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

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

By Ray Adams

frankandarchie@yahoo.com

 

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 led a low club from dummy as East played a low spade. Nograwowicz was now glad he had not unthinkingly played a high club from dummy. He won the ace and 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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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXIV: The Telltale Smirk

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXIV: The Telltale Smirk

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

Poor Frank found himself in need of a little luck on the last board of the night just the other evening at the local duplicate. Unfortunately, his opponent was the one who normally had all the luck.

In the auction, 2♠ was a control bid, showing an ace and a king anywhere in the hand. Assuming the diamonds would run, Poor Frank could count 12 top tricks and who was to say that North did not hold the ace of hearts and the king of clubs, making 7NT laydown? Poor Frank immediately took a shot at the top matchpoint score for undoubled hands.

Lucky Archie led the two of diamonds, which went to the three, ten, and ace. Poor Frank now knew the diamonds would run, but he only had the twelve top tricks he had counted in the auction. Still, as he studied the dummy, he was very glad the Lucky One had not led a heart or he would still be staring at dummy’s hearts, trying to figure out what to do.

As he began to run diamonds, he looked at his rival out of the corner of his eye. There was a big smirk on Lucky Archie’s face. Hmm. Obviously he thought Poor Frank must be going down. That could only mean that he had both the missing kings and his partner had the wayward queen of hearts. But did that mean Poor Frank was due to be flushed down the drain of chronic overbidders?   Not if Poor Frank could help it.

He then decided to play Lucky Archie for both missing kings and cashed the ace of spades and then ran the rest of the diamonds, leaving the dummy left with the ace and king of hearts, the queen of spades, and the ten of clubs. Poor Frank’s left hand rival still looked cocky, but if Poor Frank was right about the distribution, that was going to change very quickly.

He played his lone heart to the heart ace and cashed the heart king, tossing a small club. The Lucky One looked distressed, but finally let go of the club jack. Poor Frank was now certain he had the contract made. He led a club to his ace. Lucky Archie’s king fell on this and the queen of clubs was the thirteenth trick. Poor Frank had done it.

“What happened, Frank?” Archie said. “I thought I had you.”

“Just a little something I learned in Vienna, Archie,” Poor Frank said.

“But I thought you just got back from Norway.”

“Well, they play good bridge there, too, Archie,” Poor Frank said, a big smile lighting up his face.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLI: The Key Bid

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLI: The Key Bid

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

On many hands, there is one key bid that can be made which will change the entire outcome of the hand. Harrington Konejwicz of Team Porcupine made such a bid in a recent match in a tough regional event.

In the first auction given above, against Kowalski/Nograwowicz, West reached 3NT after his partner only raised his 2♣ bid to 3♣. Kowalski led the ten of hearts and West at this table quickly wrapped up ten tricks for -630 to Team Porcupine.

Konejwicz, however, saw his hand had great value in a club contract, especially as he was short in his partner’s first suit. This induced him to raise Pas to 4♣ and this led to the small slam attempt. At this table, North started with the four of spades, a much safer lead against the slam. This went to the three, queen and ace.

Pas saw the hand was laydown if trumps split 2-2, but what if they didn’t? He decided to be flexible and started with a club to the ten as both opponents followed. He then led a heart to his queen, losing to North’s king. Back came a spade, won by dummy’s king. Pas now led a heart to his ace and followed up with a trump to the jack, North showing out by tossing a heart.

It now looked right to cash the jack of hearts and later ruff a heart and a spade to claim this contract. But what if South had started with only two hearts? Then South would ruff the jack and Pas would come up a trick short. It was at this point that he decided on another plan. He led a low heart and ruffed it as South showed out. Pas was now very glad he had not tried to cash that jack.

He then cashed the ace of diamonds and ruffed a diamond with dummy’s small trump. He now ruffed dummy’s last spade, ruffed a diamond with the king of clubs and drew South’s last trump with the ace. The only card left in dummy was the high jack of hearts, the slam-going trick. Pas had done it.

This board was worth a nifty 12 imp swing to Team Porcupine. One key bid and one key play had done the job for them.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXIII: This Could Be the Last Time

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXXIII: This Could Be the Last Time

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

 

Poor Frank showed up at the club the other evening only to discover that Red Diamond had taken ill at the last moment, leaving Poor Frank with no partner for that evening’s festivities. “Well,” the director said, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience of course, but there does happen to be someone else who needs a partner.” Poor Frank agreed to play before learning who the potential partner was. When he found out it was Lucky Archie, he quickly retired to the restroom to throw up. Then he cleaned himself up and prepared to meet his fate. For after all, he had given the director his word.

Things were going well for a board or two, then the above hand came up. Poor Frank could not believe it when he saw the dummy. “Why did you raise my hearts,” he said.

“You wanted me to take a preference, dear partner,” the Lucky One said. “And clearly my hearts are better than my diamonds.”

Well, there was nothing to be done but to play this hand in a 4-2 fit. West led the three of spades to the four, queen, and Poor Frank’s ace. Poor Frank now played the top two diamonds and ruffed a small diamond in dummy with the eight as West pitched a club. Next came the ace of clubs and a ruff of a club with the three of hearts. Poor Frank then ruffed another diamond with the king of hearts. He ruffed another club with the seven. West took a long look at this card as though he wanted to overruff it but could not (and, indeed, this was really the case).

Poor Frank now had eight tricks neatly lined up in front of him and exited a spade. He later scored the jack and ace of trumps to make this highly improbable contract.

“I don’t know why you were complaining, Frankie baby,” Lucky Archie said. “That contract was a snap for you. And as you know, four diamonds wouldn’t have earned us the game bonus.”

Poor Frank gritted his teeth until he felt sediment forming in his mouth. Although this hand had been a top board for him and the Lucky One, the bidding on it totally unnerved him and the duo ended up with a 38% game for their evening’s work.

Later, when he was having a drink with Janet, it took him a long time to end his complaining about Lucky Archie and his weird bids. Janet went to the jukebox and played a golden oldie.

“Ah, yes,” Poor Frank said. “’This Could Be the Last Time’ by the Rolling Stones. Quite appropriate. Although, in the song Mick didn’t know if it would be the last time or not. I know it definitely will.”

Janet smiled merrily and gently squeezed Poor Frank’s hand.

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

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

Part VIII: The Worst or the Best, Board 21 continued.

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

Part VIII: The Worst or the Best, Board 21 continued.  Here is the exciting conclusion of the famous match between Team Porcupine and the Silver Crusaders. Readers will recall that the teams entered board 21 – the last one in the match – in a dead tie at 4 imps to 4 imps. When the Silver Fox played board 21, he made 7 tricks in a 1NT contract for plus 90 to the Silver Crusaders. Could Team Porcupine match or better this at the other table?

   The auction at this table was quite different from the other one. Joe Crowfoot, in opening chair, decided not to open his balanced 12 point hand 1♣ as Kowalski had done. This allowed Konejwicz to start the bidding with a 1♣ call of his own. This was passed back to Joe, who now made a balancing 1NT bid. Konejwicz felt like he should still be competing and re-opened the auction with a double. Pas made a logical 2♣ call, and this was passed back to Konejwicz, who surely should have been satisfied.

But a terrible thought ran through Harrington’s mind.

“What if Pas supported me with only three clubs?”   This thought tormented the poor Konejwicz. It was the last board of a championship match. Team Porcupine certainly deserved a better effort than playing in a 3-3 minor suit fit. And the way the match had been going, this easily might be the hand that decided it all. No, he would not go quietly this time as he had on Joe’s 7 hand on board 18.

Pas must hold at least three spades. Else, Joe or T.O.D. would have bid spades somewhere down the line. If so, then 2♠ must be a playable contract. Getting to a 4-3 fit might easily win the match for Team Porcupine and Konejwicz would be the hero. Yes, the bid had to be right. Time stopped and his right hand went to the bidding box and emerged with the 2♠ card. It fell to the table as if through a thick fog, thudding in such a manner that T.O.D. started and tilted his head in the opposite direction from what he was used to.   The deed was done. Konejwicz now only had to wait for the dummy to be revealed to see if he had done the right thing.

T.O.D. led the two of spades and Pas laid down the dummy. The manner in which he placed the clubs seemed to emphasis that he held four of them. Was this a rebuke of Konejwicz’s bid?   Konejwicz felt his hopes fall as rapidly as a meteor through Earth’s atmosphere when he saw that Pas had just two small spades. Obviously, the 2♣ contract was right and the 2♠ one so wrong that losing the match was now almost a foregone conclusion.

Konejwicz now knew his bridge career had hit rock bottom. He had always felt that he was a much better player than Kowalski. But if his 2♠ bid caused Team Porcupine to lose this all important match, then Kowalski would feel free to sneer at Konejwicz’s fateful call.

He could hear Kowalski in his mind. His teammate would sound like one of the science fiction books he liked to read: “Well, a 4-2 fit is a most excellent place to play a hand. Few, if any, normal players would find such a fit. Yes, it is a fit worthy of a highly intelligent representative of a sub-moronic humanoid species.”

The imaginary sound of Kowalski’s voice echoed in Konejwicz’s mind. It was a prospect even worse than that of losing the match. He resolved to gird his loins and make this hopeless contract if it was the last thing he ever did in his miserable bridge career.

A second thought hit him. How did one go about girding anything? Konejwicz realized he did not know the meaning of the verb “gird.” Could one gird a car? Could a book be girded? What in the Great Shuffler’s name could be girded?

He only knew that he had to gird his loins because ancient heroes did just that in the books Konejwicz liked to read. Why had he waited this long to find out the meaning?   Imagine all these years of reading heroic and fantastic novels without once bothering to look up “gird.”   And now, right here in real time and real life, he actually had to do it himself. But how?   After some thought, he shrugged, briefly moved his knees together, and began to play the hand.

Joe won T.O.D.’s opening lead of the two of spades with his ace and shifted to a low club. Konejwicz ducked as T.O.D. grabbed the king to return another spade. Konejwicz took this with his king. He then played a third round of trumps, forcing Joe to win the queen.   Joe switched to the jack of hearts. Konejwicz won this as T.O.D. signaled with the nine. .

“Now what?” Konejwicz asked himself.

He cashed the ace of clubs, then the queen of clubs. Konejwicz exhaled deeply at T.O.D.’s failure to ruff this. Obviously his opponent was waiting to gain the lead so he could draw declarer’s last trump. Had a member of the Silver Crusaders finally made a mistake? And could Konejwicz capitalize on it? He had to find the queen of diamonds and played Joe for it, leading the jack of diamonds – as had the Fox – to dummy’s king. He led he nine of diamonds. Joe ducked and the nine won.

Konejwicz now played the jack of clubs. T.O.D. had no answer for this. He could ruff this or save his master trump for later, but Konejwicz now had to come to eight tricks for his contract.

Joe showed T.O.D. his king and ten of hearts after the hand was over. T.O.D. shook his head rather sadly and tilted it to the side. Pas and Konejwicz had already run from this table to their partners’ to compare scores. They soon discovered the one imp Konejwicz had picked up allowed them to win 5 imps to 4. The four teammates threw their convention cards in the air and yelled in excitement. Their record of 7.75 wins was clearly the best. But had they actually won?

The first bad news occurred when the head kibitzer, Blarney Yavazhny, came over to tell them, “You only picked up 11 victory points on this round, while the Silver Crusaders gained 9. That means they beat you 142 victory points to 140!”

Team captain Stari Pas felt as though he had been kicked in the stomach by a mule.

The Silver Fox offered condolences. “The best team always wins,” he said. “That’s just the way it is. In the long run, not even cards matter.”

The bad news was not yet over, however. A second kibitzer told them that Team Serendipity, a group of aging hippies from southern California, who had been 6-1 going into the last round, had blitzed their opponents and finished with 141 victory points. Thus, even though Team Porcupine had the best won-lost record in the event, they only placed third. This was a triumph for those who favored victory points, but a complete tragedy for the purists who thought actual wins should determine the outcome of a Swiss Team event.

Team Porcupine would go on to win many regional events, but they would never forget the pain of losing this one to the Silver Fox and his teammates.

 

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

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

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

Part VII: The Worst or the Best, Board 21

 

In a perfect bridge world, only the best contracts (as analyzed by Deep Finesse) would be reached. The sole differences would be in the skill levels of defense and declarer play. Results would never vary more than a trick or two on each hand. But, alas, we have not yet arrived in this Brave New World of Bridge. Players do not always bid to the best contract. In fact, on many hands, no one is certain just what the best contract is, in spite of Deep Finesse’s great prophecies.

So until this perfect bridge world is reached, winning bridge will undoubtedly be an inexact science, consisting of doing one’s best to reach a playable contract, and once there, to play the cards to the limit of one’s abilities.

The Fox finally got a chance to play a hand on the last board of the match and Nograwowicz led the two of spades against his 1NT contract. Kowalski won the ace and returned the queen, taken by the Fox’s king. Declarer immediately went to work on diamonds, leading his jack to dummy’s king when South played low, then running the nine, which won.

The Fox now tried the club finesse, which failed, Nograwowicz capturing the queen with his king. A spade went to Kowalski’s ten. Kowalski then shifted to the jack of hearts. The Fox ducked, but Nograwowicz overtook with his queen to cash the jack of spades. Dummy threw a heart and Kowalski shed the queen of diamonds as the Fox followed with his last spade.

Nograwowicz returned the two of hearts to his partner’s king and the Fox’s ace. The Fox now cashed the ace of diamonds, putting a great deal of pressure on Kowalski. Kowalski knew his ten of hearts was high, but dummy had three clubs to the jack. If he tossed a club, would the Fox take the rest of the tricks in clubs?   He thought about what Nograwowicz had told him.

“Stanislaus,” he always said. “Always keep parity with the dummy’s long suit, if you have any card that might take a trick. More tricks have been lost by defenders who fail to do this than there are stars in the Milky Way.”

Kowalski followed the voice in his head and threw the ten of hearts. The Fox now cashed the ace of clubs and led a club to the dummy’s jack. This was his seventh trick, but Kowalski’s ten of clubs took the last trick, preventing the Fox from scoring an overtrick. It was minus 90 for Team Porcupine.

“You did hold the nine of hearts, didn’t you, Porczouk,” Kowalski asked his partner.

“Of course he did,” the Fox interjected. “If I had held it, I would have been making two on this miserable collection of cards.”

“This is true, amigo,” Diego said. “The Fox does not miss too many squeezes.”

Kowalski was glad the match was over. He was very tired of the Silver Fox and Diego. In his mind, he pictured a nice cool glass of Gdansk Lager.

“How about a nice beer after we compare, Porczouk?” he said to his partner.

“If you want to keep that beer really cold, Mr. Kowalski,” the Silver Fox said, “Just set it next to my ex-wife’s heart.” The Fox was actually a fan of heavy metal rock, but he loved to quote this line from the one country and western song that he truly liked. Perhaps this was because the lyrics were so close to his broken heart.

Still, the story of this hand was the fact tht Kowalski’s good discard had saved Team Porcupine from being minus 120. But would that be enough for them to beat the tough Silver Crusaders?

Readers will find out the result that occurred at the other table in Team Porcupine, Part XL, the next and last blog in this series about the match between Team Porcupine and the Silver Crusaders.

 

 

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

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

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

Part VI: Good Leads, Bad Leads, Board 20

 

No defender ever wants to make a bad opening lead. But this is probably the most difficult play in bridge, and even the best players make bad leads on occasion.

Kowalski did not like his choices for an opening lead against Diego’s 4♠ contract. The singleton trump was out as that was almost always a bad choice. The diamond lead certainly did not look attractive as he might well be leading into a high tenace in the West hand (as indeed he would have been). That left only a choice between clubs and hearts. Leading from a jack into dummy’s first suit did not strike Kowalski as a good choice, so he eventually put the three of clubs on the table.

As it turned out, the club lead caused Diego no particular problem. Declarer ducked in dummy and Nograwowicz took his queen. He then shifted to his doubleton heart. Diego’s ten was covered by Kowalski’s jack and dummy’s queen took the trick.

Diego now played dummy’s king of trumps and Nograwowicz took the ace. It looked to him as if dummy’s hearts were going to run. He decided to cash out and hope Kowalski had the ace of diamonds, certainly possible from the auction. He played the ace of clubs and put a diamond on the table. But Diego won his ace, drew trumps and ran the hearts to claim 620 for the Crusaders.

“You see, Diego,” the Fox said, “our honorable opponents are not the only ones who can do something when they hold cards. Give the Crusaders a few cards on the last board, and we’ll celebrate our victory with a Porcupine Margarita.”

Readers who are unfamiliar with Porcupine Margaritas may find it of interest to know that this is a type of blended drink made much like normal margaritas, except that whole pieces of prickly pear cacti – barbs and all – are put in the blender along with the other ingredients. Sometimes the barbs are completely liquified and become part of the drink and sometimes they escape and remain dangerous projectiles that stick in the tongue and side of the mouth. This drink is favored by Mexican banditos who have contests to see who can drink the most before having to see a doctor. This bloody competition is the reason so many Mexican bad men have terrible oral scars. Anyone who can down more than three Porcupine Margaritas in one sitting is considered to be muy, muy macho.

“You had a tough choice, Stanislaus,” Nograwowicz told his partner. “I think a heart would have been better.”

This comment inspired Kowalski to envision a chapter in his book entitled “Impossible Opening Leads.”

The hand is replicated here for the benefit of the reader:

The auction was the same here as in the other room and Joe Crowfoot was faced with the same problem as Kowalski. Joe finally decided to attack dummy’s first bid suit and the three of hearts hit the table.   Pas played low from dummy and captured T.O.D.’s eight with his ten. T.O.D. took Pas’ subsequent lead of a trump with the ace and returned a heart to declarer’s ace.

So far, all was well, but when Pas cashed his jack of spades, Joe threw a small club. Pas now realized he had misplayed this hand. Could he possibly recover? In the end, he saw a way out if T.O.D. held certain cards.

He led a spade to dummy’s queen, then tried a small club towards his jack. T.O.D. rose with the queen. A small diamond went to Pas’ ace. The jack of clubs forced out T.O.D.’s ace, and back came another diamond. Pas thought that T.O.D. had already shown up with too many points to also hold the king of diamonds,but that he might have the ten of that suit.

Pas inserted the nine to force Joe’s king, ruffed in dummy. Pas now cashed the king of clubs and tossed his last heart. When he played the king of hearts, T.O.D. ruffed, but Pas was able to overruff, then claim the rest of the tricks with high diamonds.   It was a hard earned plus 620 for Team Porcupine.

Pas immediately apologized to Konejwicz. “I’m sorry, Harrington, I totally misplayed this hand.   I should have led the second trump to dummy’s queen, then played a diamond to the ace. I could then have taken the ruffing finesse in diamonds. That line assures me of making four. And, as the cards actually were, I would have made five.   I played the hand terribly. I would certainly have gone down if North held the queen of clubs instead of South.”

“You’re right, of course,” Konejwicz said. “T.O.D. can’t successfully attack clubs from his side if the ruffing finesse fails. Yes, that’s clearly the best line.”

T.O.D. and Joe shook their heads, realizing how close they had been to a juicy 12 imp swing in their favor. Pas and Konejwicz calmed their agitated hearts and waited to see what the last board of the day had to offer. The score was still tied four to four.

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

 

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

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

Part V: A Nod to Vienna, Board 19

 

In matchpoints, the strategy is to reach the contract that scores more. For example, 3 making will score 140, while if the same hand could also make 4, that is only 130. Thus, 3 would most likely be the matchpoint decision. However, in team play, the players normally try to reach the safest contract, since the difference between 130 and 140 represents absolutely no swing.

 

At this table, Kowalski quickly arrived at the matchpoint contract of 6NT. The Fox led the jack of spades and Kowalski played the hand with little or no imagination. He counted six diamond tricks, two club tricks, one heart trick, and three spades. When spades did not split 3-3, he ran off his 12 tricks and conceded a trick at the end. This was plus 990 for Team Porcupine.

“No cards, Diego,” the Fox said. “these fellows bid games and slams and I can only hopelessly follow suit and try to sneak sacrifices through. I need cards to do some good.”

Here, Joe and T.O.D. reached the “safer’ contract of 6, and Konejwicz led the jack of spades. Joe carefully studied the dummy and decided to play Konejwicz for the king of hearts and four spades to the jack. He won the first trick in hand, then went to dummy’s ace of hearts, cashed the ace of diamonds and came to his hand with the ace of clubs. He then drew the rest of the trumps, pitching all of dummy’s hearts. Next came a club to dummy’s king. Joe cashed the king of spades and ruffed a club. Konejwicz had no answer. If he threw a spade, dummy’s spades would run. If the king of hearts, Joe would get a thirteenth trick with the queen of that suit. Either way, Joe’s Vienna Coup was worth 940 to the Crusaders.

Joe had clearly outplayed Kowalski on this hand, yet Kowalski’s matchpoint decision had netted two imps to Team Porcupine. After five boards, the match was once again tied, this time four to four.

 

 

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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
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

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
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

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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