Beginners essentials

Bid your longest suits first.

Recognise that length and shortage in a suit can add a lot of power to your hand. A void can be more valuable than an Ace.

Shortage points

void=5, singleton=3, doubleton=1

  1. Don't include until you have suit agreement.
  2. Need sufficient trumps to count 3 for a singleton
  3. Don' add for NT

Length points

  1. >4 cards, 1 point each


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Bridge Venue

Example Deal

«  0612  »

Evaluate your hand. Length & shape

Length matters, always

A powerful picture card looks nice, but can only win once

When a suit is going to be chosen as trumps, remember even the lowly 2 will beat the Ace of any other suit when given the chance. And when you do have long suits, you also tend to have shortages elsewhere, which is just what you need to have the chance to beat these enemy Aces with your trumps.

In any case, your Aces are generally going to win whether they are trumps or not, as long as you have most of the trumps.The more you play, the more you'll realise how important it is to have length.

(Having said that, it's generally not so great to propose a 5-card suit which has nothing higher than the 9. That's the kind of suit you want to discard while you are playing. On the other hand, if your partner proposes that suit, then every one of those 5 low-value cards in your long 5-card suit turns into pure gold).

No Trumps

A long suit is helpful with "No Trumps" too. If you can establish a long suit, or better still a long suit from each hand, then your No Trump contract is going to be much easier to make. Your opponents will end up sadly and painfully discarding their high cards on the long tail of your long suit, with no means of gaining the lead to play their big cards. Add a point for a 5-card suit. Or, more rarely, add 2 points for a 6-card suit.


So, when "opening the bidding", bid your longer suits first.

When you are responding to a partner's previous bid, it's similar but not quite exactly the same, because sometimes it's better to bid a Major before a minor, since getting to Game in a Major is easier.

Shortage is fantastic - but nasty in No Trumps

612. Shortage Points when playing in a Suit
Shortage lots of trumps fewer trumps
Void 5 4
Singleton 3 2
Doubleton 1 1
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Why is a void more powerful than an Ace ? The chart says a void is worth 5 points.

An Ace will nearly always win a trick, but it can only win once. On the other hand, a void can be used to deliver more than one trick, since multiple ruffs (using of trumps) might be possible. Oh yes, and when does an Ace get beaten ? When the opposition have a void, of course.

So, given that you award yourself 4 points for an Ace (see HCP), it's easy to see why you should give yourself 5 points for a void. Provided of course you have to have a decent number of trumps for the void to pull its full weight. If not, downgrade it to 4 points.

When to include Shortage points

After suit agreement, but only then, you should add 5-3-1 shortage points for voids, singletons and doubletons.

Don't count points for a shortage if your shortage is in the very suit your partner is bidding. After all, she is suggesting that this very suit could be trumps. For this reason, you don't count shortage points until after you have suit agreement. At that point, you can re-evaluate your strength, having added your distribution points to your High Card Points. The extra points will sometimes be enough to convince you to raise the bid up to game, or explore a slam.

You never count shortage points in No Trumps, because a void or singleton can be a right pain,for two reasons:

  • often is can prevent you from being able to lead up to master cards in the other hand
  • if you are short, the enemy is probably long; they'll have great fun winning lots of tricks with this long suit, knowing that you have no trumps to stop them

Frankly, it's very dangerous to be in No Trumps if you hold a singleton, and often suicidal if you hold a void.

On the other hand, it can be helpful to have long suits in No Trumps, and you can add points for them (as mentioned above, "No Trumps").

Now try the quiz

Can you put all this into action ? Try the quiz for this subject by clicking on the link at the top left of the page, just below the main menu.
(You can try quizzes for any other subjects too while you're there. Look out for the thin red line).



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