The I/N Crowd

By Rod Bias,
Phoenix, Arizona

FUN and a Black Beauty
- LTC, SOT, and QT in Action

On the way to turn in my winning ticket at a recent Tucson tournament (January 5), I overheard the other team discussing what had seemed to me to be a fairly “routine” deal that we had just played. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, so I kept walking. However I saw that they had the cards out and seemed to be questioning how “those guys” (my partner and I) could bid 4♠ on 21 HCP ... and make it?
Evidently their team played in a partscore in clubs with the same cards and scored +130, while we scored +620.
FUN – F = Fit
You are vulnerable and they are not. Your RHO (Right-Hand Opponent) is dealer and begins with a pass. What do you do with these cards?
♠K974 ♥63 ♦85 ♣KQJ109
What a Black Beauty – nine cards in the black suits! If partner’s cards “fit” well with your cards, you can easily chalk up a game bonus. Fit is the number one factor in bidding. Unfortunately, until you hear from partner, you can’t tell if the hands fit.    
FUN – U = Unbalanced
Your 4-2-2-5 shape (one of the six most common shapes) is not balanced (not 4-3-3-3, 4-4-3-2, or 5-3-3-2). Some folks might argue that it is not “truly” unbalanced because it has no void or singleton. Be that as it may, it is not balanced. If you want to call it semi-balanced, go ahead. Let’s look at the suits. Your clubs have a SQ (Suit Quality) of nine: number of cards (five) plus number of honors (four). Your SQ=9 score says this suit (not the hand, just the suit) is biddable to the nine trick level. Wow. In itself, your spade SQ of five is not impressive. but combined with clubs in the “two-suit quality scale” (S2Q), 9+5=14. Typically, 12 is normal. The probability that partner has a fit for one of your suits is high.
FUN – N = Numbers: LTC and QT (or Controls)
Count your losers: two spades, two hearts, two diamonds and one club. Open all hands with seven LTC “iff” (if and only if) they contain two Quick Tricks (QT) in your long suits. Some people prefer to count control cards. I prefer QT because they include queens, “iff” appropriate. Ratz, this hand is begging to be opened, but you are ½QT short. You would open, if you had the ♠A instead of the ♠K, right? Do not think this “small” change adds one point to your hand.
Points, Schmoints.
A red queen would add two points to your hand and it would still not be an opening bid. Changing the ♠K to the ♠A does “only” add one point to your hand, but it is the right one point. It turns your ½QT into a full QT and gives you an opening 10 HCP hand.
Are We Having FUN Yet? Yes, but it gets better.
Remember, RHO passed as dealer. You pass. LHO bids 1♥. Your hand got a little stronger. Partner likely has a black suit or two. Partner doubles. Now things look really black for us (in a good way). RHO passes. Think. Think hard.
Partner’s double is an iron-clad guarantee of 2QT, no more than 7LTC and a max of two cards in the suit doubled (unless she has a powerhouse hand). For now, assume a standard double. Partner’s double promises at least three trumps to an honor in the unbid suits and strongly “implies” four cards in the other major. Some players guarantee four cards in the other major. Every blue moon or so, in a real pinch, I double with as little as Axx or even Kxx in the other major (and a singleton in their suit).
Are you thinking hard? What do you know and what can you guess?
A game bonus usually requires four QT or more. You now know we have 3½QT – sometimes enough for game. Besides, partner’s guarantee of 2QT is a minimum, not a maximum. Partner might have 2½QT or even more. Partner might have a singleton heart, making one of your losers go away. Partner probably has about four diamonds to the ace or king. If it’s the ace, one diamond loser goes away. If it’s the king, one diamond loser probably still goes away (LHO may have the ace as part of the opening bid). Partner absolutely must have ♣Axx or longer, you have ♣KQ. Your clubs have become a Source Of Tricks (SOT) that is already established.
Have I Convinced You to Bid 4 in Response?
Partner should realize you are a passed hand, yet you bid game. You must have a good hand short about ½QT of opening. Knowing this, partner should pass unless holding a powerhouse. What if partner has a big diamond hand and bids five? Now your hand demotes heavily; but wait, that powerhouse most likely includes the ♣Ax and your SOT is still a big plus. Bid six. It might not make, but it might ... because of my Black Beauty.
The End.
Oh, you want to know what partner’s hand was? Just a plain-Jane standard double of 1♥:
How could “those guys” bid 4♠ on 21 HCP … and make it?
With FUN hands: Don’t count points, think TRICKS.