Slams, Games & Partscores
HCP total and LTC & Distribution & Knowledge of Controls are what determines conclusion of bidding.
So first lets examine these concepts individually.
HCP count is what every bridge player knows about
Let's look at the detail:
The popular count is 4-3-2-1 for A,K, Q & J
this count is very approximate and incidentally 7531 actually provides
a more realistic measure giving the pack a 65 total count rather than
40 of the 4321 count.
Nevertheless all stick to the 4321 which leaves me the task of explaining where its inaccuracies lie.
First Aces are undervalued.
4 1/4 is more realistic than 4. There also seems to be an old wives
tale that says a hand of 3 Aces is not a good opening - i beg to differ
and value it at 13 and will always open it.
At the other
end of the scale Jacks are overvalued: 3/4 a more accurate evaluation,
This is especially true of isolated Jacks count them as 1/2 would
be wise, however when they combine with other honours like
A, K or Q and perhaps a Ten their value could be 1,
1, 1, 3/4 respectively.
Most know that
singleton or doubleton K or Q's are to be devalued initially to 2 &
1 for singletons and 2 1/2 & 1 1/2 for doubletons. However if ever
in the bidding partner shows that suit then they may immediately revert
to their full value - even a previously discounted J.
A humble Ten or 9 has a value in a suit when supporting honour
cards - should also be worth a plus value especially in flat
distributions or in good 5+ card suits - it can support a finesse capability for example.So what do we do with the count:
First of all revise your evaluation as
the bidding progresses, secondly combined with partners apparent values
(according to system) it gives part of the reasoning required to divine as to what the
partnership may attain on the given cards.
Balanced hands & NT contracts
In NT contracts
a game is odds on with 25HCP even with 24 probabilities are reasonable
but distribution and controls will determine the answer not just HCP.
How many times have opponents defeated your 3NT by running a 5 card
suit? I know you get away with it sometimes but with good opposition it
would be a foolhardy to dream of making it if opponents have 9 cards or
even 8 in a suit in which you have little control. Of course with less than
24 3NT can make with a good suit to run.
So distribution and controls are the deciding factor - HCP is only a poor man's guide!
What of 1NT contracts? Here there is no doubt that declarer has the
- its far easier for declarer to determine his best chances
than defenders can theirs. Therefore even with a combined 19 HCP
declarer can succeed more often than not - therefore unless
distribution indicates otherwise do not disturb a balanced 1NT opening
with 7-8 points! One cannot expect to do better at the 2-level in a
suit - unless you have the distribution to underwrite it.
21, and no better fit to play in a suit with BetaACOL we may find
ourselves unfortunately forced into 2NT after partner makes a 2/1
response in a minor. This situation is not ideal and the contract
may fail by 1 trick. We have accepted this knowing that
structurally we have great benefits from bidding in this way. Partner
making a 2/1 is therefore asked to take care and realise that 10HCP is
the gold standard rather than 9 and plus values like 5 cards or good
intermediates are required with a 9 count and if otherwise the case to
devalue the hand to 8 - especially at adverse vulnerability. So 21-23
is the gold standard for a 2NT and 19-21 acceptable for 1NT and
probabilites bear this out in flat hands. However, as with 3NT,
as some control is available a long suit can make all the difference
and lower these standard ranges. 3NT requires a balanced combined
24-26. But a long suit can reduce this HCP count requirement
NT contracts is all about making your required tricks before opponents can muster a setting trick.
Let's now turn our attention to a suit contracts.
HCP counts are
still quoted for suit contracts. Unfortunately they are now very
unreliable! The more the hand is distributional the more they are
like 26 HCP for a Major game are quoted and this is approximate for a
moderately balanced hand with a fit. Even then a poor guide.
Distribution, the trump fit and controls are the decisive factors - NOT HCP counts.
First we look
at the trump suit fit. Without a good suit contracts regularly
fail. Losing control of a hand when the trump suit proves inadequate is
one major reason for losing a game contract.
5-4 fits or
better can rarely prove insufficient so we will concentrate on the more
frequent 4-4 and 5-3 fits. BetaACOL will always find these fits unless
made difficult by opponent interventions. Nevertheless the more
opponents intervene the more distributional the whole hand is likely to
be. Distribution favours suit contracts as long as an adequate trump
fit can be found and 'mirror' hands are avoided. When
intervening opponents demonstrate fits in their own suit the
probailities of having a fit yourself is mathematically enhanced.
The right kind of HCP is also often decisive. First it is critical to
have top controls in your longer side suits - missing A & K can
lead to a loss.
Good fit of an 8 card trump suit is not enough - again without a
sufficient HCP count the opponents may reduce your trumps sufficiently
to give you much trouble - Holding the Ace of trumps is really useful
to reduce the risk of trump attacks.
A lot is said about 4-4 versus 5-3 fits. One is not necessarily better
than the other - dispel the often stated idea that 4-4 is superior.
- If you need to be able to take a ruff in either of the hands then 4-4 is usually superior
- However if you know you are likely to take a ruff or 2 in the SHORT hand 5-3 is superior
- 5-3 is always likely to be superior if adverse trumps are divided 4-1
- In a slam
5-3 is more likely to be superior as it will provide 5 or even 6 tricks
& as it represents a more secure trump suit with a bad trump break
versus just 5 likely tricks with 4-4 and slam threatening
situation if trumps split badly
- If the
trumps are exceptional and include A, K, & Q as well as a
Ten or 9 it 4-4 and even 4-3 fits may be very playable
The LTC often becomes far more important a measure than just HCP
Let's turn our attention to how is LTC determined:-
Examine each of your 4 suits in turn and consider just the 3 highest cards held:
Partner will also be aware of his count and all trump suit raises agreements will be limit bids based on LTC.
- 3+ cards Jack or less counts 3 LTC
cards headed with a Queen should be counted as a 3 LTC
count too unless (a) its the trump suit (b) in partners expressed suit
then count a 2 LTC
- AKQ.. counts 0 LTC
- AQx.. or KQx....counts 1 LTC
- AJT or AQT count as 1 LTC
- Axx.. or Kxx... counts 2 LTC
- With just 2 small cards, Qx or less count 2 LTC unless its the trump suit or partners known side suit then count 1 LTC
- With just 1 card count 1 LTC unless A or K then count 0 LTC
- With a void count 0 LTC
- Total all four counts
just one other correction may be made. If their is an unsupported Ace
in the above e.g Ax or Axx then deduct 1 from your LTC total if there
has been an unsupported Queen ignored in the counts so far
This is calculated by taking from 18 your own LTC count and what your partner's bidding tells you of his LTC count.
Some assumptions can be made:
- An opening in Beta is maximum 7 1/2 LTC
- Initially take a 1-level suit response as a 9 LTC maximum count - often wiser to PASS with worse
take a 2-level suit response as an 8 LTC maximum count unless
making a simple raise of partner's suit when 9 LTC is permitted
- Beta does
not adhere to reversing values and a simple change of suit is forcing
but may not have a better LTC count then that of his opening.
- Responders rebid in the 4th suit is forcing and shows a 7LTC or less
- A Beta 2 Major opening shows exactly 4 or 5 LTC
- A jump rebid by partner shows a maximum of a 6 loser hand
- 5-5 hands are bid with with 7LTC or less
- A jump rebid by opener in a short suit shows a maximum of 6 LTC and a single-suited hand
- A 2C opening followed by a trump request shows 3 1/2 LTC or less
However LTC is
not enough in itself for slams - indeed it can be very misleading - now
adequate controls are necessary - otherwise one can suffer the ignomy
of losing A & K off the top or even 2 Aces!
There are 2 approaches:
- Best is cue bidding
as it pin-points location and can be initiated even before game level
as soon as agreement is found, where it can help too. However once cue-bidding is reaches 4NT, Beta
uses TURBO which also operates on the same key cards!
- Then there is the 'Big Bang' 4NT ERKCB.Not used if cue-bidding is commenced.
- In general cue-bidding - locating controls - is always going to help one find good slams and avoid bad ones!
How do HCP, LTC & Controls influence determination of what is possible?
Let's first get an understanding where these measures (that's just what they are) fail.
1) Mirror hand patterns
Some simple examples:
A singleton opposite a singleton gets counted TWICE in an LTC count giving a higher result than is correct.
However this could work for you in another way - that all your values
are concentrated in 3 suits rather than 4 suits - that is giving you a
better HC count per cards held in that suit ratio- this is always
a good sign in suit contracts (disasterous in NT contracts!).
Same goes for xxx opposite xxx your 3 losers are coinciding - In suit or NT contract this can be very bad news.
Doubled HCP strength is wasted strength e.g e.g AQ opposite Kx Thats 9
points making just 2 tricks just where you might expect more e.g AQx
In NT contracts a Quality suit opposite a poor suit of similar
length is far from helpful e.g. AKQJ opposite xxxx to take an extreme
example to make the point makes 4 tricks, but AKQJ opposite x would
also make 4 tricks while the 3 other cards could make a huge difference
So HCP or LTC can easily have pitfalls. And the pitfalls are all due to SHAPE and location of Honours!
Beta has a number of fundamental aids in determination of Shape and
location of Honours. E.g Trump requests, Control requests in 2C sequences, cue-bidding,
very accurate determination location of honours in
suits, use of techniques that determination of suits, guards, controls
in 2 suits at a time. A thorough examination of Beta will throw light
on these claims.
As may be understood from the discussion on duplication of Honours and length, HCP count, LTC is there another type of measure may be more accurate? Well that's difficult.
One thing Beta style bidding does very well is: - determing shape accurately in most
auctions - especially reasonably free auctions - but even up to a
point in contested auctions too.
This in turn in
conjunction of rebids gives length and a good idea of the LTC
lower limit. Now shape is beginning to emerge giving you knowledge of
the distribution of your partner and the nature of the fit (suspicion
of duplication may also becoming obvious and will often need a 3rd
round of bidding to know one way or the other for sure)
So now you have the chance of deducing the FIT of the hands.
For a measured evaluation take the sum of known cards in the trump suit and the secondary suit,
(at least 4-3 in the second suit), subtract 2 for 2-2 or longer in the
other 2 suits, add 3 for a useful singleton and 5 for a useful void.
An 18 count is to be considered as average for a major game or higher level
contracts, each point above 17 is a plus point,
If other indications primarily controls & HCP indicate some
doubt in a small or grand slam 3+ additional points as explained above should sway you in
For balanced hands we provide this rough table of HCP normally
required for the level stated playing in a suit or
NTs. This table is not valid for distributional hands with 6+ card
suits (see below). Valid for trump fits of 4-4 or 5-3. Distributional
points (DP) are additional points for useful shortages
(singleton 2 and void 4)
|NT contract HCP required
|Suit contract DP required
In NT contracts good controls and a long 6+ cards establishable
suit for loss of at most 1 trick, can significantly reduce the above
points required. So such a 6 card suit can reduce CP requirements by up
to 2 points and such a 7 card suit by up to 4 HCP on the condition that
it is establishable before opponents can setup their best suit.
In Suit contracts presence a 6+ card suit, shortages, useful singletons
& voids and additional trump cards 9+, will reduce the HCP
requirements. In these cases we re-value hands with Distributional
points DP once a fit is established.
DP = HCP + Distributional points
Distributional points for suit contracts in unbalanced hands with a 6+ card suit and at least 9 trump cards:
Notice with less balanced hands, maximum a 5 card suit, our additions for shortages are shaved by a point.
- Useful Void: 5 points
- Useful Singleton: 3 points
- A ninth & subsequent trumps: 1 point each