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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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLV: A Knave in Passing

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLV: A Knave in Passing

By Ray Adams

Poor Frank and Lucky Archie were neck and neck the other night at the local duplicate club as they fought it out for first place laurels. The final result would depend on the last board of the evening, a hand which turned rather contentious very quickly.

After West opened 1♣ and Lucky Archie responded 1NT, the auction looked like it would die right there, but North decided to reopen with a double holding 3-4 in the majors. Of course, Poor Frank responded in his only long suit – diamonds – which unfortunately was North’s short suit. When the 2 call came around to Lucky Archie, he could not get the double card down on the table fast enough. In fact, his action was so violent, Poor Frank briefly considered calling the director. However, he realized that he could probably use this unauthorized information even more than West could.

West led a spade to dummy’s ace. Poor Frank ducked a diamond to West’s king and won the spade continuation in hand. He ducked another diamond, West winning the ace. Poor Frank now had an excellent idea of how the diamonds were sitting. West persisted with a spade, won by declarer with the queen. A heart went to the eight and Lucky Archie’s king. The Lucky One got out with a club, taken by West’s ace. West now played the thirteenth spade, dummy and East throwing clubs as Poor Frank ruffed.

Declarer now repeated the heart finesse, leading his last heart to the nine. This held the trick and Poor Frank cashed the ace of hearts and the king of clubs. Poor Frank had taken seven tricks and the lead was in the dummy and Poor Frank held the jack and five of diamonds behind Lucky Archie’s queen and ten. Thus, he scored his eighth trick en passant and claimed this doubled contract. The result catapulted Poor Frank into first place, comfortably ahead of his rival.

So on this fine evening, it was not Poor Frank who was complaining of his bad luck, but rather Lucky Archie who muttered to himself.

As he left the studio, Poor Frank patted his rival on the back and kindly said, “C’est la vie, Archie.”


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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LV: Nograwowicz and the Nine of Hearts

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LV: Nograwowicz and the Nine of Hearts

By Ray Adams


The nine of diamonds is frequently referred to as “The Curse of Scotland” due to historical reasons. On the other hand, the nine of hearts has always been nice to Team Porcupine.


In the auction, Kowalski’s 2NT bid showed a two-suited red hand. Nograwowicz was 2-2 in the reds, but chose hearts simply because he had the nine of hearts and only the seven of diamonds. He shuddered slightly when Kowalski now raised him to game.

West led the three of clubs, and this allowed declarer to sluff a spade from dummy as he won the ace.   Next came a diamond to the king and ace. East’s spade switch went to the queen and ace. West persisted with a club, ruffed in dummy.

Declarer now cashed the queen of diamonds and led a low diamond, ruffing it with the nine when East followed.   West showed out, but dummy’s diamonds were now established and the contract was guaranteed.   Nograwowicz soon claimed four and the swing on this hand allowed Team Porcupine to win the match.

“If the nine of hearts were a person, I would buy him a drink,” Nograwowicz said to his teammates after the match was over. “Even if West had been able to overruff me, it would have been with the queen of hearts and I still would have make it.”

“Let’s all hear it for the nine of hearts!” Kowalski shouted, and the entire team cheered this little intermediate, so often overlooked by most bridge buffs.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLIV: Jack Leeder’s Nice Pass

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLIV: Jack Leeder’s Nice Pass

By Ray Adams

Three of the club’s top players – Poor Frank, Lucky Archie, and Jack Leeder – were tied going into the last board of the evening. Whoever won that board would win the event.

When Poor Frank played this hand, he was South and declared 3NT. West led the king of spades, won by dummy’s ace. Poor Frank now ran his diamonds, squeezing West. Since West had to hold onto four hearts, he threw two spades, and this allowed Poor Frank to lose only two spades and score five diamonds, one club, three hearts, and two spades. Making five on this hand looked to be either a top result or a tie for top so Poor Frank’s prospects of winning were excellent.

However, when Jack Leeder’s partner opened 1, Lucky Archie decided to make a “cheap” overcall of 1♠. Jack Leeder passed, hoping partner would re-open with a double, and when he did, Jack converted it to a penalty double.

Jack started with the ace and jack of diamonds, overtaken by South’s queen. South now played the king of diamonds, ruffed with the ten, as Jack tossed the nine of clubs. Next came the king of spades, won by Jack’s ace. Jack exited with his last club, won by South’s ace. South now switched to the king of hearts. Jack won the subsequent lead of a heart with the jack. He led a small heart and Lucky Archie tried ruffing with dummy’s six, but South overruffed with the seven.

Now South exited with the ten of diamonds, ruffed by the jack, as Jack threw a heart. Declarer tried a club, but Jack ruffed low, cashed his ace of hearts and exited with the nine of spades. Declarer won his queen, but had to concede the last trick to North’s eight.

Lucky Archie had won only three tricks and was down 800. This result put Lucky Archie completely out of the money and allowed Jack to slip by Poor Frank by a point and a half.

Later that evening, as Poor Frank was discussing the evening’s hands with Janet, he said, “Well, it felt great to beat Lucky Archie, but somehow he still managed to cause me to lose. He did so badly on the last board that Jack Leeder got a top and pulled just ahead of me. I don’t know what I need to do to win. The other players just won’t make those cheap overcalls against me.”

“Don’t worry, Frank,” Janet said fondly. “It’s because they fear your defense. Even if you don’t finish first, everyone knows you’re the top player in the club.”

“Well, I guess I don’t care about everyone else as long as you think so,” Poor Frank said. He reached over and squeezed Janet’s hand.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LIV: Transferring the Squeeze

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LIV: Transferring the Squeeze

By Ray Adams

One of the prettiest plays in bridge is the transfer squeeze. This week readers have a chance to see how Porczouk Nograwowicz recently executed one in team play.

Kowalski bid his hand to the hilt, reasoning that since the pair had all the aces (4NT showed 3 aces),

his five card club suit was worth two or three more points. At any rate, he gave his partner a nice challenge.

West led the king of hearts, and Nograwowicz immediately saw that – even if East had the king of diamonds – he would still need a squeeze to bring home this extremely optimistic contract. He rectified the count by ducking the first heart and winning the second. He knew his only hope was for East to have the king of diamonds, but even if that were the case, this would still not be good enough for him to come to 12 tricks. West undoubtedly had the jack of hearts based on his opening leads of the king and queen. But West also had to hold the boss diamond for the squeeze to work. Therefore, Nograwowicz’s chances depended on East holding the king of diamonds and West holding the ten of diamonds. And that is how declarer played it.

At trick three, he crossed to the ace of clubs and advanced the jack of diamonds. East quickly covered with the king. Declarer won the ace, then ran spades and clubs. As dummy’s last club was played, the board remained with the ten of hearts and a small diamond. Nograwowicz had the queen, nine and six of diamonds and could easily throw the six. West, however, had the jack of hearts and two diamonds to the ten. West could obviously not part with the jack of hearts, and so had to toss a small diamond. Thus, declarer’s nine of diamonds took the 12th trick.

This successful transfer squeeze was worth 13 imps to Team Porcupine and allowed them to win a close match. Once again, Nograwowicz had justified Kowalski’s enthusiastic bidding.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LIII: Looking Over Nograwowicz’s Shoulder

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LIII: Looking Over Nograwowicz’s Shoulder

By Ray Adams

This week readers have an opportunity to look over Porczouk Nograwowicz’s shoulder as he plays a hand:


When Team Porcupine recently won a big knockout event at the 2017 San Diego Nationals, Porczouk Nograwowicz was interviewed about the key swing board which allowed his team to come from behind and win the match. Readers now have the opportunity to follow Nograwowicz’s over the shoulder comments on how he played the hand.

“With his 20 points and 4 diamonds, I can hardly blame my partner, Stanislaus Kowalski, for getting excited when I opened 1 and rebid 2. My 5♠ answer to his 4NT query showed two aces and the queen of diamonds. This was all he needed to hear to push us to the grand slam.”

“West led the king of hearts and I quickly counted my tricks: 4 spades, probably 4 diamonds, 3 clubs, and the ace of hearts. I needed one more, but I also knew I had to be very careful because one of the opponents might have four trumps to the jack. If East, I would surely go down, but if West, I could guard against this distribution.”

“My thirteenth trick would have to come by either ruffing a heart in the dummy or trumping a club in my hand. But the fact that I had to guard against West possibly holding four trumps to the jack made it clear to me that the ruff had to come in my own hand. This was my analysis and that is how I played it.”

I won the lead with the ace, played the queen of clubs and led a small club to dummy’s ace. I then ruffed a small club in hand, holding my breath until both opponents followed. I then led a diamond to the ace and a diamond back to the queen. This revealed that West had indeed started life with four diamonds to the jack. I was glad I had been so careful. I now took the marked finesse in diamonds and cashed the king of diamonds to draw the last trump. Next came a spade to my ace and a spade back to the good dummy.”

Making 7 on this hand was worth 13 imps to Team Porcupine. Nograwowicz said he hopes his analysis proves useful to anyone who reads this blog and he wishes bridge buffs everywhere the best of luck.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLIII: An Unlucky Double

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLIII: An Unlucky Double

By Ray Adams


Poor Frank felt like crying the other night after a hard session at the local duplicate club – even though he had won the event!



After Poor Frank responded 3NT to North’s 1♣ opener, North got excited and jumped to Blackwood. The pair was playing 3014 and Poor Frank thought he had bid 5, showing one ace or the king of clubs. But to North, 5 showed two aces without the queen of clubs. So it was easy to understand why North bid 7♣. Lucky Archie promptly doubled this.

Poor Frank had noticed his mistake and was horrified. He would give the Lucky One an undeserved top board due to his own carelessness and finish behind his rival one more time. He ground his teeth together, then came up with a plan. If he bid 7NT, West would be on lead and might not find the killing lead of the suit with the ace that Lucky Archie surely held. Poor Frank held his breath and put the 7NT card on the table. Naturally, Lucky Archie also doubled this and Poor Frank anxiously awaited West’s opening sally, with his heart beating much faster than normal.

Luckily for Poor Frank, West had a natural lead of the jack of diamonds. When this hit the table and Poor Frank saw the dummy, he realized he still had a chance. Surely Lucky Archie had the ace of hearts in his possession. If he also had four spades, there might be a squeeze on the hand. Poor Frank cashed the top three diamonds and began running the clubs. When dummy’s last club was about to be played, Lucky Archie had four spades to the jack and the ace of hearts left. Poor Frank, sitting behind him, had the king of hearts and four spades to the ace and king.

Sweat broke out on Lucky Archie’s face as he began to realize what was about to befall him. Finally, he let go a spade and Poor Frank tossed his heart king. Now the contract was made, Poor Frank’s six of spades taking the last, thirteenth trick.

“If only you had led a heart,” Lucky Archie said to his partner, showing him the ace of hearts,

“If only you hadn’t doubled 7♣,” West said. “Plus 100 would have been just as good as plus 200 and a lot better than minus 2490.”

Poor Frank smiled at his opponents’ comments, but he could barely hold back the tears when he discussed the evening’s hands later with Janet.

“Is is my fate to only beat Lucky Archie when I bid as badly as he does?” he said to his sweetheart.

“Wipe away your tears, darling,” she said. “You deserve to beat him and he surely deserves to lose to you. Just take it anyway you can get it. Oh, and give me a victory kiss.”


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Alice Revisits No Trump Land

Alice Revisits No Trump Land

By Ray Adams


Alice’s last experience in No Trump Land had been so traumatic, it was almost three years before she decided to visit this unusual kingdom again. This time, it was the Mad Hatter who sat across from her, while the Dormouse was to her left and the Queen of Hearts to her right. This was the first hand she picked up:


Alice opened 1 calmly, never expecting the eventual outcome of this innocent start. The Dormouse overcalled 1♠.   Now the Mad Hatter, perhaps still suffering from the aftereffects of his bout with mercury poisoning, bid a resounding two hearts. The Queen of Hearts was the soul of discretion, passing calmly after having heard her two opponents bid her best suits. Now Alice had a good hand, to be sure, and a most likely spade stopper, so she competed with a two no trump bid. This was, after all, No Trump Land. Everyone else had heard enough, especially the Dormouse who was much too timid to bid his six card suit at the three level.

Alice gasped when the dummy came down and she saw the extreme lack of points in the hatter’s hand.

“You bid two hearts with that?” She said.

“How else would you know I had five hearts?” the Mad One said.

“How else indeed,” Alice muttered under her breath. But there was nothing to it but to play the hand.

The Dormouse started with the king of spades, normally a fine choice, but this time it was overtaken by the good queen’s singleton ace, a wonderful development for Alice. The queen shifted to the king of diamonds, won by Alice’s ace. Alice saw her only hope was to establish some diamond tricks, so she immediately shot back the ten of diamonds, taken by the queen’s jack. The Queen of Hearts now tried her suit – hearts – and Alice hopefully played the queen. When the Dormouse won his king, the Queen of Hearts chanted, “The Queen of Hearts is not for tarts. Only a king can win a queen. Silly girl. Off with her head.”

The Dormouse now continued his attack on spades, cashing the queen and then leading the ten. Meanwhile, the Queen of Hearts held on to her favorite suit – hearts – while tossing the five and eight of diamonds. When Alice saw the eight of diamonds fall, her heart skipped a beat. She now had a fighting chance to win this contract!

She won her jack of spades and exited with the nine of diamonds to the queen’s queen. The good queen now played another heart, taken by Alice’s ace. But our heroine now had two good diamonds to cash. The first diamond did not cause the Dormouse any pain. He was able to toss a club. His last four cards were three clubs to the queen and the high nine of spades. The Queen of Hearts, still obsessed with dummy’s heart suit, tossed a club on the seven of diamonds.

Now, when Alice cashed her last diamond, the Dormouse was truly squeezed because of the good queen’s club discard. The poor creature could not hold onto both three clubs and the high spade. Dummy’s last three cards were the ace, ten, and seven of clubs. So, when the Dormouse threw another club on the last diamond, Alice was able to gather in the last three tricks with clubs and claim this improbable contract. Making two no trump by South on this hand was nothing short of a miracle, but Alice had pulled it off.

“Off with her head, off with her silly head. Director, director,” the good queen yelled.

The Ten of Spades soon made an appearance. This Ten, being the highest of all the Intermediate Cards, was extremely conscious of his rank.

“What’s going on here, my good Queen,” he said. “How may I serve you?”

Alice already did not like the way this was going.

“This upstart has no business making two trump from the South seat. Off with her head,” the queen explained.

“We shall see, your majesty,” the Ten of Spades said. “Please allow me to consult the notes given us for each hand by the Lord Deep Finesse.”   The ten took out a piece of paper, put on a pair of bifocal eyeglasses, and hmmed and hawed as he read the paper.

“Yes, you’re absolutely right, your majesty,” the ten said. “Lord Deep Finesse allows West to make either one no trump or two spades on this hand. There is nothing here about South making anything at all, much less two trump.”

“And yet I made it,” Alice said defiantly.

“Please do not allow the facts to get in the way of the truth,” the Ten of Spades said. “If Lord Deep Finesse does not allow it, then it cannot be allowed.” He turned to the Mad Hatter, who would be the one to write down the score for this board. “Please score it as one no trump by West, making two.”

“But that’s an outrage!” Alice screamed.

“Off with her head, off with her head,” the Queen of Hearts screamed right back.

“Please keep your voice lower so as not to disturb the other players,” the Ten of Spades said, speaking directly to Alice, not the queen who was actually the noisier of the two. “If you don’t, there will be a further penalty. Lord Deep Finesse has spoken. That is all.” And he marched off.

Alice played several more hands, but her heart– and her hearts – were no longer in it and she soon left No Trump Land after having turned in a 28% game, much to the Queen of Heart’s delight.

“How very interesting and different this land is,” Alice thought to herself as she sought the rabbit hole exit. “But I’m not sure I really belong here.” Even so, it was not long before Alice returned and had other adventures, but those are stories for another time.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LII: The Man Who Counts

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LII: The Man Who Counts

By Ray Adams

The player who counts in bridge has a big advantage over those who do not. Porczouk Nograwowicz counts.

After an extremely contentious auction, Nograwowicz ended up in 5♣ and West led the king of hearts. Nograwowicz was upset with himself when he saw the dummy. He had two natural diamond losers and if clubs did not split 2-2, he might easily go down when 4 doubled would surely fail by at least two tricks. Nevertheless, he gave the contract his best shot, winning the ace of hearts at trick one and immediately ruffing the eight of hearts as East followed to the second trick with the nine. This apparently useless play was actually the key to what followed later in the hand.

At trick three, Nograwowicz cashed the ace of trumps, noting the fall of the jack from the East hand. This card made him think of the possible distribution based on the bidding. Surely, West had seven hearts. Since West had not led a diamond, it was also possible he had no diamonds, leaving East with seven of the other red suit. It was also possible that spades divided 3-3, meaning West would have started with seven hearts, three spades, and therefore three clubs to the queen. This fit with East’s possible hand of seven diamonds, two hearts, three spades, and therefore, only one club.

Nograwowicz’s reasoning left him with two choices: he could bang down the king of clubs and hope that clubs were splitting and therefore spades were 4-2 or he could try for a more elegant line of play. Readers will surely guess that Nograwowicz chose the more elegant line.

He abandoned trumps and cashed the top two spades, both opponents signaling an even number of spades. Nograwowicz chuckled at the defenders’ antics and ignored them. He then played a third spade to dummy’s queen, as both opponents followed. He was now certain he had correctly guessed the East/West distributions. Now declarer led the two of hearts and tossed a diamond. West had to win this card, but had no good exit. If West exited with a heart, Nograwowicz would ruff in dummy, tossing another diamond. He would then cash the top spade, shedding his last diamond. West would win one heart and one club, but the contract would be safe.

Likewise, if West exited a club, declarer would be left with no club loser and would gain access to the dummy to toss another diamond on the high spade. All roads led to Nograwowicz making this minor suit game simply due to good technique and counting.

Pas was down two doubled in 4 at the other table, meaning Team Porcupine picked up a valuable seven imps on this hand. This counted for a lot to the team, for if Nograwowicz had banged down the king of clubs at trick four, they would have lost nine imps instead.

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