Long Suit Versus Short Suit Counting

By Linda Lee

When we started to write Beginning Bridge it seemed clear that there was less than 100% agreement on which method of counting distribution was better. A majority of teachers now seem to use long suit counting. However, the older method of short suit counting is still used by some. Not only that, but a fair number of students who have had some acquaintance with bridge learned to count short suits. We felt both methods deserved equal treatment in the book.

We explained short suit counting in the traditional fashion: count one point for a doubleton, two for a singleton and three for a void. We then went on to explain how to use long suit counting and the logic behind it — extra cards in the suit take extra tricks. We tell the readers to use whatever method their teacher suggests, or if they are learning on their own, to use whatever method they prefer. After all, the two methods give you almost the same result.

After that it is pretty smooth sailing. Everyone can benefit from using the Rule of 20 to decide whether to open marginal hands.

Later we talk about the idea that hands get better or worse during the auction as the partners exchange information (blooming or wilting) and how opener may use that concept on borderline hands to upgrade or downgrade the hand. We do not suggest adding or subtracting anything specific, just using it to move the hand up or down a category. So with a good fit and a good 13-15 point hand opener may wish to move the hand up a category and treat it as a 16-18 point hand. If you find this approach too advanced for beginners then just skim over it or skip it entirely. It is not integral to our approach to hand evaluation.

All examples and problems are designed to work for all approaches to hand evaluation.

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