12 English Bridge August 2017 www.ebu.co.uk
he Law of Total Tricks states that the total
number of tricks available to both sides in
their longest trump suit equals the total
number of cards they hold in those two fits. It is
hardly a Law, more a guideline in the sense that it is
sometimes out by a trick or so, but it is a
surprisingly accurate guide to those battleground
Two conclusions emerge from the Law. Firstly,
your side should bid to the level of your fit.
Secondly, you should not allow the opponents to
play at the level of their fit.
The most common scenario is both sides having
an eight-card major-suit fit. Say you have hearts
(sorry) and they have spades. You will bid to 2™ and
they will naturally bid on to 2´. You should now bid
on to 3™ (yes, this is risky when vulnerable at Pairs,
for you can be doubled for one down), because you
are stopping them playing at the level of their fit.
Think about it: if there are 16 tricks, then either 2´
or 3™ must make. However, the opponents should
not bid on to 3´. If there are 16 tricks, then it is
quite possible that neither 3™ nor 3´ are making.
When both sides have an eight-card major fit and
about half the pack of points, the bidding should
always (according to The Law) end in the precise
contract of 3™.
Now let's say your side has spades (good),
nine of them to boot. You suspect the opponents
have eight hearts. You bid to 2´, they bid to 3™. You
must now bid 3´, because there are 17 tricks: either
3™ or 3´ must make. They will let you play 3´
rather than bidding on to 4™ because (if there are
17 tricks), then it is quite possible neither 3´ nor 4™
However, with 18 trumps, the Law contract will
be 4™, bid over 3´. If there is an even number of
trumps (and tricks), hearts will declare; if there is an
odd number, spades will declare. Intriguing.
You are North, holding:
Law of Total Tricks
Double, Bid or Pass? by Andrew Robson
´ A 3
™ J 4
t Q 5 3
® K J 5 4 3 2
Partner opens a Weak Two in hearts (5-10 points
with a decent six-card suit) and the auction
A West North East South
B West North East South
C West North East South
In auction A, you would guess there are 16
trumps - your side have eight hearts (that's more
than a guess), while they have eight diamonds.
There are 16 tricks, so it is very possible neither 3t
nor 3™ makes. Therefore, you should pass. A
further factor to consider here is that unless partner
holds four spades (unlikely for a Weak Two in
hearts), the opponents have an eight-card spade fit.
Bidding 3™ may jostle them into spades.
In auction B, you would also guess there are 16
trumps (you with eight hearts, they with eight
spades). You should bid 3™, for either 2´ or 3™
must make. You'll note that there is a big difference
between bidding 3™ over 2´ and bidding 3™ over
3t (as in A) although you are making the same 3™
bid with the same 13 cards. Fascinating.
In auction C, the opponents almost certainly
have an eight-card spade fit (unless partner has
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