The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part XCIV: King of the Underruffs
By Ray Adams
One of the first rules that all bridge buffs are taught is to ruff higher – not lower – than the opponent. Obviously, ruffing higher gains a trick while ruffing lower is merely an act of futility. Or it it? The thing is, in bridge, rules never apply 100% of the time. Poor Frank showed just how true this is when he defended the following hand against his rival, Lucky Archie:
After Lucky Archie overcalled on a four card suit, North used a cue bid sequence to propel him into a 4-3 fit at the game level. Poor Frank led the eight of spades to the jack, king, and two. East now switched to a club, taken by declarer’s ace. A diamond then went to dummy’s queen and East’s ace.
Lucky Archie won the club return with his king and ruffed a club in dummy as West pitched a spade. The king of diamonds was cashed, declarer tossing a spade. A diamond was ruffed in the closed hand. Declarer led another club and Poor Frank ruffed with the three of hearts, overruffed with the ten.
“Underruffing, Frank?” Lucky Archie asked. Poor Frank only smiled at his rival.
A diamond was led from dummy and ruffed. Declarer led his last club. Poor Frank once again ruffed in front of the dummy and was overruffed with the king. Lucky Archie looked at Poor Frank after this play and smiled at him the way a wise man might at an idiot. Poor Frank sheepishly grinned back.
But now, when declarer led a spade from dummy, East won the trick with the ace and Poor Frank was able to follow with his last spade because he had underruffed twice. And now, Poor Frank could not be denied scoring his queen of hearts en passant to set the contract. Had Poor Frank been void of spades, he would have had to ruff his partner’s ace and lead into declarer’s ace/jack tenace and allowed the Lucky One to make his contract.
Readers may notice that Poor Frank also might have set the contract by sluffing diamonds and overruffing declarer one time. However, his strategy gained him what he wanted: local fame. It was not long before the kibitzers spread the news about his brilliant defensive play and nicknamed him the King of the Underruffs. And indeed, as Poor Frank and Lucky Archie left the studio, only Poor Frank was smiling.