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. 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. 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.
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.
Hand 2 in comparison, despite its much higher point count contains 8 losers, a full loser more than the average opening hand.
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 ?
Various other bids are:
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.
"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.