During the bidding, we want to figure out what is our hand’s trick-taking potential to decide whether to bid for the game/slam bonus.
One method is to count High Card Points (HCP). However, high cards are not the only factors that contribute to trick-taking potential.
There are two more important considerations:
Shortness (dummy/support) points
Which of these hands have higher trick-taking capability?
They have the same HCP, but the first hand is likely to take more tricks, because the ♠2 is very likely to be developed into the winner after the ♠AKQJ is played, removing all of your opponent’s spade cards.
Therefore, we value long suits because their small cards can eventually be developed into winners. (Recall the “length” technique from notrump trick-taking techniques).
How to Calculate Length Points
Add 1 point for every card longer than 4 cards in a single suit
1 point for a 5-card suit
2 points for a 6-card suit
3 points for a 7-card suit
and so on…
We have 10 HCP. We have 3 length points (7 card spade suit). In total, we have 13 points.
Shortness (Dummy/Support) Points
Suppose partner had shown 5 spades. Which of these hands are stronger?
They both have 9 HCP, but the second hand has greater trick-taking potential because its trumps can be used to ruff partner’s heart losers. (Recall the “ruffing with the shorter trump suit” technique from trump trick-tacking techniques)
Therefore, having a short side suit when you have trump support is good.
How to Calculate Shortness (Dummy/Support) points
We use support points to evaluate our hand only when we have found a golden fit. This is because the shortness only benefits if we play in a trump contract. Do not prematurely add shortness points (for instance, it does not apply when opening the bidding).
In addition to HCP, we add points for shortness as follows:
Void = add 5 points
Singleton = add 3 points
Doubleton = add 1 point
Voids worth more than singletons, which in turn worth more than doubletons.
Partner opens 1♠, and we have this hand:
We have 7 HCP and at least a 9 card spade fit. But we also have a stiff diamond, so we add 3 shortness points. In total, we have 10 points.
We have 12 HCP and at least a 9 card fit. This allows us to add 1 shortness point. With 13 total points, we can bid 4♠.