Ask Dr. Robert

Aug 112002

“Well well well you’re feeling fine…”

Dr. Robert is a graduate of the College of Medicine of the University of Guatemala and holds a master’s degree in sports medicine from UCLA. He is board-certified in Ecuador and licensed to practice in Uruguay, Mexico, and several Caribbean islands. Although Dr. Robert is a highly trained professional, he urges you to consult your own physician before acting on any medical advice offered here.

Apr 082003

Dear Dr. Robert,

If Gee doubles you in a contract, should you automatically redouble, applying the extended Bones Principle, and would that then be alertable?

Greedy Gus, Galt’s Gulch, USA

Dear GeeGee,

No you should absolutely not automatically redouble just because G doubled you, but you should be on the alert for the situations in which it is most advisable. Consider the disadvantages of a forced Bones Principle redouble. For one, it is very difficult to play the hand when you don’t know who has what, as is the case when Gee has entered the bidding. Many a trick has been lost by opponents who thought they knew where the cards were, only to have the planned line of play go up in smoke as Gerard had one of his, shall we say, “less than conventional” doubles. The Bones Principle redouble also tends to frighten Gerard’s partners into leaving. You can’t keep piling up the IMPs if the game doesn’t continue now can you? Better to win 8 IMPs per hand in which you are doubled than 12 IMPs once. Nonetheless, there are situations in which judicious use of the blue card can be most profitable against Gerard. It is high time to redouble when:

  • You have issued a Bones double to Gerard, only to see your (apparently inexperienced partner) pull it and be doubled by Gerard. You must protect the equity that you have just lost on the board because of your partner’s poorly timed flight of brilliancy.
  • Gerard doubles in front of you when you were about to bid more anyway. Need I comment further?
  • Gerard was in spec discussing my editor during the previous hand. You know that his blood is now boiling until he goes on a cig break, and he may tend to be a little too quick to double, at which time you should take full advantage.
  • On the last hand. It’s now or never, hombre.

Mar 222003

Dear Dr. Robert,

Why won’t Gerard cut his hair? Does he believe, like Samson, that it is the real source of his bridge ability?

Confused in Canaan

Dear Delilah,

On the contrary. His table feel is so precise and sensitive that if he didn’t maintain some sort of blocking device around his eyes, he would always deduce the cards of each opponent from their mannerisms, pupil dilation, breathing patterns, and general behavior. Think of the parents who always know when their kid is perpetrating mischief just around the corner.

Of course there are the aesthetic considerations. My coiffe consultant says: “It screams so many things at me! It’s a little mad scientist and a little nutty professor, a little Medusa and a little Helen of Troy. It says ‘Look at me!’ with one breath and ‘Go away!’ with the next. Your friend Gerard is lookin’ fine!” I can add only that, speaking personally, I think it’s dead sexy. Grrroowwwlllll…ahem, that will be all for today.

Mar 042003

Dear Dr. Robert:

Could you explain, for us Gee-novices, the difference between Gee’s treatment of unusual and unusual unusual notrump? Is it possible that a third level, an unusual unusual unusual notrump, could clarify certain differences in interpretation?

—Dazzled in Duluth

Dear DD:

I’m glad to see that novices in the master’s way are reading my column along with the more seasoned. Share the wealth, is my philosophy, and I am always glad to cover simple bidding problems as well. Remember, the only way I know what to write about is when you, the faithful reader, write in and tell me! So keep that feedback coming — especially the negative feedback. Some of that is pretty damn funny.

As to your questions, Gee does indeed extend the theory of unusual notrump beyond the comprehension of the mere STCP™. While you and your next door neighbor are of course familiar with a jump to 2 notrump to show the lower unbid suits, or perhaps the minors for some of you old fogies out there, Gerard has explored strange new worlds in which the unusual notrump has many more uses. These are some, though by no means all, of the more expert treatments:

  • The unusual-unusual notrump. The most comprehensive of his advanced ideas. The main advantage to this method can be seen when opponents attempt a countermeasure. Most people counter the normal unusual notrump with a method called “unusual vs. unusual.” But to counter this method people would have to play “unusual vs. unusual-unusual” and clearly the single unusual of the opponent would be no match for the double unusuals of Gee. This is a useful weapon for any player to add to his or her bidding arsenal.
  • The really freaking weird notrump. Here we take unusual to the next dimension, or possibly the next universe. Examples of this treatment abound on Aaron’s website, for instance here, and here, also here and here and over here, not to mention my personal favorite. Even his partners have been known to employ it. Any 2NT bid that no one else has ever thought to use in such a fashion fits this category.
  • The rightsiding notrump. Hand hogging, though familiar to many of us, has been raised by Gerard to an art, all for the sake of the partnership of course. I mean, if you were on a basketball team with Michael Jordan and Tonya Harding, who would you want to have the ball? Exactly. Closely related to this is
  • The Burger notrump. Can’t decide what to bid? Nothing fits your hand exactly? All bidding systems struggle with this problem, except Gee’s. Just bid 2NT and let partner figure it out! Although this doesn’t always produce superb results at the table, it is highly effective in the post mortem, where it really counts.

Gee’s innovative ideas will shape the face of bridge for years to come, and everyone from the slack-jawed yokel of the Midwestern plains to the sex-crazed bonobo monkey of the lush plains of Africa can reap the windfall. Well, not the monkey, and maybe not the yokel either, but you catch my drift.

PS — Apologies to all my dear fans, as I shall be racking up the masterpoints in Philadelphia for a while. I’ll report in upon my return.

Feb 272003

Dear Dr. Robert:

What was up with the three-month holiday? Don’t you keep office hours?


Dear What,

It feels good to be back! I’ve gotten dozens of letters like yours, so let’s get down to it. I was undercover on a highly dangerous research expedition. My goal, as ever, was to find out all I can about Gerard so that I could better deliver to you and your brethren, all the Ben Dublins and Ivana Specgees out there, the information that you want — that you need — to know! I can’t go into too many details, but intelligence-gathering is a risky business. I hacked my way through dense jungles eluding desperadoes, and dodging bullets in Gee-spec daily, all for your edification. The results have been spectacular; my knowledge of the man and his methods has increased to a degree that not even I thought possible.

Start reading my columns regularly for the latest in:

  • Bones doubles, and their applications and corrolaries.
  • All Gee’s favorite conventions, such as Gerber, unusual notrump, and unusual unusual notrump.
  • Captain/Crew/First-Mate/Deck-Swabbing theory.
  • Partnership bridge: Gerard style!
  • Moles at Gerard’s tables. Who are they? How should they be punished?
  • What is Aaron up to these days?
  • The man himself. What makes Gerard tick?

So let’s get those questions coming in! Nothing is too difficult, too controversial, or too embarrassing: all questions will be answered! Remember to keep reading, because it’s hard to mock an idiot if you’re one yourself. So to you dear reader, I wish a good night and a pleasant tomorrow.

Jan 032003

Dear Dr. Robert:

I’ve lost all my students. No money is coming in. I’ve bought a gun and I’m debating whether to use it on Aaron or myself. I’m at the end of my rope. What should I do?

–G.C., Costa Mesa, CA

Dear Pathos,

Yes, my holiday was very pleasant. Restful. Thanks for asking.

First, don’t use the gun on Aaron. I can’t stress this enough. I’m not saying there’s any special medical reason you shouldn’t use the gun on Aaron, but Aaron wouldn’t like it, and he is my editor after all.

What you should do instead is consider what the world would be like if you had never been born. Hundreds of people watch you on OKBridge. On New Year’s Eve alone, if your spectators had been out on the road, it’s highly likely, statistically, that there would have been another traffic fatality, or injury, or at least a fender-bender. Then your students — who would have imparted the ins and outs of captain-crew theory to them if not you? What about poor Mr. Gower, the pharmacist? He would have poisoned that boy if you hadn’t been johnny-on-the-spot to catch his mistake. Oh wait, that was someone else. In any case, you catch my drift. Keep your chin up, and remember, no man is poor who still has friends. Also, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.

Nov 072002

Dear Dr. Robert:

Does Gerard really believe he’s an expert? Or does he think, deep down, that he just can’t play this game at all?

–A Tyro


Of course he really believes he’s an expert. He is an expert. However, Gerard has been, for some time, playing an elaborate confidence game on the rest of the bridge world. Several years ago he perfected his game. With nothing left to learn, he grew bored. And to create a new challenge, he began, with the aid of a few trusted conspirators, known in public as “students,” to try to convince the world that he is, in reality, awful.

The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. Could anyone compress defensive tricks at such an astonishing rate without knowing the location of every card in the deck? Could your everyday Joe misplay hands so regularly without a solid grounding in the fundamentals of declarer play? Could you or I misbid so consistently if we didn’t know what the correct bid was in the first place? Of course not! So the next time you sit down to oppose Gerard, remember this: He is toying with you, the way children pull the wings off flies, and if he wanted to beat you, oh he would. He certainly would.

Nov 062002

Dear Dr. Robert:

I am fascinated with Gee’s theories on captaincy. Is there a limit to the number of times that the captain and the crew can switch identities during the course of bidding a hand? Also, when one member of the Gee partnership leaves in disgust after a disastrous hand, does the remaining member inherit the title of captain so that he may go down with his ship? Just sign me,

–Andrea Doria

Dear Andy:

The number of captain/crew role reversals is limited only by the number of bids in an auction. I have witnessed hands where Gerard was captain, then crew, then captain, then crew, then first mate, and eventually swabbing the decks of the bloody mess he left behind. Besides, a limit to the number of switches might prevent Gerard from becoming captain at the end of a difficult auction to save the hand before his partner drags them both down! After all, the last thing we all need is more website material for Aaron. [Well, perhaps not the last thing. –Ed.]

When one member of the partnership leaves in disgust, all ranks cease to exist. Now think: a helpless life raft with one frightened passenger is about to be swallowed up by a tidal wave. You need a captain and crew?

Man overboard!

Oct 232002

Dear Dr. Robert:

There has been much conversation recently about who is the captain and who is the crew. However, this seems to apply only to bidding. “The Best Defense…” raises the question, who is the captain when defending?

–Defense Sitter

Dear DS:

Excellent question! Recall that, in standard captain/crew theory, the first player to bid is the crew. Analogously, on defense the opening leader is always the crew, and his partner is always the captain. The leader (crew) passes information to his partner (captain) with his opening lead, and if the captain needs more information he can use his cards to ask questions to the crew. For example, against a 3NT contract the crew leads the 2 of hearts, passing the information “I have four hearts.” The captain wins the heart ace (from either bare ace, ace king, or ace king queen, as he has no obligation to pass information to the crew) and returns the 2 of spades, asking the question “why did you make such a terrible heart lead when a spade was clearly called for on the auction?” The crew wins the ace of spades (he cannot now have the king, as he does have to pass information to the captain) and returns the 3 of hearts, passing the information “a heart was correct, and your spade play was terrible.” The captain wins the king, throws his cards out the window, and drives home. This asks the question “why did I agree to play bridge with you in the first place?”

And remember, on the trip home, to thank Gerard for perfecting the theory for you.

Oct 192002

Dear Aaron:

Dr. Robert is too mean-spirited and cruel. He just goes too far. Period.

–Whinging in Wichita

Dear Witchy Woman:

You know, I try to take a well-earned holiday, catch up on my tan, pick the umbrellas out of my drinks, and then my editor has to spoil it by forwarding me letters like this one.

Look buddy, you telling me how to do my job? You see me walk into McDonald’s and tell you you just forgot someone’s pickles? You like to tell people what to do, why don’t you go to Gerard’s table and tell his partners to stop killing him?

Your unhealthy concern for me indicates a grueling regimen of treatment, administered, of course, by me. And just so you don’t think I’m too cruel and mean-spirited, because you’re a desperate case, I will reduce my usual fee1 to $199.99 per session.2 And you can be sure those are dollars well spent, as there are but two people in the world whose professional advice and services justify such a price: Gerard Cohen and myself. Consider yourself fortunate that you live in an age in which it is possible to enlist the services of such expertly trained and thoroughly experienced professionals. Call my office; all major credit cards accepted.

1You don’t want to know.
2A session is 20 minutes.

Oct 082002

Dear Esteemed Colleague:

I must amplify your response to “Angry in Angola.” The tests you referred to on cloning are only half the story. At the same time, top secret testing of cryogenics was going on in a distant lab. The results shocked the scientific community. It seems that the subject lacks a certain enzyme that makes cryogenics possible. This has never been seen before or since, yet it is demonstrated daily at the bridge table, where, every time the subject picks up an icy cold hand, within seconds it melts away to the contract graveyard. I felt I must clear this up for you lest your good name be besmirched.

–Dr. J. Bozerello, Kingston, Jamaica

Dear Esteemed Colleague:

I, in turn, would like to offer my sincere gratitude for the amplification and the support. As you probably know, I am already under fire from the medical community for my study of the mind of the bridge expert, but I refuse to cave in to narrow-minded and ignorant prejudice. NASA may have slashed my funding, but when my latest report, a complete lexicon of the bridge expert, comes out…well, just remember that they laughed at Edison, they laughed at Fulton. A few examples:

unmakeable adj. Cold.
upside down count and attitude n. Random.
e-book n. Exactly like a real book, but misspelled, mispunctuated, ungrammatical, full of misinformation, and not on paper.
expert n. 1. A person who can type the word “expert” into his profile on OKBridge. 2. A person who can persuade at least one other person to pay him for playing. 3. A person who claims to be written about by a publication he claims never to read. 4. A person who has never won or placed highly in an important tournament of any kind.

The importance of this path-breaking research should be clear. Please give, and give generously, and don’t forget to use my Cayman Islands account.