The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXVI: Team Porcupine vs. the Silver Fox

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXVI: Team Porcupine vs. the Silver Fox

By Ray Adams

Part IV: The Two Heads of Fate, Board 18


Bridge matches, even at the highest level, are not always decided by the amount of skill found in the competing players. Many times it seems as though some outside force, such as fate or luck, is playing an important role in the result. It may never be known for certain just what forces contributed to the outcome of board 18 in the match between Team Porcupine and the Silver Crusaders. But at least one of the players would forever believe that there was an extra, unseen participant on the scene to guide this hand to its ultimate resolution.

Readers can see the diagram of the auction above. However, a mere look at the diagram does no justice to the drama that was taking place in the players’ minds while the bidding unfolded. The following account is based on interviews that took place several years after the events being described in this series of blogs. While Diego, Kowalski, and Nograwowicz still had clear memories of this day, the Silver Fox had unfortunately passed away at the time of the other interviews. The references to him are based on his unpublished and unfinished memoirs, The Silver Fox at the Table, which his niece, Vivavia V. Vixen, allowed this writer to consult.

Diego alerted the Fox’s opening bid of 4NT. When queried as to its meaning, Diego replied, “Sí, amigo, this is the cruel and unusual no trump. It is highly unusual, of course. The Fox has a long, unknown suit. And, sí, it is cruel in the effect it normally has on the Fox’s opponents.”

Nograwowicz thought the explanation over and bid 5.

Diego was not to be outdone and contributed 5♠.

Kowalski decided he needed to introduce his suit, hearts, and did so.

The Fox finally revealed his mystery suit, clubs, now no longer a mystery to the other three players, at the seven level.

Nograwowicz felt that if Kowalski could bid hearts at the six level, then his holding of ace doubleton in that suit made it mandatory to raise partner to 7. Diego shrugged and passed, as did Kowalski, but the Fox was not done yet. He had too much faith in Nograwowicz to take a chance that 7H might make and put the 7♠ card on the table.

Nograwowicz doubled the Fox’s bid, mainly out of frustration, and Diego calmly passed. It was now up to Kowalski, who hated making high level decisions. On the one hand, it seemed logical to him that since Nograwowicz had bid 7, he must hold the aces in the suits the opponents were bidding. Or did he?

Sweat flowed down Kowalski’s face like a river approaching a steep waterfall. After much thought and wiping his brow until his handkerchief was drenched, Kowalski realized he was completely incapable of making such an important decision by himself. He decided his only hope was to leave the matter to Fate.

“I’ll pull a coin out of my pocket,” he thought to himself, “and if it’s heads, I’ll bid 7NT.”

He reached in his pocket and found a coin. He grasped it and raised it to table level. He slowly opened his eyes and saw that there was definitely a head staring back at him.

He confidently put the 7NT card on the table.

“I don’t why I’m on opening lead,” the Fox said. “I should be declarer. After all, I opened no trump first.” He tossed the king of clubs down.

Kowalski’s heart skipped a beat as he waited for dummy. Ah, Nograwowicz did have the missing aces. Kowalski tested hearts and diamonds and soon claimed 16 tricks, three more than he needed. This was plus 2220 for Team Porcupine.

Nograwowicz wanted to see the coin Kowalski had used. When his partner handed it to him, he saw it was a Canadian quarter, not the USA variety.

“Stanislaus, did you know this was a Canadian coin?”

“The nationality of the coin played no role in Fate’s decision, I’m sure.”

“Perhaps, but which side did you see? The head of Queen Elizabeth or the moose head? Because if you saw the moose, then Canadians consider that side tails. So which was it and what did you call?”

Kowalski realized he had once again made a mistake. He had called heads, but actually seen the moose. Still, this did nothing to shake his faith in Fate. It only convinced him that Fate worked in mysterious ways.

“I saw Queen Elizabeth’s lovely head,” he said, “and I called heads. So Fate guided me to the perfect decision.”

“Humph,” said the Fox, who had actually seen Kowalski looking at the moose head. “Perhaps you should change the title of your book to Precision Moosehead.”   The Fox looked at his partner, Diego. “The 4NT bid is obviously not cruel and unusual enough,” he said, malevolently twirling a lock of silver hair, “I should change it to 5NT or maybe even 6NT.”

Pas and Konejwicz went into that good night much more quietly than did the Fox and Diego. Joe soon reached 7. Konejwicz led the king of clubs and Joe also looked worried when he first saw the dummy. But when the red suits broke in his favor, he soon claimed thirteen tricks for plus 2210 for the Silver Crusaders. Thus, this board was absolutely no swing in spite of all the bidding drama. However, Nograwowicz later calculated that 7♠ doubled would most likely have been down no more than seven, for plus 1700 for Team Porcupine. This would have been an 11 imp loss for Team Porcupine. Thus, Kowalski’s brush with Fate had saved the team from a big deficit.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXV: Team Porcupine vs. the Silver Fox

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXV: Team Porcupine vs. the Silver Fox

By Ray Adams

Part III: A Bid Too Far, Board 17

On this board, all the players picked up some cards with which they could go to work.

   When the Fox’s 3 bid came around to Kowalski, he decided to bid one more, knowing his partner would be playing the hand. In fact, Kowalski was planning a chapter in his proposed book, Precision Kowalski, which would cover such situations. He knew he could always bid one more if Nograwowicz was playing the hand, while if he, himself, were destined to play the hand, he would always bid one less. According to his proposed text, this would be a cornerstone of Precision Kowalski. The Fox, not having read this book or even any reviews, thus had no trouble doubling Kowalski’s bid.

Diego opened the queen of hearts, the Fox signaling with the deuce. Now Diego shifted to the two of clubs. Declarer played low from dummy and the Fox’s ten won the trick. The Fox returned a small heart to Diego’s jack and another club soon hit the table. Dummy’s queen lost to the Fox’s king.


Nograwowicz ruffed when the Fox tried to cash the ace of hearts, and declarer led a low spade towards dummy. Diego rose with his queen and shifted to a diamond, the queen losing to the Fox’s king. The Fox now made the diabolical play of leading the thirteenth club, giving Nograwowicz a ruff and a sluff. In reality, this did declarer no favors. It could easily have caused a trump promotion for the defense and led to another undertrick.

Nograwowicz sluffed a diamond on the club, as did Diego. Dummy’s nine of spades took the trick. Nograwowicz now overtook the jack of spades and finished drawing trumps to claim. But he was down two for minus 300 to Team Porcupine.

“A most excellent defense,” Nograwowicz said to Diego and the Fox. “Without an early club switch, I can set up a long diamond and hold my losses to down one.”

“We saw you play the last hand, amigo,” Diego said, “and we did not want to give you a chance to create a trick out of thin air.”

“Our opponent is good, Diego,” the Fox said, “but like any other declarer, he can’t change our aces into nines.   And did you see, Diego? I had some cards. I can do something when I have cards.”

Kowalski said nothing, but his face was red. He knew he had gone a bid too far and he hoped his bad judgment had not cost Team Porcupine too dearly.

The auction proved to be shorter at the other table:


Kowalski’s counterpart, Joe, chose not to take the push to 3♠ and Konejwicz declared 3. T.O.D. started with the ace of spades. This held, but Joe’s play of the four caused T.O.D. to tilt his head in thought. He finally switched to the nine of diamonds. This went to Joe’s ace, and the follow-up lead of the diamond queen was taken by declarer’s king.

Konejwicz cashed the ace of hearts and led a small heart to dummy’s jack. He played a small club, Joe inserting the eight. Konejwicz put in the ten and this took the trick. Another heart to dummy’s queen picked up the last enemy trump. When Konejwicz led another club, Joe was helpless. Konejwicz had managed to hold his losses to one club, two diamonds, and one spade to claim his contract.

“Nice play,” Joe grunted. T.O.D. nodded, perhaps in approval of his partner’s statement, then tilted his head and stared at a place only he could see.

Plus 140 and minus 300 added up to a 4 imp loss for Team Porcupine. The Crusaders were now leading the match 4 imps to 2.





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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXIV: Team Porcupine vs. the Silver Fox

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXIV: Team Porcupine vs. the Silver Fox

By Ray Adams

Part II: Nograwowicz’s Coup, Board # 16

Nograwowicz’s 2 bid showed two controls (ace = two, king = one). His second heart bid showed an actual heart bid, and Kowalski erred at this point, choosing to support his partner with only two hearts rather than bidding his second suit, spades. Thus, the pair reached the wrong grand slam.

Diego led the king of diamonds. Nograwowicz felt sick to his stomach when he saw Kowalski’s dummy. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the Fox smile and maliciously twist a lock of silver hair. Declarer knew he was in trouble and took extra time to think before playing dummy’s ace. He then tried a low heart, inserting his jack when the Fox played low. When he opened his eyes, he saw that the knave had won. Now a club went to the ace. He next ruffed a low club with a small heart. Declarer cashed the king and queen of spades, then led a heart to the ace.

Declarer now ran clubs through the Fox, who soon found himself in a hopeless position. If the Fox ruffed, Nograwowicz would overruff, draw the last trump and return to dummy with a spade. If the Fox did not ruff, he would eventually be caught in a trump coup when declarer led the ace of spades. The Fox soon saw what Nograwowicz was up to and folded his cards and put them back in the board.

“I have too much respect for your declarer play to prolong this farce any longer. Of course, had you been in 7S, which is the normal contract, I would have put my cards back in the board as soon as I saw the dummy.”

Nograwowicz acknowledged the Fox’s compliment with a nod.

“You are quite the bidder,” the Fox said to Kowalski. “Maybe you should write a book. You could call it Precision Kowalski.

This comment put a broad smile on Kowalski’s face. Why how wonderful it was for a player of the Fox’s caliber to say something so nice about his bidding prowess. And yes, that was exactly the title he would use. No, Bridge Per Kowalski and The Kowalski System were much too pedestrian for a book that would be so enlightening.

“I had no cards, Diego,” the Fox said to his partner. “I had no cards. Well, at least I had a queen this time and what happened? It got used against me. I was couped out of the only face card I have seen in two boards. If there is any justice in this world, then I will have 30 points on the next hand.”

“I had a vision while he was playing that contract,” Diego said. “For a moment I saw Belladonna brilliantly declaring a hand while playing in the Bermuda Bowl.”

“Try to have a vision of me playing a hand, Diego,” the Fox said. “We can’t win if Belladonna plays a hand. He’s not even on our team. Although maybe he should be. Does he stare into space like T.O.D.? I need cards, Diego, cards.” The Fox viciously twirled his moustache. “Give me some cards, Diego.”

At this table, Joe became declarer at the more sensible contract of 7♠ and Konejwicz led the jack of diamonds. Joe won his ace, cashed the ace of clubs and ruffed a club in dummy. He then drew trumps in three rounds and claimed. It was plus 1510 at both tables, meaning that Team Porcupine still led two imps to none. As he picked up board 17, Nograwowicz shuddered to think what the deficit might have been had he not found the trump coup.


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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXIII: Team Porcupine vs. the Silver Fox

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXIII: Team Porcupine vs. the Silver Fox

By Ray Adams

Part I: Negative Kowalski

 Lately I have been getting several requests from readers who wondered why I had not included the big match Team Porcupine played several years ago vs. the Silver Crusader team, led by the legendary Silver Fox, now gone to the big bridge tournament in the sky. “The match between Team Porcupine and the Silver Crusaders was one of the best bridge matches of all time,” a reader from New Jersey writes, “Surely fans of Team Porcupine should be able to enjoy it in your blog.” Well, I agree. My next seven blogs will be a coverage of all seven hands in that wonderful match.

     The setting was a regional in Las Vegas where many of the country’s best teams were competing in a Swiss Team event. After seven rounds, both Team Porcupine and the Silver Crusaders were 7-0 and would meet head to head in the final match of the day. The crowd was electric with excitement and kibitzers were three deep around both tables.

Tension ran high as the teams shuffled and dealt boards 15 to 21. Readers of this blog are already familiar with Team Porcupine’s crew of Stanislaus Kowalski/Porczouk Nograwowicz sitting NS and Stari Pas/Harrington Konejwicz in the EW seats. The Silver Crusaders consisted of Diego de la Plata/the Silver Fox in the EW chairs, while Joe Crowfoot/T.O.D.C.J. opposed Pas and Konejwicz. Diego de la Plata, a rich silver baron from Durango, Mexico, was the team sponsor, while everyone knew that the Silver Fox was its star player. However, Joe Crowfoot and T.O.D.C.J., who normally went by his first three initials of T.O.D., were certainly formidable.

       In the auction, Kowalski was rather surprised by Diego’s 1♠ overcall and decided to double it for penalty, forgetting that in this situation, his double was actually negative. So, rightly or wrongly, the pair ended in 4, declared by Nograwowicz.

Diego, a short man with aristocratic features and an extremely well-groomed mustache, led the king of spades. When the dummy hit, the Silver Fox, a huge fellow with long, silver locks that overflowed from underneath a Minnesota Twins baseball cap, could not restrain himself.

“A most unusual negative double. Were you searching for a 4-3 heart fit?”

Kowalski turned red but made no reply.

Nograwowicz was quick to defend his partner. “We call that bid Negative Kowalski,” he said, “and it is, indeed a search for a 4-3 fit in the majors.”

“A likely story,” the Fox muttered under his breath, and play continued.

Kowalski smiled to himself. It was nice to have his partner ride in to rescue him. Then he got lost in his own thoughts as he mechanically played the dummy. After all, he, Stanislaus Kowalski, had created several new bids during this particular day’s competition. Perhaps he should write a book. Maybe Bridge Per Kowalski or The Kowalski System, oh, or better yet Precision Kowalski.

Meanwhile, Nograwowicz won the lead with dummy’s ace then led a low diamond for a finesse. Diego captured the queen with his king and returned the queen of spades. Declarer ruffed this and played the ace of diamonds, dropping Diego’s jack. Now, if only the heart suit would split evenly.

The Fox threw fear into Nograwowicz’s soul, following with the eight, then the nine, but declarer really had no choice but to try for a 3-3 split, and when that materialized, he claimed eleven tricks, conceding a club at the end.

“I had no cards, no cards at all,” the Fox said. “I had to have some fun. Did you sweat? Did I make your heart palpitate if ever so little?”

Nograwowicz smiled at the Fox’s antics. The Fox was certainly one of the top card players in the country, but was his skill at bridge any match for the cloud of B.S. he created at the table?

Pas and Konejwicz took time to study their opponents as they sat silently while T.O.D. and Joe bid up to 5.   T.O.D. looked a lot like Elton John and had an interesting habit of tilting his face to one side and staring into space. He wore a Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt and black and white shoes. Joe Crowfoot was a Chippewa Indian with the stocky build of most of his tribe. His clothing style seemed designed to intimidate his opponents. He wore a red Apache-style headband, an Oakland Raiders jersey, and faded jeans held up by a belt with a silver buckle in the shape of a human skull. His boots were made of rattlesnake hide. “I’m certainly glad I met him at the bridge table and not in a dark alley,” Harrington Konejwicz said to himself as he followed the auction.

Pas led the king of spades, taken by dummy’s ace. T.O.D. played a diamond to his ten, losing to the jack. Pas returned the queen of spades, ruffed. A small heart went to dummy’s ten and another diamond led from the board. When Konejwicz followed with the six, T.O.D. was faced with a choice. He tilted his head and stared into spade for several minutes. Then T.O.D. refocused his eyes and stared at the six of diamonds. He pulled out a card, almost threw it on the table, then put it back in his hand. He stared for a few minutes more, then grabbed another card, coming very close to dropping it in front of him, but finally placing it back in his hand at the last moment. When T.O.D. started to repeat this performance, Joe said, “I can’t stand it anymore,” and reached across the table and slapped the card from his partner’s hand.

The ace of diamonds hit the table. Pas disgustedly threw his king down. T.O.D. later conceded a club to claim 5 for plus 600. Since Nograwowicz had picked up 650 at the other table, it meant that Team Porcupine had the early lead 2 imps to none.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXII: Criss-Cross Archie

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXII: Criss-Cross Archie

By Ray Adams

Poor Frank and Lucky Archie were neck and neck just the other night at the local duplicate club. They were playing each other when the following hand came up on the last board of the evening:

In the auction, 2NT was a forcing raise in hearts, 4 was a sign off, and North, with his great hand, made one more slam try with the 5 bid. When Poor Frank showed diamond values, North bid 7♥, knowing how badly Poor Frank wanted to beat his rival. In actual fact, not everyone bid 6 on this hand, so if North had merely settled for the small slam, Poor Frank surely would have won that evening. But now the stakes were higher. Lucky Archie considered a double, but realized that setting the grand one trick would be good enough for an overall victory.

Archie tossed the king of clubs on the table, smiling to himself when he saw the dummy. There was no way Poor Frank was going to make this hand. Enough was enough and he would be king of the studio one more time. Poor Frank won the ace of clubs, having really no choice, and drew trumps in four rounds, tossing a spade from dummy on the last one. He then ran the diamonds, reaching the following end position:

When Poor Frank led dummy’s nine of diamonds, he had no trouble tossing a small spade. Lucky Archie, on the other hand, had a much larger problem. If he tossed a spade, Poor Frank would cash dummy’s ace of spades, ruff a club and claim the thirteenth trick with the queen of spades. Lucky Archie could see this coming, so he decided to let go of a club. Poor Frank now ruffed a club, dropping Lucky Archie’s queen and returned to the good dummy via the ace of spades. Making seven hearts.

“What happened?’ Lucky Archie said. “How did you make it?   I feel like I was double crossed.”

“Actually you were criss-crossed, Archie,” Poor Frank said smiling. It was clear from the look on Archie’s face that he had no idea what had happened to him.

“You should have seen Archie,” Poor Frank later said to Janet. “He looked like he had fallen into a rabbit hole.”

“Off with his head,” Janet said, laughing. “Off with his head.”


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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXII: It’s All in the Style

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXII: It’s All in the Style

By Ray Adams


One of the remarkable aspects of team game bridge is how a slight difference in bidding style can completely change the outcome of a hand.

When Kowalski/Nograwowicz held the NS cards, the auction was as given in the top diagram. Nograwowicz was able to make a one level overcall of his major suit, spades. This allowed Kowalski to lead the king of spades when the auction was over. Nograwowicz played the ten, won the next trick with the ace and gave his partner a ruff. The ace of trumps in Kowalski’s hand meant the contract was soon down one or plus 100 for Team Porcupine.

At the other table, Konejwicz decided his 15 point hand merited a 1NT opener. At this table, South was reluctant to come in with a 2S overcall, allowing Pas to transfer his partner into hearts. The result of this bidding sequence is that South found himself on lead. Of course, it is possible that South might have found the killing lead of a small spade, but this South did not, and this made it more difficult for NS to negotiate their spade ruff.

After the queen of clubs lead, Konejwicz studied the dummy and saw that even if hearts split 5-0 (which they did), he would make his contract as long as NS did not get a spade ruff. So he won his ace of clubs and immediately cashed the king of clubs, sluffing a spade from dummy. Now even if North shifted to the king of spades after winning the trump ace, he could not overruff dummy and the contract was safe.

Plus 620 and plus 100 added up to a 12 imp swing for Team Porcupine in a match they only won by 9 imps. It was nice bonus for a slight difference in style.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXI: Partial to Partials

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXXI: Partial to Partials

By Ray Adams

Team Porcupine has proven time and time again that they will fight for every trick in a battle of the partials. The following hand is certainly no exception:

 At the table where Pas/Konejwicz were EW, North reached three hearts on the top auction given above. Konejwicz led a trump, won in dummy. Declarer took the ace of clubs and ruffed a club. He returned to hand with the ace of diamonds and ruffed a second club. When he led a low spade, Pas won his ten and led a heart, eliminating dummy’s last heart and establishing a club trick for Konejwicz. Declarer led a club, won by Konejwicz, who now led the ace of spades, ruffed by declarer. North, however, was able to draw Pas’ last trump and cash the long club. This was the ninth trick, so Team Porcupine was minus 140 at this table.

When Kowalski/Nograwowicz were NS, East decided to take another bid after Kowalski’s three heart call. This proved fatal when Nograwowicz doubled and produced a brutal defense. He led the singleton club, taken by Kowalski, who returned the two for a ruff. Nograwowicz led a diamond to partner’s ace and another club ruff was forthcoming. Nograwowicz now cashed the ace of hearts and led a heart to Kowalski’s king. Kowalski put yet another club on the table, and when East had to follow, Nograwowicz was able to overruff dummy with his queen of trumps.

Team Porcupine had taken the first seven tricks for down three and plus 800. This was a nice 12 imp gain for the team and helped them win this important match. It is hands like this which make fans of the Porcupines say that their team is “partial to partials.”

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXX: The Telltale Double

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXX: The Telltale Double

By Ray Adams

Lead directing doubles can be a very useful tool in a bridge buff’s arsenal, but many times these doubles are abused in ways that go beyond comprehension.

In the auction, 4NT asked for aces and 5 showed two without the queen of trumps, spades being the agreed suit. When West doubled his 5 bid, Team Captain Stari Pas of Team Porcupine thought that West surely had the ace and queen of this suit. Else why would he make a lead-directing double? Although the strange thing was that West must have known that he would be on lead against this bold slam. Pas was even more surprised when the opening lead of the six of hearts was made and he saw the ace of hearts in the dummy and East’s queen pop up when he played the eight. What had possibly induced West to double?

After some thought, Pas decided West must have been doubling on length. If so, then possibly spades were splitting badly and a safety play was in order. At trick two, Pas led a a low spade to dummy’s king, then dummy’s five. East played the seven and Pas covered this with the eight. West now showed out, tossing one of his hearts. Pas smiled to himself as he saw his reasoning justified.

Declarer now cashed the ace of diamonds and led a heart to the ace, East following with the five. Next came the queen of diamonds and a small diamond to the king as West showed out. Pas now knew East had started with four spades and four diamonds. He guessed that because of West’s double of hearts, the rest of East’s hand must be two hearts and three clubs.

If Pas was right, then East could be endplayed. He led his last diamond, ruffed in dummy, then led dummy’s last trump to his ace. He led the jack of hearts. East had the option of ruffing, but would then have to lead into dummy’s club tenace. Instead, East tossed a small club. No matter. Pas simply threw East in with a trump to produce the same result. Six spades bid and made. Plus 1430 to Team Porcupine.

When the team later compared scores, Kowalski confessed that he, too, had doubled the five heart bid. When asked why, he replied, “I didn’t think they could make five hearts.

“But, Stanislaus,” Pas said, “you gave declarer a valuable clue to playing the hand.”

“I must not have,” Kowalski said, “because at our table, declarer was down two.”


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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXIX: A Knack for Slams

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXIX: A Knack for Slams

By Ray Adams

Picking the right slam is not always the easiest thing to do, especially when you have to start exploring at the four level. Team Porcupine seems to have an uncanny knack of somehow managing to find their way safely out of a jungle of obstructive bids.

When Pas/Konejwicz held the EW cards, Pas opened four hearts, South bid five clubs in the pass out seat and North raised to six clubs. Pas made the highly imaginative lead of the queen of hearts. Declarer hopefully played the ace, but this was ruffed by Konejwicz. Konejwicz realized that Pas must have eight hearts for his bid. Therefore he had to hold the king of hearts. So, what then, did the lead of the queen of hearts signify? Konejwicz thought it could only be a suit preference signal for spades, the highest non-trump suit. Konejwicz put his theory into action and returned a spade. When Pas did indeed ruff this, the contract was down one. It was plus 100 to Team Porcupine.

At the other table, the auction began exactly the same. But when the five club bid came to Kowalski, he made the creative call of five hearts. This induced Nograwowicz to show his four card spade suit and Kowalski raised his erstwhile partner to the small slam.

West led the king of hearts vs. six spades and East ruffed away dummy’s ace, but now could only return a diamond. This was taken in dummy. Nograwowicz now tried the club finesse. When it worked, he banged down the ace of clubs and smiled as East’s king dropped. He now drew trumps, ending in hand, and claimed.

Plus 980 and plus 100 added up to a 14 imp swing for Team Porcupine and was enough for them to win a match they otherwise would have lost. Later, Nograwowicz and team captain Stari Pas praised Kowalski’s thoughtful bid. However, Konejwicz, who was frequently the victim of Kowalski’s barbs, had another opinion.

“Where did you learn to pick slams so well, Stanislaus,” Konejwicz said. “Is it because you have so much experience picking your nose?”

“No,” Kowalski answered, “I got it picking partners. Clearly I picked a much better one than our captain, Stari Pas, did.”



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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXVIII: He Who Dares

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXVIII: He Who Dares

By Ray Adams

Most team events are won when one team bids and makes a game or slam while the other team fails to do so. Thus, the strategy of many teams is to try to create swings on borderline game or slam hands. Team Porcupine is no different from other successful teams in this aspect, but what sets them apart is the ability to create swings on hands that appear to be completely innocent.


With Kowalski and Nograwowicz sitting EW, 1NT by South was passed out as seen in the top auction diagram above. Kowalski led the four of spades and declarer was unable to take more than one spade trick, two diamonds and the ace of clubs. This was down three for a nifty plus 300 to Team Porcupine. Team Porcupine’s two opponents simply shrugged this off. There was no reason to believe that the result would be any different at the other table.

However, when Pas was sitting North on this hand, he decided to gamble when Konejwicz opened 1NT. He bid two clubs, Stayman, hoping to hear his partner respond two hearts or two diamonds, denying a four card major. When he saw Konejwicz’s two heart response, he quickly passed.

The opening lead was once again a spade. However, with hearts as trumps, declarer was able to win a spade and ruff a spade in dummy. He soon lost two trump tricks. Readers can see that the club suit was frozen, meaning that neither side could lead clubs without surrendering a trick. Konejwicz was able to find a way around this. In the end game, he played his ace and king of diamonds, giving up the next diamond. East won the ten and cashed the jack, but Konejwicz threw a club on this. Now East had to lead away from his king of clubs and Konejwicz had eight tricks lined up in front of him: one spade, one spade ruff, two hearts, two diamonds, and two clubs. This was plus 110 for Team Porcupine.

Plus 300 and plus 110 added up to a nine imp swing for the team on a hand with absolutely no game or slam possibilities. This was truly an amazing result. Later, team captain Stari Pas was asked what he would have done if Konejwicz had responded two spades to his Stayman bid.

“Passed, of course,” Pas said. “But I might add that if playing a 4-3 fit is character building, then Harrington Konejwicz would have been one of the most notorious characters in the USA by the time he finished playing in a 4-2 spade fit.”

Pas refused to comment on the additional question of whether playing for Team Porcupine aids in building character or in building characters.

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