Linda Lee — My personal bridge blog

A New “Mentee” hears my 2 rules

I am mentoring a new student.  He is from Israel and we have to work out the 7 time zone difference.  But so far so good.

He is a decent card player but wants to come up to speed with modern bidding after a long pause from bridge.  (I know just how he feels having done the same thing myself).

Even though he has some skill as declarer, he still has to learn Linda’s two rules of making a plan in a suit contract.  Count your losers and as part of your plan decide whether or not to draw trump right away.  if you don’t draw trump you should have a reason.  There are many reasons available, of course.  And I am going to ask why you didn’t draw trump when we are learning together.

I was surprised that my student did not know how to count losers.  I thought there might be some of you who are still learning who might want to read my brief explanation of counting losers.  I doubt it is the same as explanations in textbooks but it works for me.

First look at your hand, not at dummy.  There can be some hands where you mentally switch and dummy becomes “your hand”.  Let’s not worry about that for now.  Going suit by suit look for losers in your hand.  You may borrow high cards from dummy.  So if you have 1054 in your hand and A8 in dummy you have two losers.  You are borrowing dummy’s ace.  The fact that dummy is short in the suit does not affect the number of losers in your hand.  You can only borrow HIGH CARDS.

What if you have AQ in a suit opposite 873.  That counts as one loser.  Yes, you might be able to finesse and avoid the loser but that will be something you decide on later.  For now you have one loser.  No help from dummy.

You can consider the number of total cards you have in a suit when you decide how many losers you have.  If you have an even number of cards in a suit you can assume they split evenly.  If you have an odd number of cards in a suit assume they don’t split perfectly.  So if you have AK76  opposite Q542 you can count that as no losers.  You have an even number of cards (8) and if the outstanding 5 cards split evenly (3-2) then you will have no losers.

After you count your losers you make a plan to get rid of your excess losers.  The three main ways to get rid of losers are: ruff, discard, finesse.  Less common (and more advanced) approaches are endplay or squeeze or even deception.

Some times things aren’t completely obvious.  How would you count QJ43 opposite 1065.  If you force out the ace and king using your high cards then you will have three losers if the suit splits oddly (4-2) as you expect.  But if entries are no problem you can lead towards the QJ twice.  That means that on many 4-2 splits you will only lose 2 tricks and of course you will only lose 2 tricks on any 3-3 split.  Still by counting that as three losers when you make your plan you will make sure to play this suit carefully to maximize your chances of having only 2 losers.

I was thinking about what Eric Rodwell suggested about counting winners and losers.  He is right you do want to count both but you count winners as you make a plan.  The number of winners will depend on how you play the hand.  If you draw trump right away you may not be able to ruff a loser in dummy and that might mean an extra loser.

But after you form your plan, then it is a good idea to count winners to make sure you have enough.

We play again tomorrow so I may have a deal or two to report then.

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