Sunday, March 18, 2007

Losing Trick Count (Part 2)

In Part 1 on Losing Trick Count we learned how to make a LTC count of your hand and also to estimate the LTC of parter's hand. In this second and final post on the subject, we will see how to use the LTC information to make vital game going decisions.

Rule: Once you know your LTC and have estimated partner's LTC, simply add them together and subtact the total LTC from 24. The remainder is the number of tricks you are likely to take on this hand if you have an 8+ card fit.

(1) Opener’s Hand: AKxxx Kxx Jx QJx. (14 hcps/7LTC). Opening Bid is 1 spade. Here are some responses and analysis.

(a) Partner responds 2 Spades. Jxx Qx Qxxx Kxxx (8 hcps/9 LTC). Formula 24- (7+9) = 8. We are predicted to make 8 tricks in Spades. Opener should Pass.

(b) Partner responds 3 Spades Qxxx QJx Axx Kxx (limit Raise). (12 hcps/8 LTC) Formula 24-(7+8) =9. We make 9 tricks in spades. Opener should Pass. Here you would probably bid 4 spades on points alone, but LTC denies that. Note that despite the fit the hand is too square.

(c) 2NT (Jacoby) Qxxx Ax Axxxx Ax (14+ points/7 LTC) Formula 24-(7+7) = 10. We can make at least 10 tricks in spades. With no shortness and a minimum, opener bids 4 spades.

(2) The bidding goes 1s/2c/2d/?. As responder you hold Qxx Qx Axx AKxxx 15 hcps/7 LTC and spade fit. Opening hand vs. 15 hcps. Formula 24- (7+7) = 10. We are favorites to take 10 tricks in spades. Bid 4 spades.

(3) The bidding goes 1c/1s/3s/? Opener is showing 4 card spade support and about 15+ hcps. You estimate it to be a 6 LTC hand . You hold QJxx QJx Axxx xx (10 hcps/8LTC). Quit worrying about the hcps, you have only 8 LTC, so if partner had 6 LTC you ought to make 10 tricks in spades. 24-(6+8) = 10. On the other hand if you held Kxxx Kxx Kxx xxx (9 hcps/9 LTC, pass 3 spades, it looks like you can take only 9 tricks. 24- (6+9) = 9.

(4) Opposite a minimum raise, it is often difficult knowing whether to pass, invite to game or bid game. A good guideline is to bid game directly with 5 LTC, invite partner with 6 LTC and pass with 7 LTC. To accept an invite, partner needs to be on top of his raise and holding a 8 LTC hand. Something like Kxxx Kx QJxx xxx.

The Weak 2 Bid: Setting aside all of the theoretical discussions about disciplined and undisciplined weak 2 bids, if partner opens with a weak 2 bid, it is safe to assume that the hand is 7-8 LTC. If it is 8 LTC is would look something like KQxxxx xx xxx xx. If partner has 7 LTC the weak 2 bid hand could look something like KQxxxx xx QJx xx. If you have a 6 LTC hand, it is too good to be opened with a weak 2 bid, you are liable to pre-empt your own partner. If you have a 9 LTC hand, you better have an understanding partner.

Three level Pre-empts: Do not make the mistake of opening at the 3 level every time you hold a 7 card suit. If you do, some of your hands may be too weak for a 3 level pre-empt (8 LTC hands) and some may be too strong (5 LTC hands). At the 3 level, vulnerability is very important. Until you gain confidence in your own judgments, a good rule to follow is to open a seven+ carder at the 3 level with 7 LTC if non-vulnerable and with 6 LTC if vulnerable. As you move up to the 4 and 5 level with your pre-empts, subtract 1 LTC from each of the 3 level requirements for each level you go up.

Responding to Pre-emptive Bids: Knowing when and how much to raise a pre-emptive bid is one of the hardest judgments in bridge. Start with an assumption about partner’s LTC, and then count how many of his losers you can cover with winning honors in your hand. Assume, for example, that partner bid 2 spades on KQxxxx xx xx xx (7 LTC). To produce game you will need to cover 4 of his losing tricks to bring the total losing tricks down to 3. Counting high card points is not very reliable as Queens and Jacks don’t count for much in this analysis. Your “cover cards” will roughly equate to your Quick Tricks. Thus, you can raise to 4 spades with Jxx AQx AQx Axxx (4 Quick tricks/7 LTC) and have a reasonable play. If you have a singleton, you can also count that as a cover trick if you have at least 3 supporting trump. Thus, Jxx, AQJx, KQxxx x (6 LTC) will give you a play for game.

LTC is not for novices who still need to focus on basics. Using hcps is the only practical way to learn the game, but once you have mastered hcps (advanced novice), you need to learn when to forget hpcs (distributional hands) and use the LTC technique. Pat Peterson teaches LTC in her advanced bidding courses. Again, the book is Modern Losing Trick Count by Ron Linger. Good bridge is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. If you could buy a good bridge game, who would be interested in playing?

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