using length points when assessing opening/responding hands

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by will will 2 years, 11 months ago.

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    I think that “Length Points” involve a degree of judgement, and so I don’t teach beginner or newer players about them
    Down the track I often run a lesson about Bidding Judgement. In response to 1NT what do you do with these hands:
    Hand 1)


    Hand 2)


    Both are 9 points, and so the right response to a 15-17 No-Trump is 2NT.
    However, when they play the hand out, everyone realises that the first hand is awful (even the five-card suit doesn’t add anything) and the second hand is great (Partner will have stoppers everywhere hopefully!)
    This introduces and discusses the concepts of Length Points, Intermediates, and Honour Location.

    I don’t want beginners opening all 11 HCP 5332 shaped hands, just because they have a five-card suit.
    Many of these hands are not worth an opening bid in a “normal” 12+ opening system.


    It is very difficult to know when to bid game and when not to, if you play that a move over a 2NT rebid by opener may be passed. It generally takes very little to bid game when opener is as strong as this.

    Yes, I would respond with 5HCP and a five-card suit, because as I have said, this is NOT five points, it is 6 total points.
    I also respond on any hand with an Ace, even if nothing else. It is an important control.
    If you deem a hand worth opening or responding, then you just carry on bidding it…



    Thanks for answer Joan. Yes its 4333 of course. On the hand in question I responded 1d to my partners 1c opening and then passed the 2NT rebid. We have partnership agreement that a rebid of a suit is weak and can be passed. So partner probably would not have considered a 2d rebid as non-forcing, and arguably 3d was a better spot for the contract. There was no chance it could have been misconstrued as a transfer to hearts, since I would have shown hearts at the first response. After some thought I passed my partners response, not wanting to dig the hole any deeper. Also I thought there was good chance my partner could establish the diamond suit. Honours were jack diamonds and q/j spades in the responding hand, so there was a good chance partner could manufacture a second or third entry to dummy. Sadly this was not the case!!

    I gather from your answer joan, that you would also reccomend responding to a 1c opening with 5 HCP when the responding hand also held a 5 card suit. Of course some judgement is always required, ie depends on vunerability and overall hand shape. The difficulty with such a weak hand is knowing where to go with responders second bid. Anything but a pass (or 1NT) on responders rebid is giving a false impression of strength of the responding hand.

    Anyway its these difficult hands that keep us coming back to the table. Thanks for the dicussion.



    I believe that Paul’s approach is not really any different. While he may not give students a length point guideline ( 1 extra point for all suits longer than 4 cards), he is saying that length is important when he advocates opening with 12 HCP and a five card suit, and 11 HCP and a six card suit. This is exactly the same thing as “Open hands with 13 points, made up of HCP and length points, i.e. 12 + 1 and 11 + 2 both = 13)”.
    These days, (when points are not considered the only tool for evaluating the worth of a hand), adding for length from the outset, and shortages only when a fit has been found, is what most leading teachers advocate.
    The guideline of 20 is based on valuing length.
    The more cards both opener and responder have in their own suits should always be considered, so yes a responder with 4 HCP and a six card suit has enough to respond, because it’s not 4 points, it’s 6. (4 + 2).
    You two have both talked about 4443 hands! That’s 15 cards! so I assume you mean 4333.
    I would not open a 4333 12 HCP hand in 1st and 2nd seat, but Acol players and some others like to. Flat hands have less chance of developing extra tricks.
    Barry you might have missed 3NT on the hand you quoted, but there are many times you are in 3NT failing when you open flat 12 pointers. Most experts would hold back on flat hands, and do the opposite on one-suited and two-suited hands.
    On the hand you quoted, Derek, most people play that any bid after a 2NT rebid by opener constitutes a game force, so you couldn’t have stopped in 3D anyway.
    Many play weak jump responses in the majors, not the minors. So, 1♣ p 2♥ or 2♠ asks opener to pass and shows a hand like ♥/♠ Q109xxx and nothing else, less than a 6 point response.

    I think beginners, who have not developed judgement yet, need specific guidelines about valuing length. So, it’s easy to teach that opener and responder (and anyone else at the table) should add up their HCPs, and then add one extra point for suits longer than four cards.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 1 month ago by joaneb joaneb.


    thx fosterbarry I am sure Joan will put us straight. My partner had opened 1c, so it was a question if I should respond with such a weak hand. A weak 2 was not an option, and in any case I didnt have enough in the trump suit, it was Jxxxxx. As it turned out my partner had the balanced 18/19 hand. I passed his 2NT rebid. I should have rebid the diamonds, a 3d contract was better than 2NT, easy to be wise with hindsight. My partner and I are having discussions about when and if to use length points. Using rule of 20 you dont need to count length points, but not sure about the responding hand. Rule of 20 and length points are all contrivances to allow us to upgrade hands with good distribution, so seems to make sense that you would also re-evaluate a responding hand.


    I’ve often wondered about the ideas expressed in your last paragraph. Last week I didn’t open with a 4,4,4,3 and we missed 3NT. Also, taking your point about a 6cd/4HCP suit further, would it be OK to open this as a weak 2? ‘Dekkap’, we need Joan Butts on this one!



    we use paul martsons beginners bridge and language of bidding (LOB) for teching students. Paul does not advocate the use of length points in the beginners book, and avoids use of length points by advocating the rule of 20 in LOB.Most North American authors advocate the use of length points when assessing opening hands and then open on 13 HCP+length points.

    We like paul marstons approach for teaching new students because its simpler. Of course we add in shortage points (dummy points?) for both opening and responding hands when there is a fit.

    What is the current view on use of length points. Should length points be used in assessing responding hands ie a would a weak hand with 4HCP but including a 6 card suit be strong enough for a response to an opening hand? Does a perfectly balanced hand 4,4,4,3 with 12 HCP but no length points consitute and opening hand?

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