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NICHOLAS MERCER: Playing cribbage against a pair of national champions

Anne Dubec and Dennis Fewer are Dominion Command cribbage doubles national champions after they won the tournament held at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 480 in Ottawa.
Anne Dubec and Dennis Fewer are Dominion Command cribbage doubles national champions after they won the tournament held at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 480 in Ottawa. - Nicholas Mercer

Anne Dubec’s father had a rule when it came to cribbage. If a pair of the same card appeared in the first six cards, he wouldn’t split them up. It's a rule Dubec is thinking about breaking now.  

She and I are into our fourth hand of a crib game at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 12 in Grand Falls-Windsor. Surrounded by portraits of fallen military veterans and other war relics, Dubec reluctantly splits the pair. Discarding her two cards — she doesn’t break the rule for the rest of the game — into the crib pile, we start progressing through the hand. Eventually, I end up with 15 points and push out to a modest lead.

Dubec and her partner, Dennis Fewer, won the national doubles title at the Dominion Command Cribbage championship in Ottawa. Paul Lane and Beverly Thistle were also members of Team NL.

Playing out of Grand Falls-Windsor, they are the second national champions to come out of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 12 in the community. Previously, a team from there representing NL won the team championship in 2012.

To get there, the pair had to get through the local tournament before winning the zone competition in Botwood, and then finally coming out on top of the provincial tournament in Portugal Cove on the east coast.

“We held our own up there,” said Fewer.

Fewer consistently picks up points at every turn. Last cards, cut jacks, forming a 15 and securing runs are all items in a players’ toolbox that Fewer frequently employs. It's helped him jump out to an early lead. It is a lead he has no intention of giving up for the course of the game.

What about me?

Well, points are coming slower than they were in the previous game with Dubec, and I can’t seem to make any ground on my opponent.

Dubec and Fewer had never played in a doubles competition with each other before Ottawa. It meant learning each other’s tendencies on the fly. However, a couple of things are true no matter how long you’ve been playing together – if you get the right cards, you’re going to do well, and you always try to set your partner up with a favourable lie whenever you get a chance.

“You have to have a strategy and a lot of luck,” said Fewer of doing well. “You have to have the cards.”

The games I play against Dubec and Fewer are vastly different. In the first match with Dubec, l keep getting the right cards and accumulating points. Dubec is getting the cards too, and after a short-lived lead for myself, it is a race to the finish and pegging out.

Anyone who tells you there isn’t any drama in a game of cribbage is lying to you. I am slightly ahead with the crib heading into what would be the final hand.

Dubec gets to count her cards first. She gets six points and secures the win.

Fewer, on the other hand, has spent our game accumulating points and pulling ahead. He’s hung onto every ace he gets and consistently makes 31 for two points at the beginning of each hand.

Over the game, those add up and he is comfortably ahead by the time I get close to the skunk line. It is a line that I never cross and Fewer wins handily in the last game I play, for now, at the Legion.

I just couldn’t get the cards I needed to score points.

Scoring points wasn’t a problem for the two in Ottawa. Over the course of a double round-robin, they kept racking up scores and winning games by either pegging, skunk or double skunk.

They won more than they lost and never looked at the scoreboard.

At the end of the tournament, they found themselves tied at the top of the leaderboard with 25 points. That meant a best-of-three showdown with Nova Scotia, which they won and took the place of the five-time national champion as the top doubles team in Canada.

“We’ve been on cloud nine ever since we won,” said Dubec.

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