The I/N Crowd

By Rod Bias
Phoenix, Arizona

Points? Schmoints!
& Ho-Hum Hands
“Only an idiot counts points! Why don’t you learn to use your head?”

Dorothy Hayden (Truscott) was one of the greatest bridge players - ever. She won four world bridge championships and 26 North American Championships. No wonder she is in the Bridge Hall of Fame. She famously used the expression, “Points, Schmoints!” in her title for chapter seven of her best-selling book Bid Better, Play Better. Marty Bergen later used it as the title for a whole book (also a best seller). Mrs. Hayden-Truscott explained that a player dealt and opened 1♥ with this hand: ♠AQ4 ♥A1085432 ♦6 ♣108. His left hand opponent (LHO) passed. Partner raised to 2♥. RHO (duh?) bid 2♠ and the opener bid 3♥. Pass. Pass. Pass. “Even a half-wit could scarcely fail to take ten tricks with this hand,” wrote Dorothy.
If you think this is just another ten-point hand, read her book as she explains why it is worth at least 19 points. Or, stick with me for a brief intercalation as I review the four “ho-hum” hands from last time, and then I will finish the tale of the more exciting unbalanced beauty just mentioned.
You must know that balanced hands occur almost half the time (47.6%). Evaluating and bidding these “boring,” “routine” hands can make the difference in your net score, especially at club match point games. Repeatedly, I have tried to underscore that not all 12 HCP hands are created equal … not even balanced ones.
The challenge to you was to take these four hands and rank them from strongest to weakest. As the vulnerable dealer, which one would you most like to hold? Why? Which hands do you open and which do you pass?
1. ♠A974 ♥63 ♦865 ♣AK105
2. ♠KQ64 ♥Q9 ♦J74 ♣KJ76
3. ♠AQJ6 ♥J63 ♦Q8 ♣QJ62
4. ♠KQJ5 ♥KJ42 ♦973 ♣Q5
These hands all strike me as near the borderline between bid and no bid. All four are 4-4-3-2 shape (the most common shape), the shape you pick up more than once in five deals, the shape you stare at six times when you sit down to play at the club. Yawn.
Did you look at the shape first or count the HCP? Did you look at what’s in your short suits? Does it matter? How many Quick Tricks does each hand have? Does that matter? I think so.
Previously, I have mentioned the value of a four-card spade suit. Certain experts add one point for the fourth spade. Personally, I think that’s a bit too much; but I make a mental note to add one plus for it. If I only have two spades, that’s a minus. If I have four spades and they decide to name spades as the trump suit, they may be sorry. Fairness dictates that you are entitled to three spades. This time, I gave you four hands with four spades each. You start with one plus. Go.
Hand 1: 3QT and 11HCP with a plus for four spades and one plus for each ten or ace (= three more pluses). If three pluses = one point, then hand 1 has 12+ points: BID.
Hand 2: 1½QT and 12HCP with a plus for four spades and four minuses for four “quacks” (queens or jacks) and two more minuses for “stray” quacks (Qx and Jxx) unprotected in short suits. Wow: one plus and six minuses (six minuses = two points), so hand 2 has 10+ points. But, even Charles Goren would have told you to deduct one whole point for an aceless hand. Pass.
Hand 3: 1½QT and 13HCP with a plus for four spades; and you have an ace, worth another plus. Take six minuses for quacks and two more minuses for stray quacks undefended in short suits. Your pluses and minuses total up to six minuses (six minuses = two points), so hand 3 has 11 points. If partner cannot open in third seat, we are missing nothing. PASS.
Hand 4: 1½QT and 12HCP with a plus for four spades; maybe take another plus for being 4-4 in the majors. Having both majors puts us in a good competitive position. Four minuses for quacks and one for the stray quack. The plus/minus total is two (three=one point), so hand 4 is 11+ points. Pass.
This fourth hand is so good that a ten in either major might tempt me into opening, even without 2QT - which I think are so important in these close calls. So I rank these hands: 1432.
More “Points, Schmoints!”
The unbalanced hand at the start (♠AQ4 ♥A1085432 ♦6 ♣108) is 2½QT and 5½LTC by my count (others may call it 6LTC). Partner’s raise should be 9LTC (or less). RHO gets into the action with 2♠, telling everyone she has the ♠K and any missing heart honor. Deducting two more LTC is reasonable, giving us 13½ or 14 LTC total. Game is very probable. We only have three minor losers. If partner only has a doubleton spade and the ♥K, we can make a game bonus on 13HCP. Shape matters.
Partner’s hand? Half the points were useless; but it has what I really need: a doubleton spade and the ♥K!
♠76 ♥K976 ♦J752 ♣Q73
Points - Schmoints!