The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part CLVIII: Lucky Archie and the Knell of Kibitzers
By Ray Adams
Poor Frank and Lucky Archie were surrounded by kibitzers as they played the last hand of the evening the other night at the local duplicate club.
The club’s kibitzers had followed this hand around the room as it was surely the most interesting hand of the evening. The results had been all over the place: four hearts making, four spades doubled making, five hearts down, five hearts making, five spades doubled down one, six hearts down one or two and even six spades doubled down two. They were in a state of excitement and anticipation as the club’s two giants tried to best each other on this tricky board.
Poor Frank’s partner missed an inference when Poor Frank passed following East’s four spade bid. The pass undoubtedly meant that the three spade splinter bid had not improved Poor Frank’s hand. North still made a slam try with a five club cue bid and Poor Frank now co-operated, probably wrongly, with a five diamond cue bid. This was all North needed to hear and the slam was reached.
Lucky Archie as usual, gave no thought to his opening lead and tossed the seven of diamonds onto the table. When the mass of kibitzers saw this, they reacted – albeit silently in the approved manner of kibitzers – by jerking slightly and twisting their eyebrows into weird and impossible angles. In some cases, the ear hair even stood up as straight as a soldier at attention. Although no word was said, it was clear the kibitzers did not approve of this lead. It was almost as though someone had yelled, “What are you doing, you dolt? Did you not hear South’s diamond cue bid? Why not cash your ace of spades?”
But the lead was on the table and it went to the deuce, jack, and ace. Poor Frank looked despondent, as it seemed he had far two many losers, even if the club finesse worked. He played the ace of hearts, seeing that East was void in trumps, then a heart to the queen. He cashed the ace of clubs, noticing that East played the ten. He returned to his eight of hearts, picking up the last enemy trump.
Poor Frank thought about the play of the ten of clubs. Could East be showing a doubleton to partner for some reason? It seemed unlikely. The law of restricted choice implied that East had to play the ten, either because it was a singleton or perhaps it was paired with the queen of clubs, which East would never have tossed.
Declarer now led a club. When West followed low, he had to make a choice. As he thought, he realized it would be extremely sweet to bring this contract home and make Lucky Archie pay for his thoughtless lead. So he called for dummy’s king, and lo and behold, East’s queen dropped. Poor Frank smiled to himself. He now had it made. He led a club to his nine, a trump to dummy’s jack, and cashed the jack of clubs, discarding his losing spade. He played the king of diamonds, gave up a diamond, and claimed on a crossruff.
The kibitzers now erupted into an explosion of comments, the two words “bad lead” being heard over and over again. Players lined up to congratulate Poor Frank, who had not finished first for several weeks.
Later, when Poor Frank was discussing that evening’s hands with Janet, he said, “You know when you say a collection of something in English, there are special terms, like a pod of whales, a pride of lions, a herd of cows, or a bevy of beauties. What’s the term for kibitzers?”
“I don’t think there is one, darling,” Janet said. “but I like a kitsch of kibitzers, since they behave in such a tacky manner.”
“Or how about a klutz of kibitzers,” Poor Frank said, “since they are way too clumsy to play or bid a hand correctly themselves.”
“Ah, but in this case,” Janet said, “I think I prefer a knell of kibitzers since their actions when Archie led seemed to foretell his doom.”
“Yes, let’s go with that,” Frank said.