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During your initiation into the game of Bridge the first lesson one got was about counting your hand , the HCP ( High Card Points).

You learnt that in total in a pack there are 40 HCP counts . Assigning A=4,K=3, Q=2 and J=1, each suit accounts for 10 points and hence 40 in all.

You got your first lesson that you can open a hand with a minimum of 12 points. Nowadays it has been diluted to 11 , provided the quality of points and you have distributional values.

In Precision system , the system itself stipulates that minimum points to open a hand can be 11.

But often the beginners are not aware, or they are not taught that ANY 11/12 count itself is not sufficient to qualify a hand for opening . Be that as it may, even hands with less than 11 counts can be opened .

It depends on the “ quality “ of points combined with distributional value and / or the trick taking power of the hand .

Look at the following hands as examples :

( Hands are always depicted in the order of suits , that is, Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs , in that order).

1. Q87, QJ53, K432, A7

2. A23, K432, QJ6, Q74

Both the hands have 12 counts . But the quality and distributions ARE suspect. So it is recommended , in my opinion , not to open these hands . In addition you have a rebid problem too once you have opened !

Whereas look at these hands :

3. AK1098, KQ1097, 98, 7

4. KQ1097, AK1096, void, 987

Hands 3 and 4 also have only 12 counts each. But the quality of points , the distributional strength and trick taking power are so high . So you can boldly and safely open these hands .

There is an unwritten dictum in bridge , when you hold a hand with AK and another A, with a nice distribution - open that hand .

Going further , you can open a hand even with sub minimum HCP count !

Examples :

5. KJ10987, KQ10876, void , 4

6. AQ10765, Void, KJ10983, 10

These hands have only 9 HCP and 10 HCP. But look at the trick taking power !

With a matching hand from partner you can make games or even slams .

In one of his books , Alfred Shienwold has illustrated a hand where the combined strength of the partners is only 10 HCP , but a Grand Slam is unbeatable !

So what is the point I am driving at ?

Simple. Remember these basic tips :

1. The point count ( HCP) is merely a guideline .

2. Strive to learn to judge the quality of the points combined with distributional strength

3. Always remember to assess the “ Trick taking Power”

4. Bridge is a game of imagination , do not become a slave of point count .

5. Never ever forget , this game is NOT a single wicket tournament. It is played by you and your partner as a “ Team”. It is a duet , not a monologue .

This is why it helps to read a lot of bridge books and puzzles . It helps you to look at various hands and to imbibe that hidden knowledge !

Well , do you now agree that these are “ Points to Ponder “?

Happy Bridging,