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MY TEN NEW COMMANDMENTS

Sept. 16, 1957
Sept. 16, 1957

Table of Contents
Sept. 16, 1957

Baseball X-Ray
From The Flyways
Acknowledgments
Velvet Hand
Spectacle
Events & Discoveries
Wonderful World Of Sport
2-Year-Olds
End Of An Area
Hunting
Publisher's Report
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

MY TEN NEW COMMANDMENTS

One day eight years ago, I had stopped for a cup of coffee at the counter in a Chicago railway station restaurant when a man slipped onto the stool next to mine and, in a husky, faintly accented voice which I instantly recognized, asked for a glass of milk. The man was Ely Culbertson.

This is an article from the Sept. 16, 1957 issue Original Layout

"Charlie," he said kindly, "you have been doing very well as a Culbertson teacher. Why do you want to ruin yourself with this silly idea of a point count?"

A few months earlier, Ely's warning—putting my own worries into words—might have shaken me. By the time we met, however, point count had already established itself with average players and had proved its efficiency.

Until that time Ely had retained his title of undisputed czar of the world's bridge tables by the wise policy of incorporating into his system every good new idea that came along. But he failed to get the point of this new point count—the improvement that distinguished it from all the earlier point count ideas.

The realm of contract bridge has become, if not a democracy, at least a constitutional monarchy. Its kings and queens no longer possess vaguely limited powers which vary in accordance with their combines with other royalty. Each honor card wears a plain price tag: ace 4, king 3, queen 2, jack 1. The total high card value of the pack is an unvarying 40. And, most important of all, the tricky vagaries of distribution are measured with the same kind of points.

There has been so much discussion about the birth of my point count that perhaps you'd be interested to know how it came into existence.

Critics have said, "Point count isn't new," and they are right. Milton C. Work used the 4, 3, 2, 1 method of valuing the high cards way back in the days of auction bridge—and it wasn't original with him.

Critics have also said, "There is nothing new about point count," and there they are wrong. The old point count worked well only for no-trump bidding. It was useless for suit bids because it did not take into account the power of distribution—the long suits that made high cards more valuable; the short suits that could make high cards impotent. We had to find a formula to measure these values as well.

So, with the aid of a brain trust of skilled mathematicians and expert bridge players, I sat down to study thousands of hands until I was satisfied that we had come up with point values that accurately measured the worth of a doubleton, a singleton and a void suit.

In the eight years since its introduction, point count has met every test. It is used by experts as much as by average players because it is an accurate expression of playing valuation.

However, remembering what happened to the Culbertson System when it ceased to adopt proven new ideas, I have been giving every promising innovation a careful eye and thorough try.

Within the short space of time since point count was introduced, there have been many attempted innovations. Only a few of these have met the threefold test: Are they simple? Are they sound? Do they help players to win more often? These few have been duly incorporated into the point count method and will be officially introduced in the new edition of my book, New Contract Bridge Complete (Doubleday & Co., 528 pp., $4.95, publication date, Oct. 24, 1957). Meanwhile, here is a brief preview especially prepared for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.

This present article, introducing my coming weekly series, assumes—as will those that follow—that you already know the elementary principles of contract bridge and point count bidding. It is designed to bring you up to date on the very latest changes that will help you enjoy bridge more and win more.

Among the advantages these changes afford are these: a) You can now put the pressure on the opponents by making weak, pre-emptive overcalls.

b) You can, in certain situations, compel partner to tell you which is his better minor suit by using the dramatic "unusual" no trump.

c) You can find out about aces and kings, even when you and your partner have been bidding no trump, by the Garber four club bid instead of the Blackwood four-five no trump.

d) You can be sure of getting to the right spot when partner opens with a no trump bid, by using the new two club conventional response.

Here's the what, the how and the why of these new tools for your arsenal.

1
A JUMP OVERCALL IS NOW PREEMPTIVE-WEAK INSTEAD OF STRONG

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[6 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]
[2 of Hearts]

EAST

1 [Diamond]

SOUTH

?

WEST

NORTH

You (South, with the above hand) would like to tell your partner that you have a very good spade suit but a very poor hand for playing defensively against the opponents. Because your hand is poor defensively, you would like to make it more difficult for the opponents to get together in their best suit. A one spade overcall would do neither of these things. A three spade bid might prove too costly, especially if your side is vulnerable. Formerly, a two spade bid announced a very powerful hand.

But now we employ other means to announce strength. A jump overcall may be used to better purpose as preemptive bid. So, in the new scheme of things, that is how we will handle it. It may succeed in keeping the opponents from getting together. Or it may, because pre-emptive bids often aggravate the opponents into rashness, goad the next player into making a bid that will involve his side in great trouble. This is apt to be the case where your partner holds a hand of considerable defensive values.

South should bid two spades.

2
AN "UNUSUAL" NO TRUMP BID OBLIGES PARTNER TO CHOOSE BETWEEN TWO MINOR SUITS

[Ace of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[10 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[Queen of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[4 of Hearts]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]

WEST

1 [Spade]

NORTH

pass

EAST

3 [Spade]

SOUTH

?

It begins to appear that the opponents will get to four spades and will probably make it. North and South may have an excellent save at five diamonds or five clubs. In some remote case, they could conceivably make one of these contracts. But which one? And how can South find out?

If South were to double for a takeout, his partner would naturally conclude that he was being urged to bid hearts—actually the last bid in the world South would like to hear. To make sure that North will respond in a minor suit, South resorts to the "unusual" (and artificial) no trump. North is thus requested to forget about the other major and to take his choice between clubs and diamonds.

For example, suppose North has one of these hands:

(a)

[5 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

(b)

[5 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[8 of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[King of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[10 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

(c)
[King of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[10 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[7 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[10 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[5 of Clubs]

If West passes, North will bid four clubs with (a); fire diamonds with (b); four clubs with (c). Should West bid four spades instead of passing, North will pass with (a), bid five diamonds with (b), may double for penalties with (c).

South should bid three no trump.

3
A "BURST" INTO FOUR CLUBS WHEN YOUR SIDE HAS OPENED WITH NO TRUMP BID IS DEMAND FOR PARTNER TO SHOW ACES

[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[8 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[King of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[Ace of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Spades]

WEST

pass

NORTH

1 NT

EAST

pass

SOUTH

?

(This has been known for some time as the Gerber Convention.) For slam bidding, and especially for bidding a grand slam, information about aces and kings is vital. The Blackwood four-five no trump bid is excellent for this purpose and is still to be used. But when an opening bid has been made in no trump, the limitations of Blackwood can be utterly frustrating. If partner has only one ace, you want to avoid bidding a slam of any kind. If he has two aces, you want to get to a small slam. If he has three aces and a couple of kings, you want to bid a grand slam. But how are you to find out?

If you bid four no trump, it is merely a raise of partner's no trump bid. If you first bid three diamonds and partner's rebid is three no trump, a four no trump bid is still merely a raise. So, you won't get the information you are after.

(It can be even more costly and exasperating if, with a different type of hand, you bid four no trump intending it as an encouraging raise of the no trump bid and your partner suddenly begins to reveal his aces; you try to get back into no trump by saying five no trump, and he then begins to show you his kings. Before you can get untangled, you are automatically in a slam.)

To make the ace-showing situation clear, with a hand like the above example, your immediate answer to the no trump bid is a jump to four clubs. This asks partner to show aces thus: No aces or all 4 (you'll always be able to tell which): four diamonds; one ace: four hearts; two aces: four spades; three aces: four no trump.

If your next bid is five clubs, you have made the king-asking bid. Partner shows none by bidding five diamonds; one king, five hearts, etc.

This useful convention will clear the road to slams after opening bids of one, two, or even three no trump.

South should bid four clubs.

4
A TWO CLUB RESPONSE TO AN OPENING NO TRUMP BID ASKS PARTNER TO SHOW MAJOR SUIT

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[5 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Queen of Hearts]
[Jack of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[3 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

WEST

pass

NORTH

1 NT

EAST

pass

SOUTH

?

This bid in clubs is artificial. It does not show a club suit. It does show at least 8 high-card points and at least one four-card major suit. It requires the opener to rebid by showing a four-card major if he has one (spades first if he has both). Otherwise, the opener must rebid two diamonds. With 11 points in high cards facing an opening bid of one no trump, you want to be in game. You might bid three no trump, but partner may have bid one no trump with:

[Ace of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[King of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[Ace of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[Jack of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]

At no trump, the opponents might defeat you by winning the first five or six club tricks.

The artificial two club response solves the problem. Partner shows his four-card spade suit and you jump to four spades for an easy game.

South should bid two clubs.

5
DO NOT OPEN 12-POINT HANDS AS DEALER OR IN SECOND POSITION

[Ace of Diamonds]
[King of Diamonds]
[7 of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[5 of Diamonds]
[Ace of Clubs]
[9 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[9 of Hearts]
[4 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[7 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]

SOUTH

?

WEST

NORTH

EAST

In the long run, you will get into less trouble if you pass any hand including fewer than 13 points.

South should pass.

6
AFTER RAISE, JUMP TO CAME IN A MAJOR SUIT WITH AS LITTLE AS 19 POINTS

[King of Spades]
[Queen of Spades]
[Jack of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[4 of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[King of Diamonds]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
?

WEST

pass

NORTH

2 [Spade]

EAST

pass

This reduction of the requirements from the former 20 points minimum reflects the increase in the minimum requirements of 7 points for a raise. It gets you to game with a combined total of 26 points, as formerly.

South bids four spades.

7
YOU MAY HAVE AS MANY AS 10 POINTS FOR A ONE NO TRUMP RESPONSE

[King of Clubs]
[8 of Clubs]
[7 of Clubs]
[6 of Clubs]
[Ace of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[6 of Hearts]
[7 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[King of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]

WEST

pass

NORTH

1 [Spade]

EAST

pass

SOUTH

?

The former top limit of 9 left you high and dry with such hands as above. A response of one no trump with this hand is conservative, but any other bid is unsound.

South bids one no trump.

8
DO NOT BID A FOUR-CARD MAJOR SUIT THAT INCLUDES FEWER THAN 4 POINTS

[King of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[7 of Spades]
[4 of Spades]
[King of Hearts]
[9 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[2 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[King of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[Queen of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

?

WEST

NORTH

EAST

A biddable four-card major suit should be at least as strong as A x x x or K J x x. However, because the 10-spot adds solidity, you may exceptionally show Q J 10 x. With weaker suits, prefer to bid a three-card minor.

South should bid one club.

9
YOU MAY REBID TWO NO TRUMP WITH AS LITTLE AS 10 POINTS IN YOUR HAND

[Ace of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[8 of Spades]
[6 of Spades]
[2 of Spades]
[Ace of Hearts]
[Queen of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[Ace of Clubs]
[Jack of Clubs]
[3 of Clubs]
[6 of Diamonds]
[4 of Diamonds]

SOUTH

1 [Spade]
?

WEST

pass

NORTH

2 [Diamond]

EAST

pass

This slight lowering of the requirements doesn't put you in any danger for it applies only to cases where partner has responded to your opening bid of one in a suit with a bid of two in a lower-ranking suit. For this response, he needs a minimum of 10 points so you will never reach game with fewer than 25 points. And often enough, with a good five-card suit, 25 will be enough to produce the game.

South should bid two no trump.

10
YOU NEED 7 POINTS TO RAISE YOUR PARTNER IN THE SUIT HE HAS BID

[Jack of Hearts]
[7 of Hearts]
[5 of Hearts]
[3 of Hearts]
[Ace of Spades]
[10 of Spades]
[3 of Spades]
[Jack of Diamonds]
[6 of Diamonds]
[3 of Diamonds]
[2 of Diamonds]
[5 of Clubs]
[2 of Clubs]

WEST

pass

NORTH

1 [Spade]

EAST

pass

SOUTH

?

When you raise partner's suit, you increase the number of tricks your side must take. And when you value for a raise, you count distributional value as well as high cards. Six-point hands are a shade too weak for this purpose. However, it is still permissible to keep the bidding open with a 6-point hand by responding one no trump. South should bid one no trump.