That talk is not as cheap as it sometimes appears to be was demonstrated by a little byplay in connection with the hand shown below.
During the Mixed Team of Four Championship at a national tournament of the American Contract Bridge league some years ago, ably fulfilling the role of kibitzer-in-chief was John Gerber of Houston, inventor of the celebrated four-club slam convention. Mr. Gerber not long ago figured in the news (SI, April 7) when at the Spring National Championships he struck up a last-minute partnership with Mrs. M. J. Novak, whom he had met five minutes before kickoff time, to win an outstanding victory in the Mixed Pair Championship. In this particular hand, Mr. Gerber was not involved, but he promptly injected himself into the analysis at the post-mortem proceedings. But I'm a little ahead of my story.
East, apprehensive of an enemy attack in spades, decided to preempt with a bid of five clubs, a daring act when one considers the conditions of vulnerability. South, your reporter, who had mentally projected a pussyfoot campaign should East open with a bid of one, had no choice but to overcall with five spades, and East brazenly carried on to six clubs. South, in the vague hope that North might be able to bid higher, made a forcing pass, and North, Helen Sobel, doubled. The defense cashed two diamond tricks, and the minus-200 score (honors are not counted at match-point play) proved a gratifying result for East and West.
Crushed by the adverse strategy, your reporter, on a hasty analysis, announced that we had been euchred out of a small slam. Gerber, one of the quickest thinkers I have ever encountered at the card table, instantly volunteered that the spade slam could be defeated by the opening lead of the ace and another trump. Helen Sobel just as quickly asserted that six spades was invincible, and a wager to cover dinner that night was promptly made.
The cards were spread again, and play proceeded with all hands exposed. The second spade lead was won with the 6 in dummy. Then followed the king of hearts, covered by East's ace, which South ruffed. A low diamond to the jack held the trick, and the jack of hearts covered by East's queen was ruffed by South. Then followed all the trumps, with the South hand reduced to A-7-4 of diamonds and the North hand to K-5 of diamonds and the 9 of hearts. West, holding Q-8-6 of diamonds and the 10 of hearts, could find no safe discard. But all this required less time than it is taking me to describe it.
Gerber conceded that he had spoken too quickly, but he was a charming host at dinner.
The Gerber convention uses a jump bid to four clubs exactly as Blackwood employs the bid of four no trump. Partner is required to show how many aces he has by a series of "step" responses: four diamonds, none (or all four); four hearts, one; four spades, two; etc. Thereafter, to learn about kings, the Gerberite rebids five clubs where the Blackwooder would say five no trump.
Gerber offers two advantages: information exchanged at a lower level; no confusion when either partner has previously bid no trump. Some players use Gerber after no trumps and Blackwood when only suits have been mentioned.