16 full Tables who turned up to contest our regular Club Night at the Oxshott Bridge Club yesterday evening. Congratulations must go to Katherine Kreuter & Dave Cowell who were the "run-away" Winners among the Pairs playing East/West; they scored an outstanding 67.36% to scoop First place and the maximum 60 Master Points!! Well done, indeed!! Victoria Hemy & Andrew Travers came Second with an impressive 63.47%. but there was then quite a gap before we get to the "chasing pack" who were led by Gill Apted & Rosie Branch who came Third with 56.25%. Dorothy Steinart & Gillian Lowe were Fourth with 55.28%, some 12 Match points ahead of Joan Low & Stephanie Postlethwaite who were Fifth with 53.61%, with Susan & Gordon McIntosh a further three Match points back with 53.19% in Sixth place. The battle was very much closer among the Pairs playing North/South; indeed we have never had a Winner with such a low percentage score!!?? However a win is a win, so many congratulations must go to Philip Goldenberg & Dave Bowen who came First with 55.28%; they were three Match points ahead of Ormonde Webster-Smith & Philip Duncan who came Second with 54.86%, with Pauline Harris & Julie Minards just one Match point further back in Third place with 54.72%. David Rotherham & Sue Osborne came Fourth with 54.31%, some ten Match points ahead of Penny Webster-Smith & Renate Lane who were Fifth with 52.92%, with Tony Fincham & Elisa Money a further six points back in Sixth place with 52.08%. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!

The distribution of the cards was pretty even with both North and East playing the contract on 7 Boards each, and South playing the contract on 6 Boards; that left poor old West with only 4 Boards where they got to play the contract!!?? The split between "game" contracts and the lower-scoring "part-game" contracts favoured the former by 15 to 9. There were  lots of uneven distributions with voids and singletons complicating the delivery of several contracts!!?? There was only one Slam Opportunity among the 24 Boards that we played, and it is reproduced at the top of this Report. Take another look just now at these intersting hands, and see how YOU would bid and play the Board to maximise the Opportunity offered!! You can see that West has 9 High Card Points with 7 Diamonds to the KJxxxxx; they might well open a weak 3 Diamonds. East has a whopping 19 HCPs with 5 Clubs to the Kxxxx, 4 Hearts to the AQ10x, and - very helpfully a doubleton Diamonds including the Ace and Queen. Now conservative players might opt for 3 No Trumps, but the more aggressive might just move straight to "Blackwood" with the prospect of a Slam??!! Well last night no less than 12 East/West Pairs settled for a game contract in 3 No Trumps; two made 10 tricks for 430 points; five made 11 tricks for 460 points; one made 12 tricks for 490 points; and four made the full set of 13 tricks for 520 points!! Four more Pairs bid game in 5 Diamonds; three made exactly 11 tricks for 400 points, while one made 12 tricks for 420 points!! Now the "Expert Analysis" - which you can find along with the Travellers in the "Results" section - informs us that it is possible for either East or West to make a Slam contract in EITHER 6 Diamonds or in 6 No Trumps!! Finessing the King of Hearts in North's hand brings at least three Hearts tricks, and - given the Diamonds split 3-1 in the Defence - all seven Diamonds tricks are Winners!! The Ace and King of Spades make up the necessary 12 tricks for the Slam contract to succeed. Indeed if North ddoes not cover the Jack of Hearts with their King, then East/West can capture all four tricks in Hearts. Of course a Club opening lead will immediately lose a trick to the Ace in South's hand, and East/West has to be judicious in playing the Jack or the King to avoid a catastrophic opening up of the Club suit; but that is easily managed!! Surprisingly six of the 16 Pairs who played these hands managed to deliver at least 12 tricks last night!! How did YOU do after revisiting these interesting hands?? It proved an elusive challenge for our assembled group yesterday, and Lady Opportunity had to fly on to the next occasion without any Slam contract bid or made!! Maybe next week will see many more Slam Opportunities and - more importantly - Slam Successes!!?? See you there next Wednesday!!

Last updated : 4th May 2017 15:59 BST
Older woman who could be la Première Dame

Image result for Brigitte trogneux ANd picture

Emmanuel Macron, 39, and his wife, Brigitte, 64, met when he was at school and she was a teacher

There’s a sudden spring in every older Frenchwoman’s step. Being over 60 was never an obstacle to being attractive. In France there is no age limit to wearing matching underwear. Yet here is confirmation, if confirmation were needed, that you can achieve anything as a grandmother, even becoming the country’s First Lady. On Sunday the country went to the polls in what has been described as the most important election for decades. Two of the main candidates, Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Melenchon, were prepared to take France out of Europe. The big winner in the first round was Emmannuel Macron, the liberal leader of his party, En Marche!, whose wife is, at 64, 24 years his senior.

Macron and Trogneux met when Macron was just 15 years old and she was his French teacher at a Jesuit middle school in Amiens, but this is no ordinary high-school romance. She was his drama teacher, a married mother of three. The relationship caused a scandal in Amiens, where they both lived. Eventually Macron convinced Trogneux to leave her husband and marry him. It is easy to see what attracted the young Macron to his teacher. A friend of mine whose children were at the school that Brigitte Trogneux (she kept her maiden name) went on to teach at in Paris remembers vividly the first time she met her. “We were all in a classroom and this stunning woman walked in wearing tight leather trousers and stilettos and introduced herself as the Latin teacher. I have no idea at all what she said, I was just utterly mesmerised. St Louis de Gonzaque is not the kind of school where teachers wear leather trousers. But she looked incredible.”

Trogneux has since slightly toned down her look, making it more polished, although she is still more outre than most grandmothers. She is an extremely attractive woman with a mop of blond hair and a smiley, open face. In fact, she looks like Brigitte Bardot ought to look. She is a very glamorous dresser, wearing bold colours and daring cuts. On election day she was extremely elegant in grey and black, She still wears leather trousers; she was spotted in a pair at the Louis Vuitton autumn/winter show last year. “She has the most incredible legs that seem to go on for ever,” says Julie, an artist living in the south of France. “She looks more like a former model than a retired schoolteacher.” The 39-year-old Macron and the 63-year-old Trogneux do not have any children together, but she has three children – son Sebastien and daughters Laurence and Tiphane – from a previous marriage. She also has seven grandchildren, so Macron is a 39-year-old step-grandfather.

Macron and his wife kiss after the first round of the French presidential elections

Macron and his wife kiss after the first round of the French presidential elections

Now it looks like she will become France’s First Lady after her husband won 23.75% of the votes in the first round against Le Pen’s 21.53%, sending them both through to the second round. It seems unlikely that Le Pen will win the second round on May 7 – most commentators assume that those who didn’t vote for her in the first round will switch to Macron to stop the National Front from gaining power. Most French people are not too upset by this man and his “cougar”, as some refer to her. “Better to have an old wife than a wife with a fake job we taxpayers are paying for,” says Thierry, who owns a gardening business in southern France. He is referring to the presidential candidate Francois Fillon, whose wife and children were being paid to do jobs that didn’t exist. “Personally I voted for the left-wing candidate, but here in France it doesn’t matter if they’re left or right – nothing changes. They all have their fingers in the jam.” And what does he think about Macron’s much older wife? Thierry gives a classic shrug. “A chacun ses gouts,” he says. “You make good soup in old pots.” He pauses and laughs. “With young carrots!”

The former Chanel muse and supermodel Ines de la Fressange is optimistic about the future with Macron, in no small part because of his wife. “At a time when populism, fascist ideas, homophobia, anti-feminism and anti-ecologist thinking are growing in many countries, France is showing her individualism,” she says. “This is a great image to give the world. Of course someone who is really in love, is faithful to his wife and has had to fight for his love is a good thing. The fact that she is older than him shows his character, his personality and his courage. Liberte, egalite, fraternite et feminite! Instead of Brexit, we will have an open mind.” It is the woman behind the man who counts,” says Alexandra, a graphic designer who lives near Paris. “She’s straightforward and honest. If France could vote for the other halves she would win hands down.” Paul, a lawyer from Lyons, disagrees. He had no idea that Trogneux is 24 years older than Macron and is appalled when I tell him. “That won’t work,” he says. I point out that Donald Trump is 24 years older than Melania, and no one seems bothered by that. “Ah, but that’s different,” comes the response.

C'est "en marche", mais on a le droit de venir habillé comme on veut (ou pas du tout) !

There did not seem to be any age or dress code in operation last night as 15 full Tables turned up to contest our regular Club Night at the Oxshott Bridge Club!!?? The Star Performers were Alan & Pat Hammond who came First among the Pairs playing North/South; they also scooped the maximum 50 Master Points!! They were 9.4 Match points ahead of Richard Burgess & Philip Duncan who came Second with 57.82%, with Mike Mulligan & Elisa Money another 10 Match points back in Third place. There was a tight battle for Fourth place with Kevin & Deanne Goddard just pipping Rosemary Collin & Elizabeth Gray; they scored 55.00%, just 0.02% ahead of their Opponents!!?? The scoring was even closer among the Pairs playing East/West!! Congratulations must go to Susan & Mike Sadler who came First with 58.01%, and they were 10.6 Match points ahead of Ormonde & Penny Webster-Smith who came Second with 56.58%. Susan & Gordon McIntosh were Third with 54.58%, but they were only 1.8 Match points ahead of Valerie Jones & Dorothy Steinart who came Fourth with 54.29%, with Pam Harries & Valerie Howe capturing Fifth place with 52.45%. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!

Our excellent Scoring Team was in action again last night ensuring the appropriate cards were available and sorting out minor incompetences by Members in recording actual scores at the end of each Round. Leader Jonathan Spring was on a well-earned break, but Peter Wardle and Tony Scott were present to assure a quality job as usual. We owe these guys a Big “Thank you!!” for all their outstanding work!!

It was South who received the “good cards” this week, as they got to play the contract on 8 Boards; West played 7 contracts, and North played a further 6 Boards. That left East with only 5 Boards where they got to play the contract. The split between part-game and game contracts was exactly even with 13 of each to play. There were plenty of Slam contracts to go for, especially for North/South; indeed there were six Boards that offered some kind of Slam Opportunity, but there were only three successful Slam contracts bid and made during the evening!!?? Board 8 gave West 11 High Card Points with 5 Spades to the KQJ10x and four Clubs to the 10xxx; using the “Rule of 20”, they would open 1 Spade. North had only 9 HCPs, but they had 6 Diamonds to the AKJ10xx and four Hearts to the Jxxx; they might well bid 2 Diamonds. East has 7 HCPs with 6 Spades to the Axxxxx to support their Partner; they would raise to 2 Spades. South has 13 HCPs with a void in Spades, 6 Clubs to the AQJxxx and three Hearts to the AQxx; they might raise the bidding to 3 Clubs. Who knows where the bidding will end up here, but there certainly looks to be an Opportunity for a “big contract”??!! Well last night two East/West Pairs bid 3 Spades; both made 8 tricks and so lost only 50 penalty points!! One North/South Pair bid 4 Diamonds; they made 12 tricks for 170 points!!?? One more E/W Pair went up to game in 4 Spades; they also made 8 tricks and so gave up 100 penalty points!!?? Three N/S Pairs bid game in 5 Clubs; one made 11 tricks for 400 points; a second made 12 tricks for 420 points; but the third was doubled – they made only 10 tricks to lose 100 points?? Three N/S Pairs bid game in 5 Diamonds; one made 11 tricks for 400 points; and two made 12 tricks for 420 points. However another two Pairs also bid game in 5 Diamonds; they were both doubled; they both made 12 tricks for an excellent score of 650 points!! Finally one intrepid E/W Pair went up to 5 Spades; they were doubled; sadly they made only 8 tricks and so lost 500 penalty points!!?? Now the “Expert Analysis” – which you can find along with the Travellers in the “Result” section – informs us that it is possible for South (but not North) to make a Slam in 6 Clubs, and that both North and South can make a Slam in 6 Hearts. However it is also possible for either North or South to make a GRAND SLAM in 7 Diamonds on this Board!! The void in Spades and singleton in Clubs allow cross trumping so that only one Heart trick is required with the Ace, as the rest of the tricks are secured with Clubs and Diamonds!! Easy after the event, isn’t it??

Board 13 gave North 12 HCPs with a void in Clubs, 6 Spades to the Kxxxxx and 4 Hearts to the AJxx; they would open 1 Spade. South has 15 HCPs with 6 Clubs to the AKxxxx, 4 Diamonds to the KQxx and a singleton Jack of Spades; they would bid 2 Clubs. North might mention their 4-card major with 2 Hearts. Now South has to decide where to take the bidding from here??!! Well last night two North/South Pairs settled for 2 Spades; one made 10 tricks for 170 points, while the second made 11 tricks for 200 points!! Nine more N/S Pairs bid game in 3 No Trumps; one made exactly 9 tricks for 600 points; three made 10 tricks for 630 points; two more made 11 tricks for 660 points; but three fell short by one trick to lose 100 penalty points!!?? One N/S Pair bid game in 4 Spades; they made 11 tricks for 650 points!! Finally one intrepid N/S Pair braved a Slam bid in 6 No Trumps; sadly they made only 11 tricks and so lost 100 penalty points!!?? Now the “Expert Analysis” tells us that it is possible for both North and South to make a Slam in 6 Diamonds!! However you would have to be a genius to actually bid Slam in your “Fourth suit”??!!

Board 16 gave North an excellent 17 HCPs with 6 Hearts to the AKQJ10x; they would open 1 Heart. South has 11 HCPs with 5 Clubs to the AKxxx; they would respond 2 Clubs. North would bid up to 3 Hearts, knowing this is stronger than 4 Hearts!!?? Now South has to decide whether a Slam Opportunity is potential or not??!! Well last night two North/South Pairs bid game in 3 No Trumps; both made 12 tricks for 490 points!! 11 more N/S Pairs bid game in 4 Hearts; three made 11 tricks for 450 points; seven made 12 tricks for 480 points, and one made all 13 tricks for 510 points!! Finally one N/S Pair took a look and settled for 4 No Trumps; they made 12 tricks for 490 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” confirms that it is possible for both North and South to make a Slam in either 6 Hearts or in 6 No Trumps!! Fortunately the Ace and Queen of Diamonds sit with West , while the King of Diamonds is in North’s hand. After trumps are removed, Club leads allow North to discard two losing Spades!! But clearly it was not quite so easy under “game conditions”!!??

Board 23 gave South 11 HCPs with a void in Hearts, 6 Clubs to the KQJxxx and 4 Spades to the Qxxx; they would open 1 Club. West has a whopping 20 HCPs with a singleton Club, 5 Hearts to the AKJxx and 4 Spades to the AKJx; they might simply double to ask their Partner to make their best suit. North has zero points so will quickly pass. East has 9 HCPs with 6 Diamonds to the QJ10xxx, a singleton Spades and 4 Hearts to the Q10xx; they will bid 1 Diamond. West might well jump to 3 Hearts to show their strength; and West will support by taking it to game with 4 Hearts. Now West has to decide if anything greater is in prospect??!! Well last night 11 East/West pairs bid game in 4 Hearts; four made 12 tricks for 680 points, while seven made all 13 tricks for 710 points!! One E/W Pair bid game in 5 Diamonds; they made 12 tricks for 620 points!! But two intrepid East/West Pairs braved a Slam bid in 6 Hearts; sadly one made only 11 tricks and so lost 100 penalty points; but congratulations must go to Susan & Gordon McIntosh who bid Slam in 6 Hearts; they made all 13 tricks for a whopping 1460 points and the top score on this Board!! Now the “Expert Analysis” tells us that it is possible for West to make Slam in 6 Diamonds, and for both East and West to make Slam in either 6 Hearts. But it also says that East can make a GRAND SLAM in 7 Diamonds and that both East and West can also make a GRAND SLAM in 7 No Trumps!! So there you are!! This was the real Opportunity for East/West during the evening and only one Pair successfully rose to the challenge!!??

Board 21 promised great riches to East/West but it proved really difficult to convert that promise into game points??!! East had 7 Hearts to the KQJxxxx with 8 HCPs; they might well open a weak 3 Hearts!! West has a healthy 15 HCPs with four supporting hearts to the A10xx; they might take the bidding to “game” or they might be tempted to something even higher??!! Well last night eleven East/West Pairs bid game in 4 Hearts; seven made 10 tricks for 420 points, but four made only 9 tricks to lose 50 penalty points!!?? One more E/W Pair bid up to 5 Hearts; they made only 9 tricks to lose 100 points?? Finally two E/W Pairs got over-excited; they both bid Slam in 6 Hearts; they both made 10 tricks to lose 100 penalty points each!!?? Now the “Expert Analysis” tells us that – against the best of Defences – it should be possible for East and West to make only 9 tricks in Hearts on this Board!! There are two Club tricks falling to the Ace and King, and one trick each is Spades and Diamonds after the Ace is removed. Certainly there was no possibility of a Slam contract here!!

Finally there is Board 11 which is reproduced at the top of this Report. Take another look just now to see how YOU would bid and play these hands to maximise the potential offered!!?? You can see that Dealer South has 15 HCPs with a balanced hand, 4 Diamonds to the J10xx and 4 Spades to the Kxxx; they would open 1 Diamond. North has an excellent 15 HCPs in support with 5 Spades to the AQxxx; they might well jump to 2 Spades to show their strength. South would show their 4-card Spades support by moving the bidding up to 3 Spades, knowing that a 3-bid is stronger than a 4-bid. Now North has to decide how high they want to aim!!?? Well last night nine North/South Pairs bid game in 4 Spades; eight made 11 tricks for 450 points, and one made 12 tricks for 480 points!! However five more N/S Pairs braved a Slam bid in 6 Spades; sadly three made only 11 tricks and so gave up 50 penalty points!! But many congratulations must go to Mike Mulligan & Elisa Money and to Rosemary Collin & Elizabeth Gray who both bid Slam in 6 Spades; they made exactly 12 tricks to share the top score of 980 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” confirms that – even against the best of Defences – it is possible for both North and South to make a Small Slam in 6 Spades. The secret seems to lie in the Diamond tricks. It is important to gift the “losing trick” to the Queen of Diamonds in East. This means that eventually the King can be captured by the following Ace of Diamonds in North and the last Diamond trick also falls to N/S and the contract is made!! How did you do after revisiting these interesting hands?? Anyway many congratulations to all three of our Actual Slam Achievers of the evening!!

Last updated : 27th Apr 2017 19:10 BST
United Airlines show how to make a PR crisis into a total disaster!!

United Airlines found itself at the center of social media controversy this week, after a horrifying video of a Doctor being forcibly removed from an Economy Class seat on one of its planes went viral. The man was, according to published reports, randomly selected to be bumped because the airline needed to transport four employees on the sold out flight. The doctor refused to leave, airline officials called law enforcement, and security dragged him, bloodied, off the plane. Videos of the incidents and images of its aftermath soon went viral, with the blood-splattered, would-be passenger concerned observed to be uttering the words: “Just killed me” in a disorientated state, thus prompting popular outcry online.

The confrontation was the end-result of the airline, which runs with the tagline ‘Fly The Friendly Skies’’, overbooking Kentucky-bound Flight 3411 departing from O’Hare Airport, Chicago, on April 9, and then asking passengers to defer to another flight in return for up to $800 compensation, plus accommodation fees. United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said on Tuesday that all 70 seats on United Express Flight 3411 were filled, but the plane was not overbooked as the airline previously reported. Instead, United and regional affiliate Republic Airlines, which operated the flight, selected four passengers to be removed to accommodate crew members needed in Louisville the next day. The passengers were selected based on a combination of criteria spelled out in United’s contract of carriage, including frequent-flier status, fare type, check-in time and connecting flight implications, among others, according to United. Three passengers went quietly. The fourth, who was literally pulled out of his seat and off the plane, was David Dao, a physician in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. "The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern, and support they have received," Their lawyer said in a statement. "Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao's medical care and treatment" and will not be making any comments to the media.

Passenger removed from United flight 3441.

The barbaric removal by force of a passenger from a United Airlines flight is now likely to have a serious impact on the airline’s business in China. Video of the incident went viral in China — viewed more than 200 million times — where people assumed that because the victim of the incident was of Asian descent it was an example of racial bias by the police involved. United has a lot at stake in China; it is by far the largest U.S. carrier operating there, with 20 percent of the routes between China and the U.S. including non-stop flights to Beijing from Newark, Chicago, Washington, and San Francisco. China is the fifth biggest market for tourism in the U.S. and that is expected to more than double in the next five years.

Public relations experts say the United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz should have quickly offered an unreserved apology after a customer was filmed on Sunday being forcibly removed from his seat and dragged down an overbooked aircraft's aisle. Instead, Munoz apologized only for "having to re-accommodate ... customers." Many customers found the response to be overly callous -- and said so on social media, where video of the incident had gone viral. But Munoz doubled down in a letter sent to United employees on Monday afternoon, describing the passenger as "disruptive and belligerent." He also said that "employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this." It wasn't until Tuesday afternoon that Munoz issued a full-throated apology, calling the episode "truly horrific." "I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right," he said in a statement. "I promise you we will do better."

Many infrequent travellers are outraged that purchasing a ticket does not give a customer to right to actually fly on their chosen flight—even, in rare cases like Sunday, after boarding has taken place. Many elite fliers, on the other hand, are more sympathetic to United. They argue the airline business is complex and only works if everyone follows the rules. If someone asks you to get off the plane, it’s unpleasant but you have to do it. Of course, that’s easy for the elites to say—they’re the last ones forced to give up their seats. But they have a point. It is true that airlines are cutting corners and cutting back on services. But they also charge less. The average inflation-adjusted airfare fell 30% in the last twenty years. Even after you account for add-on fees, it’s still cheaper to fly than it’s ever been (see graph above). Still, most passengers haven’t lowered their expectations accordingly. Of course, it is not too much to expect that no one will physically drag you off the plane. The way Dao was treated was horrific and inexcusable. But even if the situation was handled terribly, United was within its rights to demand the seat. Overbooking—or in United’s case, bumping passengers for flight staff—is one reason why fares are low in the first place. The current system allows airlines to reduce delays and charge lower prices overall. About 40,000 ticketed passengers were involuntarily bumped off US planes last year. The denial rate has been fairly steady over the last twenty years.

New chair-pocket info cards being distributed today at #unitedAIRLINES

TWITTER has erupted with hilarious memes and videos mocking United Airlines’ disastrous “passenger re-accommodation” after video emerged of a man being dragged off a plane. A tweet purporting to be from Donald Trump pretended that the US President was endorsing United’s actions, saying “What happened on United Airlines is terrible. We need to add Asians to the Muslim travel ban.” Others suggested a new chair-pocket card (above) and a new seating class called the “Fight Club” (below)!!??

United Airlines is pleased to announce new seating on all domestic flights- in addition to United First and Economy Plus we introduce....

One topical contributor reported that the Pentagon announced on Tuesday it had awarded a sole-source contract to United Airlines for work related to the forcible removal of President Bashar al-Assad from Syria. The contract, worth $2.1 billion, tasks the airline company with locating Assad, grabbing him from his seat in the presidential palace, and “dragging him out of Damascus by his arms.” The contract also notes that Assad should be “asked several times, politely” to give up his seat of power, though if he refuses, United workers should bloody his nose up a bit, according to the posting at FedBizOpps.

Pentagon awards contract to United Airlines to forcibly remove Assad

Fortunately no one had to travel by United Airlines to arrive at the Oxshott Bridge Club as 16 full Tables gathered to contest our regular Club Night. The Star Performers were Sheila Price & Gabrielle Roberts who scored an impressive 64.86% to claim First place among the Pairs playing North/South; they also scooped the maximum 60 Master points!! Well done indeed!! They were 20 Match points ahead of June Buckland & Eileen Goddard who came Second with 62.08%, with Mike Mulligan & John French coming Third with 61.53%. Peter Wardle & Peter Sharpe were Fourth with 59.03%, well ahead of Judy Hickman & Kay O’Gorman who came Fifth with 55.28%, and Victoria Hemy & Andrew Travers were Sixth with 53.89%. The contest was equally close among the Pairs playing East/West. Many congratulations must go to Elizabeth Gray & Rosemary Collin who captured First place with an excellent 62.64%; they were 20 Match points ahead of Deanne & Kevin Goddard who came Second with 59.86%, with Katherine Kreuter & Dave Cowell just a further 5 Match points back in Third place with 59.17%. Robin & Hilary Lane came Fourth with 56.67%, just three Match points ahead of Gail Norman & Therezinha Gold who came Fifth with 56.25%, and Pam Harries & Valerie Howe were Sixth with 54.44%. Well done to all our Master Points Winners!!

It was East who received the “good cards” last night; they played the contract on no less than 11 of the 24 Boards, and West played a further 5 contracts. That left North and South to concentrate on their defensive skills; they received only 4 Boards each where they played the contract!!?? The split between “game-going” and “part-game” contracts was much more even, with 12 of each to play!! There were 3 Boards which offered some kind of Slam Opportunity, but there were only two actual Slam contracts bid and delivered during the whole evening!!?? Board 22 gave South only 10 High Card Points, but they had 5 Spades to the KQxxx and 5 Hearts to the AJxxx; using the “Rule of 20”, they might   open 1 Spade. West had 11 HCPs with 5 Diamonds to the AKQxx; they would bid 2 Diamonds. North had an encouraging 13 HCPs with a balanced hand; they might well bid 2 No Trumps. East has only 6 HCPs but they do have  4 small Diamonds; they might well raise their Partner with 3 Diamonds!! Now South can mention their second 5-card major with 3 Hearts, and North chooses 4 Spades because they have three of them. Now it is up to South to decide whether any greater contract can be envisaged on this Board!!?? Well last night one East/West Pair were left in 2 Diamonds; they made exactly 8 tricks for 90 points!! One North/South Pair bid 2 Spades; they made 9 tricks for 140 points!!?? A second E/W Pair bid up to 3 Diamonds; they made only 7 tricks and so lost 200 penalty points!! A second N/S Pair bid 3 Spades; they made 11 tricks for 200 points!! But 12 North/South Pairs bid “game” in 4 Spades; one made only 8 tricks and lost 100 points; four made 9 tricks and lost only 50 penalty points; five made exactly 10 tricks for 420 points; one made 11 tricks for 450 points; and only one made 12 tricks for a top score of 480 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” – which you can find attached to the Travellers in the “Results” section – informs us that it is possible for both North and South to make a Slam contract in 6 Spades on this Board!!?? Amazingly it turns out that there are three Club and 3 Heart tricks available through the correct finesses, and cross-trumping Diamonds and Hearts delivers the Slam contract!! Funny how easy it always is when you have “20-20 hindsight”??!!

Board 16 gave West 11 HCPs with a singleton Spade, 5 Clubs to the AQ10xx and 4 Hearts to the 10xxx; using the “Rule of 20”, they would open 1 Club. East has a whopping 17 HCPs with a balanced hand including 4 Clubs to the KJxx; clearly something really big is in the “offing”, so they may well move straight to “Blackwood”!!?? After discovering that West has the two missing Aces, it will be a bit of a shock to find that there are two Kings missing??!! So a bail-out to Clubs will be necessary!! Well last night one timid East/West Pair stopped in 3 Clubs; they made 11 tricks for 150 points!! Another bid 3 Diamonds; they too made 11 tricks for 150 points!! Eight E/W Pairs bid game in 3 No Trumps; one made 10 tricks for 630 points, while the other seven made 11 tricks for 660 points!! Two more E/W Pairs bid game in 5 Clubs; they both made 12 tricks for 620 points!! But three intrepid Pairs braved an attempt at a Slam contract. One bid 6 No Trumps; sadly they made only 11 tricks and so gave up 100 penalty points…….and a top score to their Opponents!!?? But many congratulations must go to Susan & Mike Sadler and to Robin & Hilary Lane; they both bid Slam in 6 Clubs; they both made exactly 12 tricks to share an outstanding top score of 1370 points!! Well done indeed!! The singleton Spade in West is matched by the Ace of Spades in East, and allows the return to be trumped. Extracting trumps allows all four Diamonds tricks to be won; and the only losing trick is to the King of Hearts. In the end, it was pretty much a “lay-down”!!

Finally there is Board 20 which is reproduced at the top of this Report. Do take another look at these hands; see if YOU can maximize the potential of these interesting hands!!?? You can see that North has a real “powerhouse” with 24 HCPs and a balanced hand; they would open a string 2 Clubs. South has only 6 HCPs but they do have 5 Clubs to the KQxxx; some conventions allow a positive response with a 5-card suit and at least 6 HCPs, and that is what we encountered last night; South responded 3 Clubs. Now it is up to North to decide just how high they want to venture, but the decision has to made now!! Well last night one opportunistic East/West Pair ventured a bid in 2 Spades; they were doubled; they made 6 tricks and so lost 500 points!! 13 North/South Pairs settled for a “game” contract in 3 No Trumps; two made 10 tricks for 630 points; four made 11 tricks for 660 points; six made 12 tricks for 690 points; and one even made all 13 tricks for 720 points!! One N/S Pair bid “game” in 4 Hearts; they made 11 tricks for 650 points!! Finally one N/S Pair took a look, but they settled for 5 Hearts; they made exactly 11 tricks for 650 points!! Now the “Expert Analysis” informs us that it is possible for both North and South to make a Slam contract in any of 6 Clubs, in 6 Hearts, and in 6 No Trumps!! Given the Ace and Queen of Spades sit in West with the Kind of Spades sitting in North, there is no way to stop N/S scooping 5 Club, 4 Hearts, two Diamonds and the single Spades trick. The only “losing trick” is the Ace of Spades. Sadly no one braved a Slam bid last night on this Board!! How did YOU manage after visiting these interesting hands once more??!! Anyway many congratulations to our two Actual Slam Achievers of the evening!!

 

 

 

 

Last updated : 13th Apr 2017 12:12 BST
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