Gerbwood Foils the Hog

An unusal item on the agenda of the Griffin Club’s Ethics and Etiquette Committee was a charge by Papa the Greek, acting as an independant observer, against the Hideous Hog, and a cross-petition by HH against the Rueful Rabbit and Timothy the Toucan.

The complaints went back to a rubber, a couple of days earlier, in which RR and TT were partners against the Hog and Walter the Walrus.

“Timothy and I are playing together in the Evening Standard Bridge Charity Congress this year,” the Rabbit had explained as they sat down, “so we are trying some of the more sophisticated modern conventions — quite a wide range, in fact — including Blackwood, Gerber, Gladiator, Flint, Fisher, Fishbein, Forcing and Non-Forcing Stayman, South African Texas . . .”

The Rabbit was still reciting when the Toucan, who dealt the first hand, opened proceedings with 1♠.

Dlr: North ♠ A Q J 9 8 2
Vul: None 7 6
5 4
♣ A 10 9
♠ 5 4 ♠ K 7 6
A 9 5 3 J 10 8 4 2
K Q J 10 9 7 6 8 3 2
♣ — ♣ 7 3
♠ 10 3
K Q
A
♣ K Q J 8 6 5 4 2
North
TT
East
WW
South
RR
West
HH
1♠ Pass 3♣ 3
3♠ Pass 4♣ Pass
4NT Pass 5(!) Pass
6♣ All Pass

The Hog led the K to the Rabbit’s blank ace. Fearing that if he drew trumps, HH would have a chance to signal in hearts, the Rabbit began by running the ♠10. Even if the finesse lost, he reasoned, there was a good chance that WW would return another diamond, after which it would be a simple matter to collect the rest of the tricks.

The Walrus won the ♠10 with the king and was detaching the 8 when the Hog stopped him with an imperious gesture. As he did so, he addressed the Toucan.

“Your partner,” he said, “was giving us a list of your conventions just now, but I may have missed something. Are you using Blackwood or Gerber?”

“Both,” replied the Toucan enthusiastically, “and negative and responsive doubles, Kock-Werner, Drury…”

“Would you kindly explain your partner’s response to your 4NT bid,” persisted the Hog.

“As a strickly impartial and disinterested spectator, I protest,” cried Papa, gesticulating wildly in his kibitzer’s chair. “You are, as usual, directing your partner, suggesting improperly…”

“I don’t require directions or improper suggestions,” roared the outraged Walrus, slamming the J on the table. “I know exactly which card to play.”

“Such conduct cannot be tolerated,” declared Papa, as he described the incident to the Committee. “Declarer played well, testing the spades before touching trumps. It is true that a Papadopolous, or any other great player,” he added modestly, “would see through declarer’s intentions and return a heart. But WW was going to play a diamond and for his partner to stop him, to, er, try, to, er… words fail me.”

“Of course,” said the Hog when Papa finally paused for breath, “my partner would have returned a heart unhesitatingly but for that 5 bid, ostensibly showing two aces. The Toucan prepared to play in 5♠, no doubt, enquired for aces via Blackwood, but Rabbit replied in Gerber! As you know, the one-ace response to a Gerber bid is in hearts, so RR obviously had his wires crossed. Whatever the case, it was a gross, if unwitting deception, and I had a duty to my partner.

“The section on the Proprieties,” HH went on, “states clearly that it is improper to use any convention the meaning of which may not be understood by the opponents. How much more improper,” he thundered, “to use a convention which you do not understand yourself!”

This argument was firmly rejected by the Committee.

“If the use of conventions were restricted to those understood by the players using them,” warned Oscar the Owl solemnly, “we should be back in the dark ages when bidding was simple and intelligible. The public would never stand for it.”

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