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.

Sep 172002

Dear Dr. Robert:

I love your column and read it religiously! Could you please tell me, is a Bones Principle double alertable?

–Buffaloed in Buffalo

Dear Buffy,

Excellent question! The recommended procedure is not quite the same on OKBridge as it is in an ACBL-sactioned event, but since Gerard is understandably reluctant to play in ACBL tournaments, perhaps because of the well-known shortcomings of his partners, let’s limit our discussion to OKBridge. Clearly players are entitled to full disclosure of all information imparted in their opponents’ bidding, and this is no exception. Bones doubles should be alerted with an explanation similar to “doesn’t promise any particular defensive values of any kind.” It is a common mistake to assume that Gee’s superior table presence and command of modern expert bidding eliminate the need to alert him to what should clearly be a standard treatment at his table, but one must nonetheless alert, just as one would for Garozzo, or Soloway. Besides, Gee’s partner should have the information too, so he can prepare his apologies for overbidding in advance while Gee is holding the loss on the hand to 1100.

Good luck!

Sep 182002

Dear Dr. Robert:

What sort of charm or amulet should Gee’s partners carry to overcome Gee’s bad luck?

— Superstitious in the Sudan

Dear Su-Su-Sudio:

Sometimes even the experts need experts. I consulted my friend and colleague, Witch Doctor Wendy. She is exceptionally well-versed in voodoo and black magic, and has come up with a do-it-yourself home kit which no one who plays with Gee should be without.

  • A printed-out copy of Bridge is a Conversation, for quick and easy reference in case you don’t know what to bid. Plus it makes for great bathroom reading.
  • A granola bar. High blood sugar is essential to maintain the alertness that partnering Gee requires.
  • A large mallet. To beat your head in whenever appropriate, Looney Tunes style.
  • A horseshoe (metal only). Doubles as a hard object to throw through a window, should you feel the need to act on your frustrations.
  • A copy of my autobiography, Preemptive Vulnerable Overcalls in the Mist: My Life Studying Gee. Coming soon to a bookstore near you.

Sep 182002

Dear Dr. Robert:

You’re in spec at Gee’s. He knows you’re there and calls up to invite you to play. You want to protect your Lehmans on the one hand and continue to spec on the other. What do you do?

–S.G., Tampa, FL

Hey S.G.,

Don’t I know you from somewhere? Maybe not. In any case, you’ll be pleased to know you have several options in this awkward situation.

1. The “crash and burn” approach. Say, “I would be happy to play with you Gee, but that family of crows nesting in your hair knows more about the game than you do.” Sure, you will miss out forever on the joys of speccing at Gee’s table, but there are convenient places to keep up with the goings-on, and at least you will go down in a glorious flaming wreck that all will enjoy watching.

2. The “feed the ego till it can’t eat no more” approach. Say “The pleasure would be all mine, but you expert types intimidate me, and your play is so enjoyable to watch from above that I’ll just stay up here thanks.” It’s like giving your dog a nice juicy t-bone steak straight from the table. You just know that every night from then on he will be begging right at your side come dinner time. Roll over ego, roll over…Gooooooood ego.

3. The “I want to be famous” approach. Accept the invitation. I know it sounds like suicide, but consider: scientific study had demonstrated that Gee’s Lehmans are right around 30. So say you indulge in some matchpoints with Gee, you have a Lehman of 50, and the opponents are 55ers. You only need a 100(30+50)/(30+50+55+55) = 8000/190 = 42.1% game to break even, so you can take your average minuses with pride! And being tight with the G-ster has its perks. He can be your link into the expert community to meet Rodwell and Helgemo and all the others, and if you’re really lucky he’ll give you a discount on his e-book once he has deduced to his satisfaction that you need it. Finally, playing with Gee gives you the power to induce some memorable post mortems for all the specs to enjoy. Trust me, they will appreciate it.

Sep 192002


Can you give us any tips on how to play with Gerard? I’ve played with him many times, and I still don’t have the slightest idea how to go about it. Thanks.

–The Seaman, San Antonio, TX

Hey Sailor,

Fleet’s in, eh? The fact that someone with your extensive experience playing with Gerard still needs advice points to the extreme difficulty in doing so, and care required. In a recent column I recommended a handy kit to keep with you at all times during the game, but there are other useful hints. First, bid notrump ASAP. This dramatically improves your chances of playing the hand, and as we all know Gee makes an impeccable dummy. Gee also has a severe case of captainizationophilia, or, in layman’s terms, pathological desire to take over auctions. Since notrump bidders rarely become the captain of sane auctions this often leads to difficulties. But if you get that notrump bid in first, then you misdescribe your hand quickly and easily, and let your partner’s expert judgment guide you the rest of the way!

You should also take the low road in the bidding and play as often as possible. You STCPs think that just because you’ve seen Gerard do something that you can do it too. Nonsense: it took Gerard dozens of years and thousands of hands to hone his skills, just as you weren’t born knowing how to polish the brass and swab the decks. Now that’s a lesson you can carry with you on all your expeditions through the high seas. Ahoy cap’n, stix and wheels dead ahead!

Sep 212002

Dear Dr. Robert:

Playing with Gerard, I recently recorded a plus result over twenty hands. Does this mean that God loves me?

–Mystified in Missoula

Dear Misty,

Yes. Yes it does. I am inspired to compose a hymn to the occasion:

Blessed be he
Who plays with Gee;
Who takes the fall
To amuse us all.
You won! You won!
Enough, be done!
Don’t run amok
And press your luck.

Sep 242002

Dear Dr. Robert:

As much as it pains us to face it, none of us is getting any younger and no one can ever hope to follow in Gee’s illustrious bridge footsteps. Should we be thinking cryogenics or cloning or should we just let him take his unique and rightful place in history?

Fearful of Fate

Dear Fateful,

You are not the first to consider this fascinating concept. Medicine has investigated cloning all of the greats, from Michael Jordan to Michael Jackson, from Pavarotti to Madonna, from Dr. Ruth to Dr. Robert, and Gerard is no exception. I myself have come across images from a previous experiment to clone Gee that went horribly, horribly wrong. You should turn away at this point if you are pregnant, nursing, thinking of becoming pregnant, under the age of 18, or have a personal or family history of heart conditions.

The same in every detail, but with 1/8 the bridge skill.

Apparently there was a mixup in the petri dish, and fortunately it ended, this time, with Gerard and Mini-Gee cornered in their effort to escape the lab. This sort of experiment should be a distant memory for the sake of all our safety. And there are other difficulties. After the hand, would they each blame the other for overbidding, or would they acknowledge the lack of luck in the expert partnership? I leave this for the more philosophical brethren to ponder: If two Gees overbid, and no one is around to blame, does it still go for stix and wheels?

Sep 262002

Dear Dr. Robert:

You’re partnering Gee. He goes down in an ice cold game contract. After the hand he accuses you of overbidding. What’s the best reply?

–Angry in Angola

Dear Angie,

Apologize. You are clearly misanalyzing the hand, because if it were ice cold an expert would never go down. Therefore you must have overbid to put him there. I recommend the following books to correct your bidding deficiencies, in order of increasing importance: Develop Your Bidding Judgement, by Terrence Reese, Points Shmoints, by Marty Bergen and of course Bridge Is a Conversation, by Gerard Cohen. These groundbreaking works will help you form winning bidding fundamentals, and sharpen your decision making so you don’t embarrass Gee like that again. Remember, just because you’ve seen Gerard make a bid doesn’t mean that you can do it too, at least not until you develop his table presence and feel.

Sep 282002

Dear Dr. Robert:

You’re playing OKB 2/1 with Gee, holding Kx xx Qxx AQJxxx. Gee opens 1D first seat. The auction continues pass, 2C (from you, game-forcing), 2H overcall to your left. Gee bids 2NT. What does it show?

–M.D.W., Toronto, Canada

Dear Mr. Principle,

The auction you refer to, 1D-P-2C-2H-2NT, has several possible interpretations when bid by Gerard. The first, and likeliest, is natural, but without implying a heart stopper. Stoppers are for bathtubs and wine bottles. It makes no sense for Gee to confine the advantages of having himself declare, and discouraging a heart lead, to hands with an actual heart holding.

2NT could also be unusual for the suits unbid by your side (spades and hearts in this case) and thus a 4441 hand; or unusual for the two lowest suits and thus a 2155 hand; or just asking for more information from the crew (you). Now let’s consider your rebid. Ignore the fact that you’ve already forced to game: it is a well-accepted principle in captaincy theory that the crew can only force the captain by bidding a new suit. Therefore, to force Gerard to bid and not miss a good 1100, you must bid the only new suit there is, 3S. Remember, 3H would not be forcing: it’s not a new suit. If you’re still confused, what are you waiting for? Order your copy of Bridge Is a Conversation today!

Sep 302002

Dear Dr. Robert:

When watching Gerard I have heard some spectators refer to his “paranoia” and others to his “delusions of grandeur.” I’m confused. Can one have both at once? If not, who is right? I await the diagnosis of a trained medical professional.

–S.F., Vienna, Austria


Do I have to explain everything to you? Consulting the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth ed. ( DSM-IV), we find the following:

Paranoid perceptions and behavior may appear as features of a number of mental illnesses, including depression and dementia, but are most prominent in three types of psychological disorders: paranoid schizophrenia, delusional disorder (persecutory type), and paranoid personality disorder (PPD). Individuals with paranoid schizophrenia and persecutory delusional disorder experience what is known as persecutory delusions: an irrational, yet unshakable, belief that someone is plotting against them. Persecutory delusions in paranoid schizophrenia are bizarre, sometimes grandiose, and often accompanied by auditory hallucinations. Delusions experienced by individuals with delusional disorder are more plausible than those experienced by paranoid schizophrenics; not bizarre, though still unjustified. Individuals with delusional disorder may seem offbeat or quirky rather than mentally ill, and, as such, may never seek treatment.

“Sometimes grandiose”: that enough for you? The manual continues:

Persons with paranoid personality disorder tend to be self-centered, self-important, defensive, and emotionally distant. Their paranoia manifests itself in constant suspicions rather than full-blown delusions. The disorder often impedes social and personal relationships and career advancement. Some individuals with PPD are described as “litigious,” as they are constantly initiating frivolous law suits. PPD is more common in men than in women, and typically begins in early adulthood. Symptoms include:

  • Suspicious; unfounded suspicions; believes others are plotting against him/her
  • Preoccupied with unsupported doubts about friends or associates
  • Reluctant to confide in others due to a fear that information may be used against him/her
  • Reads negative meanings into innocuous remarks
  • Bears grudges
  • Perceives attacks on his/her reputation that are not clear to others, and is quick to counterattack

Spectators at Gerard’s table may find this list familiar. Although treatment is available, the Manual cautions that it “is difficult because the person’s traits make it difficult to form a professional relationship. The health care provider should respect interpersonal distance, and avoid defensiveness or attempts at humor.” You people on the honor roll, are you listening? No attempts at humor. Didn’t your parents teach you any manners at all?