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 cards like a seasoned pro, counting every hand to determine the distribution of each suit. (Unfortunately, most of her counted suits have either 12 or 14 cards — but what the heck.)

Felipe is a newcomer to tournament hearts. This young Brazilian star had to get special permission to leave school for a week — it was easily arranged since his teachers all agreed that mastering hearts was far more important than schoolwork. At hearts, there is a great future. But schoolwork? In life, you have to get 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 even up the score. From then on the lead changed almost every deal. After 12 deals the score was: Marich 87, Val 90, Babi 92, Felipe 95. Here is the fateful deal that would decide the world championship. Felipe was South.

Before the pass

S 8 7 6
H A K 5
D 5 2
C J 10 8 7 6
S Q
H 9 8 7 6 4 3
D Q 9 8 4 3
C 4
TableS 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

West
Marich
North
Val
East
Babi
South
Felipe

This deal had to end the game (someone would hit 100 or more) so the strategy was clear: Forget about “low man” and go all out for the win. Felipe passed the 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 biggest diamonds.

After the pass

S Q 8 7 6
H K 5
D 9 8 5 2
C 8 7 6
S
H Q J 10 9 8 7 6 4 3
D Q 4 3
C 4
TableS 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
S
H 3
D Q 4 3
C
TableS
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; Marich would win the game since he would collect only two points on the last trick. But Felipe knew what was going on.

There was only one chance: the rare “moon duck.” With three cards left, Felipe led the jack of diamonds. Marich, of course, won the queen, but he could not get 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!

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© 2000 Richard Pavlicek