Poorbridge Theoreticians and Conventions I: Gorski
By Chris Mulley

The Mission Statement

I have been a fan of this site from the first time it was introduced to me. However, I am somewhat disappointed that the material seems to relate exclusively to poorbridge play. Why, I ask, does poorbridge have to occur at the table? Thus, I propose to introduce a new category to this site: Poorbridge Theoreticians and Conventions [Super idea, Chris. Anyone care to write and send in the second article in the series? —Ed].

Which of us has not sat down at the bridge table, picked up an opponents' system card and been faced with a convention so bad that you have to laugh out loud? Sometimes that system card even belongs to straight-ahead opponent, so it is the system that you are actually playing (or trying to play, or hoping not to play).

Let's face it: in the heat of battle, even I have been known to pull the wrong card (one master-class involved leading the Jack from CJ9xx against 7NT for no apparent reason ... and seeing AKQ10xxx of clubs track in dummy ... opposite a singleton ... but that is another story). Similarly, at the table, the occasional bad bid might slip out. However, one would hope that even poorbridge players, away from the melee at the table, would be able to identify and play conventions and systems that were not completely ridiculous.

And yet, still we see things like "Gerber" written on system cards, without any evidence that the owners of the card had been beaten up to compel them to play the convention. Presumably, these people have given the matter full consideration, and, under no sort of pressure or duress, they have come up with the incredibly poorbridge decision to play that deservedly much-maligned convention.

But who is at the para-pit of poorbridge theory? Surely it is the person who invented the appalling convention in the first place. After all, it is (s)he who has unleashed this horror upon the world; like Pandora and her Box without the sexual innuendo. And so, I propose a new section to this website, devoted to the worst conventions we can find: The John Gerber Memorial List of Poorbridge Conventions.

Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it, involves finding the worst conventions that exist in the world and, if possible, their inventors. Ultimately, the aim is to arm the über poorbridge player with weapons to suit the level of his/her incompetent play. Not only will this person be able to pull seemingly random cards and bids out at will, the very system that (s)he plays will be designed to produce poorresults*. Standard American Yellow Card is popular. Poorbridge Poo-brown Card will not be.

* You should note that "poorresults" are not necessarily the same as poor results. Poorbridge sometimes works. This poorsystem will as well ... but the chances of you dying before you finish reading this footnote are somewhat better.

Our first addition — a big round of applause for Mr Gorski and his Two Diamond opening!

I would like to now take the opportunity to introduce the worst convention that I have ever seen: the Gorski 2D opening. My long-suffering straight-ahead opponent and I found this while flicking through a book of bridge conventions. So, our only consolation is that we cannot confirm that anyone has actually been such a poorbridge player that they thought that playing this convention was a good idea. Nevertheless, Mr Gorski's talent as a poorbridge theoretician surely borders on that of an idiot savant ... with the emphasis on the idiot.

The opening bid itself seems harmless enough; a 2D opening to show either a minimum opening with five hearts and four spades (Flannery style) or a weak NT with 4-4 in the majors. Looks like a pretty useless addition to bidding theory to me. Why a weak NT would want to play in a 4-2 fit (or "break" as many prefer to call it) at the two-level is something of a mystery. Still, maybe Mr Gorski knows something that I don't.

Mr Flannery obviously thought minimum hands with five hearts and four spades were a problem to bid. I've got a suggestion for him. Open 1H. Then bid 2H over partner's 2C or 2D response and pass a 1NT response. Admittedly, you have a real problem if partner responds 1S. Re-bidding a random number of NT between 1 and 3 would be my choice. I should note, however, that all Flummery does is ensure that heart contracts are wrong-sided, in addition to all of the other contracts.

Gorski obviously was in the Flummery camp, but he also had difficulty describing his hand when he held a weak 1NT opening. I've got a plan for you, Mr Gorski. Why not open them 1NT? Or re-bid 1NT if you are so terrified of playing a weak NT? Of course, it would mean that you would have to play that shockingly artificial convention, Better Minor, if you wanted to play 5-card majors. It's so much harder to play that than this Gorski 2D thing.

But, believe it or not, we haven't even got to the best part of the convention yet. It is so truly horrible that I must quote it directly, and in full:

"The only forcing response is 2H."

Not only have you forced your partner to play this weak NT hand of yours at the two-level or higher in a suit, (s)he can now no longer play it in 2H, so higher is much more likely.

For example, you hold the fairly typical collection of SQ 2 HJ 6 5 DK 8 6 5 CQ 8 7 5. Partner opens 2D, Gorski. Your bid. Whichever option partner has, you want to play in 2H. Well, you probably don't want to play in 2H opposite a weak NT whilst having a Moysian fit at the table, but your great system has made it the most attractive alternative. However, playing Gorski 2D together with responses, your choice of scores is now:

2S: -500, 2NT: -300, 3C: -600, 3D: -600, 3H: -300

Make your selection. This response structure gives you all sorts of good alternatives. The only "fit" is the one your team-mates will have at the score-up.

Some would bar partner from the auction so they could play 2H, but poorethics shouldn't even be joked about. I guess you could decide to pass the 2D bid and try for the magic -500. Bargain! Of course, you could also end up going for -500 when partner has the Flummery option and 2H is gin, but it protects you against going -600, so that must count for something.

Now, imagine what might happen if you had only one or two hearts and a similar number of spades, or if they start doubling you. Who needs to bid game or slam against this sort of bidding? All you need to do is wheel out that brilliant counter-convention, DALT (Double And Lead Trumps), write down "00" and decide later which 2-digit number you need to place in front of it. Alternatively, you can write a "1" in the positive imps column and decide which number to put after it when you hear which game your team-mates' opponents decided to go down in. This second method does have a down-side, though, as sometimes you gain more than 19 imps.

So, in summary, the Gorski 2D opening does not make it easier to bid problem hands, and the responses ensure that you play a contract two levels higher than the real world. In my opinion, that makes it the worst convention I have ever seen. At least with Gerber, you can choose not to use it. Here, you have no other systemic way of bidding the hand. If forced to play this convention, I would rather psyche another opening than use it — at least psyching has some upside. That, in itself, is conclusive proof that this must be a poorbridge convention.

My personal suspicion is that the inventor of this system was not in fact Mr Gorski but some long-suffering ex-partner of his who thought that the best way of defaming him would be to construct the worst convention possible and to then name it after Gorski, so that Gorski would be remembered by bridge players everywhere as an absolute lunatic, who should have stuck to Snap rather than over-taxing his brain with bridge. Irrespective of this, the Gorski 2D is a deserving entry to be the second poorbridge convention ... after Gerber.