Polling You # 76, Suit Quality, Losing Trick Count, Cover Cards

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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.

Polling You #76, Hand 1

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

South opens 1 Spade with 14 High Card Points plus 1 for the fifth Spade with excellent primary honors.  North makes a signoff 2 Spade call with 7 HCP plus 1 for the Diamond doubleton.  With a 6 LTC hand (losers: Spades 1, Hearts 2, Diamonds 2, Clubs 1), South makes a Help Suit Game Try rebidding 3 Diamonds “up the line” in the lowest ranking suit.  Perfect thinks North with 2.5 cover cards and more help in the Diamond suit, accepting the game try and rebidding 4 Spades.

West begins with the Club Ace, partner East showing encouragement playing the Jack.  On the second Club, South ruffs in with a small Spade.  Declarer plays the trump Ace and King with both opponents following, leaving them with the outstanding Spade Queen.  Making good use of the dummy’s last trump, South knows not to play the last trump.  So declarer plays a low Diamond to dummy’s Ace, then back to South’s King and ruffs the third Diamond in the dummy.  However the play is not over by a long shot and declarer must carefully plan the remaining play.  South has 6 tricks and definitely needs 4 more tricks.  With 2 winners in Hearts, South needs not 1 but both Spade winners.  So when in dummy, declarer should ruff a Club in dummy’s hand.  Next comes a low Heart back to dummy’s winning King and another Club to ruff – hopeful that East held the last trump and West will not overruff the trick!  When South’s ruff holds, declarer can take comfort making the close game.

So despite the partnership only holding 21 HCP, with South’s 6 losers and North’s 3 cover cards game is in hand 66 percent of the time.  These hands clearly demonstrate the value of primary honors – Aces and Kings as well as responder’s side suit ruffing power in a suit aided by a top cover card.

Polling You #76, Hand 2

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

South opens 1 Spade with 15 High Card Points plus perhaps 1 more for the broken 6 card suit and enjoying the side suit primary honors.   North begins a 2 Spade signoff bid with 7 HCP  plus 1 for the nice Diamond doubleton suit.  Now counting 6 losers, South rebids 3 Clubs seeking help in the lowest ranking suit (up the line asking bid).  With 2.5 cover cards and help in the Diamond suit, North makes a “counter suit” game try bidding 3 Diamonds – simply rebidding 3 Spades would be a second signoff bid showing no sign of life at all.  Hearing North’s 3 Diamond rebid, South is more than happy to accept the counter suit try since South could actually use help in either minor suit.  So South rebids 4 Spades and game is on.

On play, West makes a “top of nothing” passive lead of the Diamond 9 to dummy’s Ace.  Declarer switches to South’s Heart Ace, unblocking the suit to allow a pitch on dummy North’s Heart King.  South wins the Spade Ace, both opponents following leaving 2 remaining trump.  Next South cashes the Diamond King and ruffs a Spade in dummy.  On dummy’s Heart King, South pitches a small Club.  With no more dummy entries, it’s “now or never” on the Club finesse so a low  Club in dummy is lead from North to South’s King.  Not surprisingly, West held the Ace and wins the trick (helps explain West’s initial safe “top of nothing” lead).   West cashes the Queen, exiting with a Heart which South ruffs.  Hoping for a lucky 2-2 trump split, declarer plays a Spade and fortunately both opponents play their remaining Spades (40 percent chance).

Despite only holding a combined 22 HCP on declarer’s side, finding responder’s extras including the help in Diamonds makes game a safe bet – 89 percent of the time with these North/South hands.

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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,

BridgeHands

Comments

  1. BridgeHands says:
    In our Poll #76, we get a bit trickier asking the following question and receive the following combined responses:
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    Partnership bids 1S – 2S and it’s back to opener. Which of the following are true?
    22% – With 6 losers, opener should make a help suit game try call (2N, 3C/D, etc)
    7% – With 2.5 cover cards and help in opener’s side suit, responder should bid game
    22% – Both of the above
    7% – With 2.5 covers but a flat hand (no doubletons), responder may bid 3 Notrump
    42% – All of the above
    .
    Game tries, the technique of opener rebidding a lower ranking suit after partner responds with a signoff bid in opener’s major suit, is an excellent usage of the help suit game try asking rebid by opener. Almost a quarter of our pollsters agree opener must have 6 LTC, with an equal number adding that responder should hold 2.5 cover cards to accept opener’s suit-asking bid.
    .
    Still, almost one-half of our respondents seem to be most agreeable including that when the responder holds a flat 4-3-3-3 shape lacking a doubleton, the responder should give serious consideration to rebidding 3 Notrump – DESPITE holding a 5-3 major suit trump fit with partner. Indeed, in our lesson we illustrate several examples where the opener has a better chance to make 9 tricks in a Notrump contract when the responder’s hand lacks a side-suit doubleton. As it turns out, unless the opener has a shapely hand (5-4-3-1) and the partnership’s honors are stacked in three suits, the declarer often has a far better chance to make 9 tricks without any dummy ruffing power. Of course, as in life and in Bridge, we have few guarantees so your mileage may vary!
    .
    Happy Bridging

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