The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXI: A Coup a la Nograwowicz

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XXI:  A Coup a la Nograwowicz

By Ray Adams

All followers (and critics) of Team Porcupine know of Stanislaus Kowalski’s propensity to overbid when he knows his partner, Porczouk Nograwowicz will be playing the hand.  Another example of this recently came up.


In the auction, Kowalski chose to support his partner’s spade suit with only three, even though it was quite possible Nograwowicz had no more than four.  West led the four of hearts and, many players in laying down the dummy, would have said to their partner something like, “Sorry, partner, I owe you a spade.”  But not Kowalski, who was not known for justifying his bidding.  In fact, as he spread his cards, he carefully kept his eyes turned down, avoiding seeing any reaction on Nograwowicz’s part.  Of course, Nograwowicz was so used to Kowalski’s bidding he simply regarded the dummy as though it was a gift from the Great Shuffler, and in fact, was probably pleased that Kowalski had supported him with more than two spades.

The heart lead was taken by dummy’s ace and a club went to declarer’s jack and West’s ace.  West continued the heart attack, dummy’s king winning.  Nograwowicz now made the key play of a low spade from dummy.  East felt compelled to duck and declarer’s queen won the trick.  Nograwowicz now cashed the ace and king of diamonds, sluffing the remainder of dummy’s hearts.  He then ruffed a diamond in dummy.

Dummy’s king of clubs was cashed, declarer tossing a diamond. He also threw a diamond on the subsequent lead of the queen of clubs.  West ruffed this with the lowly three of trumps.  West would have done well to lead a diamond at this point, but instead exited with the jack of hearts.  This presented East with the choice of either ruffing or tossing a club.  Eventually East discarded his last club, allowing declarer to ruff this trick low.

Nograwowicz now ruffed his last diamond with dummy’s ace.  At trick twelve, the lead was in the dummy and East had to play from the king and nine of trumps in front of declarer’s jack and six.  Nograwowicz had made this unlikely game on a coup en passant, or what Kowalski likes to call a “coup a la Nograwowicz”.

The contract of 3NT was down two at the other table, allowing Team Orange to gain 13 imps on this hand in a match they only won by 6 imps.  Team captain Stari Pas commented after the match that perhaps they had won not because of a Coup a la Nograwowicz but by a bidding Coup a la Kowalski.



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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXVIII: A Change of Luck

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXVIII:  A Change of Luck

By Ray Adams

It had been a tough night at the local duplicate for Poor Frank.  The game was almost over and Frank was certain that his rival, Lucky Archie, had a slight lead going into the last board.


In the auction, four diamonds was a splinter bid, showing (supposedly) four hearts, a singleton diamond, and an opening hand.  Five hearts showed two aces (the king of hearts being counted as one ace) and no queen of hearts.  Poor Frank’s double was speculative – to say the least – and was probably based on a desire to either get a good result or go out in a blaze of glory.

West led the king of diamonds, taken by declarer’s ace.  Lucky Archie now led the queen of spades, West showed count, playing the two, and Poor Frank ducked.  East took his ace on the subsequent lead of the eight of spades to the king and exited with a club to dummy’s ace.

Lucky Archie now had to decide how to draw trumps, ending in dummy, so that the spades could be run for a total of twelve tricks.  There would be no problem if hearts broke 2-2, but what if they split

3-1?  Then declarer would have to find the queen of hearts.  And who was most likely to hold it?  None other than Poor Frank, the doubler, and Lucky Archie’s constant thorn in the side.  How sweet it would be to finesse Poor Frank out of the offending queen and claim this bold slam and that evening’s laurels.

So, at trick five, Lucky Archie led a small heart to Poor Frank’s six, his jack, and West’s singleton queen.  West now forced dummy with a high diamond, and suddenly Lucky Archie found himself down two in a cold contract.

“You tricked me, Frank!” Archie said after the hand was over.  “You had to have the queen of hearts for your double.”

“No, Archie,” Frank said.  “I only had to make you think I had that card.”

Later, as Poor Frank discussed that evening’s hands with Janet, she said, “Guess what I heard people saying at the club, darling?  They’re starting to call you Lucky Frank and Archie, Poor Archie.  What do you think of those apples?”

“Very delicious,” Poor Frank said, “very delicious.”

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XX: Just Another Ping Pong Ball

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XX:  Just Another Ping Pong Ball

By Ray Adams

Porczouk Nograwowicz of Team Porcupine found himself at the helm of a touchy slam in a very important match during a recent regional.


Kowalski was his usual exuberant and optimistic self once he realized his stalwart partner would be declarer, and quickly bid six clubs after partner’s three spade cuebid following a limit raise.

West led the queen of hearts.  Nograwowicz saw he was in trouble and studied the hand for several minutes before playing from dummy.  After considerable thought, he saw he had a chance if East had the ace of diamonds and clubs split no worse than 4-1.

He won the first trick with dummy’s king and advanced a small diamond, East ducking as the king won the trick.  He then played a small trump to dummy’s nine, happy to see both opponents follow.  Next came dummy’s last diamond, won by East’s ace.  Declarer won the heart exit with his ace and cashed the queen of diamonds, sluffing dummy’s last heart.

Nograwowicz silently said a little prayer of thanks to the Great Shuffler, for West’s nine had fallen on the previous diamond trick and the jack dropped on this one, making declarer’s eight the current boss in the suit.

Nograwowicz now wrapped up the hand by ruffing a heart in dummy with the queen, leading the four of trumps to his ten, ruffing his last heart with the ace, then returning to hand with the ace of spades.  The king and jack of clubs picked up West’s last two trumps and the established eight of diamonds was declarer’s twelfth trick.

Kowalski has frequently been demeaned by critics of Team Porcupine for his alleged overbidding.  However, as long as Nograwowicz keeps rising to the challenge, these criticisms will no doubt bounce off Kowalski’s back like a ping pong ball off a paddle.


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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXVII: Two Ducks Cook a Goose

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXVII:  Two Ducks Cook a Goose

By Ray Adams

Two ducks by Lucky Archie cooked Poor Frank’s goose just the other night at the local duplicate club.

Poor Frank took a shot at 3NT after West opened with a weak two diamond call.  Many Norths chose to pull their partner’s 3NT bid to a four spade contract, but this particular North had all the faith in the world in Poor Frank and let his partner labor away in the nine trick game.

West led the queen of diamonds and this was allowed to hold.  West now switched to a small heart.  This went to dummy’s queen, ducked by Lucky Archie.  Readers can see that if Lucky Archie had covered, this would have established a late entry to dummy’s spades, allowing Poor Frank to make the contract.

Poor Frank came to hand with the ace of clubs and led the jack of spades, playing low from dummy.  Lucky Archie also casually ducked this trick, surprising Poor Frank to no end.  If readers study this play carefully, they will see that if Lucky Archie had taken his queen, then Poor Frank could have later overtaken his king with dummy’s ace, smothering the ten and ran the spades to make his contract.

But now, Poor Frank was left absolutely horrified.  Somehow, Lucky Archie had made two outstanding plays in a row and caused the bold 3NT contract to go down three for an absolute bottom.  This also meant that Lucky Archie would surpass Poor Frank as that evening’s winner.

“How could you duck both those tricks?”  Poor Frank said to Lucky Archie after the hand was over.

“Unfortunately for you, Frankie baby,” Lucky Archie replied, “I’ve been reading a book called Sweet Ducks and Cooked Geese.”

“Is that even a bridge book?”  Poor Frank said.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXVI: Poor Frank’s Recurring Nightmare

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXVI:  Poor Frank’s Recurring Nightmare

By Ray Adams

PoorFrank had nightmares on four consecutive nights this past week.  Each time, he found himself on lead against the same six spade contract declared by Lucky Archie:


In the auction, 2 was a control bid, showing an ace or two kings.

The first night, Poor Frank led a trump, covered by the seven, jack and ace.  Lucky Archie now crossed to the eight of trumps. He tossed a small diamond on the ace of hearts.  He then took the club finesse, and when that suit broke 3-3, he had twelve tricks.  Poor Frank then woke up in an extremely agitated state and it was hours before he was able to drift back into the arms of Morpheus.

The next night, Poor Frank tried leading the nine of clubs.  This was covered by the ten, queen, and king.  After drawing trumps, Lucky Archie went to the eight of clubs, threw a diamond on the ace of hearts, and took the diamond finesse in an attempt at an overtrick.  This failed, but Lucky Archie still scored up his small slam.  Poor Frank awoke covered in a cold sweat.

The third night, Poor Frank tried a small diamond.  This went to the two, ten, and queen.  Declarer drew trumps, then cashed the ace of diamonds.  He then threw Poor Frank in with the king of diamonds.  Poor Frank now had to lead a club or a heart to allow his rival to score up the slam once again.  Poor Frank noticed in his dream that even if he had jettisoned his king of diamonds under the ace that Lucky Archie would still have made the contract with either a heart lead or by playing low on East’s club exit.  This time, Poor Frank woke up screaming.

The fourth night, Poor Frank tried a heart.  Declarer won dummy’s ace, pitching a small diamond.  He then took the club finesse, making the contract once again.  Poor Frank woke up with an uncontrollable twitch.

“How ironic,” Poor Frank said out loud when he had his senses back under control.  “Lucky Archie has no idea how to execute an endplay, but in my dreams he has me endplayed at trick one.”

Poor Frank was finally able to slip into a dreamless sleep after praying that his nightmare never turned into a reality.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXV: Poor Frank Gets Even

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXV: Poor Frank Gets Even

By Ray Adams


Lucky Archie had been consistently beating Poor Frank recently and Frank was getting very tired of it. He was still smarting from a Lucky Archie victory when the following hand came up:

North chose to support Poor Frank’s spade bid with three card support rather than rebid 1NT and this made Poor Frank think he had a shot at a slam in spades. In the subsequent auction, 5♠ showed two aces and the queen of spades, while 6♦ showed one king. Poor Frank now bid the grand slam, hoping to put one over on his rival.

Lucky Archie led a trump, won by Poor Frank in hand. Declarer now cashed the ace and king of diamonds, then ruffed a diamond in dummy with the queen as East tossed a club. Poor Frank then drew trumps in four rounds, as his rival sluffed a diamond and a club.

Poor Frank saw that his only chance to make this slam was to find his left hand opponent with the queen of hearts. Even so, he would also need a squeeze to bring this one home. He cashed the ace and king of clubs, establishing a club winner for the defense, but also forcing Lucky Archie to make a discard. The Lucky one could not throw his queen of diamonds without establishing Frank’s jack, so he tossed a heart. Poor Frank now took the heart finesse, and when it worked, dummy’s eight of hearts became his thirteenth trick.

Somehow, Poor Frank had done it. He had made an impossible slam and gotten the better of his rival. Or had he? As it turned out, this board was a total zero for Lucky Archie, but his lead had been so big that he still finished first that evening to Poor Frank’s second.

Later, as he discussed the boards with Janet, Poor Frank said, “What do I have to do to beat that cretin?”

“Bridge is a funny game,” Janet said. “Sometimes you can play your heart out and still not win. But even when Archie wins, Frank, you always outplay him, so don’t worry about results.”

“Perhaps you’re right,” he said, “but when you’re the only one in the room to make a grand slam and everyone is congratulating someone who can barely follow suit, it really hurts.”

Janet raised Poor Frank’s hand to her lips and said, “Perhaps if I kiss your hand, it will make it better.”   Poor Frank had to smile at that.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXIV: Poor Frank’s Archie-ism

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXIV: Poor Frank’s Archie-ism

By Ray Adams


Poor Frank found a way to turn the tables on Lucky Archie just the other night at the local duplicate club. Or did he?

Poor Frank was playing with a relative novice that evening, but one who showed quite a bit of promise. Things had been going well when the above hand came up on the last round of the evening.

Poor Frank never trusted his rival’s bidding, so when Lucky Archie as East opened with a forcing two club bid, Poor Frank never hesitated in overcalling two spades. North found a raise to the three level and now Lucky Archie revealed a big hand with hearts. The auction finally ended at five hearts doubled.

Poor Frank chose to lead his ace of diamonds, hoping for a ruff. When he saw the dummy, his plan was to underlead his ace of spades to partner’s presumed king and have partner give him the diamond ruff. But after the opening lead, he juggled his cards a bit and the two of clubs came crashing down on the table. North played the king and got a surprised look on his face when this held. But he figured this must mean partner wanted a diamond back and he led one. Poor Frank ruffed and tried to cash a spade, but the Lucky One ruffed, drew trump and claimed.

Poor Frank was filled with mixed emotions. Sure, he had set his rival, but he had done it in a way that was typical of Lucky Archie. He had not selected the right card, it had merely fallen out of his hand, the way countless other lucky cards had fallen out of Archie’s hand over the years. And when he saw his partner’s hand, he realized he was cold for six spades. Indeed, plus 200 on this board was a very poor result and allowed Lucky Archie to win that evening’s laurels.

Later, when the game concluded and Poor Frank went over that evening’s hands with Janet, he told her how his partner should have jumped to four spades at his first turn and now he would never have sold out to Lucky Archie at the five level.

“Of course you wouldn’t have, darling,” Janet said, “but the Great Shuffler must be making you pay for some terrible karmic mistake. After all, you should know you can never win when you do the exact same thing Archie would have done.”

“You’re right, of course,” Frank said, “and if I would have had any idea at all that I was going to do something like that, I would definitely have bid five spades. Well, I can only hope that I have paid my penance and the Great Shuffler has forgiven me.”

Janet laughed that throaty laugh that Poor Frank loved so much.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXIII: Lucky Archie’s Unlucky Choice


By Ray Adams

     The struggle between Poor Frank and Lucky Archie was so close the other night that the winner of that evening’s game would depend on Lucky Archie’s opening lead on the following hand:


In the auction, North’s 2D was a Michael’s cuebid showing at least 5-5 in the majors. The rest of the auction was contentious – to say the least – as it usually is when Poor Frank and Lucky Archie are involved.

Lucky Archie’s first choice was the opening lead. He was reluctant to lead from his broken diamond holding, especially knowing his partner had supported him and therefore North might be void in diamonds. This is why he made the “safe” choice of the ace of clubs. However, as readers can see, dummy was void in clubs, not diamonds.

Poor Frank ruffed this and led a spade to his ace as East threw a club. Poor Frank barely paused for thought and advanced a sneaky jack of clubs. Lucky Archie took a long look at this then played low. Poor Frank sluffed dummy’s lone diamond on this and East followed low. Poor Frank now claimed the doubled slam on a crossruff, conceding one trick to his rival’s high trump.

East asked to see Lucky Archie’s cards, and when he did, yelled at his partner.

“Archie, you dolt,” he said. “Can’t you see that you needed to cover that jack of clubs. Then declarer can’t make it. He has to ruff in dummy and can’t get back to his hand. You’ll win the next trick and cash a diamond and set this unmakeable monstrosity.”

“Such a pretty monstrosity as I’ve ever seen,” Poor Frank said later to Janet when they discussed that evening’s hands after the game.

“Yes,” she said. “It was a monstrosity in one way, though, you’ll have to admit. It was the most monstrous top you ever got off Lucky Archie.”

They both had a good laugh over that one.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXII: Vision Problems


The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXXII: Vision Problems

By Ray Adams


Poor Frank was certain that Lucky Archie was having vision problems when the following hand came up at their local club:




In the auction, North’s two diamond bid was a Michael’s cuebid, ostensibly showing five spades and five hearts. Lucky Archie’s jump to three spades is impossible to explain, although Poor Frank later came up with a sensible explanation.

At any rate, Poor Frank chose to make the passive lead of the ten of clubs. This went to declarer’s ace. Archie now led a heart to the ace and ruffed a heart. He then led a diamond to the queen and cashed the ace of diamonds. This was followed by another heart ruff. He then cashed the king and queen of clubs, sluffing a heart and a diamond from dummy as both defenders followed. He then ruffed a diamond in dummy.

Somehow, Archie had taken the first nine tricks and the ace of trumps was still sitting in the dummy. This allowed him to make this outrageous contract and claim the victory laurels for that evening’s game. Poor Frank could not believe it, especially when he stole a glance at Archie’s hand.

“That Lucky Archie must need glasses,” Poor Frank said to Janet later that evening as they discussed the hand’s from the recent session. “I am certain he thought his clubs were spades. There’s no other explanation for his three spade bid.”

“Perhaps you’re right, darling,” Janet said, “but consider this: maybe you need to have your vision checked also. After all you seemed not to see the double card in your bidding box. And you also seemed to have overlooked the fact that you held the king, queen, ten, and a small spade. If you double and lead the king of spades, please explain to me now how Archie is going to win.”

Poor Frank looked chagrined.

“You’re right, of course,” he said. “I was so afraid of giving something away that I chose the wrong lead. And, of course, I should have doubled. Although with the same lead, Archie would have wrapped it.”

“A zero is a zero, dear,” Janet said. “But don’t worry, you’re still my hero,” and she reached over and squeezed his hand.


Poor Frank and Lucky Archie would like to thank Ralph Jungwirth of Modesto, California, for giving them a chance to play this interesting hand.


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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XIX: Kowalski’s Bold Bid



The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XIX: Kowalski’s Bold Bid

By Ray Adams

As followers of Team Porcupine are well aware, Stanislaus Kowalski considers the best part of his game to be placing difficult contracts in the capable hands of his partner, Porczouk Nograwowiz. Kowalski was at it again when the following hand came up in an important match:





When Pas/Konejwicz were sitting E/W, the auction went as in the top diagram above. Konejwicz led his singleton king of spades, his partner’s suit. Declarer had no trouble making eleven tricks for plus 650. As the players folded up their cards and put them back in the board, South smiled at his partner and said, “Precision bidding.” North smiled back, happy they had not bid the hopeless slam.

However, things went differently at the other table. Instead of overcalling his six card heart suit, Kowalski started with a double, certain he could later bid hearts to show a better-than-average hand. When his partner somehow bid his long suit, Kowalski got excited and jumped to slam, certain that Nograwowicz would manage to squeeze twelve tricks out of his fine holding.

This time West was on lead and – not surprisingly – started with the ace of diamonds. Nograwowicz ruffed this in dummy and led a heart to his queen, picking up all the outstanding trumps. He then advanced the queen of clubs, covered by the king and won with the ace. He cashed dummy’s jack of clubs and ruffed a club. Next came a diamond, ruffed in dummy. Declarer then trumped dummy’s last club, stripping the two hands down to trumps and spades.

It was Nograwowicz’s hope that West had but five spades, leaving East with a singleton. If this lone spade were an honor, then he saw a way to make the contract. He led a small spade at trick two. West decided to play “safe” by splitting honors and inserted the jack. Nograwowicz played dummy’s ace and East’s king fell on this trick!   Now it was a simple matter of leading a spade to the nine and claiming, conceding one trick to the queen.

East muttered something about West not playing the jack, but Nograwowicz was quick to point out that he would have played the ten if West had followed low. This would have put East on lead and since this player would have been out of spades, any exit would have given declarer a ruff and a sluff, allowing the contract to be made. Thus, there was no defensive error, just superior technique on the part of Nograwowicz.

Plus 1430 for Team Porcupine allowed them to pick up 13 imps on this board in a match they only won by 7 imps. It was once again a triumph for Kowalski’s quirky style of transferring the play of the hand to his brilliant partner.

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