|Meet the panel.|
|Nationally-known expert player and teacher David Better is one of Gee’s bestest friends in the whole wide world. Was, anyway.|
|Ira Chorush has numerous regional and national titles to his credit, including the Men’s Board-A-Match in 1987. He has also been a panelist on the original Master Solvers Club for The Bridge World.|
|Geeselle, a long-time secret admirer of Gerard, has played both with and against him, but prefers to worship from a discreet distance in the gallery.|
|Phil Hernandez is alleged to have some credentials, but mostly I just think he’s funny.|
|I have watched legendary Gee-spec Chris Larsen analyze hundreds of hands. He has been wrong twice. Maybe three times. His international titles include the 2001 Seniors Bowl.|
|Frequent site commentator Larry Mori is a Grand Life Master, the only remaining ACBL rank with actual meaning. I still have no idea why he spells his OKBridge handle differently from his name.|
|Dr. Robert needs no introduction. He does need research funds, however.|
|Doug Ross claims that he can count the mice around the table, and I have no reason to doubt him.|
|Mark Smith wants it known that everything he says is in this forum is directed toward preserving Gerard’s reputation, and can he please still spec at his table, please?|
|Cenk Tuncok is here because I needed a Turk to fill out the panel.|
|Famed bridge author (Shadow in the Bridge World) Mike Dorn Wiss is perhaps even better known for his theoretical contributions to Gee-ology, most notably the Bones Principle.|
MPs, E/W Vul
As South, you deal and pick up:
A K Q 8 7
Q J 10 8 6 4
WWGD, in two parts. What would the maestro open? What would he rebid over a one spade response?
|1 , 1NT||100||0|
|1 , 1NT||90||1|
|1 , 4||70||0|
|1 , 3||60||2|
|1 , 3||50||1|
|Refusing to answer||50||1|
|1 , 2NT||40||0|
|1 , 4NT||40||1|
|1 , 2||40||1|
|1 , 2||20||2|
|1 , 2||0||1|
Tough hand, and unsurprisingly it inspired little consensus among the panelists. Geeselle speaks for the majority in one respect: “Probably the most reasonable action with a 4-loser 2-suited hand like this is to open 1D with an eye on reversing to 2H. The more conservative school would open 1H and rebid a mere 2D. Since this finds its way into WWGD, we can probably rule out both of those options.”
She is too generous to 1H-2D. It is true that many players would choose it, but it is so awful, holding a potential moose like this, that two of the world’s most eminent Gee-ologists were seduced. Wiss: “As Gee is notorious for crawling into the briar patch and emerging well-scratched, my guess is that he opened 1H and rebid a quiet 2D, leaving the last swing of the Louisville slugger to his crewpier, er, craptain, or whatever. We have seen the ignominious 170 before: Axxx,x,Kxx,Axxxx. ‘Why didn’t you raise, partner?’ Why indeed? Perhaps because he is familiar with cats stroked back to front…” Hernandez, too, took the bait: “Gee is a judicious point counter. ‘Twelve points is twelve points, mister. There is no hand that can reverse holding twelve points.’ Gerard can’t count tricks during the play of the hand and we want him to think about tricks during the auction? In the words of the inimitable John McEnroe: ‘You canNOT be serious!’ So 2D is [my] choice.” Gentlemen, gentlemen, would I really make it that obvious?
At any rate, Smith raises a salient objection to the sequence: “Anyone with half a brain that didn’t ride the little yellow school bus to school knows that 2 diamonds is gnu minor forcing and has nothing to do with diamonds and shows a much better hand.” Good point, but do they teach that prose style on the short bus too?
Tuncok, dazed, forgets that he has entered the looking-glass world, and actually selects the best bid: “Lots of playing strength in this hand, so I am guessing the auction went 1D – 1S – 2H…” Well, sure, but in WWGD that doesn’t quite follow.
Better understands the spirit of the proceedings: “Gee looks more deeply into the position — and makes the “approach-forcing” bid of 1c. True, the purist might frown on opening a singleton instead of a good 5 or 6 card suit – but as Gee so aptly illustrates in his tome “Bridge is a Conversation”, the purists are hardly all pure. Here, we start the conversation with a 1c bid – and await our partner’s 1d or 1h reply.
“See how much better this works? When partner responds 1d or 1h, we now don’t have to worry about the other suit – we’ve found our fit and we’re off to bigger and better things.”
The 1C is indeed a brilliant choice, and Better carefully considers the self-splinter, but chickens out: “[The 1S response] leaves two fine choices. 4C is a standout. While some STCP’s might take this as spade support with long good clubs, clearly that method is inferior when you hold this hand. Isn’t 4c in this auction a GREAT way to describe your singleton club and a desire to have partner choose between the red suits? It would be a magnificent bid, well worthy of inclusion in the all-time master calls. I’m certain it occurred to Gee, and he only regretfully eliminates it on the basis that his partner would probably not be up to recognizing the GEEnius of the call.”
Better chooses the slightly less inspired lunacy of 4NT instead, but all in all a bravura performance. Ross, who also mulled over 4C, eliminates it on more pragmatic grounds: “He could splinter in support of himself with 4C but that would be misunderstood as Gerber.”
While most of our panelists concerned themselves with showing both suits, Chorush thinks outside the box: “Is there yet a third way — perhaps the Gee way? Perhaps. One could open one diamond and rebid 2 diamonds. This would avoid the risk of needlessly exciting partner as well as make it rather likely that a substantial heart fit could be missed.” Wrong, but I like it.
Mori takes yet another novel approach: “1 Diamond is not incorrect for those who bid the shape of his hand in order; however, 4H as a choice of games following the inevitable 1S response may not fit the menu for most restaurants nor for those selecting that entree if that choice were there. The description of that entree would be entirely different for some people vis a vis void versus a 5 + card suit. Maybe that would be the 2-way bid guess hand of the week or part of the master system. You did give away the part 1 by asking the 2nd part. I thought that maybe he opened 2D and followed it by bidding hearts twice. After all there is plenty of meat for a weak 2 bid not to mention another place to play. This would have gotten the first suit length right the first time although the second heart bid may not have conveyed the wholesomeness nor the distribution of his hand. For that matter, this would be the ‘2 ways to skin the cat’ bid although both supposedly logical approaches leave endings appropriate for a movie company doing sequels of ‘What would happen if partner thought this way?'” Nice analysis. Perhaps Larry will answer the actual question by the time WWGD V rolls around.
We come at last to the jump-shifters. Geeselle reminds us that in orthodox captain-crew theory jump shifts are not forcing: “there’s only one logical possible sequence that Gerard would conceive. And that, of course, is the non-forcing jump shift. Not only is opener jump shift not forcing to game, it’s actually not forcing at all! Don’t believe me? Ask Gerard. He’ll tell you. Since 1H then 3D is not forcing at all, just shows a good hand, that is what Gerard will do.” Other panelists reasoned differently: why just reverse or jump shift when you can do both? Thus, cryptically, Larsen: “Seems logical bidding might go 1d-1s-3h or maybe 4h more descriptive, so that’s my answer.” And Ross: “Bidding 2H [after a 1D opener] certainly would not show this hand — any STCP knows that. 4H is a splinter in support of spades (but knowing the Master that might slip his mind). So the only remaining choice is 3H, the dreaded jump shift reverse.” Either of these choices has the virtue of criminal insanity; in fact the only thing wrong with them is that they’re, well, wrong.
Notrump received surprisingly little consideration. Hernandez gives it a passing glance: “On the fourth hand (used for typing the razor-sharp analyses we are so often blessed with), it cannot be stated enough how much Gee loves 2NT. That the Burger Bid was named by a couple of guys from Canada where, ironically, cases of Mad Cow disease have been reported should tell you something about the health of this bid. (I’m just saying…) We cannot therefore in any serious WWGD discussion ever rule out WeNT. (Double U, eN, T for those in the back of the room.) WeNT applies, in gee-land, whenever it is right. If you have two suits neither of which has been bid by the opponents or, and this is key, partner, then you employ WeNT. If on the same hand, you have a balanced invitation in no trump then you also use WeNT. Partner will know what is in your mind. Yes, yes he will.” Better rules out a 2NT rebid (over 1C of course) on less, shall we say, unusual grounds: “Some number of NT is certainly possible — if only to see how well your opening club bid works and if it forces the opponents to choose a red suit on opening lead. But an expert would see the enormous playing strength of this hand and not be ready to give up on slam.”
Only Smith saw the obvious: “1h-1s-1NT shows a minimum hand and denies 6 hearts. Hopefully partner can bid something else so I can show my diamonds, but for now I have to limit my hand and have partner take over as captain and maybe later in the auction I will take over the vessel. Let’s hope it has not capsized by that time because partners do have a way of sinking the ship.” Let’s.
A J 10 5 4
10 5 3
K 7 3
The auction went 1D-1S-1NT-2S-3H (a WWGD call in itself!)-all pass. Eleven matchpoints. The heart game is better than 90%; five diamonds is slightly worse. Both make easily on the layout. After the hand Gee’s partner, Josh Donn, remarked that he didn’t care much for the 1NT bid. Gee replied, after a pause, “Nor I for 2S although I suppose I contributed.”
Absent: Cenk Tuncok, who isn’t answering his mail, and Mike “Bones Principle” Wiss, who reluctantly recuses himself on the grounds that he has seen the hand before. In their place please welcome the lovely Geeselle; Phil Hernandez, who substituted brilliantly for Ira Chorush in December, earning a permanent slot; and legendary Gee-spec David Better. On with the show.
IMPs, N/S Vul
As South, you (Gee) hold:
A Q 9
Q 10 8 5 4
K 9 8 4
Lefty deals and opens one diamond. Pard doubles, righty passes. WWGD?
Chorush sets the stage today: “4 hearts and 2 diamonds are the only acceptable choices as far as I am concerned. This leaves a rather large selection from which to choose Gee’s bid.” There are other excellent reasons to reject 2D, as Robert points out: “The problem with 2D is that in Gerard’s partnerships it must be natural, to get the best declarer on play and not risk Gerard’s partner making a bad lead when Gerard has a true penalty pass. +90 beats -90 any day of the week, as all experts know. (-90 you say? But 1Dx making is -140! NO! Gerard has demonstrated in simple mathematical terms that 4Dx making is the same as 8D, therefore we can logically conclude that 1Dx making is the same as 2D. Simple, really.)” Smith has a novel take: “This can’t be the right answer because it would be Michaels and we don’t have 5-5 in both majors.” Hernandez, finally, puts the matter to bed: “There is NO hand that has EVER been dealt where the master would require assistance from his partner in determining the correct course of action. Such an action would be tantamount to admitting weakness and as we all know Gee is not so disposed.”
Notrump has merits. It right-sides the contract, gives full value to the king of diamonds, and misdescribes the hand no matter what level you choose. Chorush is tempted: “All the NT bids have the desirable characteristic of making Gee declarer but I don’t think Gee would choose them, fearful of his singleton club. Make no mistake, however, the NT bids are all terrible. 2NT has the worst features of pass and one heart combined.” So is Geeselle: “He might also bid NT since nobody strokes the dummy with his velvet touch. But upon more careful consideration, NT with a singleton does not seem quite right (we save singletons for raising our partner to the four level).” Robert appears to have forgotten, temporarily, the object of the game: “Notrump bids must be eliminated, for though they always should come into consideration when Gerard can make them, here the hand should clearly play better in a suit.” OK, but why is that grounds to eliminate notrump bids?
Nonetheless, notrump ultimately seduced two of our distinguished panelists. Better bucks for extra credit by invoking captain-crew theory: “The singleton club is certainly no big detriment — good partners will have you covered there. That nebulous king of diamonds now becomes a significant card. In fact, the notrump strain is a standout. The only question is… 2 or 3? 2NT is superficially reasonable on values; however that hardly would be enticing when partner has transferred captaincy to you with their double. And in the hand of a skilled declarer, knowing where the high cards are, the slight overbid of 3NT — removing partner from any further difficult decisions — becomes the only conceivable action. Mori likes the strain but not the level: “Partner might be low so I guess he opts for 1NT. That makes his KD valuable and if pard bids he can confuse them with a suit entry that would be a surprise 5 card holding or the delayed nebulous cue bid after staying so low.”
Yet why angle for a delayed nebulous cue bid when an immediate nebulous cue bid is available? Ross reminds the panel that four clubs is never to play: “What’s the problem? 4C. Splinter in support of myself. The only problem with 4C is that partner may think it is Gerber. I am not worried about him passing because any expert knows four clubs is never to play.” Robert wants to show the spades: “Gerard would have chosen a bid that leaves both majors as an option, while also describing his hand, and what better bid for such a purpose than a 4C splinter! But might not Gerard’s partner get confused and pass this bid? No, because as all bridge players should know, 4C is NEVER to play. If Gerard’s partner didn’t know enough to follow this simple beginner bidding principle and passed to drag Gerard into the fire, then I know an e-book that he would be well advised to invest in.”
And Better, though rejecting the bid, points to its defensive value, which neither of its proponents considered: “Bidding clubs, while perhaps indicating the best lead should the opponents buy the hand (think how many ruffs you might get!) is too big an action opposite a partner who would certainly not be sophisticated enough to know when to pass.”
Better also gave some consideration to spades: “Bidding some number of spades, while perhaps leading to an excellent contract, suffers from not having discussed canape style responses to doubles in a typical, casual OKB partnership.”
Robert notes the merits of passing, which most of our panelists failed to consider: “The first bid which comes to mind is pass. As a master of tactics and hand evaluation, Gerard knows the 98 of diamonds are not to be taken lightly, but it would be preferable to bring his expert declarer play into the mix rather than risk his partner (who is out to get him) ruining everything with a bad lead.” Chorush, playing the numbers and considering the vulnerability, cannot resist: “I feel like the vulnerability might have influenced Gee to go for the penalty so I choose pass. I would guess the result was minus 340 when 620 was available.” 650 actually, but we’ll get to that later.
Most of the panelists got around to their longest suit eventually. But how many hearts? Four was dismissed out of hand. Chorush: “The normal aggressive bid is 4 hearts, so that can’t be the answer. After all, you wouldn’t give us a problem like that.” Next time I just might. Smith takes a conservative view: “Clearly wrong. You only have 11 points after all and 3 of them in opps suit. Partner’s 12 and your bad 11 is 23, not enough for game.” So does Better: “4h is perhaps right on values and known support – but opposite potentially only 3 in partner’s hand, and a questionable king of diamonds, this could easily fail.” Both of our distinguished panelists err here, neglecting to add a queen, at least, for Gee’s declarer play. And what, Robert asks, of the spades? “All heart bids through 4 also appear tempting, but the hearts don’t have the strength the spades do.”
Hernandez summarizes: “The jump to game, similar to the double jump, opposite a takeout double, is an attempt to place the contract, nothing more, nothing less. If we consider:
a. the form of scoring
b. our high card points
c. the vulnerability
d. the extra heart
e. the lack of a bid by RHO
f. that we are playing bridge
g. that we live on Earth
then we will soon conclude that this is the correct bid.” Enough said.
Three hearts, for Hernandez, is invitational: “The double jump response to partner’s takeout double is usually played as invitational with extra length in the suit named.” Chorush disagrees: “3 hearts is preemptive and would normally be passed.” That it could cause confusion on the panel speaks well for the bid, yet the other panelists passed it by.
Two hearts, though cowardly, is too close to sanity to merit serious consideration. “A jump to 2H,” Geeselle asserts, “is not a possibility.” She gives no reasons, which is a woman’s prerogative. Hernandez takes a jaunt through the levels: “I cannot imagine he would bid any suit besides hearts. Of the [five heart] bids, I think 2H is the least likely to have been chosen at the table since if one devalues the diamond king completely, the hand reduces to an eight count. An eight count with 6 additional Goren points mind you, but Gee has always been a point counter. Next to get the chop would be 6H, as that is just too far over the line…the line is a dot to 6H. 5H is too precipitous (to say nothing about collaborative — actually I’m beginning to grow fond of 5H as a choice in an actual ESC).” An ESC, I should note, is an Earthbound Solvers Club. Smith argues that 2H is an overbid: “The Flight B club player may opt out with 2 hearts which is a disaster waiting to happen. What if partner is doubling and bidding clubs? You have a total misfit and you are wandering into the 3 level looking for a fit that may not exist. This kind of bidding will set you up to go minus 500 or 800 if partner bids 3 clubs.”
We arrive at last at one heart, our winner. Hernandez examines its technical underpinnings: “1H — the bid I would make with: xxx xxxx xxx xxx. Is it conceivable? No, it’s psychotic. That’s it then. At the risk of offending Walter, his surviving family, and Austrians in general, I submit my choice: 1 Heart, a Psychic Herbert Negative!” Geeselle notes its psychological value: “What bid keeps the auction low, while affording partner the opportunity to salvage a plus for our side and play in a ‘fit’? Well, using the logic only a girl (or Gerard) could possibly justify, I will say Gerard bid 1 Heart. The reason is to allow for the times when his partners have attempted to once again make him look a fool in front of the adoring eyes of his imbecilic fans, and who do not have a t/o x in the first place.” Hey, watch who you’re calling an imbecile there, sweetheart. Smith anticipates the rest of the auction: “1 heart — clearly the right call and the one that I am positive that Mr. Cohen has found. You are safe if partner doubles and bids 2 clubs, then you can bid 2 hearts or 2 diamonds new minor forcing. Anyway, 1 heart shows values because we are playing fast arrival, so with good hands we bid slowly and describe them.”
The palm, however, goes to Larsen, whose entry read, in its entirety: “One heart. Always good to have some extras.”
Thanks again to all the panelists.
10 7 2
A K 3
Q J 10 7 5
and passed out 1H, making 5 for +200 points and -7 IMPs.
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:
K 10 4
Q J 9 8 3
K 7 2
North, East and you all pass. West opens a 15-17 1NT. North bids 2H, alerted
as “majors.” East doubles. WWGD?
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.”
A J 10 8 7
A 9 7 5
3H (doubled, needless to say) gets normal breaks and goes off 2, for -300 and none of the matchpoints.
IMPs, None Vul
As South, you hold:
A 7 3
K Q 6
K Q J 6 3
East opens a weak two hearts in first seat. WWGD?
The STCP™, holding a balanced 17 points and ace third in the opponents’ suit, would give some thought to 2NT. Our expert panel wasn’t fooled.
The panel’s view is best summarized by Chorush: “I think G might rule out 2NT because of the lack of a spade stopper as well as because it is the least misdescriptive bid.” Similar contrarian thinking comes from Wiss: “One of the facets of the Gee Burger bid is that he bids 2NT when anybody’s first five guesses would bypass it, and the corollary is that he would almost never bid it if five out of five other players would.” Fair enough. But there are other considerations.
Ross: “He feels this hand is too good to overcall 2NT due to his excellent heart stopper, good spots and source of tricks.” True. Those sixes and sevens could prove key.
Smith: “2NT is obviously wrong and it’s a trap for the STCP™. We don’t want the heart lead coming into our ace of hearts. We want it to come into partner’s Qx or J9X or other soft heart stopper. If it is right to play in notrump we want partner to do it.” He understates the importance of having Gee play the hand, but all in all, a shrewd analysis. In fact, it is the consideration of “right-siding” the hand that leads one of our panelists into error.
Larsen: “My best Gee guess is 2nt to insure the right hand is declaring final contract.” Chris hasn’t yet entered the Twilight Zone, where hand-hogging just isn’t enough. See Chorush above.
And all of our panelists, save one, overlooked the most obvious objection of all.
Robert: “2NT is clearly unusual for the minors.” Clearly. And the rest of you guys call yourselves experts?
Three clubs was taken more seriously. First we will turn to the sole panelist who was taken in.
Tuncok: “I think Gee would bid 3C. And if the opponents are smart enough to compete to 3H, he then would be obliged to rebid his good club suit at the 4 level. A humble guess for the final contract is 4CX.” Wrong, but for the right reasons. It is the planned rebid of 4C that earns 3C 40 points instead of a zero. But the objections to 3C are best expressed by
Smith: “We don’t want to bid 3 clubs. Our hand is not suit oriented at all, especially in a minor. We don’t want to mislead partner like that. Our hand is too balanced and notrump oriented with a source of tricks. Three clubs is out.” Of course this makes sense only if we refuse to bid 2NT as well. A further point:
Robert: “17 points is too good to make a simple overcall!” The rest of the panel used elimination.
Chorush: “Three clubs is a poor bid but why would we spend our time discussing bids that are merely poor, when we have double available, which is atrocious?”
Wiss: “What is left is a semi-reasonable 3C and a less reasonable X. I vote for the latter.”
Mori: “Bidding 2NT (the correct bid) without enough heart stoppers and no spade stopper is out of the question so Gee is left with the choice of bidding 3C, his long suit, or to cover all situations, he has double. He has to double.”
An absolutely wretched, almost winning choice, that most of our panelists failed to consider is Pass. This is N/S’s best chance to go minus, since 2H may actually make. Yet only three of our panelists even mentioned it.
Smith: “We are a little too strong [to pass] but if partner bids spades or notrump we are happy to raise.”
Wiss: “Pass wins, you say? Drat.” Doesn’t win, but damn close. And the panelist who voted for it displays a solid understanding of captain-crew theory.
Robert: “Those weaker minded among us might try to double, but the problem with that is your partner is captain, and will bid a new suit in reponse to the double. And since the crew can’t pass a new suit by the captain, you would be stuck bidding again! Clearly unacceptable. So that leaves a heroic pass, which is the only logical choice on the hand. My guess as to the final result is 2h down 1, for -7.2 for Gee. His side had 3NT making? How unlucky!” Hard to argue. The master, however, is the final arbiter, and the master chose double, again for captain-crew reasons.
Mori: “He has to double. If partner bids spades he would never do it without the appropriate length to cover Gee holding this hand so the average expectation in that case is 6 spades. Gee gave the captaincy to his partner by doubling so he is now absolved of all blame in further developments.” It’s always wise to take the post mortem into account.
Smith: “Double. If partner bids 2 spades, then we can bid 3 clubs showing them a decent hand without spades, if they have hearts stopped and a good hand, they can go on. If they have 6 or 7 spades and a good hand, they can jump to game. It is the most flexible bid and the one that I feel Gerard has picked.” So flexible, in fact, that another panelist has a different rebid in mind entirely.
Ross: “Gee doubles planning to bid NT if partner bids spades.”
Bonus points go to one of our panelists for suggesting, though ultimately rejecting, a bid that occurred to no one else.
Smith: “3 hearts — Northern Cue — telling partner we have a heart stopper and a good hand and asking them if they have a source of tricks. This may be too tough on partner to figure out the source of tricks. We do have stoppers in every suit and they may not count their broken suits as a source of tricks even though they should.”
At the table West raised to 3H over Gee’s double. North held:
K J 2
J 10 8 5 2
A 9 5 4
He had his own ideas about “right-siding” the hand and bid 4S, with which some of our panelists may not concur. (I’d bid 4H myself but I’m just moderating.) It goes down three for -150 and a 12 IMP loss. 3H is off 1, 2 on a trump lead. 5C is cold, and West holds both missing aces so 3NT also makes.