Main   Almost Hearts 7Z57 by Richard Pavlicek  

Felipe’s Moon Duck

It was the final round of the 24th Annual World Hearts Championship. Seven days of grueling play had eliminated most of the players, and one final game would determine the winner. The “Final Four” would be Marich of the U.S., Val of Cyprus, and two contenders from Brazil: Babi and Felipe.

It was no surprise that Marich and Val made the final, but no one would have picked the Brazilian duo. Babi plays hearts regularly on the Internet, and this was only her second face-to-face tournament. But, wow! She plays her hands like a seasoned pro, counting every card to determine the distribution of each suit. Unfortunately, most of her counted suits have 12 or 14 cards — but close enough.

Felipe is a newcomer to tournament hearts. The young Brazilian star had to get special permission to leave school for a week. This was easily arranged, since his teachers all agreed that mastering hearts was far more important than schoolwork. In hearts, there is a future. But in schoolwork? As always in life, you have to set your priorities straight.

The final match was a thriller. Hundreds of kibitzers watched intently as the cards flew at lightning speed. Val mooned on the first deal but became the queen target on the next two to tighten up the score. From then on the lead changed six times, and after 12 deals it was neck and neck: Marich 87, Val 90, Babi 92, Felipe 95. One more deal would decide the world championship. Passing was to the left.

Final deal S 8 7 6
H A K 5
D 5 2
C J 10 8 7 6
Marich
West
Val
North
Babi
East
Felipe
South
S Q
H 9 8 7 6 4 3
D Q 9 8 4 3
C 4
Table S 5 4 3 2
H 2
D A K J 10 7 6
C 9 3
S A K J 10 9
H Q J 10
D
C A K Q 5 2

This deal had to end the game (someone must break 100) so the strategy was clear: Forget about “low man” and play all out for the win. Felipe, South, eagerly passed his H Q-J-10; Marich passed the S Q and two middle diamonds; Val passed the H A and two high clubs; and Babi passed her three highest diamonds. This left the following:

After the pass S Q 8 7 6
H K 5
D 9 8 5 2
C 8 7 6
Marich
West
Val
North
Babi
East
Felipe
South
S
H Q J 10 9 8 7 6 4 3
D Q 4 3
C 4
Table S 5 4 3 2
H A 2
D 10 7 6
C J 10 9 3
S A K J 10 9
H
D A K J
C A K Q 5 2

Felipe led the C 2 which Babi won with the jack. Babi returned a spade, won by the jack as Marich painted it with the H Q. Felipe could sense a moon with all his high cards, but with hearts broken early he could not afford to give up the lead. (If he led the D J, Marich would win the queen and lead a heart, killing his moon.) Felipe continued cagily with the S 10 and S 9 (it would be foolish for Val to win the queen and take 13 points), then he cashed all his top spades and clubs. It was obvious to everyone that Felipe was trying to moon, so Marich held tight to his diamond stopper. With four cards left, this was the ending:

South to lead S
H K 5
D 5 2
C
Marich
West
Val
North
Babi
East
Felipe
South
S
H 3
D Q 4 3
C
Table S
H A 2
D 7 6
C
S
H
D A K J
C 5

Felipe led his last club and Marich was squeezed! In order to keep his diamond stopper, he had to pitch his last heart; Val and Babi each let go a diamond. Marich’s D Q would have saved the moon against most players. Not only that, but Marich would win the game since he would collect only two points on the last trick. But Felipe sensed what was going on.

There was one last hope: the rare “moon duck.” With three cards remaining Felipe led the jack of diamonds. Marich, of course, won the queen, but he could not collect a heart, since Val and Babi had to follow suit to the diamond. The forced diamond return gave Felipe the last two tricks and a well-deserved moon. Viva la Felipe! The new world champion!

OK, Felipe, you can wake up now.
And I almost forgot: Happy Birthday! TopMain

© 2000 Richard Pavlicek