Saturday, June 17, 2006 11:33 PM

Hand Evaluation - Rote Rules ( HCPs )




You can not play the game of Bridge by way of rote rules. Bridge is based on the laws of probability so there are millions of different situations that come up. You can not have millions of rote rules memorized to cover every outcome. The solution to this dilemma is Bridge logic. Every bid , defensive play , opening lead & declarer play must have some Bridge logic associated with it & not a memorized rule. Deductive & inductive reasoning is used just like in detective work. Why did the dog not bark ? Deductive reasoning is based on - if premise 1 is true & premise 2 is also true than this conclusion results. There are 40 HCPs in the deck & only 13 cards in each suit so these premises are the basis for logical thinking in Bridge. You think logically via hand patterns & HCPs . Patterns are a tool to assist your thought process. Inductive reasoning is the reverse process from deduction. Gather clues to form a probable overall conclusion.


HCPs as the sole hand evaluation tool epitomizes the horrible habit of just applying rote rules to play Bridge. HCPs are the training wheels of Bridge. Experts translate Bridge judgment , theory & hand evaluation into HCPs so the game of Bridge can be taught or as a reference for beginning players. Over time , as you mature in Bridge , you have less reliance on HCPs & more on hand evaluation & Bridge judgment. Experts do not need HCPs to bid a hand properly. HCPs & hands are to be evaluated not just totaled. You must discard your bad bidding habits learned when you were a beginner or you always remain a beginner.


Rules are made to be broken is a very common theme for Bridge players. Yes , it is a good idea to have 2 quick tricks for an opening bid. Sometimes you break the rules when you feel the hand warrants it. Here is a hand from the Vanderbilt .AJ109xx Qx QJxQx so do you open it ? One table opened one spade despite only having 1 defensive trick. At the other table they opened 2♠ despite the HCPs were on the high side for a weak two. Which lie do you make ? The weak two opening played the hand in 4♠ for +650 & the 1♠ opening played it in slam for 100. Evaluate your hand & pick the best lie.


Automatically opening 1NT with a 5 card major is not a good idea. If the main feature of your hand is your 5 card major , open it ! ♠AKJ10x Axx KxxJx is not a 1NT opener. Yes , you have a flat 16 with an awkward rebid , but your major is just too good . Your hand is not suitable for NT as you do not have soft values. ♠KJxxx KJx KJxAx is a 1NT opener as your HCPs are scattered & soft . You would like to right side the NT with this hand in addition , you have also saved yourself from rebid problems.


Automatically responding a 4 card major is for match point players. In IMPS , let the nature of your hand dictate whether you respond a 4 card major. Do you have a balanced hand with tenaces that should be led up to ?KJx Q10xx KQxAxx Partner opens 1♣ , you play 2NT as 11+ to 15 HCP . I would bid 2NT with this hand . You describe your hand with one bid. Who cares if we miss our 4-4 heart fit ? 3NT is 600 , 4 is 620 . The trump may be 4-1 or 9 tricks might be easier than 10 if both hands are balanced. Missing 4-4 major suit fits is an aversion brought about by playing matchpoints. 10 Tricks is not necessarily safer than 9 tricks, the major just scores better in matchpoints when there is ruffing value..


Inverted minors are a place where 4 card majors should be ignored when the hand is strong & trump rich in partners minor. ♠xx AKxx AKxxx ♣xx & partner opens 1 so do you respond 1 ? No , no & no. The biggest feature of this hand is you have a 5 card fit for partners opener. Bidding an inverted minor is a good way to get the auction off to an excellent start. My partners & I have an understanding that if responder ( only ) now bids a major it is natural so we can find our 4-4 heart fit that way. Simple. Responding 1 jams you out of a possible 6 slam as partner will never be able to visualize the strength of your hand or your distribution. Hand evaluation prompts you to break a rule.


Opening a rock hand at the one level is poor hand evaluation. Even with two suiters, open 2♣ & if you get pre-empted . live with it. Opening 1 with ♠x AKQxx AKQxxxx makes no Bridge sense at all. If it is a close decision with two suiters or otherwise , open at the one level in matchpoints , 2♣ at IMPS. You will be more accurate at the one level so matchpoints re-enforces that. Missing a game in IMPS gets negatively re-enforced big time.


Let the vulnerability & table position dictate your type of openers , overcalls and pre-empts. The terrorist vul or if partner is a passed hand is a green light to relax the rules. ♠KQx A10xxx QxxJx becomes at opening bid at one vulnerability , a pass at all the rest. Equal or unfavourable vulnerability , why open this hand ? You do not have great defense , or a great suit or distribution or HCPs. If they are vul & you not, maybe you will disrupt their auction or get partner off to a heart lead if they get to 3NT.


Opening 2NT or bidding/rebidding 1NT with a stiff is not a good idea. However , again rules are made to be broken . If you have this hand ♠x KQx AQxxxQxxx , you open 1 & partner responds a spade, rebid 1NT rather than 2♣. Why ? You hand is soft so NT suitable but also look at your hearts. If partner has a weak hand in the majors , she will give you minor preference. After 1NT you have tools to find a 5-3 heart fit .Kxxxx Axxxx xx ♣x is responders hand so you will play it in a heart partial after a 1NT bid & 2 after a 2♣ rebid. I open 2NT with 5-4 in a minors as a matter of course. ♠J AQX AKJxxKQ10x is a 2NT opener. I want to play the NT ( tenaces) & my HCPs are described with one bid. Opening 1 is lame as a jump shift in clubs will wrong side the NT contract . Opening 2♣ & rebidding diamonds is bad also. This is a NT suitable hand. Hand evaluation has a higher priority than rote rules.


You play 5 card majors but again rules are made to be broken . AKxx AK10x xx ♣xxx do not open these hands 1♣. You are just causing partner to evaluate her hand wrong & getting partner off to a horrible lead if they buy the hand. Rules are made to be broken, so open 1 in any seat !! Partner will not like her hand with club duplication of value brought about by having a stiff club in your suit. Opening 1♣ could be a disaster waiting to happen . Do not be so inflexible .


Overcalls should be lead directing with good suits. There are times to break these rules also. If you have a two suiter , overcalling at the one level is fine as you have a 2nd suit as back up . J98xx Ax AKxxx ♣x is a 1 overcall after a heart opener. You are too strong to Michaels nv so bid with a double or overcall. xx xx AQxxxxKJx is this a 2 overcall after a major opener ? Most of the time no . If you are nv vrs vul then yes. If partner is a passed hand ,then yes on any vulnerability except unfavourable. Bridge can not be played by rote rules.


Whether you enter the auction via a T/O double depends on the vulnerability & table position. You have ♠xx KQ10x KxxxAxx , they open 1♠ do you make a T/O double ? Depends if partner is a passed hand or not & the vulnerability. If partner is a passed hand , I will double on only one vulnerability favourable. If partner is not a passed hand , I will double on any vulnerability except for unfavourable for our side.


Logical hand evaluation before rote rules & back your judgment, you will improve your Bridge immensely. Rote rules are made to be broken.