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Hand Evaluation - the power of shape

In the previous article, we looked at the power of tens. Here we look at the power of shape. 

Contrast these two hands:

Hand (i) Hand (ii)
♠ K J 3
Q J 4 2
A 9 6
♣ 10 8 5
♠ K J 8 5 3
Q J 4 2
A 9 6
♣ 10

Hand (i) is the most barren shape in Bridge, the dreaded 4333. No short suits, no long suits. You would not open the bidding, nor would you bid as an overcall if an opponent opened.

Hand (ii) is far more interesting. 5431 is my favourite of the common shapes (it’s also – after 4432 and 5332) the third most common. You will open the bidding (1♠) with this hand – using the Rule of 20 (high-card points added to number of cards in two longest suits getting to 20) and you’ll also bid 1♠ after an opposing opening bid. Having your suit lengths the way they are is particularly nice, giving you an easy bidding strategy (1♠ - then 2).

Shape is so important that I would recommend looking at your shape before even counting your points. I would mark the common shapes as follows (out of ten):

Shape (in decreasing order of frequency) Marks/10
4-4-3-2 5
5-3-3-2 6
5-4-3-1 9
5-4-2-2 7
4-3-3-3 3
6-3-2-2 8


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