The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CLXXXV: The Play is the Thing
By Ray Adams
Poor Frank and Lucky Archie were neck and neck just the other night at the local duplicate club. Neither one found the best contract on the last hand of the evening. Nevertheless, whoever scored higher on it would waltz into first place.
The top auction occurred when Poor Frank held the South cards. Surely the pair should have arrived in 4♠ or even 3NT, both better contracts than 5♣, but Poor Frank bid his hand as though he had seven clubs and North assumed that to be the case when he put Frank in game in that suit. The only good thing that can be said about Poor Frank’s contract is that it appeared – at least on the surface – to be a better spot than Lucky Archie’s 4♥ effort in a 4-2 fit! But on this evening, the play was the thing.
Poor Frank won the queen of diamonds lead with the ace and led a spade to the jack. He returned to hand with the ace of hearts, cashed the king of hearts, and tried a spade to the queen. He then cashed the ace of spades, tossing a diamond. He threw his last diamond on the queen of hearts. When he led the jack of clubs, East ducked and Poor Frank won his king.
The six of clubs went to the eight and nine. Poor Frank ruffed the diamond return and led a trump.
When trumps split, he claimed eleven tricks. This was an amazing result, but he and Lucky Archie were so close in score, that if the Lucky One made 4♥ , he would win that evening.
Lucky Archie almost fainted when he discovered he was declarer in 4♥. He had mistakenly put the 2♥ card on the table instead of the one for 2♣. His partner had quickly raised him to game and this is why he found himself in such an offbeat contract. His play was similar to Poor Frank’s. He won the opening diamond lead and led a spade to the jack. He came to hand with the ace of hearts, cashed the king of hearts and repeated the spade finesse. He then drew the outstanding trumps with the queen and jack. Then Archie ran the spades to score ten tricks. When he led a club, East rose with the ace and the defenders took the last two tricks with diamonds.
Later that evening, when Poor Frank discussed the hands with Janet, he bemoaned his fate once again. On this particular evening, she was having none of it.
“You were lucky tonight, darling,” she said. “When you lead the jack of clubs, all East has to do is play the nine. Now West can win the eight at trick ten and exit with a heart. The defense will now score the ace and queen of clubs separately to set you.”
Poor Frank looked at his lovely friend with respect. Had she become a better bridge player than he was? If so, maybe she could help him devise a strategy to defeat his lucky rival.