Sunday, March 18, 2007

Losing Trick Count (Part 1)

Losing Trick Count (“LTC”) is a valuation tool for determining the trick taking potential of a bridge hand. The concept is widely used by better players. It is most effective on hands that have good distribution. Once the partnership has found an 8+ card fit, LTC can be used to establish the trick taking potential of those 2 facing hands. We do not use LTC to evaluate the potential of two balanced no trump style hands. On these hands we continue to rely primarily on point count.

Determining the LTC of your hand is as simple as “points” once you get the hang of it. Here are the LTC Guidelines:
1. If you are missing any of the 3 top honors in a suit, count each missing honor as a losing trick.
2. The maximum number of losing tricks that you can have in any one suit is three, so each suit card after the top three honors is completely ignored.
3. You can never have more losing tricks in a suit than you hold cards in that suit.
Here is some fine tuning you can apply once you feel comfortable with the basic LTC rules.
1. An unsupported Queen (Qxx) counts as 2 ½ losing tricks, but if it is accompanied by the Jack (QJx), it is only 2 losing tricks.
2. AJx is obviously better than Axx, so we count it as only 1 ½ losers.
3. If you have more queens than aces add ½ losing trick for each extra queen. If you have more aces than queens, subtract ½ losing trick for each extra Ace.

Here are a few practice examples:
1. AK64 KQ93 J3 432 (1 losing trick in spades, 1 in hearts, 2 in diamonds and three in clubs). Total LTC= 7 Hcps 13. Note the application of the principles that we look only at the first 3 cards (see spades and hearts) and that we can’t have more losers than there are cards in the suit (diamonds).
2. AK64 KQ93 A9 432 Total LTC=6 Hcps 16
3. AK64 KQ93 A9 K32 Total LTC=5 Hcps 19

Note: There is an inverse relationship between points and LTC. As points go up, LTC goes down.

Here are three more examples:
1. AK642 KQ94 J3 42 (like hand 1 above except it has a five card spade suit and a doubleton club. Total LTC=6 Hcps 13
2. AK642 KQ932 J3 x. Two 5 card suits. Total LTC=5 Hcps 13
3. AK6542 KQ932 J3 void 6-5 come alive! Total LTC=4 Hcps 13

Note: As the hands gets more unbalanced, the LTC goes down even when the hcps remain the same. Do you see why LTC better reflects the true playability of distributional hands?

The next step is to estimate the LTC of partner's hand based on his bidding action. Here are a few guidelines.
(a) Minimum opener 8 LTC Sound opener 7 LTC
(b) Weak 2 Bid (6-10) Disciplined 7-8 LTC Undisclined 9+ LTC
(c) 3 Level Preempt 6-7 LTC (Vul-NonVul)
(d) 4 level Preempt 5-6 LTC (Vul-NonVul)
(e)Simple Overcall 6-8 LTC
(f) Take Out Double 6-7 LTC
(g) Double and Bid 5-6 LTC
(h) Simple Raise of partner's opening bid 9 LTC
(i) Limit Raise 8 LTC
(j) 2/1 bid, Jacoby 2NT, Splinter 7 LTC or less
(k) 2 Club Opener 3-4 LTC
(l) Jump Rebid of Opener's suit 5-6 LTC
(m) Jump shifts/Reverse 5 LTC
(n) Jump to Game by opener in Suit bid by Responder at 1 level. 4 LTC or fewer

This is not a memory test.Start with opening hands, simple raises and limit raises and proceed from there. In Part 2 on LTC, we will see how to use our LTC skills to make key game going decisions.For futher reference see Ron Klinger's book Modern Losing Trick Count (1986).

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