Crans-Montana Festival

Step by Step

On 29-31 March I had the chance to be invited to the Crans-Montana festival in Switzerland with Sarah Combescure, Wilhelmine Schlumberger and Esteban Vallet. It was my first participation in a bridge tournament in Switzerland. The competition consisted of three events: the open pairs tournament, the Patton, and finally, the mixed pairs tournament. 

The four of us left by car from Mulhouse to Crans-Montana. As soon as we arrived, we were surprised by the snow, unusual for us at the end of March… but not for the locals. 

The team with Philippe and Bénédicte Cronier, and Emmanuelle and Nicolas Déchelette.

When we arrived, we met at a restaurant in a typical Swiss chalet with Laura Tuor, the festival organiser. We enjoyed a Chinese fondue with her and other participants, including the well-known French players Emmanuelle and Nicolas Déchelette, and Bénédicte and Philippe Cronier. The evening took place in a warm atmosphere, accompanied by a tasty meal.

The next morning the open pairs started. It took place in two sessions of 18 boards in a magnificent chalet. I participated in this event with Esteban as partner, with the aim of stepping onto the podium. The Swiss captain and world champion Fernando Piedra was among the formidable competitors. 

The playing area
Fernando Piedra

I am sharing with you this nice hand: 

Esteban opened 2♣, a bid showing either a weak hand with both majors or a game-forcing hand. To his right, a 3♣ overcall. I decided to bid 4♣, showing a game-forcing hand with a fit in Hearts. To my left, they bid 5♣ and Esteban bid 5♥. 

The question was whether I had to bid 6♥, knowing that we were most certainly going to lose the Ace of Clubs. Esteban didn’t need to say 5♥, so he had to have a maximum hand. If the slam was depending on the diamond finesse, with the 3♣ overcall showing a good hand, the King would often be onside, which prompted me to call for the small slam. The deal proved me right. Esteban had ♠Axxx ♥KQxxx ♦x ♣xxx, a 100% slam, without even needing the finesse in Diamonds. 

The full deal:

We finished 9th in the event, without playing at our best level. Victory went to the French pair Emmanuelle Déchelette-Bénédicte Cronier, with a very good average of 62.8%. Accompanying them on the podium were Enzo La Novara-Carmelo Pennestri, and Carla Giral-Fernando Piedra.

Bénédicte Cronier and Emmanuelle Déchelette with Zeina Marchettini-Jeanbart and Fernando Piedra.

At the end of the awards ceremony, the festival invited all participants to enjoy a raclette. The meal was delicious, once again demonstrating the culinary talent of the Swiss!

The second event, the Patton, took place in 7 matches of 7 boards. Following Philippe Cronier’s advice, we decided to change partners. Sarah played with Esteban and Wilhelmine with me, then we switched for the mixed pairs. This way, every player on the team had the opportunity to play with every other member.

Sarah and Wilhelmine with Philippe Cronier.

First, a little bidding test with this hand:

Wilhelmine opened 1♦, my response was 1♥ and the opponent made a 1♠ overcall. Wilhelmine bid 3♠, which is a Splinter with a fit in Hearts and a strong hand (good, mid-range and above). What do you say?

I decided to bid 4♦. Certainly, I didn’t have much of a hand and most importantly, the Queen of Spades was against a singleton, but I had two key cards: the King of Hearts and the Ace of Diamonds. My partner Wilhelmine bid Blackwood and we ended up in a small slam in Hearts.

Contract: 6 Hearts.
Lead: Ace of Spades and a club return.
How would you proceed?

I took with the Jack from my hand and ruffed a spade. I returned to my hand with the Ace of Diamonds, then I ruffed the Queen of Spades with the Ace of Hearts. After that, I drew the trumps before discarding my diamond loser on dummy’s fourth club. 

Here are the four hands:

For this second board from the Patton, you play the contract of 3NT in East on the lead of the Jack of Clubs. Here are Sarah’s hand and the dummy: 

Sarah counted her tricks: three spades, two diamonds, two hearts and the Ace of Clubs, that is eight tricks. She had some strokes of luck. After the Ace of Clubs, she started by drawing three rounds of Spades. Unfortunately, no Jack-doubleton in Spades or 3-3 split. She then cashed the Ace of Diamonds but no honour appeared. Sarah now tried the heart finesse by playing the King and a heart towards the Jack, she succeeded, and the contract was home.

Sarah Combescure

Here is the diagram:

We took second place in the Patton. The atmosphere in the team was superb and we all played very well. Personally, playing with Wilhelmine for the first time, I was very satisfied. 

Victory went to Team Ferrari with Massimo Ferrari, Giulia Pozzi, Carmelo Pennestri and Enzo La Novara. The bronze medal was for Yves Moulin’s team (Virginie Bonnet, Gérard Sallière and Cédric Thompson). 

The winners of the Patton: Team Ferrari.

For the awards ceremony, the Crans-Montana casino took care of the organisation by offering an excellent cocktail and meal, with very friendly staff. Each participant was offered vouchers to play at the casino. 

Days went by and there was only one event left, the mixed pairs, which I played with Sarah. There were fewer people than in the previous events, only 13 tables. 

Here is a hand that I want to tell you about where Sarah took her top at the bidding:

Sarah opened 1♣, I responded 1NT, she bid a 2♥ reverse. I continued the conversation with a 3♣ bid showing a fit in Clubs and a good hand. Sarah then decided to bid 3♦ to complete the description of her 1-4-3-5 hand. I bid 3♥ and Sarah, knowing that her side did not have a stopper in Spades, concluded in 5♣. 

Here is the diagram:

The 5 Clubs contract was cold as long as the trumps were not 4-0. Sarah only lost a spade and a heart. Well bid! 

We finished 2nd in the event. Sarah played very well and we didn’t give up despite a sluggish start. The event was won by Isabelle Van Muyden and Emmanuel Thélin, followed by Bénédicte Cronier and Nicolas Déchelette. Wilhelmine and Esteban took a nice 5th place.

The winners of the mixed pairs with the organisers.

As usual, we did a little debriefing of the boards with the other French people over a glass of Swiss wine.

With the festival coming to an end, I still had to thank Laura greatly for her invitation which allowed us to discover her festival, but also the director Jérôme Amiguet for all the work done. The atmosphere was magnificent, the conviviality that we like when we play bridge. It feels good to play in such conditions. 

I would like to thank Sarah, Wilhelmine and Esteban very much. I had a great time playing with them, the evenings in their company and that of the other participants were a real pleasure. 

Esteban Vallet, Sarah Combescure, Wilhelmine Schlumberger and Pierre Bedouet.

I didn’t know about the Crans-Montana festival, but now I just want one thing: to go back there as soon as possible. I recommend it and I hope to see you there next year. For my part, I already marked my calendar!

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