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The Ins and Outs of the EBU Venetian Congress with Chris Benneworth

The Ins and Outs of the EBU Venetian Congress with Chris Benneworth Posted by Maddey at First for BridgeTuesday 6th February 2024

Chris Benneworth

First for Bridge run a range of different bridge holidays, from holidays for beginners to English Bridge Union overseas congresses where the bridge is more serious but played in friendly setting. This is the story of the most recent EBU overseas congress, held near Venice in October 2023.

What do you think of when you hear the word “Venice”? Perhaps it’s canals and gondoliers, or St. Mark’s Square, the Doge’s Palace and expensive coffees, or tramezzini and a small glass of prosecco, or even Donna Leon and her detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti. Well, in October 2023, you would have had to think about bridge, for the most recent EBU Overseas Congress was held in the tranquil Villa Pace Park hotel, just north of Venice and close to the charming town of Treviso.

Sixteen tables of players gathered for the normal Congress programme: a pre-Congress Pairs, two-day Swiss Pairs, two days of more relaxing bridge and then a two-day Swiss Teams event. The conditions for play in the bridge room were ideal – roomy, well-lit, air-conditioned and a plentiful supply of still or sparkling water, all of which contributed to a positive, friendly atmosphere in which some splendid bridge was played. The event was organised and sponsored by First for Bridge and everyone appreciated their hospitality at the welcome meeting and the end-of-congress reception. And, for the final dinner, the hotel baked a special EBU cake!

Bassano del Grappa - Italy

Over forty players went on the included day trip to Bassano del Grappa, a characteristic small Italian town of the Veneto. It is a picturesque town wedged in the Pedemontana hills, facing the beautiful Alps and straddling the Brenta river with its characteristic wooden bridge. After a walking tour of the town and free time for lunch, we were treated to a tasting of one of the areas products – grappa. Interestingly, the name of the town does not derive from the fact that it is a major grappa producing centre but that it stands at the foot of the nearby Monte Grappa. Many of us also visited Treviso, a short bus or taxi ride away and a beautiful destination, with several historic palaces, medieval city walls, a maze of pretty canals and narrow cobbled streets and close to the Prosecco producing region. And of course, several of the players took the opportunity to spend a full day in Venice while one or two more adventurous travellers went to Padua, the site of the second oldest university in Italy.

It was very gratifying to see so many different winners of the various events. Congratulations to all the prize-winners and thanks to the players whose friendliness, courtesy and patience made it such a rewarding event to direct. It was also good to see club players mixing successfully with more experienced (even international!) players, and to welcome non-bridge-playing partners of players.

The two main Swiss events, each played over two days, could not have been more different. In the pairs, a married couple took an early lead and then sat at table 1 throughout the event, winning all their matches and ending with the phenomenal total of 174/200, with a lead of 50 VPs over the second pair. They were never out of the lead, only briefly sharing it after match 2. On the other hand, in the Teams, although one team led for much of the event, it was never by a big margin, and it was mathematically possible that they could be overtaken even in the last match. On the middle two days, a range of shorter events were held – two pairs events with different ways of scoring and a Pivot Teams in which players have different partners for each half of the session.

This hand in the Swiss Teams set a challenge. You are North, with South the dealer and both sides vulnerable; you hold S A K 9 2 H K J 5 4 D A K Q 6 C 7. You consider your opening bid – are you going to bid 2NT with the exposed C suit, or one of a suit, risking being passed out and missing a major suit game? However, your partner passes, and West opens 1C. That makes things so much easier – you can show your hand with a double. East passes and partner bids 2H. That’s great. Should you settle for 4H or try for a slam? Optimistically, you check for a slam and find that partner has one key card. What now? Our hero decided that there were lots of chances for 6H – if partner held any of 3 cards in clubs, the SQ or the DJ, then 6H should make. Unfortunately, partner had none of these and was restricted to 11 tricks: only three pairs risked 6H, and only one made it. The rest of the room settled for the safe 4H + 1.

Majorca - Hotel Bella Playa

We look forward to the next overseas congresses: Majorca in March and Crete in October. Run by EBU panel directors, the bridge programme is well established for the Overseas Congresses: a welcome pairs on arrival day, followed by a two-day Swiss Pairs event, two more days of shorter events, and a two-day Swiss Teams. All are played at events where the bridge is seen as an important part (but only a part) of a holiday where there are opportunities to relax, explore the surroundings and enjoy the local culture.

Browse our collection of EBU Congresses and book while places last!

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