Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jennbridge: LTC Q & A III

Q:  My bidding, especially getting to games, has benefited greatly from your Bridge Bulletin articles.  Do you have a "chart" indicating the approx. losers by point count, such as opening hands, strong notrumps, 18-19, etc.  This would be very helpful.  Also do you open all hands with 7 losers?  Or do you count points or quick tricks?

A:  Good questions.  As my friend and well-known bridge pro Gene Simpson says: "Average players can  compete with experts using losing trick count!"

Here is a chart to get you started:
  • Minimum opener:  7 losers
  • Strong notrump (15-17):  6-7 losers
  • Jump raise by opener (1C-1S-3S): 6 losers
  • Jump raise to game by opener (1C-1S-4S): 5 losers
  • Jump rebid by opener (1C-1S-3C):  6 losers
Note that high card points for these actions need to be "in the ballpark".  As the high card values decrease, the playing strength needs to increase to justify the same action.  Playing strength increases with more distribution and fewer losers.

This principle also applies to opening the bidding. If you hold a hand with 7 losers and less than, say, 12 points, you no doubt have some distribution and may be able to open with a weak-two bid or other preempt.  Otherwise, pass and try to get in the auction later.

In an upcoming Bridge Bulletin article I discuss whether to open at the 1-level or 2-level.

Other news: I'm preparing my talk for bridge teachers at the ABTA annual conference in Memphis in a couple of weeks and look forward to conveying my enthusiasm for this subject. As I like to say: "it takes the stress out of bidding--you count your losers and immediately know what to do!"

I have a Losing Trick Count Teacher Package available for teachers and for sale on this blog.  In addition to my Losing Trick Count booklet it contains an 8-page seminar booklet which can be duplicated and used in classes.

For  a thorough review of LTC principles, for a presentation of using LTC with Bergen raises and help-suit game tries, and to see losing trick count in action with actual hands from tournament play, order a copy of my LTC booklet--also for sale on this blog.

See you at the table!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

IMP Pairs - It Pays to be Aggressive

Jenn and I tuned up for our planned foray into the IMP Pairs in Memphis with a 2-session IMP Pairs in the Santa Clara regional.  We finshed fifth overall, so we feel we are ready for the big show.

IMP Pairs is an event where you need to be aggressive to win.  You are not only playing against one team, but a whole field, so to stand out you have to make games and slams that many pairs would not bid.  In addition, if your risky adventures don't work out well, you don't have to answer to teammates! 

Here are three hands from the event.  In two of them we won a lot of IMPs for being aggressive.  In the third we lost IMPs when we weren't aggressive enough.  All three hands are from the evening session. 

Hand 1 - Board 25  

In fourth seat with your side vulnerable, you hold

♠  AQT3
♥  73
♣  T43

Partner opens 1 Heart in second seat, you bid 1 Spade, and partner jumps to 4 Spades.  She has to have a great hand for this bid, probably with 5 losers.  It looks too good to pass.  Although it has 8 losers, the two aces, with the queen in trumps make this really only a 7 loser hand.  I decided that a slam try was in order, so I cuebid 5 diamonds, showing the ace and inviting slam if partner had a club control.  She
duly bid 6 Hearts and a club was led.

♠  K654
♥  AKQ86
♣  KQ8

♠  AQT3
♥  73
♣  T43

 I put up the club queen, losing to the ace.  Now, while RHO was considering his defense, I was evaluating my chances.  I had to set up dummy's hearts and deal with its club loser while avoiding any problems with trumps. The hand would essentially be a dummy reversal.  I thought it needed either 3-3 hearts or somehow finessing or dropping the club Jack.  After a moment, RHO produced the Jack of clubs!  Eureka!  Now the slam was nearly cold, and duly came home.  11 precious IMPs our way.  (RHO had AJ tight of clubs, 3 hearts and 2 spades, so everything was friendly.)

Hand 2 - board 31

In second seat, with the opponents vulnerable, you hold

♠  J2
♥  AQJT872
♣ AT

I opened 1 heart with this nice collection, and it went pass, 1 Spade by Jenn, pass back to me.  I counted 5 losers, with a side ace and no queens, so it becomes 4.5 losers for evaluation purposes.  Normally, LTC requires a fit.  But I believe that if you have a self-sufficient suit, which I define as one that can play for at most one loser opposite a void, that this is as good as having a fit.  I decided that this hand had to play in game, so I bid 4 Hearts.  Jenn, looking at

♠  AQ6543
♥  void
♣ K74

 felt she had to take some forward-going action with all these values opposite a jump to game.  She had many choices.  Jenn decided that there was no way that I could justify a jump to 4 Hearts unless I had very good trumps, so she bid 4NT, RKC, and when I showed 2 keycards and the queen of hearts, she bid 6 Hearts.

♠  AQ6543
♣ K74

♠  J5
♥  AQJT872
 ♦  K5
 ♣  AT
I got a low diamond lead.  It looked like the slam depended on either the diamond or spade finesse plus a 4-2 or better heart split.  I finessed the jack (not the best play) which was covered, so ultimately the slam needed the spade finesse, which worked--so the slam made for another 7 IMPs.  As the cards lay, I could have made it without a finesse, since RHO had Q93 of diamonds.  If I had won the first diamond in my hand, I could have drawn trumps, then played ace and another diamond, ruffing.  The queen would have been ruffed out, and I could have pitched my losing spade on the jack.  In retrospect this was the better play since LHO was unlikely to lead away from the queen against  this powerful auction.   

Hand 3 - board 29

This is one where Jenn and I both had the opportunity to take the aggressive path, but neither of us did.  So we missed a vulnerable game and lost 5 IMPs instead of winning 6,  a big 11-IMP swing.  Worse, it came against the pair that ended up 3rd, so if we had bid it we would have passed them in the standings.

Jenn's RHO opened 1 Heart with both vulnerable.  She held:

♠  A85
♥  976
♣ AQ764

She passed, and next hand bid 2 Hearts, announced as a constructive raise.  I held:

♠  JT6432
♥  83
♣ KT3

I decided to be brave and bid 2 spades because the opponents had already found a fit so were unlikely to stop and double me.  Now it went pass to Jenn.  She might have taken the really aggressive route and bid 4 Spades, but with her 8 1/2 losers she chose to invite with 3 Spades.  I felt I had done enough just getting into the auction, so I passed.  Looking at both hands, we would have wanted to be in game.  It makes with trumps 2-2 or if either opponent had the singleon king or queen and they couldn't maneuver an uppercut with K9x or Q9x,  which is clearly good enough IMP odds to bid a vulnerable game.  

Next stop, Memphis.  Good luck!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Jennbridge: LTC Q & A II

Hi Jennifer,

After reading the two LTC articles in the Bridge Bulletin, I find that I’m completely captivated by the subject and will be ordering your booklet.  I’ve recently started to put the theory to practice and I see that so often LTC’s get one to a better contract than just relying on point count.

I have a very simplistic question.  How on earth can you know what partners LTC’s are so that you can theoretically subtract from 24?

Thanks for your answer!

Sue B.  Washington State

Dear Sue:  Glad Losing Trick Count is working for you--it's great isn't it?!

Start with the assumption that your partner, who has opened the bidding, has 7 losers.  (A normal minimum opening bid has 7 losers.)  Add your losers to hers and subtract from 24 to get the number of tricks the partnership should expect to take.  

For example, if you have 8 losers, invite game with a limit raise. (8 + 7 = 15 which, subtracted from 24 = 9--the number of tricks you can expect to take at the 3 level.)  When partner hears your limit raise she will know you have 8 losers, so she will pass with a 7-loser minimum opener, but bid game with a 6-loser hand.  

So, first you assume that partner has opened a 7-loser minimum.  You add your losers to hers and make the appropriate response.  When she hears your response she then adds your losers to hers and makes the appropriate rebid.  You start with an assumption and then begin filling in the details based on the actual hands you hold. Understand?

Good luck!

See you at the table!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Jennbridge: Reader comments & Questions

(From Harry in Indiana)
Dear Jennifer,

I received the booklet yesterday.  Very interesting.  I've already used it in part score bidding today.  Seems very helpful when deciding to pass at the two level or go on to the three level.

If you do not mind, I have a couple of questions.  Can you apply LTC to an 8 card fit (5-3)?  (All the examples in the book are 9 card fits.). On marginal opening hands, should you open a hand with greater than 7 LTC?

Much thanks,

Dear Harry,

1. Losing trick count helps you bid to the correct level--not higher, not lower.  That's the beauty of it.  Glad you're finding the booklet helpful in your bidding.

2. LTC does apply to 5-3 fits.  This is from page 5 of my LTC booklet:

It is important to remember that LTC should be used only when a trump fit (4-4 or 5-3 or better) has been found.

High card points should continue to be taken into account.  If a hand with few high card points is distributional with a good fit, count the losers to determine whether to upgrade.  If a hand strong on points is balanced and appears rather weak, count the losers to determine whether to downgrade.  If still unsure, note that aces are better than kings and can tip the balance toward an upgrade.

3. Regarding opening with more than 7 losers, if you have 12 or more points, go ahead and open the bidding.  In an upcoming Bridge Bulletin article I will be discussing whether to open at the one-level or two-level based on LTC.

Question:  What about adjustments to LTC?

Answer:  Many adjustments have been proposed over the years.  The one currently most in favor is to reduce your loser count by 1/2 for each ace and increase your loser count by 1/2 for each unsupported queen.  I have referred to this in my blog and in my booklet.  

See you at the table!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Jennbridge: LTC and Bergen Raises

Question from a reader:  My partner and I have been using Bergen bids to respond to 1 Spade or 1 Heart by opener with no interference.  I read your articles in the Bridge Bulletin on Losing Trick Count and that seems to be a better approach (although I'm a big Marty Bergen fan).

Answer:  I, too, am a big fan of Bergen raises and believe they work splendidly with LTC.  In fact, a portion of my Losing Trick Count booklet is devoted to this topic.  Entitled "Presenting a System of Major Suit Raises Based on Losing Trick Count"  here is the first paragraph:

While LTC works with any bidding system, for the greatest bidding accuracy it is advantageous to combine it with Bergen and constructive raises in a 2/1 game forcing system.  The system works extremely well, although it is perhaps best left to experienced players.

My expert partner, a convert to LTC in the last few years, especially appreciates the benefits of combining it with Bergen raises and is a big fan of the system.

Question:  In all of your examples in the above articles, responder had four trump support.  What if, as responder, you only have three?  Does LTC work in that case?  Thanks for your help.

Answer:  LTC works fine with 3-card trump support and I believe that most of my examples show 5-3 fits.  After you become experienced in using LTC, you can learn some refinements dealing with number of trumps.

See you at the table!