Losing-Trick Count

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The Losing-Trick Count (LTC) is an alternative, or supplement, in the card game Contract bridge, to the high card point (HCP) method of Hand evaluation to be used in situations where shape and fit are of more significance than HCP in determining the optimum level of a suit contract - it should only be used after a fit has been found. The "losing tricks" in a hand are added to the systemically assumed losing tricks in partners hand (7 for an opening bid of 1 of a suit) and the resultant number is deducted from 24; the net figure is the number of tricks a partnership can expect to take when playing in the established suit.

Contents

Basic method

The basic method assumes that an ace will never be a loser, nor will a king in a 2+ card suit, nor a queen in a 3+ card suit, thus

  • a void = 0 losing tricks.
  • a singleton other than an A = 1 losing trick.
  • a doubleton AK = 0, Ax, Kx or KQ = 1, xx = 2 losing tricks.
  • a three card suit AKQ = 0, AKx, AQx or KQx = 1 losing trick.
  • a three card suit Axx, Kxx or Qxx = 2, xxx = 3 losing tricks.
  • suits longer than three cards are judged according to the three highest cards since no suit may have more than 3 losing tricks. Thus hands without an A, K or Q have a maximum of 12 losers but may have fewer depending on shape: Jxxx, Jxx, Jxx, Jxx ... has 12 losers (3 in each suit), whereas xxxxx, -, xxxx, xxxx ... has only 9 losers (3 in all suits except the void which counts no losers).

Example

A typical opening hand, eg ♠AKxxx Axxx Qx ♣xx, has 7 losers (1+2+2+2=7). To calculate how high to bid, responder adds the number of losers in their hand to the assumed number in opener's hand (7). The total number of losers arrived at by this sum is subtracted from 24. The answer is deemed to be the total number of tricks available to the partnership and this should be the next bid by responder, Thus following an opening bid of 1H:

  • partner jumps to game with no more than 7 losers in hand and a fit with partner's heart suit (3 if playing 5-card majors) ... 7 + 7 = 14 subtract from 24 = 10 tricks.
  • With 8 losers in hand and a fit, responder bids 3H (8+7=15 which deducted from 24 = 9 tricks).
  • With 9 losers and a fit, responder bids 2H.
  • With only 5 losers and a fit, a slam is likely so responder may bid straight to 6H if preemptive bidding seems appropriate or take a slower forcing approach.

Refining the scale

Thinking that this method tends to overvalue unsupported queens and undervalue supported jacks, this scale can be refined (Crowhurst & Kambites 1992) as follows:

  • AQ doubleton = 0.5 loser.
  • AJ10 = 1 loser.
  • Qxx = 3 losers (or possibly 2.5) unless trumps.
  • Subtract a loser if there is a known 9-card trump fit.

In his book "The Modern Losing Trick Count" Klinger advocates adjusting the number of loser based on the control count of the hand.

New Losing Trick Count (NLTC)

Extending these thoughts, Klinger believes that the basic method undervalues an ace but overvalues a queen and undervalues short honor combinations such as Qx or a singleton king. Also it places no value on cards jack or lower. Recent insights on these issues have led to the New Losing Trick Count (Bridge World, 2003). For more precision this count utilises the concept of half-losers and, more importantly, distinguishes between 'ace-losers', 'king-losers' and 'queen-losers':

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