Quick summary

When to add:

Shortage points

  1. Don't include until you have suit agreement.
  2. Need sufficient trumps to add 3 for a singleton
  3. Never add for NT

Length points

  1. >4 cards, 1 pt each
  2. Suits: "6 & 4: bid some more"


Example Deal

«  0012  »

Strength? Distribution matters a lot

12. Distribution Points
SHORTAGE lots of trumps fewer trumps
Void 5 4
Singleton 3 2
Doubleton 1 1
Add to your customised cribsheet
LENGTH in NT in a Suit
5 1 same as NT, switch to shortage points after suit agreed
6 2


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.


What about length, which we said elsewhere is really important ?

Lets talk first about NT contracts, where you have a long minor suit. Have you noticed how helpful it can be to establish a long suit when playing No Trumps ? Well, when calculating your points, you can add a point for every card over 4 in a long minor. For example: a 2335 distribution can be very useful. Add one point.  A 2236 distribution is strictly not balanced, but provided you still have stoppers in 3 suits, especially the 2 very short ones, you can add 2 points.  (If you have a long Major suit, perhaps you should be playing in a Major rather than NT).

So, in No Trumps, add one point for every card in any suit beyond the fourth card (assuming of course that between you've already satisfied the general criteria for playing in NT in the first place).

Shortage in NT. Note that singletons are usually terrible in NT (e.g. 1336), because you end up not being able to lead to your partner's cards in that suit. Voids are of course usually a disaster.

Flat hand in NT. From all this, you'll now see why a 4333 shape in NT is not great.

Aces and Spaces in NT. If at the same time your strength is all "Aces and spaces", then you can deduct a point. For example, a 15 HCP hand with spadeA865 heartA62 diamondK72 clubA72 has many poor characteristics, and you would be wise to think about it as a 12-14point hand, and open 1NT.

Suits ? Well, it might be double accounting to add points for length as well as for shortage, since the two tend to go together. But don't forget the saying about 6-4-x-x distributions: "6 and 4, bid some more". Six card suits are most definitely powerful and useful, and you can add another point or two for that. After all, a 6-4-2-1 distribution is more useful than a 5-5-2-1 distribution, even though the Shortage Points would be the same. (Both are extremely nice, however).

When to include distribution points. . .

  • Prior to suit agreement (or in No Trumps), you should add length points: one for each card over 4 in a long suit.
  • After suit agreement, you should add 5-3-1 shortage points instead of length points.

It's not a good idea to count points for a shortage if your shortage is in the very suit your partner is bidding. After all, he is suggesting that 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 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, sometimes preventing you from being able to lead into master cards in the other hand.

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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