Polling You # 75, Losing Trick Count and Cover Cards

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Losing Trick Count and Cover Card Evaluation
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Hand evaluation – the foundation of solid Bridge bidding and prerequisite to successfully making your contract during play.  Early in our career we are taught the value of High Card Points beginning with the 4-3-2-1 approach that focuses on one’s honor holding.  In time we learn the value of long suits, useful to develop extra tricks through promotion plays.  Conversely, when we have good trump support for partner and a short side suit, again our hand can generate extra tricks.  In this lesson we will build on the basics of hand evaluation, taking a look at “The Law of Total Tricks” and working our way up to the benefits of Losing Trick Count hand evaluation.

Aside from obstructive preempts and competing in partscore contracts, bidding is all about making contracts and knowing when to stop short, lacking values.  And to make our contracts requires accurate partnership bidding.  Sound bidding is predicated on good hand evaluation and solid partnership communication skills.  Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and sound bidding is predicated on the ability of partnership hands to make tricks.

As always, tricks made during play is based three elements: Power, Promotion, and in the case of suit contracts, Ruffing

Power: Reflecting on hand evaluation, we begin counting our High Card Points.

Promotion: Next we consider the shape of our hand, adding extras for a “good” long suit headed by top honors – a promotable trump or side suit to gain extra tricks during declarer play.

Ruffing: Side suit shortness, especially in the dummy also can help generate extra tricks provided we have enough trump to gain ruffing tricks as declarer.

Speaking of honors, presents come in several sizes:

  1. Primary honors – Aces and Kings are usually more desirable than Queens and Jacks, especially at higher level contracts.
  2. Working honors – Clustering honors in fewer suits can earn extra tricks through finessing during declarer play.
  3. Picking up a self-sustaining suit is an extra special present – everyone loves to pick up a long, strong suit that is guaranteed not to lose more than one trick… even when partner only holds a worthless singleton.  Even a semi self-sustaining suit with two losers in an unsupported suit makes a nice gift.  Shortly, we will get into more details on this concept.

While counting 1 extra point for each card beyond the first four trump works well for 5 and six card suits, with 7+ card suit and two suited hands length point valuation undervalues the worth of the hand.  Certainly a 12 card suit heading missing the Ace is worth more than 6 (K=3, Q=2, J=1) plus 8 points.  Despite its 14 point valuation, clearly we can see the hand will take 11 tricks even when partner has a bust hand.

Speaking of the more garden variety partnership fits, in Bridge we always look forward to finding a “golden fit” with partner, a major suit with 8+ combined length that usually generates at least 4 tricks in the trump suit.

 

Polling You #75, Hand 1

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul
♠ 10 9 8 6
K 9 5
A 7
♣ 8 7 6 5
♠ 4
Q J 10 8
6 5 4
♣ K Q J 10 3
N
W E
S
♠ J 7 5
7 6
Q J 10 9 8
♣ A 9 4
♠ A K Q 3 2
A 4 3 2
K 3 2
♣ 2
West North East South
1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Pass 4 ♠
All pass
Trick West North East South
1. W ♣ K ♣ 5 ♣ 9 ♣ 2
2. W ♣ Q ♣ 6 ♣ A ♠ 2
3. S ♠ 4 ♠ 6 ♠ 5 ♠ A
4. S ♣ 3 ♠ 8 ♠ 7 ♠ K
5. S 4 ♠ 9 ♠ J ♠ Q
6. S 8 K 6 2
7. N 10 5 7 A
8. S J 9 10 3
9. W 6 A 8 2
10. N 5 7 9 K
11. S ♣ 10 ♠ 10 J 3
12. N ♣ J ♣ 7 ♣ 4 ♠ 3
13. S Q ♣ 8 Q 4

.South opens 1 Spade with a great 16 High Card Point hand plus 1-2 distribution points for a shapely hand.  North responds 2 Spades with 7 HCP plus 1-2 points for the extra trump and the Diamond doubleton.  Without using losing trick count hand evaluation (5 LTC), South will likely rebid 3 Diamonds – a help suit game try.  Holding a Diamond Ace-doubleton, North gladly responds 4 Spades despite holding 7 HCP.

On play, West wins the first Club with declarer South winning the second trick ruffing a Spade.  South plays 3 rounds of trump to clear the suit with a typical 3-1 split.  Next South ruffs a Diamond loser in dummy, conceding 1 Heart loser to make 11 tricks.

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Polling You #75, Hand 1a

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul
♠ 10 9 8 6
Q 9 5
A 7
♣ 8 7 6 5
♠ 4
K J 10 8
6 5 4
♣ K Q J 10 3
N
W E
S
♠ J 7 5
7 6
Q J 10 9 8
♣ A 9 4
♠ A K Q 3 2
A 4 3 2
K 3 2
♣ 2
West North East South
1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ Pass 4 ♠
All pass
Trick West North East South
1. W ♣ K ♣ 5 ♣ 9 ♣ 2
2. W ♣ Q ♣ 6 ♣ A ♠ 2
3. S ♠ 4 ♠ 6 ♠ 5 ♠ A
4. S ♣ 3 ♠ 8 ♠ 7 ♠ K
5. S 4 ♠ 9 ♠ J ♠ Q
6. S 8 5 6 A
7. S K 9 7 4
8. W ♣ J ♣ 7 ♣ 4 ♠ 3
9. S 5 A 8 2
10. N 6 7 9 K
11. S 10 Q 10 2
12. N J ♠ 10 J 3
13. N ♣ 10 ♣ 8 Q 3

.South’s hand is identical to Hand #1, while North’s Heart suit changes from the Heart King to the Queen.  Again South opens 1 Spade with a great 16 High Card Point hand plus 1-2 distribution points for a shapely hand.  North responds 2 Spades with 6 HCP plus 1-2 points for the extra trump and the Diamond doubleton.  Without using losing trick count hand evaluation (5 LTC), South will likely rebid 3 Diamonds – a help suit game try.  Holding a Diamond Ace-doubleton, North gladly responds 4 Spades despite holding 7 HCP.

On play, West wins the first Club with declarer South winning the second trick ruffing a Spade.  South plays 3 rounds of trump to clear the suit with a typical 3-1 split.  Next South ruffs a Diamond loser in dummy.  This time the success of the contract is contingent on the location of the Heart King.   Indeed, this time West holds and wins the Heart King on the finesse try, declarer conceding 1 Heart loser to make the 10 trick game.  So even though North held a margin hand with only 1 control (Diamond Ace), South was correct to chance game with at least 50-50 odds to receive a juicy game bonus.

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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,

BridgeHands

 

 

Polling You #75, Hand 9

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul

10 9 6
K 9 8 5
A 7
8 7 6 5

7 4
J 6
10 9 8 6 5
K Q J 10

N

W

E

S

J 8 5
Q 10 7
K Q J
A 9 4 3

A K Q 3 2
A 4 3 2
4 3 2
2

West

North

East

South

1 ♠

Pass

2 ♠

Pass

3

Pass

4 ♠

All pass

 

Trick

West

North

East

South

1. W

♣ K

♣ 5

♣ 9

♣ 2

2. W

♣ Q

♣ 6

♣ A

♠ 2

3. S

5

A

J

2

4. N

6

7

Q

3

5. E

♣ 10

♣ 7

♣ 4

♠ 3

6. S

8

♠ 6

K

4

7. N

♠ 4

♠ 9

♠ 5

♠ Q

8. S

♠ 7

♠ 10

♠ 8

♠ A

9. S

6

K

7

2

10. N

J

5

10

A

11. S

9

8

Q

3

12. E

♣ J

♣ 8

♣ 3

♠ K

13. S

10

9

♠ J

4

Comments

  1. alanmetcalfe says:

    Hi Michael
    Do you have a list of future polling you topics.
    Regards
    Alan Metcalfe

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hi Alan,
      .
      In the short term we will be continuing the progression of LTC, taking a look at preempts and responses when partner opens Notrump, etc. After that, we do have a few topic fragments (less than a series) suggested by our members that are under consideration. Generally, we will be spending more time with bidding, and as always, focusing on the nuances of hand evaluation as well as how to best play the hand.
      .
      If you have any suggestions, we are always interested in the views from our members.
      .
      Warm Regards,
      Michael
  2. BridgeHands says:
    Hello Bridge Friends,
    .
    Okay, on our Poll #75, we ask:
    According to Losing Trick Count theory, select the best response:
    .
    Your aggregate responses were:
    15% – Aces, Kings & working Queens are not losers
    3% – Any card beyond the third card in a suit in not a loser
    21% – Both of the above
    7% – With 14 or less combined losers the partnership should bid their major suit game
    53% – All of the above
    .
    So most of our respondents are agreeable, happy that each of the choices are legitimate elements of LTC theory and selected “all of the above.” True, our less than optimistic respondents may not see that cards beyond the first three in a suit are considered losers and we would be the first to profess it’s not always a guarantee. Yet per our LTC evaluation techniques, most of the time we should be able to find “something” to do with anything beyond the first thee cards – promote, ruff, or pitch on winners in the other hand. And since we only hold a maximum of 12 losers in each hand, that totals 24 losers in both hand. Thus, with a combined 14 LTC subtracted from the magic number 24, we hold 10 winners. And since 10 winners equals a 4 level contract, 24 combined losers is just enough to make a major suit game.
    .
    Of course, as you’ll note in our lesson this big math of adding LTC in BOTH hands is a bit daunting so we prefer to use LTC for the major suit opener and Cover Cards for the responder.
    .
    Happy Bridging!

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