Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jennbridge: Losing Trick Count in Notrump Auctions

In the Losing Trick Count article in the May Bridge Bulletin, I addressed the topic of using LTC in notrump auctions.  When a fit is found in a notrump auction, after using Stayman, for example, then LTC principles can be effectively employed.

I posited the theory that after a Jacoby transfer, a super-acceptance could be made with a good hand, which I defined as a hand with no more than 6 losers.  I gave an example from actual play where my partner and I bid a 20-point game in a knockout match which was a lucky make. I have heard from a couple of readers who didn't like my example as the hand was so lucky--the game could have gone down any number of ways.

The hands were:  A865/KQJ4/Q108/K3 opposite 73/A9862/J9754/6.  I made a super-acceptance with my 6-loser 15 count and partner bid game with his 8-loser 5 count.  The cards were well-positioned and the game made.  In the article I didn't elaborate on the background, but the hand was dealt during a top-flight regional knockout match; we were vulnerable and we needed (and got!) a good board. 

Here are two additional hands, more traditional in nature, which may better illustrate the point I made in the article pertaining to losers. You open 1NT with each of these hands and partner bids 2, a transfer to spades.  Assuming you play standard "super-acceptances", what do you bid?

1. ♠A1087 KQ6K65 ♣A94
2. ♠A1087 KQ63K65 ♣A9

Both hands have good trumps and 16 points.  Hand 1 has 7 losers so should accept the transfer by bidding 2.  Hand 2 has 6 losers so should make a super-acceptance by jumping to 3.  Partner will bid game with an 8-loser hand such as:  ♠KQ643 109QJ8 ♣762

See you at the table!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Jennbridge: Trying for Slam

I picked up quite a strong hand yesterday in a pair game and opened 1:

I was extraordinarily pleased to hear partner bid 3, which we play as a limit raise (showing 8 losers).  Now that we had a fit I counted my losers and saw that I had a 5-loser hand, 4 losers if you subtract a loser for the two aces.   One thing was certain:  we were in the slam zone.

I cuebid 4, trying to learn more about partner's hand.  He responded with a bid of 4.  On one hand this bid was disappointing, because he failed to show the king of hearts, but on the other hand, it was encouraging because he failed to show the ace of diamonds, which meant that we had no wasted values in diamonds.

I bid 4NT, RKC, and he responded 5, showing one control--which I assumed was the A.  I made one more try by bidding 5 (the next step), asking about the queen of trumps.  If he had the queen he could show it, along with a king in a side suit, by bidding the suit his king was in at the 5-level.  A bid of 5, for example, would have confirmed possession of the Q and also shown the K, a bid that would have definitely propelled us to slam.  Alas, he responded 5, denying the Q.

As he had made a series of discouraging bids subsequent to his initial limit raise, I reluctantly gave up the search for slam and passed 5.

A heart was led and the dummy was about what I expected:



I won the 10 with the jack and pondered the situation.  I couldn't really tell where the K was and whether we had a heart loser or not.  I decided to play trumps from my hand first, in order to wind up on the board at some point to take a heart finesse.  All followed to the K and RHO showed out on the A, discarding an encouraging diamond.  We had a spade loser. 

At this point there were options.  In a team game it would probably be best to cash the A and start a cross-ruff, a plan which would guarantee the contract. In a pair game, I hated to give up on the possible extra trick in hearts, however, even if it meant there was a small chance of going down.

I therefore took the heart finesse which lost.  LHO could now have caused me some grief by cashing the Q, but instead she played a diamond to the jack and queen which I ruffed.  I now attempted a cross-ruff, but LHO ruffed the second club honor.  Her play was immaterial at this point as I was able to ruff two of my losing clubs and pitch the third one on the Q.

As it turned out, half of the field had minus scores, so our plus 450 turned out to be well above average.

See you at the table!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Jennbridge: A Teaching Hand

Here is a hand I used in my presentation to the bridge teachers at the American Bridge Teacher's Ass'n. conference at the spring NABC in Memphis.

Your partner opens 1 spade and you hold:

♦ 8

What's your call?

You begin your evaluation process. Let's see...only 9 points, but 7 losers. This should be worth a game-forcing raise. What are your options?

2 clubs? 2NT, Jacoby? How about a splinter in diamonds? Yes...that seems like a good plan. You have 4 decent trumps, a good side suit and prime big drawbacks.

You jump to 4  and now it is your partner's turn to evaluate.


He doesn't have to think for long as your bid has made things easy. You have shown a hand with no more than 7 losers and diamond shortness. His 4 1/2 loser hand is a veritable powerhouse now that he knows his diamond weakness is covered.

He bids RKC Blackwood, you show one ace, and he settles into 6♠.

Well done! Losing Trick Count helps you bid confidently to a 24-point slam.

See you at the table!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Jennbridge: STAC hands

If you're ever going to post a 70% game you want to do it during STAC week so you can win or score a high finish in the Western Conference for a lot of masterpoints.  Larry Hansen and I fell short yesterday, but in looking over the results, here are a couple of  hands that caught my eye.

Bd. 13:  Beat this Slam!

You hold this hand as West and hear this bidding:
♦ 10

LHO (North) opens 1 , East passes, South responds 1  and you decide to double to show the black suits.  North rebids 1NT and South jumps to 6NT!  Everyone passes and your partner leads a spade.

OR...did you make the call that would defeat the slam?

Did you seize the opportunity to DOUBLE for a heart lead (dummy's first bid suit)?

Board 13
North Deals
Both Vul
♠ K Q J
 7 2
 K J 9 8 4 3
♣ J 5
♠ 10 6 5 2
 K Q J
♣ A 10 9 4 2
♠ 9 7 4 3
 9 4 3
 7 6 5
♣ 8 6 3
♠ A 8
 A 10 8 6 5
 A Q 2
♣ K Q 7

As you can see, a heart lead sinks the slam.  If you didn't double, you should review the "Boehm on Bridge" articles in the April and May Bridge Bulletins and brush up on Lightner doubles!

Bd. 25:  Take 12 tricks!

As North, I opened 1NT, partner transferred to spades (a welcome sight!) and, counting our losers, we stayed out of slam.  (North has 7 losers and South has 8 losers--7 with LTC "adjustments").

Board 25
North Deals
E-W Vul
♠ K J 10 9 6
 J 10 4
 K 3
♣ A K 9
♠ 4 3
 6 3 2
 A 8 5 2
♣ Q J 5 2
♠ Q
 Q 9 7 5
 J 10 7 6 4
♣ 6 4 3
♠ A 8 7 5 2
 A K 8
 Q 9
♣ 10 8 7

I got a heart lead and went up with the ace, noting RHO's discouraging card and making a mental note to finesse for the queen later.  I drew trumps, ran the jack of hearts for a successful finesse and noted that there was really only one chance for an extra trick.  If West held both the queen and jack of clubs I could bring in the club suit for no losers.  So, I led a club to the 9 and it held!  If West splits her honors I simply return to the board for a second finesse.

Most pairs apparently failed to notice the chance in the club suit and only scored 11 tricks.  In a pair game it pays to be alert to find that great prize:  the extra trick!

See you at the table!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jennbridge: More Q & A on Losing Trick Count

The final article on LTC in the May Bridge Bulletin is generating additional questions.

Q:  Can you please reprint how to count losers?
A:  This is from the Dec. 2011 Bridge Bulletin article.  For more information you may purchase a copy of my booklet on Losing Trick Count, available on this site.


1. Count losers only in the first three cards of each suit.  The 4th, 5th, 6th, etc. cards in a suit are not counted as losers. There are never more than 3 losers in a suit.
2. With 3 or more cards in a suit count the A, K and Q as winners; anything lower as a loser.
3.  With a doubleton, count the A or K as a winner and anything else as a loser.  With a singleton, only the ace is a winner; anything else is a loser.

AKQxx no losers        Kxx 2 losers                xxxxx 3 losers
AKxxx 1 loser             Kx 1 loser                    Qx 2 losers
Axxxxx 2 losers          KQx 1 loser                 Jxx 3 losers

Q:  You mention Bergen raises in your article.  Can you elaborate?
A:  This is the introduction to the Bergen raise section reprinted here from my booklet.

Optional Refinement
Presenting a System of Major Suit Raises
Based on Losing Trick Count

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

Bergen raises are a system of responses at the three level to a major suit opening bid. They show 3 or 4-card trump support. The convention is named after Marty Bergen, who developed it.

Q:  Will you be writing more about LTC?
A:  Yes!  As more and more bridge players experiment with LTC and realize the positive impact it has on their game, I receive more comments, questions and book orders.  As more bridge teachers teach it to their classes, I predict a groundswell until most players embrace the concept and it becomes the established norm.

Remember--you can use LTC even if your partner doesn't!  When your partner admires the fact that you were the only pair in the room to get to game (or were the only pair to stop short of a game that didn't have a prayer) and asks you how you made your bidding decisions, you can explain that you were just following LTC principles.  Your partner will then come to this site to order a copy of the book--or at least go back and read the articles in the Bridge Bulletin.
If you would like to be notified when new LTC publications or material is available, please let me know by sending an email to:  Feel free to include a message or merely put "LTC updates" in the subject line of your email and you'll be added to the mailing list.

See you at the table!