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Being Ernie Hirsch

Many years ago, Harvey Brody and Ernie Hirsch were playing in a regional pair game. To set the stage, you need a little background on these two exotic characters. Harvey Brody is an acknowledged expert player but he walks around with a rain cloud over his head. He seems to attract notable disasters. For example, Harvey was once playing with John Sutherlin. John was dealt a 1-4-4-4 19-count. While trying to decide whether he would jump-shift or reverse after opening, he heard his RHO open 1. This was awkward--no bid seemed right. If he doubled, his partner might leap in spades and he couldn’t overcall at the 2-level on a 4-card suit, but passing with 19 HCP was more than he could bear. Finally John overcalled 1NT.

The auction continued:

W
N
E
S
1
1NT
P
2
P
?

2 = both minors (?)

John‘s agreement with Harvey was that 2 showed the minors. But he just couldn't bring himself to believe it. If Harvey really had the minors, where were the spades? On the floor? Harvey was a simple player who didn’t like complex conventions. Harvey must have forgotten and bid a spade suit. But what was the ethical thing to do? John alerted and explained that 2 showed minors. Then he passed.

Harvey found it hard to take more than 3 tricks in his 2-1 fit. Needless to say, a minor suit contract would have fared better. Ordinary players might think this was hardly Harvey's fault but, as John explained afterward, the disaster would not have happened if Harvey had just forgotten their agreement as expected.

Another time, Harvey was playing in a high-stakes money bridge game with an excitable local player, Tom Stern. Harvey was opposed by Bernie Bergovoy and Ed Nagy, expert players and noted jokers.

Bernie picked up his hand and, realizing he was dealt 14 cards, opened 1.

Harvey, holding a fine 6-6 in the black suits, a heart void, and only 13 cards, bid 2.

Ed, holding 7 HCP, 3 hearts and 12 cards, bid 7.

Tom, pulse quickening from the sight of KQJxx, bid "double." The auction continued with a pass to Harvey who, after considerable thought, corrected to 7. This contract was also doubled.

I wish I could report, "The silence at the table was deafening," but at that time in his life Tom was not the silent type. After choice commentary concerning Harvey's parentage and intellectual prowess, Tom placed his cards on the table.

Harvey was in shock. Ashen, he played from dummy. As each trick was played, Harvey found none of the cards were where he expected and he misguessed one card after another. At each play, Tom got redder and louder. Bernie and Ed sat stone-faced, playing thoughtfully to each trick. Finally at trick 11, Bernie said, "What do you know, I have an extra card, I was dealt 14 cards!" Ed added, "And I am short one.” “Misdeal!", they said in unison.

Many people believe this could only happen to Harvey Brody.

OK, now let's get to Ernie Hirsch. Ernie bears a strong physical resemblance to the American comedian, Don Rickles, same round face, same bald head with a fringe of white hair. His personality is similar to Don's persona. Ernie is a funny guy who enjoys a practical joke, but he has a temper and can vocally express his intolerance for fools. Ernie comes in for his fair share of teasing. On one occasion, Ernie was playing against a married couple he knew. The auction proceeded:

W
N
E
S
1
1
2
?

Ernie, surprised to find himself staring at 13 points, asked his LHO what 2 showed.

“It is weak.” came the reply.

 “You have to alert weak jumps in competition, you know.” he said, in an irritated tone.

“But Ernie”, said the wife, wide-eyed, “We don’t regard you as competition.”

So Ernie and Harvey are playing a pair game at a California regional where they are seeded first in their section. When the last round arrives, a pair of LOLs sit at their table. Before play begins, the director announces over the PA that during the dinner break there will be a panel show where expert players will answer questions from the audience. The panel will include well-known experts: Mike Lawrence, Peter Pender, Hugh Ross, Lew Stansby and Ernie Hirsch.

The first LOL screws up her face and asks, "Who is Ernie Hirsch? I know the others, but I have never heard of him."

Ernie, not one to miss a chance for a laugh, says in a deep, amazed tone of voice, "You've never heard of the great Ernie Hirsch? Why, that's him right there!" gesticulating in the direction of Harvey. He shows the old ladies his convention card to prove what he says. "Brody and Hirsch" they read. Harvey sits, like a lump, looking not much like the great anything.

The old ladies are suitably impressed and begin to play. As it turns out, Harvey declares both hands and he hacks them up. Horribly. It is embarrassing. As each misplay becomes evident, Ernie struggles to control his agitation. At the end, the two LOLs leave the table chortling. Ernie, no longer able to contain himself, says, "Harvey, how could you play like that? I told those old ladies you were me!"

Without missing a beat Harvey responds, "If I am going to be Ernie Hirsch, I am going to play like Ernie Hirsch."

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