In the last newsletter  I referred to the Law of Total Trumps. This law underpins all modern aggressive bidding. The law states that “when the points between the two sides are balanced OR your side holds the minority of the points, you are safe to compete to the same number of tricks as your side holds trumps in your longest suit.

So if you believe that you and your partner hold nine spades, you will be safe to compete to 3S. It does not necessarily mean that you will make the contract - although you may do so – it merely indicates that even if you are doubled in this contract you are unlikely to lose more points than if you had left the opponents to play in their contract.

The principle assumes equal or favourable vulnerability and also depends on both sides playing and defending the contract perfectly which, of course, is not always possible! Here is an example from the recent three tier club pairs event.

                                                            S J43

                                                            H AT642

                                                            D K5

                                                            C T63

                        S 98762                                                           S KQ5

                        H J85                                                               H

                        D T8                                                                D AQJ73

                        C K85                                                             C QJ974

                                                            S AT

                                                            H KQ973

                                                            D 9642

                                                            C A2

Dealer West    N/S vulnerable

Bidding  W                  N                     E                      S

            Pass                 Pass                 1D                   1H

            1S                    ?


The points are balanced and E/W can make 3S. N/S have ten hearts and are therefore safe to bid 4H which North should bid at his first turn. 4H will go one off which is much better than 140 to E/S but even better, many E/Ws will press onto 4S for a plus score to N/S. If North prefers to bid 2H or 3H E/W will surely bid to 3S and so N/S are faced with the problem of whether to pass, double or bid to 4H. 4H bid in this way may well be doubled whereas an immediate 4H is much less likely to attract the red card. The Law of Total Trumps solves this dilemma for you. If partner overcalls in a suit you know that he will have at least five. If your partner is in the habit of overcalling on four card suits then this law (and probably your partner!) is not for you. If you hold a weakish hand with some trump support just raise according to the law and all will be well. Remember the more cards you have in a suit, the fewer they have and the less tricks you will make in defence.


If you accept the Law then all direct raises of partner’s overcall are based on the number of trumps held and not on considerations of points.  We have to express good hands in another way and for these we can use the Unassuming Cue Bid about which I wrote last time.