Source: How Not to Play Bridge

Mike Dorn Wiss
Mike Dorn Wiss

The enigmatic Professor parted the curtain at the rear of the auditorium stage and strode proudly to his podium. He was resplendently attired in a three-piece tweed suit, with only the sleeves of the jacket and cuffs of the trousers frayed. His vest, perhaps because a succession of illnesses had caused him to lose mass from his paunch allowing it to fit for the first time in years, looked new. His white hair tufted wildly over his ears as the light from an overhead spot bounced from his gleaming bald pate. He purposely surveyed his audience, scattered throughout the auditorium while filling fully a third of the seats. He cleared his throat.

Professor GG

“I counted eighteen high card points and opened 1, my left hand opponent overcalled 2, and after two passes it was again my turn to bid. Well, knowing exactly how a Walrus evaluates a hand I quickly recounted my points and still found eighteen.“Today’s lesson, the initial example of my unique teaching method, will incorporate How Not to Evaluate a Hand with its frequent partner, How Not to Bid a Hand. In these cases I am always the South player, for column purposes of course. “In first position at favourable vulnerability I held this hand…” The Professor tapped his computer notepad and the screen over his shoulder displayed:  A K J 8 7  Q 7 5  K Q  Q J 2.

“Well,” he said again, pausing to inhale a slightly larger puff of smoke, and to exhale a small cough, “that is clearly the correct way not to evaluate this hand. Once the vulnerable opponent on my left bid 2 it became reasonable to discount the Q as worthless, and likely the K as well, for the ace was probably not with partner. Now my hand became a thirteen pointer, in effect a weak notrump with five spades, and with the soft minor suit values a lousy weak notrump at that. Furthermore, it was very unlikely partner had passed with heart length. All these clues point to a Pass as my correct call. Therefore, to illustrate to my many students and kibitzers what not to do, I took action and doubled. After all, perhaps partner did have a trump stack, and needed protection. Most partners need all the protection they can get, especially from me.

“My left hand opponent passed and partner bid 2. After another pass by my right hand opponent it was again my turn.

“What’s the problem you ask? Well, partner has preferred to support my suit, and I had to consider what not to bid now. Finally it came to me… since it could never be right to show a hand with at least the strength of a 2NT opener, if not the shape, and having evaluated the eighteen down to a bad thirteen, it seemed the best thing not to do would be to show it as a good nineteen or more. So I found the unconscionable 3 cuebid! Then, when partner was endplayed into bidding 3NT, I pulled to 4 before 3NT was doubled, so I could also play the hand.

With another tap upon his notepad the Professor presented the full hand, which clearly justified his example of misevaluation. E/W Vul IMPs Dealer: South Lead: A.

Dealer South Neither Vul

9 4
J 9 4
J 10 7 4
K 7 6 5
A K 10 8 6
9 8 5 2
A 8 3
Q 7 6 3 2
3 2
A 6 3
10 9 4
A K J 8 5
Q 7 5
Q J 2
West North East South
2 Pass Pass Dbl
Pass 2 Pass 3
Pass 3NT Pass 4
Pass Pass Dbl End

“At this point my right hand opponent doubled, clearly for penalty and not conventional, and I went down three tricks for minus five hundred and a loss of ten imps.

“Seldom have I been able to show such a poignant example of how not to evaluate a hand along with how not to bid it. Had I passed 2, as many other experts would, I would be plus one hundred. Notice of course my unusual bridge intuition in doubling in the first place. Had my partner been on the same wavelength and passed instead of preferencesupporting me, we would be plus two hundred, a fine result. Partners, however, are seldom perfect, and mine was no exception.”

Lighting up another Gauloise, the Professor tapped his pad and today’s lessons of How Not To Play Bridge appeared on the screen. He indicated them with an expansive hand gesture and a cloud of blue smoke, and read them aloud.

“One, do not downgrade your hand when your left hand opponent shows values”