There was this example cited by an expert (Frank Stewart}. On the hand ♠ 943 ♡A52 ♢AQJ ♣ 8732.the SE consensus was that "11" high card points were really more like seven because of the 4-3-3-3 shape, lack of honors in the four card suit (clubs), weakness in the major suits, and unfavorable vulnerability (vulnerable versus not). Under the circumstances, the indicated bid over an opposing bid of one spade and partner's (takeout) double was two clubs, not three clubs.

The same Frank Stewart also recommending downgrading the following hand to "seven" and holding back to one heart instead of two when partner had doubled a one club opening call with the following:

♠ T63 ♡KQT4 ♢QT82 ♣ K2.

Here the main problem is that the king of clubs is not pulling its full weight in front of the opening (club) bidder. But the shape is a better 4-4-3-2, the four card suits have honors, and about half the length and strength is in the majors, (And the bidder was not vulnerable.)

Are there "numerous" instances in which 10-11 high card points should be treat as "seven." More specifically in this case, does one defect warrant such a downgrading? Or was it multiple issues with the first hand that would bring about this treatment?

3 Answers 3


I have too much strength to underbid as much as suggested.

  • The first hand has two aces. We may easily belong in 3NT, playing against a single opponent and those aces mean that we have the entries to finesse through the strong opponent's high cards. Having said that, the playing strength of this hand is not great, exactly for the reasons stated. Anyway, I want to give partner some encouragement in case they have extras. I can't bring myself not to bid 3C even though it may backfire.
  • The second hand has that king of clubs as a kind of a fault. I have been known to be overly pessimistic, but here I will bid 2H. At least I will likely be declaring and that king is protected from indecent exposure at the opening lead. True, one key finesse in another suit may fail, and the king lead through, but that would amount to assuming the worst. Against that, partner may have something in clubs, too, and we should not both devalue. 1NT might work (it promises something like 6-10 points and a club stopper), but a take-out-doubler is primarily looking for a fit in a major, and this hand wants to co-operate.

Partners are often more forgiving when you take a slightly optimistic view (as long as you don't overdo it). Do take the flashing warning signs into account, but don't spend too much time looking for excuses to underbid.

Even the good old Charles Goren gave the advice (to beginners) that partners of take-out-doublers should bid more, but the TOXers should show some restraint. True, his reasons don't quite fit these scenarios as his concern was chiefly that both partners should keep in mind that the partner of the doubler may have been forced to act on a very weak hand, and beginners on both sides of the table often forget this.


Not sure about seven, but the big concern in the earlier question was the 4-3-3-3 opposite a takeout double. Two flat hands and no more than 7 card fit likely plus the AQJ in diamonds being so concentrated in a possible 3 trick suit make a NT game challenging to imagine.

In the hand at question here, assuming this was 1c-X-p-?, you have slightly better shape, but as said the king is poorly situated; I wouldn't stress too much about that shape given 1c doesn't mean a whole lot about the strength or shape of opener's hand, but certainly it's a little weaker than 3 points from that king. If you're actually after the 1c bidder (1c-p-p-X-p-?), then the K is actually quite well situated, though I'd also be wondering other things in that auction.

The main question you need to ask is where this fits in the range of hands partner might expect. You've got seven useful points and the Kc which is certainly not zero, but is not that much better than T2 in a suited contract. If partner's towards the minimum (even 13-ish points, let's say), you're probably okay not being in game, right? It's only if they're above the minimum for a takeout double that you really want to go to game, and if partner does respond after 1H, you should be ready to push it up pretty quickly.

That's the sort of thinking you need to use when deciding how to bid a hand - you can't just "count the defects", it's a more complicated bit of critical thinking that is needed.


On the first hand:

  • I've got three high card tricks on the first three tricks of two (likely) flat suits. That's always worth 9 points, so no re-evaluation ever pushes me below that.
  • Vulnerable vs Not affects judgement, but not point count, and really should only affect decisions by the Partner making a pre-empt or an invitation to Game or Slam.
  • The diamond QJ are tentative values, and need to be discounted primarily due to not being in Clubs where they pull full weight. But neither are they in a two card suit. Median suit length is 3 cards, and that's the basis of the Worth Point Count, so I'm only discounting by a 1/2 point for now.
  • Yes, I deduct a full point for the 4333 distribution - for now. Partner has suggested shortness that may promote one of my 3 card suits into tricks, if we play clubs, so even that might lighten.
  • Finally: It's easy to focus on the negatives here, but let's not forget about those two aces. It's well understood that aces are undervalued by Worth Point Count in suit contracts (as are tens, to the point that some add a full point for each ace-ten pair in a hand), though by just how much is less clear. For the weaker hand to have two aces, thus guaranteed entries, under opponents' strong hand is worth at least a half point plus.

So in summary I am always bidding this as a 9+ point hand and jumping in the club suit. I don't need to refine my valuation beyond that until I hear more bidding.

On the second hand:

  • A reasonable deduction for the club King is more like -1/2 point for being doubleton and -1 point (maximum, only if opponents are playing Better Minor) for being under (presumed but unproven) Club strength.

  • That said, I'm most definitely peeking at Opponents' convention card to see if they play their 3 card minor openings as "Better Minor" or "Clubs if possible". And if neither Opponent has a convention card flat on the table for discrete perusal I'll consider calling the director to take my partner off of a potential ethical dilemma if I need to pick it up to read it.

So, again, I'm evaluating as 9 points on the first round and making my jump in the heart suit as requested by Partner.

I really don't see where Stewart is getting off suggesting these wild re-evaluations to intermediate and weaker players. A far greater hurdle for that level is development of partnership confidence - and that requires bidding in a manner that Partner can - and will - understand. Perhaps these re-evaluations can be made by Meck-well or a Zia - but it's insanity to recommend them to players well below that strength.

  • 1
    OK. Partner probably has 12-13 high card points, I've got 11 and 10 respectively that "devalue" to 9+. Even so, we have more than half the deck and I need to jump so partner doesn't put me on a average of 5-6 and wrongly believe that the opponents have the upper hand, right?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Dec 1, 2023 at 5:06
  • @TomAu: I've also amended my answer to the earlier question. I was taking a far too pessimistic view of the hand at that time. Commented Dec 2, 2023 at 20:51

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