We are careering towards Christmas, and my last congress at Peebles, at an alarming rate. Most will know by now (as good news travels fast?) that I gave notice in May of my intention to give up my duties as Congress Convener but that I would continue in the post until my successor was appointed; most probably that will be by the end of the year. Therefore, as December will be my last congress in charge, I hope to see as many of you as possible there to wave your hankies!
The SBU Autumn Congress was a great success as far as enjoyment of the event was concerned. The hotel has at last got its act together and for the first time since taking over from Peter, I had no adverse comments on the hotel whatsoever. “Marvellous”, “outstanding”, “fabulous” were some comments received, I was delighted, I can tell you. The numbers were poor though, so that was very disappointing. Once word gets around that Peebles is back I’m sure that numbers will pick up again.
As usual the bridge itself proceeded smoothly due to our excellent, hard-working and professional SBU team. I did have one complaint, however, about slow play on the Friday evening. In actual fact, there was no slow play as the bridge started at eight and finished at eleven. There was a perception of slow play, though, and this came about because there were, I believe, three sections in the Ballroom. The Director made the decision, correctly in my opinion, that all sections should move at the one time in order to cut down any disruption caused by moving players. One section seemed to finish ahead of the other two and some playing there felt that the Director should have called the move at that point. Had he done so, I’m sure there would have been complaints about the noise level when one section was moving while the other two were still playing. You can’t win!
A sterling vote of thanks must go to John Matheson, Charles Outred and Patrick Shields who, on the Saturday morning, at very short notice, formed a panel of experts to discuss hands played the night before. Speaking personally, it was a treat to hear expert tips on bidding and play from players for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration. I just wish that I could have even a minute amount of their skill!
The two-day Bronze Congress, which took place in the refreshed and much brighter Edinburgh Suite (Calazel to the dinosaurs among us), was enjoyed by all. There were nine tables this time, still not good enough for the only national event of its kind I agree, but a good-enough size to allow a decent competition. There were eight pairs in the Bronze 1 category, six in the Bronze 2 and four in the Bronze 3 with prizes being awarded to the top two placings in Bronze I and Bronze 2 and the first placed pair in the Bronze 3 group. On the results sheet, our scorer highlighted in colour each pair according to its category and it was interesting to note that practice does indeed make (almost) perfect! Because of the colour coding, it was perfectly easy to see that, in general, those pairs in the Bronze 2 and 3 groups tended to be placed higher on the table. That’s as it should be as they have been playing longer and have more experience.
There is one thing of which I am extremely proud, and that is the fact that I have managed to tempt a few “bronzers” to dip their toes into the “big pool”, so to speak. I have encouraged, cajoled, teased and gently pushed them into the realisation that they ARE good enough to play in the main congress, that they CAN, sometimes do well against the better players and that they SHOULD therefore move forward with confidence. It is only by playing at the higher level that we can improve, and that goes for each and every one of us!
At our latest congress meeting we discussed how our national congress can move forward too, so look out for changes that my successor will no doubt be putting into
effect in 2017.
Time for a confession………
The rates shown for B&B in our December brochure are incorrect. It has come to light that the rates we agreed in our two-year contract with the hotel do not apply to the B&B rates. What this means is that whilst our full board prices have remained as per our agreement, the B&B prices have not, steadily rising as the hotel has been doing better, it seems.
And there’s more! This year, before I made up the December brochure, I was contacted by a hotel representative who explained that they had received a request to book the whole of the Park Hotel for the weekend of our December congress. As the Park Hotel is not mentioned in the SBU contract with the hotel, there was nothing to be done. It was agreed, however, that our B&B guests would be able to stay at the Hydro instead and I indicated this when I made up the December brochure. It now transpires that the Park Hotel is available after all, as the event which had been holding all the rooms has released the space. I can only apologise for all this.
We therefore now have the situation where, if you requested B&B at the Hydro, then that is still available, but unfortunately not at the prices shown on the Winter brochure. You may wish to stay at the Park Hotel instead, but that option too is at a higher rate than that quoted on our brochure. Of course this might mean that those of you who have already booked the B&B only option will want to cancel your accommodation request. I quite understand if you do that (please let me know otherwise you may well still be charged for the room!) but I hope that you will still want to come and play in the congress as there is plenty of time to book elsewhere should you wish to do so. (I will not ask for the increased fee if you should cancel and book somewhere else.) If you don’t wish to cancel, then please let me know if you prefer the Park Hotel or the Hydro. I have been informed that there is limited availability in the Park Hotel and so, if that is your preference it will be first come, first served.
The latest rates for the B&B only option at the Hydro, quoted to me on Saturday 5th November, are as shown below:
Three nights (Friday/Saturday/Sunday)
Single - £170.50 per person
Double/Twin - £145 per person
I assume that the charge for a two-night stay will be reduced accordingly.
The Park Hotel rates for B&B only, once again as quoted to me on Saturday 5th November, are £49 per person per night. The Park Hotel only offers a continental breakfast.
As I have already explained, B&B prices are not built into our contract and so we have no come-back. B&B guests may decide to have their evening meal at the Hydro at a charge of £25 each time but I think that the full board option is better value.
I can remind you of the full board rates for two or three nights:
Two nights (Friday/Saturday) Full Board from lunch on Friday till 11.am on Sunday
Single - £170 per person
Double/Twin - £160 per person
Three nights (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) Full Board from lunch on Friday till 11.am on Monday
Single – £255 per person
Double/Twin - £240 per person
An extra night (Thursday or Monday) is £40 DBB for a single room and £35 DBB for a double or twin.
Please note that half board is not offered by us at this time. Should you wish this option you should book directly with the hotel and pay me the full bridge fees of £65 per person.
I should inform you that there is one thing to note when you book a room in the hotel in future, something we have not had to worry about in the past but that has recently come to light. In the unfortunate event that you should need to cancel your room AT SHORT NOTICE then you will still be charged for that room unless the hotel can sell it on before the event starts. At our latest congress I had THREE people who cancelled just a couple of days before the congress started and was informed that the SBU might still be charged. This would have been a most unfortunate state of affairs as the SBU can’t afford such an expense! As it happened, all three rooms were sold off by the hotel and so, on this occasion, all was well. If this should happen again, however, and the rooms were not sold off in time, then the SBU account with the hotel would be charged and the SBU then would seek to recover that charge from the person/persons who cancelled. We all have holiday insurance to cover these eventualities and so that shouldn’t be a problem. I just wanted to make you aware of this probability and to encourage you to keep it in mind.
Now, though, I have one last job to do, and that is making sure that the December congress goes off with a bang. However, I need your help, as I can’t do it all by myself. Helping is easy too, all you need to do is send in your entries! In all seriousness, if you are intending to stay in the hotel, please get your entries in THIS WEEK, as otherwise I cannot guarantee that accommodation will be available. Even if you are not intending to stay in the hotel, I would appreciate it if you could send your entries sooner rather than later. As usual, I will arrange for the lists of entrants to be posted on the SBU website two weeks in advance; if you are without team-mates then there may be another pair you know on the ‘Incomplete Teams’ list. At the event itself the director will randomly draw any remaining unmatched pairs together to make up a team.
Apart from the bridge, which is always fabulous, we can look forward to Jim Hay’s presentation on how to defend against all manner of weak-two bids and Sam Punch’s research on why men do better at bridge than women!!!!!!
So, get those entries in and look out your best bib and tucker (smart/casual at the very least!!!), let’s make this next Peebles event a great one.
Finally, here is a reminder of next year’s congress dates for your diary:
9th Overseas Spring Congress Isla Canela, Huelva, Spain 11th-17th May
Summer Congress Peebles Hydro 14th-16th July
Autumn Congress Peebles Hydro 20th – 22nd October
Winter Congress Peebles Hydro 8th – 10th December
Isla Canela is a must for next year, you are in for a treat. Russell Frame is not long returned from a bridge event there with Ian Ross and he was raving about the hotel to me today. Jack and I were there in May and found the hotel terrific, good food, lovely rooms, helpful staff and the all-inclusive deal makes it very good value.
If you require any further information regarding any of the above congresses, then please get in touch.
Looking forward to seeing you in December, if not before.