Bridge is a fascinating game. Not only is the game
itself incredibly interesting, but among the players
there are lots of great characters. Here are a few
I've encountered over the years.
The Chernoff Defense
I was playing in the district finals of the Grand National
Teams several years ago. We were destined to come in 2nd
as usual, but that's not the story. We were playing against
Victor Chernoff and Guy Green. Victor has a bit of a temper and is a little bit
rough around the edges. Guy doubled me in a very pushy game contract
and they didn't find the best defense, so I ended up with
a doubled overtrick. Victor couldn't take it. He started
screaming at Guy, "you moron! How could you play like that...
blah, blah, ... idiot ... blah, blah, ... moron, etc." This
goes on for about 2 minutes at which point I get tired of it
and call the director for the Zero Tolerance penalty. The
director comes over and asks what's up as if he didn't know.
I say, "as of last count, Victor just called partner a moron
fourteen times in the last two minutes. It's time for him
to stop." The director asks if this is true. Victor admits
that it is, but he has a justification. "You see, he IS a moron!"
Thereafter, "you see, he IS a moron" has been dubbed
"The Chernoff Defense."
Playing in a sectional pair game, on the last round we
encounter a player who has a very high opinion of his
own game. In second chair, he is dealt AJ AQ1072 Jx QJ10x.
My partner opens 1, a five card major. RHO overcalls 1NT.
I bid 2, natural and nonforcing. Mr. Ego's partner thinks
for about 10-15 seconds and passes. My partner passes in tempo and
Mr. Ego bids 2. Gently, we call the director. The director
asks everyone about the hesitation. Everyone agrees that it was
at least 10 seconds, a significant break in tempo. He has us
play out the hand and call him back if we deem that appropriate.
Everyone passes 2. The play is not without interest, but
declarer manages to bring home eight tricks, which is roughly
normal on the lay of the cards. It turns out that we are cold
for ten tricks in diamonds, so we call the director back.
This is the last hand of the event, and there's another event
later in the day, so the director asks us if it's OK that he
decides how to rule during the dinner break; if we need an
appeals committee, we can do it after the second session.
We all agree.
Near the end of the second session, the director says he has
consulted with other directors and had some good players give
their opinions. After due consideration he has judged to
adjust the score to 2 making four. He also
informs us that the opponents have chosen to appeal, which is
Unfortunately, the directors have consulted all the well-known
experts in the room to make their ruling, with the exception of
one: my partner for the evening session, who of course cannot
serve. They are really hard
up to find committee members, but after a long search, they find
three reasonably experienced players who consent to serving.
At the hearing, the directors explain what happened. They say
they consulted three players with 36,000, 26,000, and 25,000
masterpoints respectively (whom we all know are Grant Baze,
Roger Bates, and Mike Shuman, all currently defending national or
world champions). One of the players said he would bid 2,
but after the hesitation "has to pass." A second player says it's
a toss-up between bidding 2 and passing, but surely passes
after partner's hesitation. The third player passed no matter
what. (Good job, directors, by the way.) The committee is a
little lost; none of them are completely comfortable with the
appeal procedure, so I offer to go over it so that they all
know what to do. Everyone accepts this guidance, so after the
introductions and directors' statements, the appealing side gets
to present their case.
Mr. Ego's case is pretty simple. He claims his judgment is
so good that if he thinks 2 is the right call, nothing
else matters. To back up this claim, he announces that he
has written two books and innumerable articles for The Bridge
World and the Bridge Bulletin. (My partner for the evening
session is Marshall Miles, one of the most prolific bridge
writers in history. This contrast is not lost on me. Or
Marshall when he hears about it later.) Mr. Ego continues, "my peers consider
me to be greater than expert, not in the ordinary class of player."
(I wonder silently where he finds peers if so.) He argues that
if he is playing the hand, he will take two tricks more than
anyone else in the same contract, so it is incumbent upon him
to try to play as many hands as possible. (Does that mean his
defense really stinks? Shhhh, Jeff!) There he rests his defense.
After the committee finishes questioning the speaking side,
the non-appealing side (we) gets to make their case and rebut
the appealing side's arguments. Not being interested in trying to
argue Mr. Ego's claims, I persue the appeal the normal way. I
go through the steps one should normally follow when judging an
unauthorized information appeal and apply them to the hand in
question. I discuss logical alternatives and the various
appropriate laws, particularly Laws 16 and 12. This takes
a few minutes, but is simple and clear enough.
Again, the committee gets to question the speaking side.
After that, the other side gets to speak. Mr. Ego is offered
the chance to rebut my argument and to make any further points
of his own. He has only one more argument to make. He alludes to
the three players the directors questioned, "are you really
sure that any of those players are MY peers?"
Copyright © 2002 Jeff Goldsmith