By Barbara Seagram
Courtesy of BarbaraSeagram.com
Many students have great difficulty with the concept of hand evaluation. I believe that it is right to count distribution even as an opening bidder. Some count short suits (3 for a void, 2 for a singleton and 1 for a doubleton), some count long suits (1 point for the fifth card in long suit and 1 extra point for sixth, etc.). Both methods are correct. Just choose one or the other, not both.
If your partner wishes to use one method and you use another, that does not matter either. I believe that bridge teachers tell us not to count distribution until we have found a fit because they worry that students are incapable of revaluing when partner bids a suit in which they have shortness (shortness is a singleton, doubleton or a void).
Students who are taught to only count long-suit distribution are then taught the Rule of 20. This is a different way of counting distribution, that’s all.
If you have
♠Axxx ♥Axxx ♦Axxx ♣x
the short suit counters have 14 points so will open with 1♦. Long suit counters may worry that they do not have the required 13 points to open the bidding. Thus, along came the Rule of 20. If you find yourself close to an opening bid but feel you don’t have enough points to open, use the Rule of 20. Count your HCP and then add the lengths of the two longest suits. If this totals 20 or more, then you have permission to open the bidding. (This is the same as counting distribution but this is how some get around this issue!)
NOTE: You should not use the Rule of 20 to give you permission to open the bidding when you have a hand such as this:
♠Qx ♥KJx ♦KQxx ♣Jxxx
This assortment of junk will tally 20 with Rule of 20 but doubleton queens or jacks are a sorry sight and do not deserve much respect. We call queens and jacks “Quacks!” This hand should not be an opening bid.
Here’s what you really have to remember: the value of your hand is in a constant state of flux. Once partner starts bidding, your hand is like a flower: it either blossoms or grows or it wilts and dies.
If you have a short suit in your hand and partner now names that suit, you are depressed. Your hand has wilted. It is never good to have a shortage in partner’s suit. We are constantly searching for fits, not misfits. If partner bids spades and you have a small spade singleton in your hand, subtract two points from your hand, even if you are a long-suit counter and did not add any for this to start with. Your hand has gone downhill. It is devalued.
♠ 3 ♥ AJ65432 ♦ AK4 ♣ 76
Counting points on this hand totals 15, regardless of which method you are using (long-suit or short-suit method). This time both methods tally to the same number but it will often differ a bit by a few points here or there. Never enough to worry about at all.
If we open with 1♥ and partner bids 1♠, this hand has now dropped in value and we only have 13. We should rebid 2♥ as this is now a minimum hand.
if instead partner has bid 2♥ after our 1♥ opener, then our hand grows up. We must add one extra point for the fifth card in the suit which has been supported and two extra points for each remaining card. Long-suit counters must do that also even though they already counted three length points to start with. (Yes, they are double dipping.) Your hand has increased in value, now that you know you are going to be declarer. If you do not do this, then you remain with the same old 15 points and will have to pass partner’s 2♥ bid that showed 6-9 points. How can this be right?
This revaluation process was the invention of Charles Goren, many years ago, and will never fail you in getting you to games and slams. I truly believe it is the best hand revaluing method. In the above example, we now have 20 points (after adding the extra 5 points) and after partner has raised us to 2♥ (showing 6-9 points) we should now bid 4♥.
NOTE: Short-suit counters should never count extra for a doubleton queen or jack or singleton king, queen or jack. Those holdings just get the high-card points (except with a singleton jack where they get 2 points or it would be worth less than a singleton three which would seem wrong).
If the opponents have bid a suit in which you have a singleton king or queen, count nothing for these cards, they are most unlikely to win any tricks.
When you are going to become dummy, if you have three-card support for partner, then short-suit points are worth 3-2-1 (3 for a void, 2 for a singleton and 1 for a doubleton).
When you are going to become dummy, if you have four-card support or better for partner, then short-suit points are worth 5-3-1 (5 for a void, 3 for a singleton and 1 for a doubleton).
It is my belief that as soon as you are going to become dummy, if you are a long-suit counter, then long-suit points go away and short-suit points come in.
Too much time and energy is spent fussing over hand evaluation, unfortunately. This is the only time that we do not have to be on the same wavelength as partner. Let partner do it one way and you do it another and all will go well.
But always remember to revalue your hand.