"The week of the Summer Nationals was a happy one for my friend John Gerber of Houston. First, the American Contract Bridge League's board of directors renamed him nonplaying captain of the team for the 1965 world championship. Then Gerber went out and proved that he knew exactly what his players are up against by winning the first event on the tournament schedule—the Masters Mixed Team championship.
The nonplaying captain of a world championship team has the same headache as the manager of a World Series ball team: if his team wins, his players get the credit; if his team loses, he gets the blame. But in neither case is he compensated by a Series share.
Gerber's reappointment as captain was sweet vindication. He had captained our teams in 1962 in New York and 1963 in St. Vincent, finishing second to Italy each time. In both these events he acted with the courage of his convictions, changing his lineup when he thought it essential to do so. In 1962 the shake-up almost made up a deficit; in 1963 it immediately preceded our losing the lead and resulted in considerable second-guessing on the part of experts who did not know the reasons behind the change. Knowing the facts, I am reminded of the bum rap pinned on Heinie Zimmerman when he chased a runner across home plate. Overlooked was the fact that the plate had been left uncovered. "Who was I supposed to throw to?" Heinie asked. "The umpire?"
In my book Gerber rates as probably the best captain we have ever had, and I am glad that the league officials persuaded him to change his decision never to take the job again
Johnny's stout heart and resourceful mind showed to advantage in this week's hand, which helped his team—Margaret Wagar, Emma Jean Hawes and Dr. John Fisher—win the Mixed Team title by a skinny quarter of a point.
After winning the first club trick. West wisely shifted to a trump. The queen of clubs forced West's ace, but Gerber's hope of ruffing a club in dummy was dashed when West returned a trump. That left declarer with two apparent losers—a heart and a club—and he could afford only one.
But when Gerber played out his trumps, West began to feel the pressure. With all hands down to five cards, West held three hearts and the guarded club 10, having correctly discarded his diamond ace. Gerber had in his hand a trump, two hearts and the jack-9 of clubs. When Gerber played his last trump. West was in a straitjacket. A club discard would be immediately fatal, and a small heart discard would have left him with king-queen alone, enabling Gerber to establish dummy's hearts by simply ducking a heart to West. The defender did his best by discarding the queen of hearts. But Gerber had diagnosed the situation perfectly. He led a low heart. West played the 7, and North took the ace and returned a heart, putting West in with the king for the fatal club lead. Nor would it have helped West to put the king of hearts on the first heart lead. Gerber would have ducked and dummy's hearts would win the balance.
When you are vulnerable, a preemptive opening bid should be able to win within two tricks of the bid. But it is proper to count a trick in such a suit as South's clubs, so the opening preempt was entirely correct.
Both sides vulnerable South dealer