Dec 152002
 

Substituting this month for Ira Chorush, who deserted his computer without informing his editor, is Phil Hernandez, an experienced Gee-spec, who won a Canadian Open Pairs event once, or finished second, or something. Or maybe it was a side game, I can’t remember.

MPs, None Vul

As South, you (Gee) hold:

S 9 2
H K 10 4
D Q J 9 8 3
C K 7 2

North, East and you all pass. West opens a 15-17 1NT. North bids 2H, alerted
as “majors.” East doubles. WWGD?

Action Score Votes
3 H 100 3
2 S 80 1
2NT 70 2
3 D 30 1
Pass 0 1

 

With so many choices here, would an imaginative bidder like Gee conceivably do something so dull as to pass? To begin with, pass has no preemptive value. Mori: “2HX must be a maker(???!!!) but they will always not sit for it.” Pass also wrong-sides the contract. Ross: “The STCP™ would probably consider pass with a clear preference for hearts over spades. But since there are tricks to be gained in the play if partner doesn’t declare, bidding on seems to the correct course.”

And what of the captain-crew implications? Robert: “At the start of the deal the players in third and fourth seats are the captains for their respective sides, so that was Gerard in this case. He didn’t have enough points to ask questions to the crew, so he relinquished his captainship by passing. If partner had passed at his next turn he likewise would have relinquished his captainship, and all bids by that side from that point on would have been unique noncommital bids which are only meant to compete rather than to look for game. However partner did not choose to do this, so his 2H bid served the purpose of appointing himself as captain, and thus Gerard is the crew at this point in the auction, so his job is to pass info to the captain. A pass would send no info to the captain at all, and with a maximum hand for his initial pass Gerard knows better. That is the sort of bid an STCP™ might make, so Pass is out.”

Smith has a far-sighted objection: “If I pass partner might think that I am broke and may never play me for any cards if we end up defending and this may lead to poor defense, so pass is definitely out of the question.”

The sole panelist who did elect to pass was at least abashed by it. Larsen: “I’m not very creative today, can think of no other call than pass. Very disappointing I am sure.” Chris will show his chops in time.

Hernandez aptly summarizes the consensus: “The one thing Gerard could not have done is pass, given that call’s plain-as-the-carcinogens-in-his-lungs merits.”

3D right-sides the hand, among other advantages, as Hernandez again points out: “clear cut if we were reviewing the Hideous Hog’s probable calls.” And there is the small matter of having support for partner. Smith: “I do have a good biddable diamond suit but my hand is too flat and we most likely don’t have a diamond fit even though a diamond lead will be great if partner has an honor. I hope that I will get to bid them later time permitting.”

Is QJ983 a good suit? Depends who you ask. Wiss: “I suspect there will be votes for a forcing 3D call, but any expert worth his salt would much rather support partner with such a good trump holding than to bid an anemic suit and perhaps get partner off to a poor lead should the opponents buy the hand.” On the other hand there is Tuncok: “He may have a doubleton honor or perhaps 3 diamonds. We do also have decent intermediate spots in diamonds…having done the expert’s analysis (god help me)– 3D looks like the winning call to me.” Yeah yeah. Looks to me like you just want to play the hand.

Gee’s all-time favorite bid, the burger 2NT, seems so compelling here that some panelists suspected a trap; surely the answer couldn’t be that simple. Hernandez: “While a traditional favorite of the Gee-man’s, [2NT] must nevertheless be discounted because Gee uses it only when his side opens the bidding.” Ross: “Taking 8 tricks in NT with less than half the HCPs seems quite unlikely.”

2NT certainly has flexibility in its favor. Wiss: “Here I suspect there will be votes for the infamous Burger bid of 2NT, NT in this case being a cuebid agreeing hearts.” Tuncok: “2N is clearly t/o for minors. It may land us in 3C which is less than desirable.”

And in two cases it proved irresistible. Smith: “It shows that I have stoppers in all the unbid suits. All my values, except king of hearts, are wasted playing in a suit contract but very valuable in notrump. I have a balanced hand with no fit. Partner has been doubled in the only fit that we have, so my RHO my have all of the remaining hearts and the contract will be played much better from Gerard’s hand then his partners because almost every time Gerard plays, he is much better than his partner. Plus 2nt also has the advantage of keeping the opps out of notrump. If the opps are crazy enough to bid 3nt, I will whack them and they will be sorry. This is what I would have bid at the table.” Perhaps it’s time for Mark to place another call to the neurosurgeon.

Similar reasoning is offered by Robert: “2NT has a lot going for it. It gets them out of the majors where the opponents are doubling. It scores well at matchpoints. It shows Gerard’s solid stoppers in the minors, which are needed after partner showed the majors. And it gets the better declarer on play. All things considered, 2NT is the only correct choice in this situation, and as thus is my guess for what Gerard chose at the table.” Perhaps this is the neurosurgeon Mark should call.

2S was ignored by many panelists, but it too has virtues. Robert argues: “The opponents are already doubling 2H, and since Gerard’s hearts are better than his spades, they are clearly prepared to double a spade bid as well, so 2S is out.” Not so fast! What if North is 5-4, or 6-4, or 6-5? Ross sees a little deeper into the hand: “Given the double, and our heart holding partner may very well have longer spades than hearts. He may have 6 spades and not opened a weak 2 because of his heart holding. So we bid the obvious 2S!”

Points for imagination, but really, what is more quintessentially Gee than a raise of a contract that’s already doubled for penalty? The obvious objection comes from Robert: “It is important in competitive auctions like this to get the better player to declare.” Point well taken, but no bid is perfect. Even the panelists who chose other bids are sorely tempted. Smith: “I can see raising the suit. Most experts follow the creed that if you double the opponents for penalty at the 2 or 3 level and then the opponents proceed to bid game in the same suit, don’t double them. Gee being an expert and knowing this psychological strategy may have used this to his full advantage and raised hearts.” The bid’s value as an agent of chaos is noted by Tuncok: “We could also try to confuse the opponents by bidding 3H or redoubling. Responder may think the opener made a t/o double and bid over it. Who knows maybe the opener made a t/o double in the first place and we may be missing our sweet little 4H game.”

Time to hear from our winners. Mori has already mapped out the hand: “Unless my partner is an idiot we cannot have less than a 53 fit and the double can only be a tripleton at most. Spades must split and the NT opener had to be based on a 6 card club suit so how bad is 3H?” Sound reasoning, except maybe for that first part.

Wiss: “I personally think an expert like Gee would correctly devalue his CK, since it is sitting under the strong hand, and I therefore cast my vote for the simple raise to 3H, quietly inviting game and denying a hand good enough to cuebid. O, you say, the X of 2H was penalty? Well, in that case 3H may completely bamboozle opener, who may bid four of a minor and possibly go minus. Not only that, but 3HX is ‘slam’, while 2HX is only game. May as well shoot for the big reward.”

The last word goes to our substitute panelist. Hernandez: “The one call that stands out from all others, sparkling like an Entsoft-designed website, that absolutely nails the Randle P. McMurphy award is 3H. Simple yet demented. As elegant as it is preposterous. A new twist on an old theme: in stripe-tailed ape doubles, you double a game (or slam) bid in the hopes that it will inhibit the opponents from reaching a (higher-scoring) slam while retaining the option of escaping to your own suit if they redouble. In this version, you start by redoubling! If as in this case, there is insufficient evidence that the redouble will induce the opponents to run, you escape into your suit immediately! A preemptive counterstrike, as it were, but of the non compos mentis variety.”

The Moral

North held:

S A J 10 8 7
H A 9 7 5
D 5 4
C 9 5

3H (doubled, needless to say) gets normal breaks and goes off 2, for -300 and none of the matchpoints.

The Standings

Panelist Hands Average Score
Mori 2 100
Wiss 2 100
Chorush 1 100
Hernandez 1 100
Ross 2 90
Smith 2 85
Robert 2 75
Tuncok 2 35
Larsen 2 0

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