The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXIX: A Knack for Slams
By Ray Adams
Picking the right slam is not always the easiest thing to do, especially when you have to start exploring at the four level. Team Porcupine seems to have an uncanny knack of somehow managing to find their way safely out of a jungle of obstructive bids.
When Pas/Konejwicz held the EW cards, Pas opened four hearts, South bid five clubs in the pass out seat and North raised to six clubs. Pas made the highly imaginative lead of the queen of hearts. Declarer hopefully played the ace, but this was ruffed by Konejwicz. Konejwicz realized that Pas must have eight hearts for his bid. Therefore he had to hold the king of hearts. So, what then, did the lead of the queen of hearts signify? Konejwicz thought it could only be a suit preference signal for spades, the highest non-trump suit. Konejwicz put his theory into action and returned a spade. When Pas did indeed ruff this, the contract was down one. It was plus 100 to Team Porcupine.
At the other table, the auction began exactly the same. But when the five club bid came to Kowalski, he made the creative call of five hearts. This induced Nograwowicz to show his four card spade suit and Kowalski raised his erstwhile partner to the small slam.
West led the king of hearts vs. six spades and East ruffed away dummy’s ace, but now could only return a diamond. This was taken in dummy. Nograwowicz now tried the club finesse. When it worked, he banged down the ace of clubs and smiled as East’s king dropped. He now drew trumps, ending in hand, and claimed.
Plus 980 and plus 100 added up to a 14 imp swing for Team Porcupine and was enough for them to win a match they otherwise would have lost. Later, Nograwowicz and team captain Stari Pas praised Kowalski’s thoughtful bid. However, Konejwicz, who was frequently the victim of Kowalski’s barbs, had another opinion.
“Where did you learn to pick slams so well, Stanislaus,” Konejwicz said. “Is it because you have so much experience picking your nose?”
“No,” Kowalski answered, “I got it picking partners. Clearly I picked a much better one than our captain, Stari Pas, did.”