Play Basics

By Kitty and Steve Cooper

Counting the Points

When an opponent opens the bidding or overcalls you have a lot of information about the placement of the high cards. A helpful technique for visualizing the missing points is suggested by Mike Lawrence in his book How to Read Your Opponent’s Cards: add your high card points to dummy’s and subtract that total from 40; this gives you the total high card points available to the opponents. As the play progresses, subtract each honor card you see from the total; sometimes you will know where all the remaining high cards are by trick two.

For example, you open 1S, your left hand opponent (LHO) overcalls 1NT (16‑18) and your partner bids 2S, which ends the auction. A club is led and right hand opponent (RHO) plays the king. You add your points to dummy’s and the total is 21, leaving 19. When you subtract RHO’s king there are only 16 points left for the player who overcalled 1NT. I am sure you now know where all the remaining high cards are.

If the opponents do not bid that can also tell you a great deal. For example, suppose you are in second seat and RHO passes. You open 1H and get raised to 3H, where you play the hand. A club is led and RHO plays the Q, K, and A of clubs. Is he likely to have any of the remaining missing queens or kings? Almost surely not - he would have opened the bidding with another king, and probably would have opened if he had another queen.

Try finding the queen of trump in this layout:

S K982

H J10982

D K3

C Q6


S AJ1043


D A54

C J5


South              West               North              East

 ‑                    1C                  Pass               Pass

 1S                  Pass                2S                  Pass

 3D                 Pass                4S                     All Pass

Opening Lead: DQ


When you add dummy’s points to yours you get 24, so there are 16 missing. RHO has at most five of them, but probably has only three or four. If LHO had the AK of clubs, he would surely have led a high club, so RHO will likely have one of them. If RHO has the spade queen he passed with five or six points and his partner has only 10 or 11 points. Not likely. Play the opening bidder for the spade queen. Notice that you do not need to use “Nine Ever” rule when you are sure of the location of the missing queen.

On this hand you needed to consider the lead as well as the bidding when putting together the evidence for where the high cards were located.

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