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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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLVI: The Trouble with 15 Point No Trumps

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLVI: The Trouble with 15 Point No Trumps

By Ray Adams


In the old days of bridge, most partnerships played 16-18 point no trumps, but the modern method is to play the 15-17 point variety. This allows a pair to open 1NT more times than in the past, thereby pre-empting the opponents’ bidding. However, there can be disadvantages to opening a 15 point no trump.

The bidding on this hand is typical of the modern aggressive style found in high level team games. West opened a 15 point no trump, Kowalski made a point count double and Nograwowicz simply bid what he thought he could make.

West undoubtedly wished for someone else to be on lead, but eventually chose the three of clubs. This ran to dummy’s nine, East’s queen, and declarer’s ace. As Nograwowicz counted the outstanding points, he came to the conclusion that he had already seen every point in East’s hand when the queen of clubs hit the table. Outside the declarer’s hand and dummy, there were 15 high card points left in the deck and West had to hold every one of them for his opening bid. This was all the information Nograwowicz needed to play the hand like a seeing eye dog.

At trick two, he led a small spade, West winning the queen. West now chose to exit with a club and this ran to declarer’s ten. Nograwowicz now played the ace of spades and a spade, once again endplaying West. In frustration, West cashed the ace of diamonds and exited with a diamond. Declarer won dummy’s king and tossed two hearts on the queen of diamonds and a high club. Poor West had been endplayed three times during the hand as Nograwowicz soon claimed his game.

At the other table, Pas chose to open 1 and the opponents ended up in 3NT. Konejwicz led a diamond, and Pas eventually exited with the jack of clubs. North struggled but could not avoid drifting down one for a nice swing to Team Porcupine. It was not a triumph for the 15 point no trump.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLV: Overcoming a Rare Error

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLV: Overcoming a Rare Error

By Ray Adams


No bridge player is perfect and that is as true of Porczouk Nograwowicz of Team Porcupine as it is any other excellent player. What makes Nograwowicz so formidable, however, is his ability to overcome almost all of those few errors he does make.

In the auction, 2♦ was a transfer to hearts, and 3 was a super accept, Nograwowicz choosing this bid even though he only had three hearts. 4♣, 4, and 4♠ were all cuebids. West led a small trump, Nograwowicz capturing East’s nine with his jack. Declarer next led a small club to dummy’s king and East’s ace. East returned a spade to dummy’s king.

Nograwowicz saw that one club ruff would give him twelve tricks in the form of six hearts, four spades, one club, and one diamond. That is, if trumps split 3-2. Nograwowicz played the queen of clubs next, all following. He then played dummy’s king of hearts, cursing himself silently when East tossed a diamond.

Too late, Nograwowicz realized that he had not allowed for a 4-1 division of the trump suit. It now appeared that West would score his ten of hearts for down one, as Nograwowicz still had to ruff a club. As he thought it out, he saw a way if West had started this hand with at least three spades.

He cashed the queen of spades and came to hand with the ace of spades. Hi sigh was audible when West followed to this trick. Next came the ace of diamonds, as declarer sluffed a club from dummy. He then ruffed a diamond with a small trump. Next came the ten of clubs, covered by the jack and trumped with the ace of hearts as West also followed.

When Nograwowicz now led the jack of spades, West saw that he had been couped. If he ruffed the spade, Nograwowicz would overruff in dummy, draw the last trump, and cash the good club. If West threw a diamond, declarer would discard dummy’s last club and lead a diamond. West would be caught with the ten and six of hearts in front of dummy’s queen and seven.

“Sorry, Stanislaus,” Nograwowicz said to his partner after the hand was over. “I made an error in my calculations.”

“I only wonder what you would have done if East had not played the jack on the ten of clubs,” Kowalski said.

“I have no choice but to ruff,” Nograwowicz said, “and if the jack doesn’t drop from West’s hand, well, I guess I just have to do better on the next hand.”

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLIV: The Moysian Porcupine


The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLIV: The Moysian Porcupine

By Ray Adams

No one likes to play in Moysian fits more than Porczouk Nograwowicz as he proved once again when Team Porcupine drew a tough opponent in a regional knockout event.




Kowalski’s 3NT bid was natural, showing 16-18 points and no four card major. Nograwowicz’s 4♠ call was an attempt to find a 4-3 or Moysian fit. When Kowalski now bid 5♣, it confirmed such a fit and showed the ace of clubs. The rest of the bids up to 6♠ were control bids, while Kowalski’s 6♠ call showed nothing else to cuebid. Nograwowicz then bid what he thought he could make.

West led the three of spades, taken by dummy’s ten. Declarer now played the ace and king of diamonds and ruffed a diamond with dummy’s jack, noticing that the suit split 3-3. He then cashed the ace of spades and came to hand with the ace of hearts. He led a club to the queen and when that held, he cashed the ace of clubs and tossed his losing heart. He came back to hand with the king of hearts, drew the last two trumps and claimed, making 7♠ for plus 2210 to Team Porcupine.

“Nice bid,” West said sarcastically after the hand was over. “You only needed 4-2 spades, 3-3 diamonds and the king of clubs onside.”

“The Great Shuffler is kind to those who are kind to him,” Kowalski said. “Earlier today, we sacrificed twelve virgin decks of cards in his honor.” East and West looked at their opponent as if he had just escaped from a madhouse.

However, at the other table, the North/South pair had similar luck in 6NT, bringing it home when diamonds split 3-3 and the club hook worked. Unfortunately for them, even with this nice result, they only scored plus 1440, for a nifty 13 imp swing to Team Porcupine. This allowed the Porcupine team to surge ahead and win this closely contested match.

It was just another day at the office for Nograwowicz and Kowalski, a pair that thrives on the Moysian fit.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXVII: Man in a Trance

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXVII: Man in a Trance

By Ray Adams


Poor Frank had a slim lead over arch rival Lucky Archie when the players drew the cards for the last hand of the night.


After Lucky Archie discovered that he and Red Dyeman had all the aces, he decided to shoot it out for all the marbles and bid 7NT rather than 7. Unbeknownst to him, this was a better decision than the more appealing 7 contract. Several declarers had already gone down one in 7when West made the natural lead of the jack of diamonds and East ruffed.

Poor Frank also led the jack of diamonds, declarer playing dummy’s ace, then turning a ghastly shade of pale when East threw a small club. It was no longer clear how a thirteenth trick could materialize.   After this traumatic start, Lucky Archie played the rest of the hand like a man in a trance. He cashed dummy’s high hearts, then led a diamond to his king. Next came the king of hearts and the top three clubs.

As he was about to play the nine of hearts, everyone had four cards left. Lucky Archie’s were the six of diamonds, the heart, and the ace and jack of spades. Poor Frank had the ten and nine of diamonds left, plus the king and nine of spades. Dummy was left with three diamonds to the queen and the queen of spades, while East held only worthless black cards.

The nine of hearts truly squeezed Poor Frank, who knew he could not let go of a diamond. He therefore tossed his small spade. Lucky Archie appeared to snap out of his trance at this point and spoke to his partner in a whinny voice, “Darn it, Red, I forgot to take the spade finesse in dummy and now I can’t. Please accept my apologies.”

Red merely shook his head, wondering why his crazy partner would have taken the spade finesse to begin with when it was his left hand opponent who had bid spades.

Lucky Archie tossed the ace of spades on the table in a manner that showed he was totally disgusted with himself. His eyes almost popped right out of his head when Poor Frank’s king hit the deck a second later.

“Oh, thank you, Frankie baby,” the Lucky One said. “I could never have done it without you.”

Later that evening when Poor Frank was discussing that evening’s hands with Janet and lamenting his second place finish, he said, “You know, sweetheart, I think I should have led the king of spades at trick one and saved myself ten minutes of agony.”

“Please don’t talk like that, darling, “she said. “Never give in to that idiot. And remember, I will always be there after the game to relieve any agony you feel.”

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLIII: Killing Leads


The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLIII: Killing Leads

                                                                                                  By Ray Adams

Perhaps the single most difficult play in duplicate bridge is the opening lead.   It is not only an opportunity for the defense to get off to a good start, it also can be a time of trauma should the beginning salvo present the opponents with their contract. One of the reasons for Team Porcupine’s success is their ability to come up with the so-called “killing” lead time and time again.

The bidding was the same at both tables as seen in the diagram above. Against Nograwowicz, West chose the heart king, which appears to be a sound lead against a high level contract. Nograwowicz soon made quick work of the play. He won the ace of hearts, drew trumps and conceded a heart and a spade for plus 400 to Team Porcupine. The East player smiled, saying, “Undoubtedly, no swing on this board.”

However, at the other table, Pas took a long time choosing his lead. It was quite obvious that Konejwicz had a lot of spades and declarer had a lot of diamonds. Pas also had a lot of clubs, along with the hope that he could get a spade ruff if only he could get to partner’s hand. He considered leading the queen of hearts, which would induce Konejwicz to take the ace if he held it, and he almost put this card on the table, then he thought again.   He decided from the auction that Konejwicz would be more likely to hold no clubs than the ace of hearts and he placed the jack of clubs on the table.

Pas had indeed found the killing lead. Konejwicz ruffed this and returned the king of spades. Declarer played the ace, but Pas ruffed and now switched to the king of hearts. After this start by the defense, there was no way declarer could avoid going down two. It was plus 100 for Team Porcupine and that meant the team had picked up 11 big imps on this board. Once again, Team Porcupine had killed the contract and won the match.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXVI: An Unlikely Sacrifice

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXVI: An Unlikely Sacrifice

By Ray Adams

  Poor Frank was on one of the best winning streaks of his life. He had finished first in the local duplicate club eight times in a row, with his chief rival, Lucky Archie placing second in six of those wins. Thus, it came as no surprise that the Lucky One was smarting for a win and was willing to take the most desperate of measures to do so. It was the last hand of the night and Poor Frank had a slight lead.


     The auction started calmly, giving no indication of the fireworks to follow. East passed, Lucky Archie passed, and Poor Frank took a shot at the spade game, figuring that with a passed partner, there was no way slam was possible. This probably should have ended the auction and Red Dyeman, Archie’s partner, passed, as did East. But now the Lucky one went into action.

Most readers would probably pass in this position with the South hand, along with approximately 99 out of 100 other bridge players. However, Lucky Archie could no longer stand watching Poor Frank receive the congratulations of his peers after the game, while they only said, “Better luck next time, Archie.” No, he certainly did not want to become known as “Tough Luck Archie.” That would never do. So the Lucky One found an incredible bid on his two queens and one jack and no long suit. The five club card hit the table.

Poor Frank was too stunned by this bid to do anything and passed, as did Red. East quickly doubled. Just as quickly, Lucky Archie redoubled. Looking at his hand after the game, Poor Frank decided this must have been an SOS redouble, asking North to start bidding his long suits up the line until the pair found a fit. However, with five clubs, a singleton spade and a relatively good hand, Red simply passed and hoped for the best.

Poor Frank started with the ace of spades, but with the queen of hearts and king of diamonds in the slot, the defense could only take four tricks. This was down two, for plus 600 to Poor Frank and partner. However, since every other EW had been either plus 620 or plus 650, this was an absolute goose egg for Poor Frank and allowed Lucky Archie to slide by him and finish first that evening.

Later, as he and Janet discussed that evening’s events, Poor Frank lamented his fate.

“I don’t even blame my partner for not bidding five spades, which would probably have made,”

Poor Frank said. “It’s just the weirdest zero I’ve ever gotten in my life. Only a player caught in the throes of despair, desperation, and distress would bid like that on such hopeless cards.”

Janet patted Frank’s hand in sympathy and said, “Well, darling, at least your alliteration is much, much better than Archie’s bidding.”

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXV: Topping the Turkey

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXV: Topping the Turkey

By Ray Adams

It was the last game of the week before Thanksgiving at the local club and Poor Frank was dreading stepping into the studio. This was the day that the winner of that session’s festivities would be crowned “Top Turkey.” Poor Frank absolutely hated it when Lucky Archie won as he would hear nothing but “Gobble, gobble, Frank,” from his rival every time he saw him in the coming year, a sarcastic reminder that he had topped Poor Frank in the Thanksgiving game. On the other hand, Poor Frank hated being called “The Top Turkey.” It sounded demeaning to him. There seemed to be no outcome to the game that would please him. But he showed up and was having a very good game when he came face to face with the Lucky One on the last round. This was the final, fateful board:

   After his partner gave him a limit raise, Poor Frank took a shot at slam, trying for a top board so he could jump ahead of his rival to win. When Lucky Archie doubled, Poor Frank waited with great trepidation to see the dummy, for after all, his spade suit was rather sketchy.

West led the five of hearts to the nine, queen, and a ruff. Poor Frank now knew Archie had to have the top hearts and the ace of spades to double. But what else did he have? Probably the jack of trumps. Of course he didn’t have to have this card, but Poor Frank decided to play him for it anyway. But did Archie have to have the nine? Maybe not.

At trick two Poor Frank led a spade to the king and ace, West following with the six. Archie exited with the three of clubs. Poor Frank had a big dilemma. Could he cash the ace and king of clubs and ruff a club in dummy? Well, he had no choice. Or did he? If he used a diamond, he would not be able to run that suit later, but then if clubs split 3-3, he would still be O.K.

Poor Frank did cash the ace and king of clubs and led another club. West ruffed this with the nine. Poor Frank overruffed in dummy, then led dummy’s small spade and covered Lucky Archie’s seven with the eight. West showed out and Poor Frank soon claimed. He realized that had West followed or thrown off when he led a club, he still would have been O.K. as the ten of spades would have smothered West’s nine.

This was enough to make Poor Frank this year’s Top Turkey.

“Well, gobble, gobble, Frank,” Lucky Archie said as the results were announced.

“I can’t believe it,” Poor Frank said later to Janet. “Why is it I feel like I lost when I know I won?”

“Well,” Janet said, “don’t let it bother you, darling. We all know who the real turkey is. Oh, and we both know what’s going to happen to that turkey I bought.”

“Gobble, gobble,” Poor Frank said, smiling.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLII: Safe or Sorry


The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLII: Safe or Sorry

By Ray Adams


One of the big differences between matchpoint and team bridge is the prevalence of safety plays in team bridge. However, there are some hands where there is no excuse for not playing safe.

The top auction occurred when Kowalski/Nograwowicz sat NS. Once his partner bid NT, Kowalski felt he was off the hook and totally ignored his five card heart suit. He simply raised his partner to game and sat back and relaxed. West led the queen of diamonds and Pas saw that 4 might be a better contract, but that 3NT should be good if only he could run clubs. He won the ace of diamonds at trick one, seeing no value in holding up.

There was one danger: clubs might split 4-0. If so, there was nothing Nograwowicz could do if East had all the missing clubs, but if West did, then he still had a chance. Therefore, at trick two, he played  the ace of clubs from his hand. When East played a low spade, Nograwowicz was now glad he had not unthinkingly played low to a high club in dummy. He then led the eight of clubs, covered by the ten and won with the queen.

Declarer only had one entry left to hand and that was in spades. So he cashed the ace of this suit and came to hand with the king, then cashed the queen. He now led his last club. West played low, but Nograwowicz inserted the nine and the king picked up West’s last club. Declarer was now able to claim ten tricks for +630 to Team Porcupine.

At the other table, Konejwicz had no no good lead against the 4 contract and finally decided to attack dummy’s first bid suit. This proved to be an excellent choice. Pas continued the diamond attack when in with the ace of hearts and it was not long before declarer lost control of the hand and eventually finished down two for plus 200 for Team Porcupine.

The final result was a 13 imp swing for the prickly team and was a triumph for Kowalski’s “Let Partner Play It” philosophy of bidding and, of course, the safe play of Porczouk Nograwowicz.

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