The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXVII: Getting Defensive
By Ray Adams
Much has been written about the excellent declarer play of Team Porcupine members such as Nograwowiciz and Konejwicz. However, it should be noted that this group did not achieve its national reputation by play of the hand alone. Tight defense has always been a Porcupine trademark.
Pas-Konejwicz were NS during the top auction. Pas’s four club bid was lead-directing and indicative of a willingness to play four spades. North decided to compete to four hearts which would have made against most teams and Konejwicz chose to defend.
Konejwicz led the ten of clubs, taken by Pas’s ace. Pas now switched to the queen of spades, won by declarer’s ace. North floated the ten of hearts to Pas’s ace. Pas returned the jack of spades, overtaken by Konejwicz’s king. The club return was ruffed by Pas for a nifty down one and plus 100 to Team Porcupine.
Readers should note that North could have made this contract by taking the “unnecessary” finesse in diamonds, and jettisoning the losing spade on the ace of diamonds. This would also have cut the defenders’ communications and North would actually have ended up making five on this hand!
At the other table, Kowalski chose not to bid four hearts, possibly because he would be playing the hand and not Nograwowicz. At any rate, he led the king of clubs, taken by declarer’s ace. Nograwowicz played the four on this. Kowalski thought about this play and came to the conclusion that Nograwowicz was signaling an even number of clubs, most likely four.
When declarer led a trump, Kowalski jumped with his ace and switched to his singleton diamond. This went low, queen by Nograwowicz and small by declarer. The diamond three looked like a singleton to Nograwowicz. But where most players would have immediately cashed the ace of diamonds and returned a diamond for partner to ruff, Nograwowicz saw that this would not set the contract. Therefore he returned the seven of diamonds.
Kowalski ruffed this and since the seven looked like suit preference for hearts, returned the jack of hearts. This went to the queen, king, and ace. Now declarer could not establish a diamond trick without letting Team Porcupine in to cash a heart for down one. Thus, this hand ended with two plus 100’s for Team Porcupine as opposed to the minus 650 and minus 140 it could have been. The five imp gain instead of a possible thirteen imp loss was living proof that Team Porcupine has no need to get defensive about results like this.