I still remember the first time I ever played bridge. A college chum needed a fourth person to play. I told him I didn’t know how to bid, but he replied, “Just look at your cards, and bid what you see.” On the first hand, remembering what he said, I bid “four clubs.” The bidding went, “Double, pass, pass” – my turn to bid again. Staring at my cards, I cautiously bid “four diamonds.” Again, the bidding went, “Double, pass, pass.” This was getting easier, so I bid “four hearts.” You guessed it: “Double, pass, pass.” So I gleefully added, “And, I have the queen of spades!” Because that’s exactly what I held … Four clubs, four diamonds, four hearts AND the queen of spades. Fortunately, I’ve gotten a bit better.
You pick up your cards. You think they look good, but you’re not sure … what to do, what to do? Thousands of bridge players face this exact same situation every single day of the year. Fortunately, we have guidelines.
Many years ago, Charles Goren – arguably the most famous bridge player of all time – developed a point count system that helped propel him to the top of the world stage of bridge. He found that the vast majority of tricks were won by face cards.
Using the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid), he assigned numerical values to face cards – he valued aces at four points, kings at three points, queens at two points, jacks at one point and 10s were nice to have, but no points. That’s a total of 10 points per suit, and with four suits, 40 points for the entire deck. Additional research showed that a partnership could bid and, more importantly, usually make a game contract if the two partners held a total of 26 points including high card points (HCP) plus distribution points.
After more than 80 years of successful play, modern guidelines have been updated to use a slightly reduced total of 25 points to bid and make game. This makes 13 total points enough to open – this includes using the fifth card in any suit to be one distribution point, the sixth card a second point and so on. And, since major suit contracts (hearts and spades) take up bidding space and are more valuable, we now add a requirement of having five cards to open a major suit.
Can you open with fewer points? Only in well defined situations that will be the subject of future columns. When you violate this guideline, you are lying, causing your partner to over-bid the hand and go down in play. Later, your partner might retaliate with something much worse.
To put it all together, you will need 13 or more points in order to open. And, to open a major suit, you will need five or more cards in that suit. What do you bid if you have 13-plus points but lack a five-card suit? That will be the subject of my next column.
Good luck and good bridge. See you all next time.
Linda King, [email protected] 831-801-9257 will be presenting her OUTSTANDING seminar, Learn Bridge in a Day, on Saturday Feb 2, 9:30-3:00 pm at Dunne Park, 6th and West St. Hollister for $20 including student manual – ask about her Teacher/Student discount.