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View Full Version : The LAW is dead; Long live the KEY! A review.

01-17-2005, 09:52 PM
Mike Lawrence and Anders Wirgren have written a book to demolish the Law of Total Tricks -- or have they?

First, the highlights: Your side's tricks can be determined (sometimes after trick 13, but let's not get picky), by a simple formula, which I've adjusted for (my) clarity:

..........................................

Tricks =
Max (13 - S1 - S2, 16 - S1 - S2 - S3) + round((Working HCP - 20)/3).

S1 is the shortest (non-trump) suit held by either partner.

S2 is the next-shortest (non-trump) suit (not the same suit as S1) held by either partner.

S3 is the shortest holding in the last non-trump suit held by either partner.

S1 <= S2 <= S3
..........................................

Got that?

Working HCP is divided into two arenas:

In the trump suit: A working card is a card that if you don't have it, things would be not as good for offense. (This can be direct, as in loss of a trick, or indirect, as in forcing the opponents to attack a different suit.) An opponent's card that becomes non-working becomes a working card for you! These definitions hold, except (so it seems) when they don't. The trump suit has a ten-point maximum, come what may.

A quick example of working points at its finest in a trump suit:

Axxxx
Qx Jx
Kxxx

The Q and J drop, so 10 working points!

..............

In other suits: As before, except that length points are added to the mix. The fourth trick and beyond score THREE points apiece, if the tricks score. If they don't (if they end up being discarded, or being ruffed), well, then they're non-working.

A trivial problem with the working points schema...

AQ873
KT92 J4
65

Six working points, no?

AK873
QT92 J4
65

Seven working points.

There may be more serious issues, but for the moment I'm going to ponder them, and in any event, why should I do all the work? :D

Assuming the working points thingy gets figured out, there are two breakdowns of the rules: One occurs when the trump suit can be forced; the other when the opponents can get a ruff. To his credit, Lawrence point these out. Caveating the first, and dismissing the second as bad luck. Perhaps he's right.

I've got to ponder. If this book shows a consistent (reasonably consistent) explanation of working points, I'll tip my hat to Lawrence, who has written so many good, if idiosyncratic books. If not, then this book is a maze of ambiguity and tautology.

And it will sell, if nothing less than on reputation, and nothing more than controversy.

Larry Cohen will cry all the way to the bank. Perhaps he'll reinvigorate the LAW somehow.