The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XL: Team Porcupine vs. the Silver Fox
Part VIII: The Worst or the Best, Board 21 continued.
By Ray Adams
Part VIII: The Worst or the Best, Board 21 continued. Here is the exciting conclusion of the famous match between Team Porcupine and the Silver Crusaders. Readers will recall that the teams entered board 21 – the last one in the match – in a dead tie at 4 imps to 4 imps. When the Silver Fox played board 21, he made 7 tricks in a 1NT contract for plus 90 to the Silver Crusaders. Could Team Porcupine match or better this at the other table?
The auction at this table was quite different from the other one. Joe Crowfoot, in opening chair, decided not to open his balanced 12 point hand 1♣ as Kowalski had done. This allowed Konejwicz to start the bidding with a 1♣ call of his own. This was passed back to Joe, who now made a balancing 1NT bid. Konejwicz felt like he should still be competing and re-opened the auction with a double. Pas made a logical 2♣ call, and this was passed back to Konejwicz, who surely should have been satisfied.
But a terrible thought ran through Harrington’s mind.
“What if Pas supported me with only three clubs?” This thought tormented the poor Konejwicz. It was the last board of a championship match. Team Porcupine certainly deserved a better effort than playing in a 3-3 minor suit fit. And the way the match had been going, this easily might be the hand that decided it all. No, he would not go quietly this time as he had on Joe’s 7♥ hand on board 18.
Pas must hold at least three spades. Else, Joe or T.O.D. would have bid spades somewhere down the line. If so, then 2♠ must be a playable contract. Getting to a 4-3 fit might easily win the match for Team Porcupine and Konejwicz would be the hero. Yes, the bid had to be right. Time stopped and his right hand went to the bidding box and emerged with the 2♠ card. It fell to the table as if through a thick fog, thudding in such a manner that T.O.D. started and tilted his head in the opposite direction from what he was used to. The deed was done. Konejwicz now only had to wait for the dummy to be revealed to see if he had done the right thing.
T.O.D. led the two of spades and Pas laid down the dummy. The manner in which he placed the clubs seemed to emphasis that he held four of them. Was this a rebuke of Konejwicz’s bid? Konejwicz felt his hopes fall as rapidly as a meteor through Earth’s atmosphere when he saw that Pas had just two small spades. Obviously, the 2♣ contract was right and the 2♠ one so wrong that losing the match was now almost a foregone conclusion.
Konejwicz now knew his bridge career had hit rock bottom. He had always felt that he was a much better player than Kowalski. But if his 2♠ bid caused Team Porcupine to lose this all important match, then Kowalski would feel free to sneer at Konejwicz’s fateful call.
He could hear Kowalski in his mind. His teammate would sound like one of the science fiction books he liked to read: “Well, a 4-2 fit is a most excellent place to play a hand. Few, if any, normal players would find such a fit. Yes, it is a fit worthy of a highly intelligent representative of a sub-moronic humanoid species.”
The imaginary sound of Kowalski’s voice echoed in Konejwicz’s mind. It was a prospect even worse than that of losing the match. He resolved to gird his loins and make this hopeless contract if it was the last thing he ever did in his miserable bridge career.
A second thought hit him. How did one go about girding anything? Konejwicz realized he did not know the meaning of the verb “gird.” Could one gird a car? Could a book be girded? What in the Great Shuffler’s name could be girded?
He only knew that he had to gird his loins because ancient heroes did just that in the books Konejwicz liked to read. Why had he waited this long to find out the meaning? Imagine all these years of reading heroic and fantastic novels without once bothering to look up “gird.” And now, right here in real time and real life, he actually had to do it himself. But how? After some thought, he shrugged, briefly moved his knees together, and began to play the hand.
Joe won T.O.D.’s opening lead of the two of spades with his ace and shifted to a low club. Konejwicz ducked as T.O.D. grabbed the king to return another spade. Konejwicz took this with his king. He then played a third round of trumps, forcing Joe to win the queen. Joe switched to the jack of hearts. Konejwicz won this as T.O.D. signaled with the nine. .
“Now what?” Konejwicz asked himself.
He cashed the ace of clubs, then the queen of clubs. Konejwicz exhaled deeply at T.O.D.’s failure to ruff this. Obviously his opponent was waiting to gain the lead so he could draw declarer’s last trump. Had a member of the Silver Crusaders finally made a mistake? And could Konejwicz capitalize on it? He had to find the queen of diamonds and played Joe for it, leading the jack of diamonds – as had the Fox – to dummy’s king. He led he nine of diamonds. Joe ducked and the nine won.
Konejwicz now played the jack of clubs. T.O.D. had no answer for this. He could ruff this or save his master trump for later, but Konejwicz now had to come to eight tricks for his contract.
Joe showed T.O.D. his king and ten of hearts after the hand was over. T.O.D. shook his head rather sadly and tilted it to the side. Pas and Konejwicz had already run from this table to their partners’ to compare scores. They soon discovered the one imp Konejwicz had picked up allowed them to win 5 imps to 4. The four teammates threw their convention cards in the air and yelled in excitement. Their record of 7.75 wins was clearly the best. But had they actually won?
The first bad news occurred when the head kibitzer, Blarney Yavazhny, came over to tell them, “You only picked up 11 victory points on this round, while the Silver Crusaders gained 9. That means they beat you 142 victory points to 140!”
Team captain Stari Pas felt as though he had been kicked in the stomach by a mule.
The Silver Fox offered condolences. “The best team always wins,” he said. “That’s just the way it is. In the long run, not even cards matter.”
The bad news was not yet over, however. A second kibitzer told them that Team Serendipity, a group of aging hippies from southern California, who had been 6-1 going into the last round, had blitzed their opponents and finished with 141 victory points. Thus, even though Team Porcupine had the best won-lost record in the event, they only placed third. This was a triumph for those who favored victory points, but a complete tragedy for the purists who thought actual wins should determine the outcome of a Swiss Team event.
Team Porcupine would go on to win many regional events, but they would never forget the pain of losing this one to the Silver Fox and his teammates.