Left Field 02

I am a great believer in the “Law of Total Tricks” but in its simplest form, without the whole rigmarole that has been advanced by a number of expert players and authors. Being a simple soul in bridge terms, I have my own very simple version of the “Total Tricks” theory and I abbreviate it to “TNT”. To put it in simple terms, in a contested auction where both sides are bidding their own suit:

Add the number of trumps (T) that your side has. Thus, a 5-4 fit equals nine. Or a 6-3 fit equals nine and a 6-4 fit equals ten. Simple maths so far.
In a contested auction, let’s say your side will have half the points and your opponents half. Your number of TRUMPS should then indicate the number of TRICKS you can expect to make if that suit is trumps. Thus, T(Trumps) = N (number) of T(tricks). “What!” You will say, how can you expect to make GAME with only a combined 20 count? Hard to believe, but in all contested auctions, the distribution of the cards is usually such that the importance of the trump suit is such that a combined 20 count will usually produce ten tricks with a ten card trump fit.

Remember the formula: TNT (Total number of trumps equals total number of tricks)!

This formula will work very accurately for you, and can be adjusted when you know you have more than your share of points, or, of course, fewer. I add an extra trick for an extra one or two points and two tricks for an extra three points, which also seems to work, and of course with fewer points than the average, we are in ‘sacrifice mode’ so we can allow for all of that to arrive at a well judged level in our bidding.

When is a Yarborough a great hand?
Here is a fine example from a recent match point session. TNT played a huge part.
Dealer S Nil Vul


South opened 1S. Two passes followed. East then bid 2C. South doubled. West bid 3C and then followed two passes back to South. Another double and when West passed, North bid a reluctant 3S. About as weak as you can get but at least he had some spade support. Two passes followed but West, who must also have been a TNT enthusiast, competed with a bid of 4C. So far, TNT was well in evidence. North passed as did East. What action would you, as South, now take?

Most Souths I know would either give up at that stage or double. Giving in to 4C would probably, using TNT as a guide, result in +50 for NS, and +100 if 4C was down two would also not score well if NS can make 3S. Would a penalty double result in more than +100? Should South think that 4S would make? Given that South had a 19 count and North could be expected to have three spades, eight tricks for NS would be their likely limit, but North could well have four card spade support and maybe even one or two useful points, which would give NS a theoretical close game.

South was about to double when he took another tack. Having shown a very big hand and having had forced reluctant spade support from North, as well as suggesting some tolerance for hearts with the takeout doubles, South bid 4H, knowing that North would return to spades unless North had at least five hearts. When everyone passed and West led the jack of clubs, dummy appeared as a huge shock to EW, so much so that two very suspicious faces were turned to South with a few startled expletives and glances towards the Director who was, fortunately for South, blissfully concentrating on his crosswords.

If South had doubled, would you, sitting North, have bid 4H? I certainly would have, because South had to be trusted to know his TNT and the double should still be no more than optional. North’s hand, as it turned out, was the best Yarborough that South had ever seen. In the play of the hand, West led the jack of clubs. South took the ace and was relieved to see the hearts fall 2-2. The ace of spades saw West drop the jack, and there was no need to know about the theory of ‘restricted choice’. A trump to dummy and then the nine of spades followed. East made the error of not covering and South wrapped up twelve tricks instead of the ten that TNT had promised IF NS had a ten card trump fit. A nine card fit in hearts as trumps was a superb back up to the eight card spade fit.
Final note: Yes, EW can in fact defeat 4H. I will leave it to the reader to work out how.