Testing your Game-Try Decisions

By Karen Walker

Courtesy of Karen’s Bridge Library: kwbridge.com


The Bidding

There are many factors that affect your choices after partner makes a bid that invites game. A typical auction:

Partner You
1 2

* Help-suit game try.

Here are some tests you can use to evaluate your hand and make a good decision about whether or not to accept partner’s invitation:

Support points (also called ‘playing points’): A good starting point is the simple calculation of distribution plus highcard points. After making a single raise (showing 6 to 10 support points), you’ll usually accept invitations with 9 or 10 and decline with 6 or 7. With 8 points, you can flip a coin, “round up” to 9 or (best) use other evaluation methods.

Your holding in partner’s side suit: This is the most important measure of your hand’s suitability for game after partner makes a help-suit try (as in the above auction). The best holding for accepting is a high honor in his game-try suit. The worst holding is xxx. A singleton in his suit may be helpful, but has limited value if you have only three trumps.

Losing Trick Count (LTC): Another test is determining where your hand falls in the LTC range for your bid. A single raise is typically 9 or 10 losers, so you can bid on to game if you have 9 losers. Sign off in a partscore if you have 10 or more losers.

  • To figure your hand’s LTC: Count one loser for each missing ace, king and queen in each suit. One exception is that a suit that has the queen and no other honors (Qxx) should be counted as 2.5 losers unless it’s the trump suit.

Aces vs. queens: Tend toward accepting an invitation if your hand has more aces than queens. This is a good method to use with the Losing Trick Count, which tends to undervalue aces.

Inandout valuation: Jeff Rubens’ theory is that you should value up if your hand’s lower honors (queens and jacks) are in “important” suits (trump suits and longer fits) and its primary honors (aces and kings) are outside the trump suit. A hand with the trump queen and a side-suit ace is better than one with the trump ace and a side-suit queen.

Perfect-minimum test: Originally proposed for slam decisions, Ely Culbertson’s idea was that your hand is worth a stretch if a perfect minimum hand from partner will make the contract laydown. The same guideline can be applied to game and partscore decisions, but you have to be realistic about what constitutes a bare minimum and how solid the contract will be.

IMPs vs. Matchpoints: Vulnerable at IMPs, you should bid any game that you believe has at least a 40-percent chance of making. Under other conditions -– matchpoints (any vulnerability) and not vulnerable at IMPs -– consider settling for a plus in a partscore if you’re in doubt about game chances.

Trump quality: If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to accept, let your trumps decide. With good trumps -– high honors and/or enough length to guarantee at least a 9-card fit – lean toward accepting the invitation. With weaker and shorter trump holdings, be conservative.