The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLII: Negotiating the Mine Field

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLII: Negotiating the Mine Field

By Ray Adams

Poor Frank and Lucky Archie were at it again just the other night at the local duplicate club. It all came down to the last board of the night.

    Poor Frank was somewhat surprised to see Red’s dummy after Lucky Archie led the jack of clubs. He thought Red’s hand rated a simple boost to 2♠ instead of a limit raise. Still, the contract had some play. The jack of clubs certainly looked like a singleton, although that would mean East had started with six clubs. Was that possible on the actual auction?

At any rate, if Poor Frank could not ruff two clubs in dummy, then he needed to get rid of his small heart as soon as possible. At trick two, he led a diamond and Archie took his ace. Archie thought for about three seconds and returned a small diamond at trick three. Poor Frank wasn’t fooled. Surely East had only one diamond also. He played the eight and overruffed East’s seven of spades with the nine.

Poor Frank now played the queen of spades, hoping that East had started with two trumps. But Lucky Archie took his ace as East showed out, pitching a club. Archie now switched to a heart to dummy’s nine, East’s jack, and declarer’s ace. Poor Frank now had to play a trump to dummy to pitch a heart on the king of diamonds.

It was time to play the clubs, but Poor Frank was still worried Archie’s lead was a singleton. Thus, he led a club from dummy and ducked East’s ten. When East comprehended that he had won this trick, he tried to cash a heart, but Poor Frank ruffed. Declarer then ruffed his last small club in dummy, ruffed a diamond small, cashed his ten of trumps, drawing West’s last spade, and claimed. Poor Frank wiped the sweat off his brow, happy that he had successfully negotiated this mine field of a hand.

East immediately showed Archie the king, queen, and jack of hearts.

“Oh, I suppose you mean if I had led a heart earlier, we would have set the contract?” Archie said. “Well, if you want me to lead a suit, you should bid it.”

“East was not happy when Archie said that,” Frank said to Janet later as they discussed that evening’s hands.   “But for once I think Archie was right.”

“How’s that, darling?” Janet said.

“Well, East had a 6-5 hand and never bid. Some Easts made five hearts on this hand. So me making four spades was a cold top.”

“I just wish I could have been there to see you in action, darling,” Janet said.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LI: Kowalski’s Reverse

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LI: Kowalski’s Reverse

By Ray Adams

All experienced bridge buffs know what a reverse is. A player first bids a lower ranking suit, then later bids a higher ranking suit at the two level. This shows a very good hand of 17 or more points. It is not unknown for players to make mistakes where reverses are concerned, especially if that player’s name is Stanislaus Kowalski.

Readers will recognize that in their partnership, Kowalski normally sits North, while Nograwowicz sits South. Thus, this hand was rotated for readers’ convenience.

Many players would have opened the South hand 1 so as not to reverse, but Kowalski failed to think ahead and started with a club. After his partner responded 1♠, he could have rebid 1NT, but chose not to with a singleton. Instead, he reversed into 2, hoping nothing bad would happen. Nograwowicz took Kowalski at his word and made a slam try with a 4♣ bid. Kowalski now bid 4, hoping his partner would bid 4♠ which he would rapidly pass. But it was not to be and Kowalski soon found himself at the helm in a small slam as West led the king of hearts.

Kowalski was terrified as he added up his and dummy’s meager resources, but he had no choice but to forge ahead.   He won the opening lead with the ace and led a club to the king, as West played the queen. This caused Kowalski to start sweating and he had to wipe his brow several times as he played the hand. He now led the queen of diamonds, covered by the king and won with the ace.

Kowalski now said a little prayer and led the ace of clubs. Yes, the jack dropped from the West hand!   He now played a spade to dummy’s ace and subsequently led the queen of spades as East followed low. Kowalski threw a heart as he said another little prayer. Yes, the queen held! Next came the jack of spades, covered by the king and ruffed. He returned to dummy with the ten of clubs and cashed dummy’s last two spades, throwing his last heart and a small diamond. Now Kowalski was playing for an overtrick as he led a diamond. He covered East’s six with the nine and when that held, claimed an unbelievable seven!

When the hand was over, Kowalski’s face was as red as a blushing school girl while he sat there, shaking his head and staring into space.

“Just think how many tricks you would have made if you had actually had the points you told me you did,” Nograwowicz said.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part L: Nograwowicz Finds a Way

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part L: Nograwowicz Finds a Way

By Ray Adams

Porczouk Nograwowicz of Team Porcupine was faced with a very difficult play problem in a recent regional after his opponent made what could best be termed an “eccentric pre-empt.”


Kowalski’s double was negative, showing four hearts. Kowalski probably assumed from West’s pre-empt in diamonds that Nograwowicz had no more than one diamond and this must have influenced his subsequent 6 bid.

West led the queen of diamonds and declarer took the ace. He led a spade to dummy’s king and cashed the ace and king of clubs, then ruffed a club, taking a great interest in the fall of the queen from the West hand. Declarer cashed the ace of spades, sluffing a small diamond from dummy. Nograwowicz then cashed the king of hearts and led a small heart to dummy, both opponents following. It was the critical point of the hand.

Declarer reasoned that since West had started with three clubs and had also followed to two hearts, and further based on West’s pre-empt, it was likely this player was now out of trumps. Putting his reasoning into action, he cashed the jack of clubs, tossing his losing diamond. When West was unable to ruff, declarer was home. He now ruffed a diamond with his last trump and had ten tricks in the bag, with dummy’s ace and queen of trumps sure to score tricks number eleven and twelve.

Plus 1430 on this board was worth 13 imps to the Porcupines when the opponents failed to bid the slam at the other table, and in fact, made only 11 tricks in a heart contract. Once again Nograwowicz had found a way to save the day for Team Porcupine.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLIX: High Five

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLIX: High Five

By Ray Adams

The late and great Grant Baze once said, “The five level belongs to the opponents.” Probably most bridge buffs would agree that the five level is, indeed, a dangerous place that is best left to the opponents. Team Porcupine, of course, has trouble following rules and guidelines.

West led the ten of hearts, taken by dummy’s ace as declarer threw a diamond. Nograwowicz then ruffed a heart, ruffed a club, and ruffed another heart. One more club was trumped in dummy and the king of spades drew all the missing enemy trumps. South then ruffed dummy’s last heart.

When Nograwowicz cashed the ace of clubs, tossing a diamond from dummy, the hand was thoroughly stripped and he exited a diamond, taken by East’s king. East had no choice but to give declarer a ruff and a sluff for the eleventh trick. Nograwowicz subsequently conceded a diamond and claimed his doubled contract.

At the other table, Pas-Konejwicz played at 5 doubled, down two when South began the defense with a spade rather than a club. This was a nice 8 imp pickup for the Porcupines. But the interesting aspect to this hand was the fact that both sides played the contract at the five level doubled and the team still managed to gain imps. It was yet another triumph for Team Porcupine’s unorthodox approach to the game.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLVIII: A Pretty Cool Slam

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLVIII: A Pretty Cool Slam

By Ray Adams


Team Porcupine frequently bids and makes slams that other teams fail to reach. Opponents of the team call this “lucky” and overbidding,” while the Porcupines say it is due to “inference, intuition, and lack of inhibition” or what Kowalski dubbed Third Eye Bidding. The following example will allow readers to make their own decision as to which side is correct:


Since Kowalski had good holdings in both majors, he decided to open his 11 point hand 1♣, thus creating a situation where it was more likely that his brilliant partner – Nograwowicz – would be playing the hand. East’s 1NT overcall was the 15 to 17 point variety. Nograwowicz’s 4 call was a cuebid showing slam interest and Kowalski’s 4 bid was another cuebid. West, a very good player from southern California, looked at Nograwowicz like he was a madman when the 6♠ card hit the table. East had shown a minimum of 15 points and he, West, held 7. These Porcupine madmen could not hold more than 16 to 18 points and West could not get the double card on the table fast enough.

West led the queen of diamonds to East’s ace and Nograwowicz won the diamond return with his king. Declarer saw his only problem on this hand was in the trump suit, and if East had both the king and the jack he was sunk, but maybe East had two to the king and West had the singleton jack. At trick three, he led a heart to the ace and then played the queen of spades. East covered and the ace dropped the jack. Nograwowicz then drew the last trump, ruffed two diamonds in dummy and claimed.

The pair at the other table was not as inferential, intuitive, or as lacking in inhibition as Kowalski and Nograwowicz and they settled into a comfortable 2♠ contract, making six when the declarer took the same view in the trump suit as Nograwowicz.   This was a tasty 14 imp swing for Team Porcupine.

As West wrote down the minus 1210 score, he muttered, “You guys only had 18 high card points!”

“Sometimes 18 points can be a pretty cool slam,” Kowalski replied.


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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLI: A Worthless Diamond

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLI: A Worthless Diamond

By Ray Adams

Poor Frank was in a very tough contract the other night and his chances of making it were slim – unless he could somehow enlist the aid of one of his opponents. Luckily for him, that opponent happened to be Lucky Archie.


Poor Frank’s partner, Red Dyeman, must have been trying to get a top board against Lucky Archie, as he certainly bid his 16 high card points to the hilt. Red must have been figuring the hearts would run and Poor Frank would then come up with a minor miracle to make the pushy small slam.

West led the seven of spades, covered by the queen, king, and won by Poor Frank with the ace. Declarer immediately went to work on the hearts. Lucky Archie held off until the second round, then exited with his third heart, as West pitched a spade. Poor Frank now ran dummy’s last two hearts, tossing a spade and a small diamond.   Lucky Archie threw a club on the first heart, then thought for about two seconds when the last one was led, and casually threw a small diamond. West, meanwhile let go of two clubs.

Poor Frank wondered what the spade situation was and how he might come up with a twelfth trick. It looked hopeless, but maybe something would develop if he played off his winners. He started by cashing the jack of spades and took great notice when Lucky Archie played the ten. Could West have led the seven of spades from a five card holding topped by the nine? And if so, might West have both the queen and jack of diamonds as suggested by Lucky Archie’s discard of a low diamond? Poor Frank smiled to himself. Maybe, just maybe, he could justify Red’s extremely aggressive bidding.

Declarer now cashed the ace of clubs and led a club to his king. West had to toss a spade on this card, but when Poor Frank subsequently cashed the queen of clubs, West was faced with a terrible dilemma: if he let go the nine of spades, dummy’s eight would be good, while if he threw a diamond, Poor Frank’s nine of diamonds would take the twelfth trick. Poor Frank soon claimed this improbable small slam for what was a cold top board that allowed him to claim that evening’s laurels.

“Archie, you unthinking clod!” West said after the hand was over. “Why, oh why, did you throw away that small diamond?”

“It was a totally worthless card,” Archie replied. “I only had three to the ten.”

“Yes, but..” West started, then must have realized that his partner was too dense to understand that by throwing a “worthless diamond,” he had subjected his partner to a very real squeeze.

After the game, when Poor Frank was telling Janet about this hand, he said, “I don’t think Lucky Archie ever understood the importance of holding on to his diamonds. He kept saying, ‘I only had three to the ten, what good was that going to do?”

Janet laughed that throaty laugh that Frank loved so much and said, “The important thing was that you noticed what he had done and took advantage of it. But wait, wasn’t it just a week ago that Archie was pontificating on how great he was that he had made an opening lead from three diamonds to the ten?”

“It certainly was,” Poor Frank said. “I guess the value of three to the ten is as flexible as the price of oil.”

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXL: Lucky Archie’s Great Lead

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXL: Lucky Archie’s Great Lead

By Ray Adams

Readers will recall that in his last outing against Lucky Archie, Poor Frank managedtosalvage an average board when he made 2S in his 3-3 fit rather than playing in the superior 6-2 heart fit. This result still left that evening’s winner in doubt, but that would soon be decided when the players picked up the last hand of the night.

  Lucky Archie was poised to lead the ace of spades, but as he spread his hand, a card fell out and hit the table face up. It was the four of diamonds. Lucky Archie tried to grab this card, but he was too late, and the entire table could hear him say a mild curse word. Poor Frank smiled at his rival’s antics and began to play the hand.

 The lead went to dummy’s three, East’s jack, and Poor Frank’s king. Declarer drew trumps in two rounds and started the clubs, cashing the king and ace, then conceding a club to the queen. East exited with a spade to Lucky Archie’s ace. With nothing better to do, Lucky Archie led the ten of diamonds. This pickled dummy’s queen and Poor Frank was quickly down one.   This was a disastrous result for Poor Frank as every other declarer had made the game contract.

As the results were announced, a crowd gathered around Lucky Archie who quickly began pontificating on his opening lead.

“I knew drastic action was called for,” he said. “Everyone would lead a spade, but the question is: how would that lead to setting the contract? We needed tricks somewhere else. I looked to the diamond suit. Now, I concede that most players would not have thought of leading from three to the ten, but I know from my vast experience that the best players will always find the right leads – even if they’re highly unusual – when they need them.”

“And that’s when I had to leave the room and throw up,” Poor Frank said to Janet as he told her this story after the game was over. “I mean I saw that card accidentally fall from his hand.”

“Don’t worry about it, darling,” Janet said. “When you make a brilliant play or lead, it’s because you meant to play that particular card.”

Poor Frank sighed and shook his head.



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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXIX: The Wrong Contract

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXIX: The Wrong Contract

By Ray Adams

Poor Frank found himself in the wrong contract just the other night at the local duplicate club, and his arch rival, Lucky Archie, looked to be the one who would benefit from this indiscretion.

The bidding on this hand definitely needs explaining. Lucky Archie had lately been experimenting with opening 1NT while holding a five card major as recommended by a bridge book he was reading. Red Dyeman, Poor Frank’s partner, thought he and Frank had agreed that a two diamond bid over an opposing 1NT showed a single major, while Poor Frank thought it showed both. Red was correct, as Frank had forgotten he had agreed to play it Red’s way, rather than how he played it with Janet and other partners. Thus, Poor Frank picked his three card spade suit over the two card heart suit. Red realized Poor Frank had erred, but passed rather than trying to correct and hoped for the best.

Lucky Archie, obviously trying for a ruff, cashed the ace of hearts and exited a heart. This ran to Poor Frank’s queen. Poor Frank feared he might go down two or even three for a cold bottom, but saw some possibilities and gave nothing away in his demeanor. He led a diamond at trick two to dummy’s ace, then ruffed a diamond. Next came the ace of clubs as he threw a heart from dummy. He then led a small club, ruffing it in dummy as Lucky Archie played the king. Poor Frank now ruffed another diamond in hand. He led a sneaky ten of clubs and Archie tossed his king of diamonds. Declarer discarded dummy’s queen of diamonds.

Poor Frank looked at the tricks spread out before him: he had won seven tricks in a row. Could he possibly make one more? He now tried the jack of clubs. Lucky Archie thought about this and ruffed with the seven of spades. Poor Frank overruffed with the eight and suddenly he had made this improbable contract!   He now tried ruffing a heart with his nine of spades, but Lucky Archie overruffed and the defense soon took the rest of the tricks.

East’s eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw Lucky Archie’s cards.

“You mean we had all top five spades and the ace of hearts and we couldn’t set this contract?   Archie, this is the lowest point of your bridge career.”

“Well, I thought Frank had the king and jack, not you,” Archie said.

“Even so, you could have overruffed the dummy on the last club,” East said in a whiny voice.

Although this hand made a good story to tell to Janet later on, the result was only slightly above average for Poor Frank, as many NS pairs had made a two heart contract. But Frank still had one more board to play against his rival to see who would emerge victorious that evening.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLVII: The Value of Small Cards

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLVII: The Value of Small Cards

By Ray Adams


Bridge buffs who are successful know the value of small cards and use them well to get good results. Perhaps no declarer does this as well as Porczouk Nograwowicz of Team Porcupine.

Nograwowicz arrived in 4 on the auction given above and West led the eight of diamonds, won by East’s king. East immediately placed the seven of spades on the table, which Nograwowicz read as an obvious singleton. He let this ride to West’s ten and dummy’s king. He now made the far-sighted move of ruffing dummy’s last diamond with the ten of hearts.

When he played the ace of hearts, he was pleased to see West’s jack fall. He now led the eight of hearts to dummy’s nine, picking up East’s last heart. When he led a small club, East defended well, winning the ace and returning a small club. Declarer won his king, but now had to get back to the dummy to eliminate the last club. He was able to do this by leading his carefully preserved five of hearts to dummy’s six. Now he could lead the last club and ruff it.

When he then led a small spade, West won his jack, but was endplayed. A spade return would allow dummy’s nine to score, while exiting with a diamond would give declarer a ruff and a sluff. Either way, Nograwowicz had brought this tricky game home for plus 620 to Team Porcupine. When South at the other table was down one in the same contract, Team Porcupine picked up a nifty 12 imps on this board. It was a nice reward for Nograwowicz’s knowledge of how valuable the small cards can be.

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Alice in Replay Land

Alice in Replay Land

By Ray Adams

When Alice found herself in Replay Land, she remembered the many strange bridge adventures she experienced in No Trump Land and Four Spade Land. Replay Land was yet another exotic place, a land where a player could yell “Replay” causing the hand to be played yet again. Alice girded her loins and put on her bidding cap in preparation for another interesting day at the table.

    Alice was paired with the Dormouse against the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, which happened to be her original pairing in No Trump Land. With two good heart stoppers and sixteen points, Alice made the percentage bid of 3NT. The mad one led the three of hearts, Alice playing dummy’s ten, which held the trick. The king of diamonds was led, West taking the ace. The Mad Hatter, who now knew that Alice had the king and queen, continued with a low heart in an attempt to keep communications open between the two defenders.

Alice won her queen and now led a small spade to dummy’s eight, the Queen winning her ten. The Queen now did the logical thing, returning a small heart. The Mad Hatter cashed both his hearts, muttering as he did so how he was glad to be beating mercury poisoning, and booking the contract. The Queen and Alice both let go small clubs, and a diamond was thrown from dummy. This was now the situation:

The Hatter exited with the nine of diamonds to dummy’s queen. The good Queen was comfortably able to toss a small spade on this play, as Alice let go a club, but when Alice cashed the jack of diamonds, the Queen of Hearts was squeezed. A club pitch would allow Alice to throw a spade (the other black suit), take the club finesse and claim. A spade discard and Alice could toss a club (once again, the other black suit), take the club finesse and make the six of spades as the ninth trick.

The Queen of Hearts immediately yelled “REPLAY!” as soon as Alice claimed. The Ten of Spades soon appeared and ruled the hand must be replayed.

The play started the same way. The Hatter led the three of hearts and Alice making the same plays as she had earlier. However, when the Queen of Hearts won the ten of spades, she now returned a club, rather than a heart. Alice took the finesse successfully, playing the jack, which held. This was now the situation:

Alice could no longer play on the black suits, for if the Queen got in, she would lead a heart and the Hatter would cash two hearts for down one. Therefore, Alice went to the dummy and cashed the two high diamonds. But the Queen had no problem getting rid of a a spade and a club on these two diamonds. Now the Queen remained with a spade stop and a club stop and communications with her partner in the form of the eight of hearts. Alice now had to go down.

“How do you like that, you silly girl,” the Queen of Hearts said. “Off with her head!”

“I’d like to exercise my Replay Land option,” Alice replied smugly. “REPLAY!”

The Ten of Spades made another appearance, and over the objections of the Queen of Hearts, ruled that Alice could have another shot at the contract.

This time the play went exactly the same as the second time the hand was played. But now, when the Queen of Hearts exited with a club, Alice took the finesse and led the heart herself. The Hatter cashed the two hearts, and in the process, squeezed the Queen.. So Alice made the contract.

“REPLAY!” the Queen of Hearts screamed and play resumed, only this time the Queen only allowed her partner to cash one heart. The good Queen was no longer squeezed, but now Alice could give up a trick to her and still make the game.

“Off with her head, off with her head!” the Queen yelled, calling over the Ten of Spades once again.

“She cannot be allowed to make this game,” the Queen protested. “Why she’s just a commoner. She can’t just push a queen around.”

“I greatly sympathize with you, Your Majesty,” the Ten of Spades allowed, “but I am forced to follow the rules of Replay Land and unless you have reason to call another replay, I have to rule that your honorable opponent made the 3NT game.

“This is an outrage,” the Queen said. “Will no one come forward to protect their queen from such a disgusting result?”

“I will be your hero, good Queen,” the Mad Hatter said, putting on the hat of a musketeer.

“REPLAY!” the Hatter yelled.

“Will there be a change in the play, or do you intend to do the same old things as in the first four plays?” the Ten of Spades asked.

“Why yes,” the Hatter said. “I will lead a spade, the unbid suit.”

The Ten of Spades allowed this replay and lo and behold!   Alice had to go down, no matter how she struggled, as the ten of hearts never took a trick.

“I now rule that 3NT is down one. Go on to the next hand,” the Ten of Spades said, happy that his suit had played an important role in resolving this tricky hand.

“But I made the hand 3 times out of 5,” Alice said. “Surely I should be allowed to make the contract or at least get an Average Plus.”

“Off with her head! Don’t listen to this pushy little commoner,” the Queen shouted.

“I have no choice but to rule down one,” the Ten of Spades said. “Here in Replay Land, only the last replay counts.”

Alice shook her head and waited for the next hand to be dealt. Replay Land was certainly a strange place, almost as strange as No Trump Land and Four Spade Land.

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