Dear Ed and Peter,
What is loser count? When is it used?
Reply Ed Hoogenkamp (South)
Dear Ms Vee,
I have to guess and my guess is you mean: Losing Trick Count.
A hand evaluation technique originally described by F. Dudley Courtenay's book "The System the Experts Play", and popularised by Ron Klinger in his book "Modern Losing Trick Count", based on counting effective losers in a trump contract.
I collected some links for you where you can read all about it.
Peter knows a lot about losers. I would go as far as calling him an expert on the subject of losers.
Un saludo desde Barcelona
Reply Peter van der Linden (North)
Dear Ms Vee,
As I suppose you can google Losing Trick Count as well as anyone else (meaning: better than Ed can), I will give you some more information than Ed does.
The Losing Trick Count (LTC) was introduced by American F. Dudley Courtenay and Englishman George Gordon Joseph Walshe. They published a book on this topic in 1935. Eccentric English ace (not only at bridge, he was an RAF-pilot in World War 2; he was also one of the founders of the Acol bidding system and a collector of tropical moths) Maurice Harrison-Gray popularised the LTC in the fifties and sixties by way of his famous columns in Country Life.
The LTC offers a different view on hand evaluation in situations where a fit has been established and the contract is going to be played in the suit in question (usually a major).
The idea is that any card is either a winner or a loser. Any top honour (ace, king or queen) is a winner. Any card in a suit starting from the fourth is a winner as well. All other cards are losers.
There are however some exceptions:
- A queen is a winner only if she 'cooperates' with an honour in the same hand or if partner has bid the suit in question.
- If a hand contains two aces more than queens that are counted as winners: deduct one loser.
- If a hand contains two queens that are counted as winners more than aces: add one loser.
- Deduct a loser for every trump above the minimum needed to establish the trump fit.
This way both partners establish the number of losers in their respective hands.
When considering opening one in a major suit, LTC-followers do not count HCP: they open if they have 7 losers or less.
If there turns out to be a fit, game is on if the added number of losers totals 14 or fewer.
An extreme example to give you an idea:
| || || |
|♠||Q J 6 4 3 ||♠||A K 7 2|
|♥||5 2 ||♥||A 7 6 4|
|♦||A Q 10 3 ||♦||7 6 |
|♣||9 7 4|
|pass|| || |
1 At least five-card suit and a seven loser hand (two spades, two hearts, one diamond and two clubs)
2 Spade fit, seven loser hand (one spade, two hearts, two diamonds and three clubs; but one loser deducted for the fourth spade, since three spades would have sufficed for the spade fit)
East counted 7 (or fewer) losers + 7 losers = 14 losers, the maximum number at which game is justified. Indeed 4♠ is a reasonable (but only just) contract.
I am not an LTC expert, however, so I am not sure whether every LTC-follower will open this West hand — but it does meet the demands as I have found them!
Clearly a success for the LTC, since classical (!) point count bidders would open neither as West nor as East (perhaps NS rescue EW by opening but even then EW are unlikely to bid game).
Many modern players, however, will open the West hand with 2♠, a weak two suiter (Tartan, Muiderberg) after which EW may end up in 4♠.
Something to chew on: interchange East's minor suits and 4♠ is a poor contract. Yet the bidding would be the same...
Long ago I have read some articles about the LTC and it always struck me that the method is very aggressive on wildly distributed hands with a fit.
The consequence is that the partnership can easily end up too high when there turns out to be no fit. Take a look at these EW-hands:
| || || |
|♠||A Q 9 8 6 4 ||♠||2|
|♥||5 2 ||♥||K Q 6 4 3|
|♦||K 8 3 2|
|♣||A Q J 7 4|
|pass||?? || |
1 Easily worth an opening bid using the LTC, with only six losers (one spade, two hearts, two diamonds and a club)
I don't see how East can avoid game. And any game is far from a good proposition (to say the least).
Furthermore: I have some doubts about the equal value of an ace and a king in the LTC in many situations. Look back at my first example: exchange West's ♦K for the ♦A, he has ♦KQ103 now. The LTC sequence will be exactly as it was (West still has only one diamond loser), but prospects for game are non-existent now.
Next give West ♦AK103: again this doesn't make any difference for the LTC sequence. This time 4♠ is almost on ice.
But once more: I am not an expert on the LTC, maybe I've missed something in giving these examples. So if the subject has caught your attention: read on (for instance in Ed's links). Incidentally, you shouldn't assume the LTC is ancient history! The method is still popular and has found new champions in (for instance) Ron Klinger and Crowhurst & Kambites.
Ed is not one of them, by the way: staggering numbers of losers — 14 or even more, just imagine! — are far beyond his grasp, even if his sangria intake has been less than half of those numbers...
But he is right in assuming I am an expert on the subject of losers. After all, I have known all about Ed since over 25 years!
En hils fra Orkanger