Any person with any experience in card games knows that a card can be both strong and weak, good and bad, pretty and ugly. Positive terms refer to hands (i.e., one player’s allocation of cards) that have a large number of high cards.
In the vast majority of card games it is sufficient to judge hand strength by eye, taking into account the smaller number of cards used during the game or the reduced need for meticulous evaluation. However, this method is not applicable to bridge
. From the very beginning of this card game’s existence, players have recognized the need to find an effective method of evaluating their hands. This is due to the fact that in a partnership game it is not possible to evaluate “by eye” the combined hands, and it is their value that determines how high one can bid.
The search for methods to assess hand strength in bridge has been twofold. Scoring methods and left-hand methods were used for this purpose. Different types of point scales were created:
–Bamberger‘s, where ace = 7, king = 5, queen = 3, jack = 1;
– Milton C. Sack, where ace = 4, king = 3, queen = 2, and jack = 1;
, where ace = 7, king = 4, and queen = 3.
As far as levelling methods are concerned, we have to deal with honorable (LH), negative (LU), winning and losing levelling methods.
Currently, the most commonly used is Milton C. If one side holds all the highest cards, then statistically, this side will take 13 lefts with no trump. It is easy to calculate that about 3 points on the above-mentioned scale are necessary for one lev. However, one should be aware of the fact that Milton C. Sack’s method allows only for an initial assessment of the strength of the combined hands. When one hand receives 13 cards of any suit, it is not necessary for partner to have any figure in order to win 13 levs in that suit. One suit consists of 10 points, which is a guarantee to take 13 lefts. In this case, the calculated value of one left drops to 10/13 points. As you can see, the scale of Milton C. Sack scale is not enough to make a correct assessment of the potential. This is due to the fact that both honors, trumps and forts are sources of lefts.
Another noteworthy issue is the division of hands according to strength. Only 15 words can be used for bidding. In opening betting, a player has 35 different responses at his disposal (7 tiers × 5 denominations). This number is so small that it is impossible to cover all the possible hands we may face. Fortunately, with the aforementioned 15 words, it is possible to convey a very large amount of information necessary to bid for the best possible contract. To make it easier to track your partner’s strength, there is a conventional division of hands based on strength. In almost all systems, the following seven groups are used:
–0-6 PC – a weak, negative hand that is only worth bidding with if partner forces us;
–7-9 PC – a weak raise;
–10-12 PC – an invitational raise;
–13-15 PC – weak opening;
–16-18 PC – medium opening;
–19-21 PC – strong opening;
–22+ PC – very strong opening, which often forges to a catch-up.
The above-mentioned parameters imply that the opening is usually not possible until 13 points. If the hand is weaker, it is necessary to wait for the opening of the partner and sometimes the opponent. During the bidding at least one partner is required to indicate the strength of his hand by indicating which of the above-mentioned ranges he belongs to. In the subsequent bidding it is possible to be more specific as to whether a player has the top or bottom of the range.
Featured photo: Allie Procek / Wikimedia Commons