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