From the 11th to 20th August, several hundred bridge players convened in La Baule to participate in the most well-equipped bridge festival in France. After sunny mornings on the longest beach in Europe, swimsuits were swapped for packs of cards at the Congress Palace in the afternoon. Over the course of the week, four events were contested: a Mixed, a Patton, a Board-A-Match and, finally, the king of them all, the Open.
This 72nd edition was an excellent vintage for this legendary festival, with, notably, a new attendance record thanks to the participation of bridge players from all over the world and a large number of young people. This edition also marks the end of Dominique Beaumier and his wife Annie’s presidency of the festival. They were able to elevate the festival over the course of the years, thanks to their motivation and communication with the locals.
Indeed, players were able to benefit from several prizes and invitations offered by private sponsors from the region. Every afternoon, small businesses gave out the snack of the afternoon (chocolates, punnets of strawberries, petits fours…).
The festival’s big winners
The Open was won by Donatella Halfon and Catherine Mus with an average of 60.7% over four 30-board sessions.
The Mixed was won by Danièle Avon and David Harari with an average of 61% over three sessions.
Paula Nataf‘s lineup triumphed in the Patton, with Godefroy de Tessières, Romain Tembouret and Louis-Amaury Beauchet.
Finally, the Board-A-Match, the festival’s original event, was won by Pierre Audebert, Patrice Fouillet, Luc Jardon and Édouard Alheritiere.
Rewards for everyone and ending on a high
The top ten players in each event left with a nice envelope, going up to €5,000 for the pair that won the Open. The best pairs from the lower first series, second series, third series and fourth series, as well as from the juniors, received special cash prizes.
This festival differs from the others by allowing players from all of the series to climb the podium. Upon each prize being awarded, the participants not receiving a monetary reward could all choose from among a variety of prizes such as suitcases, bottles of champagne, bikes, household appliances…
David Harari and Catherine Mus proved themselves by winning the top gentleman and lady spots (best cumulative result over all the events) and left with works of art that were presented to them by the artists.
After many finesses, safety plays, squeezes and other card-play techniques, the festival closed with a cocktail party on the palace rooftop, accompanied by an orchestra. While some danced, others, all smiles, were already discussing their next trip to the La Baule Bridge Festival.
Let us talk bridge
Before closing this article, let us now look at a deal that was played in the second session of the Open Pairs:
Dealer North – East-West vulnerable.
As North, in first position and non-vulnerable, you open 1♠️. Partner then responds 2♣️ game-forcing, showing a positive hand over the opening.
Here, Opener’s first rebid is important; the number and quality of spades might get you brandishing the 2♠️ card but watch out: that bid does not show further length in the suit and therefore gives no extra information about the hand. It is advisable to bid 2♦️ in order to give a better idea of your distribution by describing nine cards.
Now, South is aware of the diamond fit but should remain cautious: a minor-suit contract is not very rewarding in a pairs tournament, so it would be better to turn to No-Trumps. However, playing in NT requires solid stops in every suit and the hearts are somewhat worrying. We will therefore say 2♥️, to ask partner about a possible stop.
Opposite this fourth-suit forcing, we will bid 3♠️ as North, to continue describing our hand. This bid is good news for South, who now knows of the existence of a double fit in Spades and Diamonds. It is then out of the question to play in NT.
We will bid 4♦️, which is followed by a heart cue by Partner with 4♥️ and finally, we will say 4♠️ as South, as we have made quite enough noise for a 13-point hand!
The French number-one, Cédric Lorenzini, now advises a 5♣️ from North, allowing him to question his partner about his diamond holding. With the 4♦️ bid showing one control initially, a 5♦️ bid would show a second control here: the Ace and the King.
Having understood the question, South responds 5♥️, indicating the Ace of Hearts and the absence of a second diamond control. This is not enough for North, who sensibly signs off in 5♠️.
At a festival, playing in a slam that depends on a finesse is very risky and will often lead to a top or a bottom. Here, the large majority of the players played in game for a good percentage, whereas the reckless few who tried for the slam ended up with a very poor percentage.
The full bidding sequence:
The beautiful La Baule…
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