The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LIX: Doubled Delight

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LIX: Doubled Delight

By Ray Adams


Stanislaus Kowalski of Team Porcupine recently remarked to his teammates, “You know, sometimes I think the Great Shuffler simply creates hands to test the souls of bridge players.” Shortly after Kowalski said this, the team was facing a formidable opponent in a Regional Knockout event when this hand came up:

In the top auction (and also in the bottom auction), 2 showed both majors. When West bid 4 over Nograwowicz’s 3♣ bid, Kowalski had no problem bidding 5♣. After all he would not be playing the contract.

West led the queen of hearts to the five, king, and ace. Nograwowicz sensed that clubs were splitting 5-0 and played the king of clubs to make certain, nodding his head when West tossed a heart. He then led the king of diamonds, East eagerly taking the ace to return a heart. Declarer ruffed this and led a diamond to the jack, West showing out. He then took the marked diamond finesse and played three more rounds of diamonds, tossing dummy’s two small spades. East ruffed the last diamond and played a spade.

Nograwowicz was now in a good position. He won his ace of spades, and certain that East had started with two spades, ruffed a spade low in dummy. He now led dummy’s last heart and East was couped. If he ruffed low, declarer would overruff with the nine, while if he ruffed with the ten, declarer would do the same with the club queen. He would then play his other high club and dummy’s ace and jack of trumps would score the game going tricks. Plus 550 for Team Porcupine.

At the other table, Pas did not bid 4 immediately and the opponents decided to double rather than bid 5♣. This proved to be a mistake, as Konejwicz quickly wrapped up ten tricks, losing only the ace of hearts and two spades. This was plus 590 for Team Porcupine and produced a 15 imp swing in their favor in a match they only won by 9 imps.

This test set up by the Great Shuffler had proven to be a doubled delight for Team Porcupine and also had once again justified Kowalski’s aggressive bidding when he knew his partner would be playing the hand.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CL: Archie Gets Deuced

By Ray Adams

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CL: Archie Gets Deuced


It was an exciting time at the local duplicate club just the other night. The winner would be determined by the evening’s last board.


Poor Frank’s 4 bid was super aggressive, but he based it on his heart length, the anticipation of a spade lead, the need to beat Lucky Archie, and his belief that his left-hand opponent would somehow make a fatal mistake.

Lucky Archie led the deuce of spades to the four, king, and Poor Frank’s ace. Poor Frank saw he had the potential for a lot of losers: the king of trumps, two diamonds, a spade, and a club. At trick two he led the queen of hearts, quite pleased when Archie played the king. Poor Frank saw it would be mandatory to establish dummy’s clubs while he still had a dummy entry. He acted on this and played the ace of clubs and a small club, gratified to see Lucky Archie rise with the king.

The Lucky One now cashed the queen of spades and led another spade, playing his partner for four only spades. But East had five and Poor Frank ruffed this trick. He now led his nine of hearts to dummy’s ten, picking up East’s last trump in the process. He tossed a losing diamond on the queen of clubs and ruffed a club with his jack of hearts. This established dummy’s seven of clubs. And now, due to his care in watching the heart spots, Poor Frank was able to lead his carefully preserved deuce of hearts to dummy’s three. He then cashed the good club, tossing his last losing diamond. Making five for plus 450 was an ice cold top and allowed Poor Frank to slide past Lucky Archie into first place.

“Archie you dolt!” East yelled when the hand was over. “Why can’t you play the ace of diamonds and see what I give you.” He showed Archie the king and ten of diamonds.

“I thought Frank had the king of diamonds for his bid and I wanted to get to your hand.”

“If you truly wanted to get to my hand, you would have led your ten of spades to my jack instead of cashing the queen,” East countered.

“But the queen was good,” Archie whined, “and I didn’t know who had the jack.”

“It was like listening to my favorite music,” Frank said to Janet later when they met to discuss that evening’s boards.

“I can almost hear it,” Janet said, “Archie’s whiny voice singing the ‘I Got Deuced Blues.’”

They both had a good laugh over that one.


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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLIX: Give Him What He Wants

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLIX: Give Him What He Wants

By Ray Adams

There are different ways to counter plays by the defense and one of the most rewarding is probably giving the defender exactly what the defender wants.

It was late in the game and Poor Frank felt he must be trailing Lucky Archie by a point or two. He needed one more good board against his rival to have a chance to win that evening. He reached 4 on the above hand, and this was most likely a normal contract. But would everyone make it?

Lucky Archie led the three of spades, taken by Poor Frank in hand with the king after playing low from dummy. Poor Frank thought about his chances for a while. He could try to ruff diamonds in the dummy, but that play offered little hope as whoever won the first club would undoubtedly shift to a trump and little ruffing value would remain in dummy. No, dummy’s spades looked more promising.

Lucky Archie had bid clubs and led a spade, normally a sign that the defender was looking for a ruff. Well, maybe it would be good strategy to give Archie what he wanted. At trick two, Poor Frank led the king of spades, ruffed by Archie.

“Great play, Frankie baby,” Archie said with an annoyingly huge smirk on his face. Poor Frank said nothing.

Archie now tried the king of clubs. When this held, he knew East must hold the ace, but Poor Frank ruffed the subsequent club lead and led a trump. Archie took his ace and tried his queen of clubs. Poor Frank ruffed this, and led another heart to dummy, picking up the last enemy trumps. Poor Frank now cashed the queen of spades and ruffed a spade with his last trump. He then played the ace of diamonds and ruffed a diamond to claim, dummy’s last spade being good.

“Archie, Archie, Archie,” East said after the hand was over. “After you ruff, lead the queen of clubs. This protects your holding and allows me to overtake with my ace and put a spade on the table to set this contract.”

“What,” Archie said. “Lead queen from a queen-king holding? Only a rank beginner would do something like that? I’m one of the best players in the club. I would never make a rookie mistake like that.”

“Only if you want to win,” East said, so softly that only Poor Frank heard it.

“You know, East was at fault, too, darling,” Janet said to Poor Frank later that evening.

“Yes, he could have overtaken the king and given Archie a ruff to set me, sweetheart.”

“I guess you were lucky this time, darling, since neither opponent really knew what they wanted.”

They both had a good laugh over that.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LVIII: Kowalski Ignores Critics

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LVIII: Kowalski Ignores Critics

By Ray Adams

Many critics of Team Porcupine single out Stanislaus Kowalski as the weak link in the team’s lineup. They frequently say things like, “Kowalski has no concept of decent bidding,” or, “Kowalski bids like a wild man from Borneo,” or “Sewage stinks and so do Kowalski’s bids.” None of these unkind comments, however, have ever had any effect on Kowalski – and for good reason. He only makes wild bids when he knows his partner, Porczouk Nograwowicz, will be playing the hand. And Nograwowicz has a habit of making Kowalski’s wildest bids look good.


In the above auction, many Norths would have bid either 3 at their second turn to suggest a 3NT contract, or even bid 3NT themselves. And of course, 3NT would have been an excellent game. But when Kowalski realized Nograwowicz would be at the helm, he jumped to 4♣, suggesting a possible minor suit slam. Nograwowicz needed no further prompting.

West led the queen of hearts, declarer sighing to himself and wondering how he could possibly make this hand. Hard thought brought him to the conclusion that he might bring it home if East had the ace of diamonds and clubs split no worse than 4-1.

He won dummy’s king of hearts and led a diamond at trick two, East ducking and South’s king winning.   He played a small club to dummy’s nine, happy to see both defenders follow. Another diamond induced East to take his ace and exit with a heart. Declarer won his ace and cashed the queen of diamonds, sluffing dummy’s last heart. Nograwowicz’s concentration – sometimes called “impossible” by his teammates – caused him to notice that his eight of diamonds was now high, the ace, king, queen, jack, ten, and nine having all dropped. He now had hope.

He ruffed a heart in dummy with the queen, led the four of clubs to his ten, ruffed his last heart with the ace, and returned to his his hand with the ace of spades. He then drew the last two trumps with his king and jack, and claimed, the eight of diamonds beating East’s six on the last trick.

As long as Nograwowicz plays hands like this, the criticisms of Kowalski’s bidding will probably bounce off his back like a ping pong ball off a paddle.


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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLVIII: A very bad Bridge Dream

By Ray Adams


Poor Frank had a very bad bridge dream just the other night.

The dream Poor Frank asked for the meaning of the bids before he made his opening lead. 2♦ was explained as a three suited hand with no five card major, but possibly a five card minor. 2NT asked for the short suit, and 3♣ showed club shortness. Lucky Archie obviously panicked when his partner bid 5♣ and tried to pull it to 5♦, but North persisted with 6♣ and that became the final contract.

Poor Frank knew a major suit lead was called for, but which one? After a while he decided to lead the one in which he actually held something. So the king of hearts hit the table. Lucky Archie made short work of the hand. He won the ace of hearts, ruffed a heart, drew trumps in three rounds, sluffing spades, then played the ace, king, and queen of diamonds. When this suit split 3-3, he tossed the last spade from dummy and claimed seven.

In the dream, Poor Frank’s partner showed him the ace and king of spades which obviously would have cashed and set the contract. The dream Poor Frank then ground his teeth so violently that it woke the real Poor Frank up. His entire body was palpitating and his heart was racing. Only by declaring in his void, could the dream Lucky Archie have made this strange contract. Poor Frank knew this was one of the worst dreams he had ever had, and it was hours before he could go back to sleep.

The next time Poor Frank played Lucky Archie, it was the last round of the evening and most likely the first place finisher would be the player who did the best on this set boards. On the first hand, Poor Frank picked up:    When Lucky Archie put down the 2♦ bid card, Poor Frank started shaking. Then North bid 2NT and Lucky Archie bid 3♣.   By this time Poor Frank had turned pale and was sweating profusely. He had to excuse himself and go to the men’s room to throw up. When he returned, Lucky Archie was playing 6♣. Poor Frank said to himself, “No, I’ve seen this movie before,” and led a spade.

Unfortunately, this was reality and not a dream. This time Lucky Archie had the ace of spades and the jack of hearts. He soon claimed seven and Poor Frank made ten mistakes on the last two boards to allow his rival to finish first as he dropped all the way to fourth place. As bad as the dream had been, the reality had been much worse.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LVII: Always the Count

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LVII: Always the Count

By Ray Adams

Bridge buffs know that if they have any super power, it is their ability to count to thirteen. Most bridge buffs apply this power to the four suits of a card deck, but counting does not stop there. It can also be used to count the 40 high card points in a deck and thereby determine who holds which high card. No one has mastered this technique better than Porczouk Nograowicz of Team Porcupine.

   The auction was rather simple. After West opened one diamond, Kowalski made a takeout double with his perfect distribution even though he may have been short a point or two. Nograwowicz had an excellent, fourteen point hand with four hearts and bid the red suit game.

West led the five of diamonds to the ace and East’s jack. Declarer took the trump finesse, losing to West’s king. Back came another trump, won with dummy’s queen. Nograwowicz was now certain that West had most of the missing spade honors, plus the king of clubs for the opening bid. He also surmised that West, with no diamond honors, must have more diamonds than clubs. He hoped that West had exactly four diamonds and two clubs and played the hand accordingly.

He cashed the ace of clubs and came to hand with the ace of hearts, drawing West’s last trump in the process. He then cashed the king and queen of diamonds, tossing two spades from dummy. Declarer now led a small club, hoping that his reasoning was correct and that West would be forced to win the king. This proved to be the case and West was end played, with no choice but to set up declarer’s king of spades or present him with a ruff and a sluff. Either way, Nograwowicz had his tenth trick and soon claimed this game contract.

Some readers may notice that West could have avoided the end play by jettisoning his king of clubs on declarer’s ace. However, had West done so, Nograwowicz had a counter punch. He had timed the hand so perfectly that he would now have sluffed two of dummy’s clubs on the king and queen of diamonds. Then he would have lost two spades and a trump instead of one spade, one club, and one trump and the result would have been the same. This was a thirteen imp swing for Team Porcupine and allowed them to win their match by nine imps. It was a fine result for a bridge buff who always has the count.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLVII, Poor Frank’s Brilliant Sacrifice


The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLVII, Poor Frank’s Brilliant Sacrifice

By Ray Adams

Bridge buffs know that taking a sacrifice can frequently be a good strategy in bridge. Those who sacrifice do not expect to make their contract, only to lose fewer points than they would have if the opponents make theirs.

When Lucky Archie’s partner, Jack Leeder, opened the hand one heart, Lucky Archie immediately had visions of a grand slam dancing in his brain. He jumped to Key Card Blackwood, and when he saw the five club bid hit the table, he knew his partner had the three missing aces. He then bid seven hearts. He and Jack were already writing 7 S in their private score card, forgetting that the auction was not officially over.

It is difficult to imagine the shock Jack and Archie must have felt when Poor Frank’s 7♠ bidding card softly found its way to the table. They both looked at Poor Frank in horror, It had been months since this pair had bid and made a grand slam. Now this miscreant, this parasite in the side of good bridge players, was taking away their chance to play it.

Lucky Archie slammed a double card on the table, then picked up another one and slammed that one down, too. He even banged a third double card on the table. His face was red and his hands were shaking. The look on his face suggested he had a strong desire to commit homicide on Poor Frank. However, Jack Leeder had a much cooler head than Lucky Archie and pulled the double to 7NT.

If readers study the hand, they will note that 7 is a wonderful, laydown contract, but in no trump,

the thirteenth trick depends on the diamond finesse working. Lucky Archie was muttering under his breath, but when he finally realized he had no choice but to take the diamond hook, it worked and he soon had thirteen tricks lined up in front of him.

Poor Frank’s contract of 7♠ doubled would have only gone down 1400 or at most, 1700, most likely a top result when the opponents could make 2210. But no one else bid 7NT, so Lucky Archie and Jack Leeder wound up with the top result and later claimed first place that evening.

Later that evening, when Poor Frank was discussing the hands with Janet, he said, “Well, sweetheart, it was the most brilliant sacrifice of my entire bridge career and all it netted me was a big, fat zero.”

“Don’t worry darling, at least you caused Lucky Archie to lose his cool and make his blood pressure soar into the stratosphere. And don’t forget that even if you didn’t get rewarded at the table, at least I saved a kiss or two for you.”

And the smile was back on Poor Frank’s face.

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Bond vs. Drax: A Modern Replay

Bond vs. Drax: A Modern Replay

By Ray Adams

Fans of Ian Fleming might remember the wonderful bridge scene in his novel Moonraker, in which James Bond gets the better of the evil Hugo Drax. Recently, a rematch of the grandsons of these two famous fictional characters took place in a private club in London. This was the decisive hand:


Jeremiah Bond, the grandson of James Bond, had like his grandfather, joined the British Secret Service. Although there was was no question that Jeremiah’s grandfather was the famous James Bond, there was some debate regarding the identity of his grandmother. Realistically, it could have been any of the Bond girls, and Jeremiah sometimes hinted that the lady might be Pussy Galore, but so far he had failed to decisively name any one of the lovely ladies who had consorted with his grandfather.

Hubert Drax, Hugo Drax’s grandson, was apparently following in his grandfather’s footsteps and had plans to rule the world. Naturally, Jeremiah was out to stop him.

Hubert liked to play bridge in his favorite London Club: The Super Villains’ Den of Iniquity. This club offered a full service bar, scantily dressed waitresses, a 24-hour strip show, and a non-stop high stakes bridge game. Bond needed operating money to thwart Hubert’s evil intentions, so he challenged him to a 200 pound per point bridge game to gain some of the necessary funding.

As it happened, Bond and Drax were almost even when the above hand came up. Fans of the novel Moonraker may remember that James Bond set up a hand where Hugo Drax had more than 30 points, yet due to distribution, James was able to make seven clubs doubled and redoubled. This hand, however, was not set up, but was randomly dealt.

In the auction, four diamonds showed a spade fit and diamond shortness. Hubert and partner will make either four or five spades, depending on whether or not a club is led.

Holding a strong two-suited hand, Jeremiah would not be silenced and North finally joined in when he saw Jeremiah bid five diamonds. His six diamond bid helped Jeremiah visualize a grand slam. So seven diamonds doubled and redoubled became the final contract. West led the ace of spades, ruffed in dummy. Jeremiah led the queen of diamonds and East played the nine. What to do? He thought he heard someone whisper in his ear. It sounded a lot like the voice of Sean Connery. “Play the ace!” He did, and when the king dropped, he soon claimed on a crossruff. Thus, Jeremiah won 532,000 pounds on this hand, enough to wage a successful campaign against Hubert Drax and allow good to triumph over evil once again.

Jeremiah would like to thank Galen Neptune of Kasilof, Alaska for giving him this wonderful hand to play.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LVI: A Backwards Smother

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LVI: A Backwards Smother

By Ray Adams

Porczouk Nograwowicz of Team Porcupine recently had an opportunity to execute a very r


After Kowalski raised him to 4, Nograwowicz bid his meager values a third time, boosting himself to the diamond game. After all, this was a team competition and vulnerable games can score many more imps than partials.

West led the king of spades. This won and the spade continuation was taken by East’s ace. East tried to cash a third spade, but declarer ruffed, then drew trumps in two rounds. Next came the top three clubs, both opponents following to all three leads. Nograwowicz now took time to count out the hand. East appeared to have started with three spades only, two diamonds, and at least three clubs. West had begun life with five spades, two diamonds, and at least three clubs. This left five unknown cards in the East hand and only three in the West.

Declarer reasoned that East’s original holding might have been 3-4-2-4, while West’s might have been 5-2-2-4. If this were true, East had twice as many hearts as West and was twice as likely to hold the queen. Thus, the normal looking play of leading a heart to the jack to make the contract would probably fail But if East did hold the queen, Nograwowicz still needed a little bit of luck to bring this bold contract home. West had to hold exactly the ten doubleton of hearts!

Nograwowicz shrugged and led a heart to the ace, then advanced the jack of hearts from dummy, taking the finesse backwards. East did cover with the queen, and declarer played his king looking to his left anxiously. Yes! West’s ten dropped and dummy’s nine of hearts took the eleventh and game-going trick. Nograwowicz had done it again.

This backwards smother play allowed Team Porcupine to pick up 13 imps and led them to yet another victory.



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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLVI: A King Hits the Deck

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLVI: A King Hits the Deck

By Ray Adams

The club where Poor Frank and Lucky Archie play does not hand out trophies, only master points, but if it did, Poor Frank knew he had that evening’s trophy in his grasp. But then a funny thing happened on the way to hearing his name announced as the winner.

In the auction, 2NT was a forcing raise in spades, 3 showed shortness, 4 was a cuebid, and 5 showed two of the five controls (four aces and the king of spades). Poor Frank led the ace of hearts, ruffed by declarer. Lucky Archie played this hand as well as any he had played the past year, eliminating all the other suits until he he had to make a decision in the key club suit.

He led a spade to dummy at trick two and ruffed a heart, then returned to dummy with another trump and ruffed the last heart. Now came the ace and king of diamonds. Archie was now set to play a club, pinning his hopes on the assumption that East held the queen of clubs. As readers can see, East did not hold this card and Lucky Archie was fated to go down.

However, when he led the jack of clubs and East did not cover, declarer was all set to play a low club, but in the act of pulling this card from his hand, the king of clubs slipped out and hit the table face up. Even though this card took the trick, the Lucky One’s jaw dropped as he now knew he had to lose to the queen and the ace of clubs. In fact he was on the point of conceding but instead tossed his four of clubs on the table and turned to his rival.

“I guess you win, Frank,” he said in a barely audible voice.

Poor Frank had no choice but to win his queen, but now had nothing left but hearts and diamonds and had to give his rival a ruff and a sluff, allowing Lucky Archie to claim this improbable slam and win that evening’s laurels.

When Poor Frank exited with a diamond, Lucky Archie turned to him and said, “Wow, that was a really bad play on your part, Frankie baby. I couldn’t have made my slam without a ruff and a sluff.”

“And what did you say to him then, darling?” Janet asked Poor Frank later as they were discussing that evening’s hands.

“Well, think of it this way, Archie,” I said. “I had no option but to make a bad play, while someone who watches over you took away your option to make one.”

“Do you think he understood you, darling?”

“I doubt it, sweetheart, since he said, ‘I did make a bad play, Frank, but yours was worse.’”

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