Friday, September 20, 2002 11:59 PM


Counting Distribution




            You can not get away from bidding skills in the game of Bridge . Even on defense and declarer play you must have a thorough understanding of the opponents & your bidding to apply patterns to their distribution. You can not defend properly without having a hypothetical “count of declarers hand” on every hand – no exceptions ! The following article by Kantar ( jumping in at the middle somewhere ) concentrates on the responder becoming declarer so as defenders you want to count the distribution for those hands .


            Two simple hands came up Thursday night for a total loss of 32 IMPs because of a lack of applications of patterns again . The opponents are in a vul 4 and I led the spade 8 . The board comes down with xxx Qxxx KQx Axx and you have AQJxx J Jxxx Jxx . You plug in the spade pattern and its 5-3-3-2 so you put in the spade jack. Why ? Even though it’s a suit contract , NT rules apply here. The only way you are beating 4 hearts is if partner can contribute . You need an entry to your spades when he gets in though. Partner has the diamond Ace and heart King so you get 4 tricks. You place the spade Ace at trick one and you suffer the ignominy of watching the 3-3 club brake take your spade trick away and them making it. Instead of winning 4 IMPS you lose 12.


                        You should only be deceptive with count if it is going to hurt declarer more then partner. Usually its best to give partner count and ignore the fact that declarer is getting the same information. Here is Eddie Kantar giving examples of translating the opponents bidding into patterns. This is why experts quiz you so much on your bidding. They are trying to form a defensive plan by applying patterns & not just “admiring your bidding techniques J “ .


Excerpt from

“Eddie Kantar Teaches Advanced Bridge Defense”

By Eddie Kantar

1999 Edwin B. Kantar


When responder becomes declarer


Responder is quite apt to become the declarer, particularly if opener supports one of responder’s suits, if responder has a long, strong suit, or if responder bids notrump and plays there.


The rules stay in place. If responder bids two suits, assume 5-4; if responder bids the same suit, assume a six-card suit; if the initial response is a natural 2NT or 3NT (not 1NT) assume one of the three balanced distributions.


Opener          Responder

1                      1

1                      2



The assumption is that responder has six hearts and fewer than four spades. Had responder jumped to 3 over 1, the assumption would still be a six-card suit. However, had responder jumped to 4 over 1, not knowing of any heart support, seven hearts is more likely than six.


Opener          Responder

1                       1

2                     2NT

3                     pass


Responder has four spades and denies four hearts. With 4-4 in the majors, the normal response is 1. What about diamonds? Has responder denied four diamonds by skipping over that suit too? No. In the modern game the emphasis is on bidding major suits as quickly as possible before competition, particularly preemptive competition, may cause you to ‘lose the suit’. With strong hands, hands approaching opening-bid strength, responder can afford to go slowly and bid 1 (especially with strong diamonds) and then bid the major next, but with weaker hands, the major suit is normally bid first. (As usual, you should realize that not everyone plays this way. Ask!)


Opener          Responder

1                       1

2                       4



This one is also a bit tricky. If opener ‘promises’ four spades with that raise (as some play), then responder can leap to game with a four-card spade suit. However, if opener can have three spades, as most play, then the leap to 4 shows at least five spades. Ask.


Opener          Responder

1                      1

2                      2

2NT                    3

4                     pass


Play responder for 5-5 in the majors.


Opener          Responder

1                       1

2                       2

2NT                     3

4                      pass


Play responder for five spades and six hearts. With 5-5, regardless of strength, the first response is in spades, the higher-ranking suit, not hearts.


Opener          Responder

1                       1

2                      3NT



Responder has exactly four spades and denies four hearts. Opener apparently has three spades. With four spades, opener usually returns to 4 on this sequence. However, if opener has promised four spades with the raise, opener may pass 3NT.


Distributional inferences change dramatically when the original response is 2NT as opposed to an original suit response followed by a 2NT rebid.


Opener          Responder

1                      2NT

3                       3

3NT                   pass


Responder is balanced and does not figure to have a four-card major. The 3 bid says ‘my hearts are stronger than my spades so don’t bid 3NT unless you have a spade honor or spade length’. Perhaps responder has: Q54  AKJ  1076  K532.


Now compare the previous sequence to this one:


Opener          Responder

1                       2

2                      2NT

3NT                   pass


The 2NT rebid does not necessarily promise a balanced hand; responder might be 3-4-1-5 or even 3-3-1-6.


Be wary of a 1NT response, particularly to a major-suit opening bid.


Opener          Responder

1                      1NT

3NT                    pass


Responder does not necessarily have a balanced hand. He may have a wildly distributional hand that is not strong enough to respond at the two level. To give you an idea of what responder could have: void  J8743  K43  Q10874.


Sometimes a 1NT responder has a chance to show a six-card minor.


Opener          Responder

1                      1NT

2NT                     3



Play responder for at least six diamonds, fewer than three hearts, and fewer than four spades.


When partner joins the party


In the previous sequences only the opponents were bidding. It was almost as if your side had a case of terminal lockjaw. On most hands the defenders join in and many of the bids your partner makes shows a specific number of cards in a particular suit. For example, if your partner opens 2 weak, you partner has six hearts. If the opponents play the hand, you will know the moment the dummy comes down how many hearts declarer has. (Of course declarer also knows how many hearts you have.)


The more bidding your side does the easier it is to count declarer’s hand. Try this one from the East chair:


North-South Vul                      A93

Dealer South                            96









West          North          East          South


 2*          Dbl**         Pass            2NT

 Pass          3NT         All Pass


Partner leads the 2, fourth best. What is declarer’s distribution? You can do it! Just go back to the bidding and the opening lead.


There are three clues: declarer’s 1 bid, partner’s 2 bid and the lead of the 2. Declarer figures to have five hearts (did not rebid hearts); partner should have six spades, leaving declarer three; the 2 shows four, so declarer has three clubs. Putting it all together, declarer should have a 3-5-2-3 hand pattern.


Defenders can also take inferences from what partner does not bid. For example:


West          North          East          South


 1              1

 2              2          All Pass


Partner’s pass of 2 denies six hearts. With six hearts partner is supposed to compete to 3. Knowing partner has only five hearts tells you how many hearts declarer has (when dummy comes down). Similarly your raise to 2 normally shows three hearts. Holding four hearts you are supposed to compete to 3 yourself. The rule is not to let the opponents play at the two-level if your side has a nine-card fit. Important.


When someone preempts


When either side makes a preemptive bid, counting becomes easier for everybody, particularly when the preemptive bidder becomes declarer. Why?  Because when declarer is known to have a long suit there are fewer ‘other’ cards left to count!


Both Vul                                 K5

Dealer South                            876









West          North          East          South


All Pass


You lead the K, partner encourages with the 9, and you continue with the Q and a heart to partner’s jack, declarer following. Partner switches to 2, declarer plays the king, you win and return 3 (showing four); dummy plays the 9, partner the 10, and declarer ruffs. Are you counting? Declarer exits with a low diamond. What do you do?


Play low. The clues are all there. The bidding tells you that South has seven spades. The play in hearts indicates that declarer has three hearts and declarer is known to have a singleton club. Declarer must be 7-3-2-1, so you want to give declarer a guess in diamonds by playing low.


Declarer’s hand is: AQJ10xxx  xxx  xx  K.


One further point. Let’s go back to the heart suit:



West(You)                               East(loving partner)

KQ4                                     AJ93




When partner wins the third round of hearts with the J, you know partner still has the A. However, if partner is careless and wins the third round of hearts with the A, partner denies the J. Now you have a miscount on the hearts which is why it is mega-important for defenders to take a trick with the lower or lowest equal.


If partner wins a third heart with the ace, and defender eventually leads a diamond, you should fly with your ace playing declarer for a 7-4-1-1 pattern. Can you see now why good players make so many more mistakes when not playing with other good players? Their partners screw them up!