Monday, May 21, 2018

LTC at Work at the Club

By Bob Klein

Here is a hand I held recently at the local bridge club. My partner opened 1, RHO overcalled 2 and I held:

A 8 2
K 9 7 5 3
3
K Q 5 3

The first item of business was to count my losers.  With 5 hearts to the king, there couldn't be more than 1 loser, so the hand counted to 5 losers.  So I immediately thought of slam, since opener normally has 7 losers.  Using the LTC formula, 7+5=12 losers, which should produce 12 tricks.  I had first or second round control of every other suit.  RHO figured to have most if not all of the opposing strength, and I had a singleton in his suit. If it came down to a spade finesse, it figured to work.

I thought about a splinter bid of 4 Diamonds, but then decided that partner could easily have enough for slam and not have enough to accept a slam try.  So I just took the simple approach and bid 4NT, RKC for hearts.  Pard showed 2 with the queen of hearts, so I closed it out at 6 . The lead was the A, followed by a heart shift. Here were both hands:

A 8 2
K 9 7 5 3
3
K Q 5 3
N
WE
S
Q J
A Q 10 8 4
Q 6 5
A 7 4

Partner drew trump, tested the clubs, and when they didn't split, took the spade finesse, which, as expected, won. Plus 980 was a tie for top as most pairs didn't bid slam. A proper evaluation of my hand, using losing trick count principles, propelled us to the excellent 27-point slam.


East Deals
None Vul
10 7 6 3
6 2
9 4 2
J 10 9 8
A 8 2
K 9 7 5 3
3
K Q 5 3
N
WE
S
Q J
A Q 10 8 4
Q 6 5
A 7 4
K 9 5 4
J
A K J 10 8 7

♣ 62

Friday, May 4, 2018

Why Use Losing Trick Count?

 This is from the introduction to my booklet, Losing Trick Count, Vol. I.

"As bridge players we would love to be able to bid every game and slam that makes and avoid those that don’t! We know how many high card points it supposedly takes to make game and slam and find ourselves occasionally feeling uneasy when things don’t quite “add up”. We take 10 tricks when we’re in a part-score and 12 tricks when we’re in game. Or we bid game or slam with the “correct” number of points and go down. We vaguely wonder whether there is a better way. The answer is YES! Losing Trick Count is a superior method of hand evaluation which, when used in conjunction with the high card point system, will dramatically improve your bidding accuracy.

Using the losing trick count method takes the guesswork out of bidding and enables you to get to the best contract consistently. Plus, it is easy to learn, easy to use and you can use it on your own--even if your partner has never heard of it!"

                                                         


I have been using Losing Trick Count (LTC) for more than 20 years and consistently receive good results bidding games and slams that are difficult to reach. I have many examples of them in my booklets and will be writing up many more in my new LTC series in the Bridge Bulletin.

My partners and I find that it is not too unusual to bid 20-point games. Here is a hand where my partner, Bob Klein, and I bid a 20 point SLAM two nights ago! I held:

♠AQxx
A10xxxx
Ax
♣x

A 14 point hand, but quite a strong hand when evaluated with losing trick count principles. I opened 1 and was pleased to hear partner respond 1♠.  Wow--that made my hand even stronger. Now that we had a fit, I counted my losers and saw that I had only 5. That meant that my hand was strong enough to go to game, but I found a more descriptive bid than 4♠. I bid 4, a splinter bid showing spade support with club shortness. 

Now partner, who knew roughly the strength and shape of my hand, started to evaluate his. He held:

♠10xxxxx
x
Q10
♣Axxx

Although he only had 6 points, he paused to evaluate the situation. As he told me later, although he started with an 8 loser hand, he figured his two small clubs were no longer losers opposite my club singleton, so he upgraded his hand, figuring that we may have a slam. Cue bidding and RKC Blackwood followed and we landed in 6♠. 

♠AQxx
A10xxxx
Ax
♣x

♠10xxxxx
x
Q10
♣Axxx

He won the heart lead and ruffed a heart, starting the process of setting up hearts. In the fullness of time he set up hearts, won the spade finesse and ruffed clubs, making 6. Not surprisingly, we won 11 IMPs for our score of 980 as our opponents stopped in 4♠, also making 6.

It's not every day that you can bid and make a slam with 20 points between you. Learning to properly use Losing Trick Count will enable you to do it!
                                                                             

Here are a couple of observations about LTC from well-known bridge pros:

*Gene Simpson says that average players can compete with experts if they learn LTC.

*Ron Smith says that people need to do more than merely count points for accurate bidding--the point count system doesn't properly evaluate distributional hands like LTC does.

Want to improve your game and win more consistently? Learn Losing Trick Count!

See you at the table!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Losing Trick Count 2018

Welcome friends! Many of you are reading the first of my new series of articles on Losing Trick Count in the Bridge Bulletin.

It seems like a good time for a new series of articles on the subject as I find that more and more bridge players are using this valuable tool, some have questions and there seems to be a lot of interest in the subject.

As background, when I first learned about Losing Trick Count nearly 20 years ago, it seemed too good to be true, so my partner and I decided to try  it. It is a method of hand evaluation that leads to greater accuracy, and overnight our bidding improved. Gone was the agony of trying to decide what to do. When I was uncertain about what to bid I simply counted my losers and usually came up with the right answer. I still do that today!

I considered the concept so valuable that I wanted to share my experience with other bridge players, so I wrote a booklet on the subject, using my own hands from this blog. (Losing Trick Count, Vol. I--available for sale on this site.) A fellow bridge blogger, Memphis Mojo, encouraged me to send a copy to the editor of the Bridge Bulletin which resulted in the series of articles.

At the time I wrote the booklet, I don't believe that Losing Trick Count (LTC) was very well known. The literature on the subject was dated, and players who tried to use it often did so improperly. Now, six years later, it seems to be used fairly widely, and I believe that the articles in the Bridge Bulletin are, at least in part, responsible. I then wrote a second booklet, Losing Trick Count Vol. II, also available on this site, and included the articles, along with some new material.

In the last few years I have enjoyed the opportunity to give several talks on Losing Trick Count  at North American Bridge Championships, addressed the American Bridge Teachers' Association, and bridge teachers around the country have purchased my teacher's package in order to teach it to their students.

It may be safe to say that the concept has passed the tipping point and that more players use it than not. I base this notion in part on a recent incident. A few months ago in Sausalito, California, I was at a gathering of mostly rubber bridge players. Much to my surprise, I heard the ladies at the next table talking about their losers! (And they were talking about their bridge hands--not their husbands...:-)

With so many players interested in the subject I am pleased to have the opportunity to write more articles for the Bridge Bulletin. I have collected new hands over the years and am familiar with the most common questions, such as: "Can you use LTC in deciding whether to open the bidding?" The new series of articles will address these questions and also present some new applications for Losing Trick Count.

My email address is Jennife574@aol.com and I welcome a dialogue with the readers. How do you use it? How has it helped your bridge game? What questions do you have? I will try to address any questions either in this blog or in the new series of articles.

Thanks!
See you at the table!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Counting Endplay


Here is another endplay where the bidding helped me get a count on the hand.

Playing teams, RHO opened 2, described as 11-15 HCP with either a 6-card club suit, or, if only a 5-card club suit, then a 4-card major on the side.

I held this hand so I overcalled 2NT.

Kxx
KJx
Kxx
AK10x

Partner bid 3NT which ended the auction. A club was led and I beheld the dummy.

Qxxx
A10x
Qxxxx
x

Kxx
KJx
Kxx
AK10x

If I can bring in the diamonds, I should be OK. Otherwise, the contract will take some work. I won the J with the A and started on diamonds. There were potential problems no matter how I played the diamond suit, so I started with the K from my hand. RHO won the A and returned a club which I won with the 10, pitching a spade from dummy. Now at least I have 3 club tricks. I next led a diamond from my hand and when I won the Q—disaster—RHO showed out, pitching a club. 

Now I have 3 clubs, only 1 diamond, probably 3 hearts and one spade--8 tricks--not good enough. Well at least I’m starting to get a count on the hand.

I cashed the A and led a heart to my J which held.  With nothing better to do, and to complete the process of getting a count on the hand, and perhaps also to strip RHO of his exit card, I cashed the K and RHO followed with the Q. It is looking like his initial distribution was 4-3-1-5, or possibly 3-3-1-6.

Either way I’ve got him. How do I execute the endplay to make the hand?
Here are the remaining cards.

Qxx

xxx


Kxx

x
Kx

If you're trying to learn endplays, stop here and try to figure it out.

Hint: You've got to force RHO to lead spades for you.

Answer: I first cashed the  K and then threw RHO in with a club. As he had already discarded a club, he could only cash at most one more before exiting with a spade. He led a low spade and I let it ride around to my Q. I then led a spade back toward my hand and he couldn't prevent me from scoring a second spade trick--my 9th trick! We won 10 IMPs and the match.

See you at the table!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bidding Slams With Voids

I am currently teaching a class on slam bidding. We have studied Blackwood and Gerber and defense against slams. The next class is on play of the hand at slams. I haven't yet told them that sometimes it's inconvenient or inappropriate to ask for aces and you just have to jump to slam! That is often the case when you have a void. If you ask for aces, you often won't know whether partner has an ace in your void or a useful ace!

I had two example hands tonight at the local team game. If you're playing at home you can relax and score up your game bonus, but if you're head to head with another team, you better bid your slam if you have one. If they bid it and you don't, you will suffer a big loss--often enough to lose the match. Conversely, if you bid your slam and they don't, they will be the one with the big loss and you will likely win the match!

Partner opened 1 and I responded 2 (game forcing) with this hand.

♠ Void
AKxx
Q985
♣ A9875

Now I figured he would bid 2 and I would have a bid of a problem with my rebid. But no, to my surprise, he rebid 2! As we were already in a game force I raised to 3. He now bid 3. This could be a cuebid in support of diamonds. It could show extra length in spades. He could be looking for a cuebid from me. Rather than do anything to confuse the auction, I just jumped to 6!
 
Here are the two hands:

♠ Void
AKxx
Q985
♣ A9875

♠ AK1096
QJ
A109xx
♣ x

A heart was led and he won in his hand with the Q and played the A  and another diamond and LHO won the K. Partner won the club return with the A, finished drawing trump and claimed. He only needed to ruff one spade and could pitch two spades on dummy's hearts. We won 11 IMPs (and the match) as our counterparts only bid 5

Hand 2. Very next match

I loved this hand. (No wonder--it's a 3 loser hand!) As I was admiring it, partner opened the bidding with 1! Wow! RHO bid 2 and I cuebid 3, showing a good hand with club support. LHO bid 4 and partner doubled! Next hand passed and I thought for a moment and jumped to 6!

♠ x
Void
KQJ10xx
♣ AKJxxx

I didn't want to sit for 4 doubled and Blackwood would be of no use. I needed to know WHICH ace(s) partner held, not how many.

I breathed a sigh of relief when he won the opening spade lead with the A. He drew trump and gave up the A and claimed. 

Both hands: 

♠ x
Void
KQJ10xx
♣ AKJxxx

♠ AQxx
Axxx
98
♣ Q10x

This time our good score of plus 1370 was matched at the other table and the board was a push.

As I tell my students: "Be brave. Bid your slams!"

See you at the table.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Jenn's Tips: Avoidance Play

Here is a play-of-the-hand tip for up-and-coming players.

How do you play this routine 3 notrump contract after a lead of the ♠5 to the 10 and your ♠Queen?

 72
AJ6
A742
KQ82

♠ KQ6
K1095 
K98
♣ A75

It appears that the lead is 4th best and that left hand opponent (LHO) has the ♠ Ace. After the first trick, your hands look like this: 

 7
AJ6
♦ A742
KQ82

♠ K6
K1095
K98
♣ A75

First you count your tricks.  Your sure tricks are 3 clubs, 2 diamonds, 2 hearts and 1 spade – for a total of 8. What is the best way to get your 9th trick?

Although clubs could break 3-3 for a 9th trick, the quickest and easiest way to a 9th trick is to play on hearts. Once the Queen is knocked out you will have 3 heart tricks.

How should you play your hearts? You can finesse either way and can start in either hand. Does it matter?

Absolutely! If your right hand opponent (RHO) gets in with the Q, she will return a spade through your king. Your LHO will then win all of his spade tricks and you will go down.

Whereas...if you LHO wins the Q, he will be helpless to take any tricks other than the ♠Ace and you will make your contract!

You must play the hearts so that LHO has the opportunity to win the trick if he has the Q. If he doesn't have it--fine, you will score at least 9 tricks. You must AVOID the dangerous opponent-which in this case is RHO. You must avoid letting RHO get the lead as she will cause you major problems. 

This is a classic avoidance play that comes up frequently. It also comes up in various guises, so be on the lookout. Take pains to keep the "dangerous opponent" off the lead!

See you at the table!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year


Happy New Year! I have a backlog of hands to write about. Mostly endplays—my favorites! They come in so many shapes and sizes and are always fun and satisfying to execute.

Here is an interesting one from a few weeks ago at an evening club team game. Sometimes it’s difficult to recall the exuberance that led you to bid game with sketchy values such as the following, but it undoubtedly had to do with vulnerability! 

I get a club lead at 3NT after a weak 2♠ overcall on my left and pause, as is my custom.

♠x
Q10xxx
Kxx
♣KJxx

♠AQxx
x
A10xx
♣A10xx

I don’t see a lot of  tricks, but I have been in plenty of worse contracts. I call for a low club, and to my shock, RHO discards a ! "Holy cannoli" (or something similar) I say to myself…"LHO is 6-5"! The opening lead reveals that LHO started with 5♣ and almost certainly has 6♠. This immediately gives me some ideas regarding how to play the hand. 

Let’s see…I have 4♣ tricks, 2tricks and can surely get two spades on an endplay. Hearts are hopeless; maybe something good will happen in diamonds.
I take my 4 club tricks and play the K. LHO follows with the J! A diamond to the 10 (restricted choice) wins as LHO shows out. 8 tricks--almost there. When executing an endplay you need to carefully watch the opponents’ discards so that you can strip them of exit cards as necessary.  As my plan is to throw in LHO at the appropriate time for him to give me a trick with my ♠Q, I next play a heart trick to strip him of his now known singleton .  RHO wins and, apparently reluctant to cash hearts and give my a heart trick, exits with a diamond to my ace. Now the stage is set.

These are my remaining cards. RHO has discarded a ♠ early in the hand on the run of the clubs, so I know he has only 1 left.

♠AQxx

x


I also know that LHO has only 1 ♣ and the all the rest spades in his hand, so I carefully cash the ♠A (removing any possible entry from RHO’s hand) and then exit with a low spade. LHO wins, cashes the 13th ♣  (on which I pitch my ) and ♠K, then has to lead a spade to my ♠ Q—my 9th trick!
We won imps. I love these hands that are so easy to count!

See you at the table!