The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part XXXV: Poor Frank and the Nine of HeartsBy Ray Adams firstname.lastname@example.org
Poor Frank found himself in a very tight spot just the other night at the local duplicate club. He seemed doomed to failure until he received some last minute help from an unexpected source. This was the crucial hand:
Dealer: East North East South West North Vulnerable: All ♠ J10852 1NT 3♣ 3♠ Pass ♥ 1082 4♠ 5♣ Pass Pass ♦ 93 Dbl. All pass. ♣ 854 West East (Lucky Archie) ♠ KQ963 ♠ A74 ♥ J54 ♥ K63 ♦ J1062 ♦ K8754 ♣ 6 ♣ KQ South (Poor Frank) ♠ void ♥ AQ97 ♦ AQ ♣ AJ109732
Poor Frank arrived in five clubs doubled on the auction shown above and West led the king of spades, ruffed by declarer with the nine of clubs. Poor Frank hoped he had but one trump loser and banged down the ace and jack of clubs, Lucky Archie winning his king on the latter trick. The Lucky One exited with a spade, ruffed high by declarer.
Poor Frank was at the crossroads and in serious trouble. He saw he could cross to dummy with a trump and take the diamond finesse. But he also needed to take the heart finesse against East’s presumed king and there was no way he could do both. He stared at his cards for several minutes, trying to formulate a plan that had some chance of success. As he sat there, he felt his left thumb, which happened to be resting on the nine of hearts, grow warmer and warmer. This drew his attention to that particular card and before long he saw a way out of his predicament. He advanced the nine of hearts.
The defense had no answer to this play. If, for example, West took the jack of hearts and exited a spade, declarer would ruff, go to dummy with a trump and play the ten of hearts to finesse East. It would make no difference if East covered or not. In case of a cover, the eight of hearts would serve as another entry for the diamond finesse. And if West ducked, declarer would play the ten of hearts. East would have to play the king or give Poor Frank that crucial second entry. And if East won the king, declarer could drop West’s jack with the ace and queen and ruff a heart to take the diamond finesse. No matter what, Poor Frank would make five clubs doubled and carry the day. And all because of the nine of hearts!
Poor Frank would never know it, but the Nine of Hearts would be the center of attention at Intermediate Place that evening. Most bridge buffs give little or no thought to the actual playing cards they use when they enjoy the great game of bridge. But the cards work hard for their money, and after the game is over, they retire to clubs to kick back, relax, and discuss the day’s work. All cards are ranked, of course, and the clubs they go to reflect their strict social status. Jacks and better are honored members of the Royal Honors Club, while tens, nines, and eights are found at Intermediate Place, and the rest of the deck belly up to the bar at the Sevens and Down Public House.
The Nine of Hearts and his brothers, the Nine of Diamonds, the Nine of Spades, and the Nine of Clubs were tired of hearing the four Tens go on and on with their eternal lament of what they perceived as snubbing on the part of Jacks and better by leaving them out of the Royal Honors Club. This evening they didn’t have to, as the Ten of Hearts, who had certainly played a role in making five clubs doubled, was buying drinks for the Nine and Eight of Hearts, as well as the Seven of Hearts, who had that evening been invited as a special guest due to his role in the hand of the night.
“Yes,” the Nine of Hearts said, ”I saw that my Master, the one they call Poor Frank, was in deep trouble, and I knew I was the only one who could save him. But how to get him to notice me, that was the question.”
“Hear, hear,” the other Intermediates shouted, along with their special guest, the Seven of Hearts.
“So I made the nine hearts on my chest beat faster and faster until they turned so hot that it warmed the thumb of my master. And Poor Frank, being the great player he is, saw how he could use me.”
The place filled with cheers, cheers, and more cheers.
“Another round. On me,” the Ten of Hearts said. And the rejoicing continued into the wee hours of the morning until the happy, but tired little pasteboards shuffled back to their home deck.
Poor Frank and the Nine of Hearts would like to thank Ralph Jungwirth of Modesto, California, for introducing them to this wonderful hand.