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  1. Introduction
  2. Losing Trick Count - Own hand (LTC)
  3. Losing Trick Count - Partner's hand (LTC)

BR 24.1 - Introduction
Consider Hand 1 below. Your Partner opens with 1S.
What is your standard response ? 4S of course showing 6-10 (
Bidding Guide p.4). You have less than 9 HCPs, 4 card trump support and an unbalanced hand. br2401.gif Counting the the total points of the hand it does not quite add up : 8 HCP + 3 SP = 11 points.
Obviously the combined effect of side suit shortage and an abundance of trumping power makes the hand stronger than the points indicate.

Now look at Hand 2 below.
After Partner's opening bid of 1S you obviously have sufficient points together for a Game contract. But you have two useless 3 card suits in your hand. If Partner has the same in one of these suits, and not much protection in the other, a Game contract may be doomed from the start. br2402.gif These type of common examples show up the inadequacies of assessing the distributional values of a hand by means of the 5-3-1 shortage points system only.

In recent years an additional new valuation system has been introduced that, in combination with the point count system, is used by many players. It assesses the trick taking potential of the combined hands for trump contracts only. It is called the Losing Trick Count (LTC).

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BR 24.2 - Losing Trick Count - Own Hand
The Losing Trick Count (LTC) is a valuation method for trump contracts only. You can use it after a trump fit has been found.
Count your losers in the top three cards in each suit. Cards beyond these are considered winners.
  1. Ace = 1 winner
  2. King = 1 winner
  3. Queen = half a winner, or a whole winner when supported by a second Honour
  4. Void = no loser (therefore represents 3 winners)
  5. Singleton = 1 loser (therefore represents 2 winners)
  6. Doubleton = 2 losers (therefore represents 1 winners)
Combining above Honour and shortage counts : an A x or K x doubleton counts for 1 loser. A K doubleton is no loser at all, so does a singleton Ace. K Q doubleton is 1 loser as is K Q x, and so on.
The maximum number of losers you can hold in your hand is 4 x 3 losers = 12 losers. The same applies to the hand of your Partner, therefore :
24 - (your losers + Partner's losers) = the likely number of tricks you will make
This means that if you and Partner have 14 losers in the combined hand you are likely to have 10 winning trick, enough for a Game contract in a Major suit. With 12 losers a Slam is a very good proposition.
Let us have a look at how the two hands from the previous chapter are valued using this method.
Hand 1 is valued at 7 losers. This is the same as the strength of an average minimum opening hand.
No wonder then that a Game contract with this supporting hand is going to be a good prospect.
br2403.gif Hand 2 in comparison, despite its much higher point count contains 8 losers, a full loser more than the average opening hand.
br2404.gif If for arguments sake we take away the Club Queen in Hand 1, reducing its strength to 6 HCPs only, it is still equal in loser count (now 8) to Hand 2, which now has more than twice the number of HCPs.

The above comparison makes it very clear that the distribution pattern of a hand has a huge influence on its trick taking potential, much more than expressed by the 1-3-5 shortage point valuation.
It is essential to always remember that you must have a good trump fit, as much of the trick taking potential is based on being able to take advantage (by ruffing) of the shortages in a hand.

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BR 24.3 - Losing Trick Count - Partner's Hand Valuating your own hand with the LTC method is easy, but how about assessing Partner's hand ?
Here you need to rely on his bidding.
Approximate valuations for standard opening bids and responses are :

  • 6-10 pts : Single raise or 1NT Response = 8-9 losers
  • 6-9 HCP : Game raise to Partner's 1H or 1S = 7-8 losers
  • 11+ pts : New suit at the 2 level Response = 8 losers or less
  • 13+ pts : Jump raise = 7 losers or less
  • 13-15 pts : Minimum Opening bid or 2NT Response = 7 losers
  • 16-18 pts : Strong Opening bid or 3NT Response = 6 losers
  • 19-21 pts : Maximum 1 Opening bid = 5 losers
  • 22+ pts : Strong 2C, 2NT Opening bid = 4 losers or less

Various other bids are:
  • 9-15 pts : Overcall at the 1 level = 8 losers or less
  • 11-15 pts : Overcall at the 2 level = 7 losers or less
  • 12+ pts : Takeout Double = 7 losers or less
  • 6-10 HCP : Weak 2 Opening, Weak Jump overcall = 7-8 losers
  • 6-10 HCP : Preemptive 3 Opening bid = 7 losers (not vulnerable) or 6 losers (vulnerable)
  • 6-10 HCP : Preemptive 4 Opening bid = 6 losers (not vulnerable) or 5 losers (vulnerable)
  • 8-12 HCP : Michaels Cue bid, Unusual 2NT = 5-7 losers
The key totals you need to remember are 14 losers or less required for a Game contract, while 12 losers or less are required for a Slam.
Most importantly however remember that all LTC calculations are only valid when you have a good (8 card or better) trump fit. The best approach is then to use both the LTC and the point count system side by side in your overall assessment of the game.
For a good understanding and effective use of the LTC I recommend Ron Klinger's excellent book on the subject "The Modern Losing Trick Count". The valuation of your hand (and of the potential of your and Partner's combined holdings) should never be based on just one assessment method alone.
  1. Always use the LTC in combination with the Point count system and your own judgement and creative insight of your hand.
  2. And always assess your hand in the context of what you know about your Partner's hand.
A frequently heard lament at the bridge table of less experienced players is "But Partner, I could not support you, I had too many losers", or
"Partner, I just did not have the point to go on."
These are clear signs that the player concerned was looking at his (or her) hand in isolation and not in the context of Partner's holdings.
Be aware that using the LTC on its own can produce a too conservative assessment. For (although this is not stated in any of the textbooks I have come across) the LTC is based on a 12-card hand.

The fact that the 13th card is not counted as a loser does not mean (as many appear to believe) that it is a winner. The 13th card in both your and Partner's hand are simply disregarded altogether.
The 13th card can be
a loser in one hand and a winner in the other
a loser in both hands
or a winner in both hands
A simple analysis of say 100 deals (as I have done for the deals in this course) bears this out.
For about one third of the Deals the LTC is spot on (or in a few cases over overvalued), while in the remaining two thirds of the Deals the actual tricks made were 1 or 2 tricks more than the LTC assessment.

I therefore suggest that, whenever your hand contains "extra value" (such as a few 10s and 9s, or a strong long suit), you subtract the total assess loser in the combined hands from 25 rather than the prescribed 24.   I have included this alternative in the Bidding Guide, BG-15.
Copyright © 2006-2011 Michael Furstner. All rights reserved.