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Now that we’ve mastered the basics of Help Suit Game Tries using the benefits of Losing Trick Count and Cover Card theory, let’s hone our skills adding some more methods to our hand evaluation and bidding arsenal. In segment 3b of Polling You #76, we will discover an additional use of LTC where we have a self-sustaining suit.
As you’ll recall, the Help Suit Game Try is an excellent method for opener to explore game after the partnership find a trump fit (1S – 2S… or 1H – 2H…). So when responder shows a major suit fit with a minimum hand, opener can make a Help Suit Game Try with extras – a 6 Losing Trick Count hand.
Basics of Losing Trick Count:
1. Prerequisite: partnership must find a 8+ card suit
2. Considering the top three cards in a suit, Aces, Kings and non-isolated Queens are not losers
3. Aces and voids are not losers, nor are solid top holdings like Ace-King, Ace-King-Queen…
4. Ace-doubleton, King-doubleton, Ace-King third or a singleton counts for 1 loser
5. Ace-third, King-third, and doubletons count 2 losers (perhaps Queen-third in an unsupported side suit)
6. Provided the hand has entries, the maximum losers in a suit is limited to three; longer suits, including side suits longer than three cards are considered promotable tricks regardless of the honor holdings of the first three cards
Losers = 0: A, AK, AKQ[x…], Void –
Losers = 1: Ax, AKx[x…], KQ, Kx, KQx[x…], x
Losers = 2: Axx[x…], Kxx[x…], Qx, xx, and Qxx[x…] (actually 2.5)
Later we will make refinements to our LTC hand evaluation guide.
Losing Trick Count – High Card Point “Decoder” (estimates)
10 LTC = 3-5 HCP = Sub-Minimum = 1 Cover Card
9 LTC = 6-9 HCP = Responder Minimum = 2 Cover Cards
8 LTC = 10-12 HCP = Responder Medium/Invitational = 3 Cover Cards
7 LTC = 13-15 HCP = Opener Minimum = 4 Cover Cards
6 LTC = 16-18 HCP = Opener Maximum = 5 Cover Cards
So if opener has a 6 LTC hand and rebids again at the 3 level, responder should accept the game try with 3 Cover Cards. And you’ll recall Cover Cards are typically Aces and Kings. With good trump support, count additional “covers” for: Singletons = 1, Void = 2. We can also count “covers” for working side suit Queens and Jacks. A fourth trump, especially without a trump honor, counts as a full cover card.
After responder’s 2H/S signoff bid, with 6 LTC opener rebids a help suit with 2+ losers, bidding “up the line” by suit rank. With spread losers in the minors and perhaps Hearts, opener may rebid 2 Notrump with a flattish 5-3-3-2 shape.
With 2.5-3 cover cards, responder should accept openers help suit game try, particularly with useful honors or shortness in openers help suit. But even when responder has little help in openers asking suit, with 2+ covers responder can try a “counter suit” game try (also up the line but not above agreed upon suit). If opener finds responders counter suit helpful, now opener can rebid game. In instances where responder holds a flat 4-3-3-3 shaped hand, with 2.5 – 3 cover cards, responder may choose to rebid 3 Notrump despite the 5-3 major suit fit. With a flattish 5-3-3-2 hand and balanced honors, opener may accept the 3 Notrump gambit knowing responder has no ruffing power.