The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LIII: Looking Over Nograwowicz’s Shoulder

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LIII: Looking Over Nograwowicz’s Shoulder

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

This week readers have an opportunity to look over Porczouk Nograwowicz’s shoulder as he plays a hand:

 

When Team Porcupine recently won a big knockout event at the 2017 San Diego Nationals, Porczouk Nograwowicz was interviewed about the key swing board which allowed his team to come from behind and win the match. Readers now have the opportunity to follow Nograwowicz’s over the shoulder comments on how he played the hand.

“With his 20 points and 4 diamonds, I can hardly blame my partner, Stanislaus Kowalski, for getting excited when I opened 1 and rebid 2. My 5♠ answer to his 4NT query showed two aces and the queen of diamonds. This was all he needed to hear to push us to the grand slam.”

“West led the king of hearts and I quickly counted my tricks: 4 spades, probably 4 diamonds, 3 clubs, and the ace of hearts. I needed one more, but I also knew I had to be very careful because one of the opponents might have four trumps to the jack. If East, I would surely go down, but if West, I could guard against this distribution.”

“My thirteenth trick would have to come by either ruffing a heart in the dummy or trumping a club in my hand. But the fact that I had to guard against West possibly holding four trumps to the jack made it clear to me that the ruff had to come in my own hand. This was my analysis and that is how I played it.”

I won the lead with the ace, played the queen of clubs and led a small club to dummy’s ace. I then ruffed a small club in hand, holding my breath until both opponents followed. I then led a diamond to the ace and a diamond back to the queen. This revealed that West had indeed started life with four diamonds to the jack. I was glad I had been so careful. I now took the marked finesse in diamonds and cashed the king of diamonds to draw the last trump. Next came a spade to my ace and a spade back to the good dummy.”

Making 7 on this hand was worth 13 imps to Team Porcupine. Nograwowicz said he hopes his analysis proves useful to anyone who reads this blog and he wishes bridge buffs everywhere the best of luck.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLIII: An Unlucky Double

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLIII: An Unlucky Double

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

 

Poor Frank felt like crying the other night after a hard session at the local duplicate club – even though he had won the event!

 

 

After Poor Frank responded 3NT to North’s 1♣ opener, North got excited and jumped to Blackwood. The pair was playing 3014 and Poor Frank thought he had bid 5, showing one ace or the king of clubs. But to North, 5 showed two aces without the queen of clubs. So it was easy to understand why North bid 7♣. Lucky Archie promptly doubled this.

Poor Frank had noticed his mistake and was horrified. He would give the Lucky One an undeserved top board due to his own carelessness and finish behind his rival one more time. He ground his teeth together, then came up with a plan. If he bid 7NT, West would be on lead and might not find the killing lead of the suit with the ace that Lucky Archie surely held. Poor Frank held his breath and put the 7NT card on the table. Naturally, Lucky Archie also doubled this and Poor Frank anxiously awaited West’s opening sally, with his heart beating much faster than normal.

Luckily for Poor Frank, West had a natural lead of the jack of diamonds. When this hit the table and Poor Frank saw the dummy, he realized he still had a chance. Surely Lucky Archie had the ace of hearts in his possession. If he also had four spades, there might be a squeeze on the hand. Poor Frank cashed the top three diamonds and began running the clubs. When dummy’s last club was about to be played, Lucky Archie had four spades to the jack and the ace of hearts left. Poor Frank, sitting behind him, had the king of hearts and four spades to the ace and king.

Sweat broke out on Lucky Archie’s face as he began to realize what was about to befall him. Finally, he let go a spade and Poor Frank tossed his heart king. Now the contract was made, Poor Frank’s six of spades taking the last, thirteenth trick.

“If only you had led a heart,” Lucky Archie said to his partner, showing him the ace of hearts,

“If only you hadn’t doubled 7♣,” West said. “Plus 100 would have been just as good as plus 200 and a lot better than minus 2490.”

Poor Frank smiled at his opponents’ comments, but he could barely hold back the tears when he discussed the evening’s hands later with Janet.

“Is is my fate to only beat Lucky Archie when I bid as badly as he does?” he said to his sweetheart.

“Wipe away your tears, darling,” she said. “You deserve to beat him and he surely deserves to lose to you. Just take it anyway you can get it. Oh, and give me a victory kiss.”

 

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Alice Revisits No Trump Land

Alice Revisits No Trump Land

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

 

Alice’s last experience in No Trump Land had been so traumatic, it was almost three years before she decided to visit this unusual kingdom again. This time, it was the Mad Hatter who sat across from her, while the Dormouse was to her left and the Queen of Hearts to her right. This was the first hand she picked up:

 

Alice opened 1 calmly, never expecting the eventual outcome of this innocent start. The Dormouse overcalled 1♠.   Now the Mad Hatter, perhaps still suffering from the aftereffects of his bout with mercury poisoning, bid a resounding two hearts. The Queen of Hearts was the soul of discretion, passing calmly after having heard her two opponents bid her best suits. Now Alice had a good hand, to be sure, and a most likely spade stopper, so she competed with a two no trump bid. This was, after all, No Trump Land. Everyone else had heard enough, especially the Dormouse who was much too timid to bid his six card suit at the three level.

Alice gasped when the dummy came down and she saw the extreme lack of points in the hatter’s hand.

“You bid two hearts with that?” She said.

“How else would you know I had five hearts?” the Mad One said.

“How else indeed,” Alice muttered under her breath. But there was nothing to it but to play the hand.

The Dormouse started with the king of spades, normally a fine choice, but this time it was overtaken by the good queen’s singleton ace, a wonderful development for Alice. The queen shifted to the king of diamonds, won by Alice’s ace. Alice saw her only hope was to establish some diamond tricks, so she immediately shot back the ten of diamonds, taken by the queen’s jack. The Queen of Hearts now tried her suit – hearts – and Alice hopefully played the queen. When the Dormouse won his king, the Queen of Hearts chanted, “The Queen of Hearts is not for tarts. Only a king can win a queen. Silly girl. Off with her head.”

The Dormouse now continued his attack on spades, cashing the queen and then leading the ten. Meanwhile, the Queen of Hearts held on to her favorite suit – hearts – while tossing the five and eight of diamonds. When Alice saw the eight of diamonds fall, her heart skipped a beat. She now had a fighting chance to win this contract!

She won her jack of spades and exited with the nine of diamonds to the queen’s queen. The good queen now played another heart, taken by Alice’s ace. But our heroine now had two good diamonds to cash. The first diamond did not cause the Dormouse any pain. He was able to toss a club. His last four cards were three clubs to the queen and the high nine of spades. The Queen of Hearts, still obsessed with dummy’s heart suit, tossed a club on the seven of diamonds.

Now, when Alice cashed her last diamond, the Dormouse was truly squeezed because of the good queen’s club discard. The poor creature could not hold onto both three clubs and the high spade. Dummy’s last three cards were the ace, ten, and seven of clubs. So, when the Dormouse threw another club on the last diamond, Alice was able to gather in the last three tricks with clubs and claim this improbable contract. Making two no trump by South on this hand was nothing short of a miracle, but Alice had pulled it off.

“Off with her head, off with her silly head. Director, director,” the good queen yelled.

The Ten of Spades soon made an appearance. This Ten, being the highest of all the Intermediate Cards, was extremely conscious of his rank.

“What’s going on here, my good Queen,” he said. “How may I serve you?”

Alice already did not like the way this was going.

“This upstart has no business making two trump from the South seat. Off with her head,” the queen explained.

“We shall see, your majesty,” the Ten of Spades said. “Please allow me to consult the notes given us for each hand by the Lord Deep Finesse.”   The ten took out a piece of paper, put on a pair of bifocal eyeglasses, and hmmed and hawed as he read the paper.

“Yes, you’re absolutely right, your majesty,” the ten said. “Lord Deep Finesse allows West to make either one no trump or two spades on this hand. There is nothing here about South making anything at all, much less two trump.”

“And yet I made it,” Alice said defiantly.

“Please do not allow the facts to get in the way of the truth,” the Ten of Spades said. “If Lord Deep Finesse does not allow it, then it cannot be allowed.” He turned to the Mad Hatter, who would be the one to write down the score for this board. “Please score it as one no trump by West, making two.”

“But that’s an outrage!” Alice screamed.

“Off with her head, off with her head,” the Queen of Hearts screamed right back.

“Please keep your voice lower so as not to disturb the other players,” the Ten of Spades said, speaking directly to Alice, not the queen who was actually the noisier of the two. “If you don’t, there will be a further penalty. Lord Deep Finesse has spoken. That is all.” And he marched off.

Alice played several more hands, but her heart– and her hearts – were no longer in it and she soon left No Trump Land after having turned in a 28% game, much to the Queen of Heart’s delight.

“How very interesting and different this land is,” Alice thought to herself as she sought the rabbit hole exit. “But I’m not sure I really belong here.” Even so, it was not long before Alice returned and had other adventures, but those are stories for another time.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LII: The Man Who Counts

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LII: The Man Who Counts

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

The player who counts in bridge has a big advantage over those who do not. Porczouk Nograwowicz counts.

After an extremely contentious auction, Nograwowicz ended up in 5♣ and West led the king of hearts. Nograwowicz was upset with himself when he saw the dummy. He had two natural diamond losers and if clubs did not split 2-2, he might easily go down when 4 doubled would surely fail by at least two tricks. Nevertheless, he gave the contract his best shot, winning the ace of hearts at trick one and immediately ruffing the eight of hearts as East followed to the second trick with the nine. This apparently useless play was actually the key to what followed later in the hand.

At trick three, Nograwowicz cashed the ace of trumps, noting the fall of the jack from the East hand. This card made him think of the possible distribution based on the bidding. Surely, West had seven hearts. Since West had not led a diamond, it was also possible he had no diamonds, leaving East with seven of the other red suit. It was also possible that spades divided 3-3, meaning West would have started with seven hearts, three spades, and therefore three clubs to the queen. This fit with East’s possible hand of seven diamonds, two hearts, three spades, and therefore, only one club.

Nograwowicz’s reasoning left him with two choices: he could bang down the king of clubs and hope that clubs were splitting and therefore spades were 4-2 or he could try for a more elegant line of play. Readers will surely guess that Nograwowicz chose the more elegant line.

He abandoned trumps and cashed the top two spades, both opponents signaling an even number of spades. Nograwowicz chuckled at the defenders’ antics and ignored them. He then played a third spade to dummy’s queen, as both opponents followed. He was now certain he had correctly guessed the East/West distributions. Now declarer led the two of hearts and tossed a diamond. West had to win this card, but had no good exit. If West exited with a heart, Nograwowicz would ruff in dummy, tossing another diamond. He would then cash the top spade, shedding his last diamond. West would win one heart and one club, but the contract would be safe.

Likewise, if West exited a club, declarer would be left with no club loser and would gain access to the dummy to toss another diamond on the high spade. All roads led to Nograwowicz making this minor suit game simply due to good technique and counting.

Pas was down two doubled in 4 at the other table, meaning Team Porcupine picked up a valuable seven imps on this hand. This counted for a lot to the team, for if Nograwowicz had banged down the king of clubs at trick four, they would have lost nine imps instead.

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLII: Negotiating the Mine Field

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLII: Negotiating the Mine Field

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

Poor Frank and Lucky Archie were at it again just the other night at the local duplicate club. It all came down to the last board of the night.

    Poor Frank was somewhat surprised to see Red’s dummy after Lucky Archie led the jack of clubs. He thought Red’s hand rated a simple boost to 2♠ instead of a limit raise. Still, the contract had some play. The jack of clubs certainly looked like a singleton, although that would mean East had started with six clubs. Was that possible on the actual auction?

At any rate, if Poor Frank could not ruff two clubs in dummy, then he needed to get rid of his small heart as soon as possible. At trick two, he led a diamond and Archie took his ace. Archie thought for about three seconds and returned a small diamond at trick three. Poor Frank wasn’t fooled. Surely East had only one diamond also. He played the eight and overruffed East’s seven of spades with the nine.

Poor Frank now played the queen of spades, hoping that East had started with two trumps. But Lucky Archie took his ace as East showed out, pitching a club. Archie now switched to a heart to dummy’s nine, East’s jack, and declarer’s ace. Poor Frank now had to play a trump to dummy to pitch a heart on the king of diamonds.

It was time to play the clubs, but Poor Frank was still worried Archie’s lead was a singleton. Thus, he led a club from dummy and ducked East’s ten. When East comprehended that he had won this trick, he tried to cash a heart, but Poor Frank ruffed. Declarer then ruffed his last small club in dummy, ruffed a diamond small, cashed his ten of trumps, drawing West’s last spade, and claimed. Poor Frank wiped the sweat off his brow, happy that he had successfully negotiated this mine field of a hand.

East immediately showed Archie the king, queen, and jack of hearts.

“Oh, I suppose you mean if I had led a heart earlier, we would have set the contract?” Archie said. “Well, if you want me to lead a suit, you should bid it.”

“East was not happy when Archie said that,” Frank said to Janet later as they discussed that evening’s hands.   “But for once I think Archie was right.”

“How’s that, darling?” Janet said.

“Well, East had a 6-5 hand and never bid. Some Easts made five hearts on this hand. So me making four spades was a cold top.”

“I just wish I could have been there to see you in action, darling,” Janet said.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LI: Kowalski’s Reverse

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part LI: Kowalski’s Reverse

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

All experienced bridge buffs know what a reverse is. A player first bids a lower ranking suit, then later bids a higher ranking suit at the two level. This shows a very good hand of 17 or more points. It is not unknown for players to make mistakes where reverses are concerned, especially if that player’s name is Stanislaus Kowalski.

Readers will recognize that in their partnership, Kowalski normally sits North, while Nograwowicz sits South. Thus, this hand was rotated for readers’ convenience.

Many players would have opened the South hand 1 so as not to reverse, but Kowalski failed to think ahead and started with a club. After his partner responded 1♠, he could have rebid 1NT, but chose not to with a singleton. Instead, he reversed into 2, hoping nothing bad would happen. Nograwowicz took Kowalski at his word and made a slam try with a 4♣ bid. Kowalski now bid 4, hoping his partner would bid 4♠ which he would rapidly pass. But it was not to be and Kowalski soon found himself at the helm in a small slam as West led the king of hearts.

Kowalski was terrified as he added up his and dummy’s meager resources, but he had no choice but to forge ahead.   He won the opening lead with the ace and led a club to the king, as West played the queen. This caused Kowalski to start sweating and he had to wipe his brow several times as he played the hand. He now led the queen of diamonds, covered by the king and won with the ace.

Kowalski now said a little prayer and led the ace of clubs. Yes, the jack dropped from the West hand!   He now played a spade to dummy’s ace and subsequently led the queen of spades as East followed low. Kowalski threw a heart as he said another little prayer. Yes, the queen held! Next came the jack of spades, covered by the king and ruffed. He returned to dummy with the ten of clubs and cashed dummy’s last two spades, throwing his last heart and a small diamond. Now Kowalski was playing for an overtrick as he led a diamond. He covered East’s six with the nine and when that held, claimed an unbelievable seven!

When the hand was over, Kowalski’s face was as red as a blushing school girl while he sat there, shaking his head and staring into space.

“Just think how many tricks you would have made if you had actually had the points you told me you did,” Nograwowicz said.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part L: Nograwowicz Finds a Way

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part L: Nograwowicz Finds a Way

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

Porczouk Nograwowicz of Team Porcupine was faced with a very difficult play problem in a recent regional after his opponent made what could best be termed an “eccentric pre-empt.”

 

Kowalski’s double was negative, showing four hearts. Kowalski probably assumed from West’s pre-empt in diamonds that Nograwowicz had no more than one diamond and this must have influenced his subsequent 6 bid.

West led the queen of diamonds and declarer took the ace. He led a spade to dummy’s king and cashed the ace and king of clubs, then ruffed a club, taking a great interest in the fall of the queen from the West hand. Declarer cashed the ace of spades, sluffing a small diamond from dummy. Nograwowicz then cashed the king of hearts and led a small heart to dummy, both opponents following. It was the critical point of the hand.

Declarer reasoned that since West had started with three clubs and had also followed to two hearts, and further based on West’s pre-empt, it was likely this player was now out of trumps. Putting his reasoning into action, he cashed the jack of clubs, tossing his losing diamond. When West was unable to ruff, declarer was home. He now ruffed a diamond with his last trump and had ten tricks in the bag, with dummy’s ace and queen of trumps sure to score tricks number eleven and twelve.

Plus 1430 on this board was worth 13 imps to the Porcupines when the opponents failed to bid the slam at the other table, and in fact, made only 11 tricks in a heart contract. Once again Nograwowicz had found a way to save the day for Team Porcupine.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLIX: High Five

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLIX: High Five

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

The late and great Grant Baze once said, “The five level belongs to the opponents.” Probably most bridge buffs would agree that the five level is, indeed, a dangerous place that is best left to the opponents. Team Porcupine, of course, has trouble following rules and guidelines.

West led the ten of hearts, taken by dummy’s ace as declarer threw a diamond. Nograwowicz then ruffed a heart, ruffed a club, and ruffed another heart. One more club was trumped in dummy and the king of spades drew all the missing enemy trumps. South then ruffed dummy’s last heart.

When Nograwowicz cashed the ace of clubs, tossing a diamond from dummy, the hand was thoroughly stripped and he exited a diamond, taken by East’s king. East had no choice but to give declarer a ruff and a sluff for the eleventh trick. Nograwowicz subsequently conceded a diamond and claimed his doubled contract.

At the other table, Pas-Konejwicz played at 5 doubled, down two when South began the defense with a spade rather than a club. This was a nice 8 imp pickup for the Porcupines. But the interesting aspect to this hand was the fact that both sides played the contract at the five level doubled and the team still managed to gain imps. It was yet another triumph for Team Porcupine’s unorthodox approach to the game.

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The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLVIII: A Pretty Cool Slam

The Adventures of Team Porcupine, Part XLVIII: A Pretty Cool Slam

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

 

Team Porcupine frequently bids and makes slams that other teams fail to reach. Opponents of the team call this “lucky” and overbidding,” while the Porcupines say it is due to “inference, intuition, and lack of inhibition” or what Kowalski dubbed Third Eye Bidding. The following example will allow readers to make their own decision as to which side is correct:

 

Since Kowalski had good holdings in both majors, he decided to open his 11 point hand 1♣, thus creating a situation where it was more likely that his brilliant partner – Nograwowicz – would be playing the hand. East’s 1NT overcall was the 15 to 17 point variety. Nograwowicz’s 4 call was a cuebid showing slam interest and Kowalski’s 4 bid was another cuebid. West, a very good player from southern California, looked at Nograwowicz like he was a madman when the 6♠ card hit the table. East had shown a minimum of 15 points and he, West, held 7. These Porcupine madmen could not hold more than 16 to 18 points and West could not get the double card on the table fast enough.

West led the queen of diamonds to East’s ace and Nograwowicz won the diamond return with his king. Declarer saw his only problem on this hand was in the trump suit, and if East had both the king and the jack he was sunk, but maybe East had two to the king and West had the singleton jack. At trick three, he led a heart to the ace and then played the queen of spades. East covered and the ace dropped the jack. Nograwowicz then drew the last trump, ruffed two diamonds in dummy and claimed.

The pair at the other table was not as inferential, intuitive, or as lacking in inhibition as Kowalski and Nograwowicz and they settled into a comfortable 2♠ contract, making six when the declarer took the same view in the trump suit as Nograwowicz.   This was a tasty 14 imp swing for Team Porcupine.

As West wrote down the minus 1210 score, he muttered, “You guys only had 18 high card points!”

“Sometimes 18 points can be a pretty cool slam,” Kowalski replied.

 

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The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLI: A Worthless Diamond

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CXLI: A Worthless Diamond

By Ray Adams
frankandarchie@yahoo.com

Poor Frank was in a very tough contract the other night and his chances of making it were slim – unless he could somehow enlist the aid of one of his opponents. Luckily for him, that opponent happened to be Lucky Archie.

 

Poor Frank’s partner, Red Dyeman, must have been trying to get a top board against Lucky Archie, as he certainly bid his 16 high card points to the hilt. Red must have been figuring the hearts would run and Poor Frank would then come up with a minor miracle to make the pushy small slam.

West led the seven of spades, covered by the queen, king, and won by Poor Frank with the ace. Declarer immediately went to work on the hearts. Lucky Archie held off until the second round, then exited with his third heart, as West pitched a spade. Poor Frank now ran dummy’s last two hearts, tossing a spade and a small diamond.   Lucky Archie threw a club on the first heart, then thought for about two seconds when the last one was led, and casually threw a small diamond. West, meanwhile let go of two clubs.

Poor Frank wondered what the spade situation was and how he might come up with a twelfth trick. It looked hopeless, but maybe something would develop if he played off his winners. He started by cashing the jack of spades and took great notice when Lucky Archie played the ten. Could West have led the seven of spades from a five card holding topped by the nine? And if so, might West have both the queen and jack of diamonds as suggested by Lucky Archie’s discard of a low diamond? Poor Frank smiled to himself. Maybe, just maybe, he could justify Red’s extremely aggressive bidding.

Declarer now cashed the ace of clubs and led a club to his king. West had to toss a spade on this card, but when Poor Frank subsequently cashed the queen of clubs, West was faced with a terrible dilemma: if he let go the nine of spades, dummy’s eight would be good, while if he threw a diamond, Poor Frank’s nine of diamonds would take the twelfth trick. Poor Frank soon claimed this improbable small slam for what was a cold top board that allowed him to claim that evening’s laurels.

“Archie, you unthinking clod!” West said after the hand was over. “Why, oh why, did you throw away that small diamond?”

“It was a totally worthless card,” Archie replied. “I only had three to the ten.”

“Yes, but..” West started, then must have realized that his partner was too dense to understand that by throwing a “worthless diamond,” he had subjected his partner to a very real squeeze.

After the game, when Poor Frank was telling Janet about this hand, he said, “I don’t think Lucky Archie ever understood the importance of holding on to his diamonds. He kept saying, ‘I only had three to the ten, what good was that going to do?”

Janet laughed that throaty laugh that Frank loved so much and said, “The important thing was that you noticed what he had done and took advantage of it. But wait, wasn’t it just a week ago that Archie was pontificating on how great he was that he had made an opening lead from three diamonds to the ten?”

“It certainly was,” Poor Frank said. “I guess the value of three to the ten is as flexible as the price of oil.”

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