Part V: I/O
(Page of 3)

The first really major and important backlash against the Law was Wirgren and Lawrence’s excellent book, I Fought the Law (Lawrence & Wirgren, 2005).  Unfortunately, from my perspective, they went astray in the latter part of the book when they developed a vast improvement on the Law using a combination of high-card points, long-suit information, and short-suit information.  This is too much input – they were cheating a bit!  Obviously, if you have available more information about partner’s hand, you will predict Total Tricks more accurately.  I would be a world class bidder if Betty would simply lay her hand face up on the table at the beginning of every auction.

More to the point, let’s imagine that partner opens one heart, and you hear a one spade overcall.  You carefully bid two diamonds, then support hearts, and finally show your spade shortness, painting a perfect picture of your 1-4-5-3 shape.  When they save at four spades, you can confidently pass this around to partner, who will always make the right decision.  Dream on!  Real opponents don’t give you that much time.  If they will bid to four spades, it will happen quickly, and you won’t have the time to exchange all the Wirgren-Lawrence information.

One of the truly lovely elements of the Vernes’ Law of Total Tricks is that it requires extremely minimal input.  The ratio of input-to-output, the I/O ratio, is quite startling.  This Law predicts the total number of tricks available, on average, from two trivial inputs:

1. The length of our longest combined suit, and
2. The length of their longest combined suit.

When the auction turns competitive, we won’t have much time to communicate important information to partner.  With our 1-4-5-3 hand, we could, however, use a Rodwell Raise to four diamonds,

1H (1S) 4D = three more hearts than spades

giving partner perfect Total Trump input, and trusting partner, and the Law, to handle a four spade continuation.

This is a crucial ingredient of any complete theory of total tricks.  I’ll call it the I/O Rule:

Any complete theory of total tricks must make predictions based on extremely minimal input data.

The Law satisfies the I/O Rule perfectly, using input about the lengths of two of our suits, our longest, and our shortest.

Last time, I completed the analysis of completely pure hands, hands where all the honors are held in our long suits, and came up with Table 4:

Table 4: Expected Number of Total Tricks for Completely Pure Hands

 SF Length of Longest (Solid) Suit Length of Next Longest (Solid) Suit Approximate Total Tricks, to the Nearest Quarter Trick 14 7 7 15 ¾ 14 8 6 16 ¼ 15 8 7 17½ 15 9 6 18 16 8 8 18 ¾ 16 9 7 19 16 10 6 19 ¼ 17 9 8 20 17 10 7 20 17 11 6 20 18 9 9 20 ¾ 18 10 8 20 ¾ 18 11 7 20 ¾ 19 10 9 21 ¾ 19 11 8 21 ¾

Notice here that this table only uses such minimal input,

1. The length of our longest combined suit.
2. The length of our second longest combined suit.

Thus this theory in development also satisfies the I/O Rule.  My goal, in this study, was always to develop a complete theory of total tricks based on such extremely minimal input, that you could, of course, adjust by looking at your own hand.  My approach uses information about our two longest suits, two pieces of input.  Vernes’ Law uses information about our longest and shortest suits, also two pieces of input.  In my world, when the bidding starts one heart, one spade overcall, and we have the 1-4-5-3 hand, we also bid four diamonds, but fit-showing, trying to describe the lengths of our two longest suits, so partner can judge the degree of second fit over four spades.

A viable theory of Total Tricks must be based on very limited input.  The Lawrence-Wirgren Working Points – Short Suit Total makes for expert hand evaluation, but requires too much information.  So it is not a viable theory of Total Tricks.  Vernes’ Law uses only data about the lengths of two of our suits, data that we can discern quickly, using methods like the Rodwell Raise.  My Table 4 uses only data about our two longest suits, data that we can uncover quickly using two-suited conventions, like Michaels or Fit-Jumps.

No doubt, there will be other theories of total tricks developed.  But, until the rules of bridge are changed to allow insufficient bids, any such practical theory must satisfy the I/O Rule.

Part VI of The Theory of Total Tricks