Let’s look at this rather average collection featuring a five-card major:
J 9 4 K Q 10 4 2 A Q 3 8 4
You open 1 and partner raises to 2, the opponents passing throughout. What do you do? You hold 12 HCP with three controls for a total of 15 points, plus 11 more points from distribution (3+8), for a total of 26. An opening hand but nothing more than that, so you PASS. (Click here for Zar Points definition)
Let’s take ONLY one non-trump card and move it to hearts, making hearts a six-card suit. How does that change the situation? You guessed it; it depends on where you get this sixth card from. If you get it from the doubleton, you make the hand 6-3-3-1 and the distributional Zar Points jump from 11 to 14, plus the 3 points for a sixth trump (1 more than the bid has promised) for a total of 32 points, enough for a Game Try since you support the three level alone. So you bid 2 (invitational), asking partner for help in this suit.
If you move the card from the Jxx suit the distribution would be 6-3-2-2, resulting in a change from 11 to 13 distributional Zar Points. Then you add 3 points for the six-card suit and drop a point for the resulting Jx which gets your total from 26 to 30. The best action is still probably PASS, unless pushed in competitive bidding. The same is true if you get the sixth card from the AQx suit: you’ll need to make a 1- point deduction for the AQ blank, adding 3 for the six-card suit, leaving you again with a total of 30 points—again PASS, unless in competition.
How easy and simple it is; if you can count to 31, make a game try. If you can count to 36, bid game. If you have only a point or two extra, just let it go. You can see how things change if you move two cards around and make the hand 6-4- 2-1 or 7-3-2-1 and you would act accordingly.
Now let us look at a hand from the exceptional book of Jeff Meckstroth “Win the Bermuda Bowl with Me.”
J 9 7 6 5 3 8 5 A Q 5 A Q
You open 1 and partner answers 2. Jeff’s view is that this hand is worth a game try. We have 13 HCP and four controls, for a total of 17 points, plus the 9+4=13 distributive Zar Points (the 1 point for holding spades only counts when you make a borderline decision “to open or not to open”) for a total of 30.
Adding 3 points for the six-card suit you reach a total of 33, enough for a game try. To jump directly to game you would need 36+. If you use the Zar Ruffing Power rule, then you add only 1 point because your shortest side suit is doubleton (3 if your shortest suit is void, 2 if it’s singleton, 1 if it’s doubleton, and 0 if none of these) and get 31 points—even lower than before.
So it is only a game try. Turns out Jeff is right again. Surprise, surprise.