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Hand Orientation
#1
I may have some posts on this, but if so I think they're pretty far back.  So it's worth discussing again.

Hands can have one of three orientations:

--junk.  Nuff said.  Offer save bids if feasible, but bail at ANY excuse.  
--offensive
--defensive/support

Note that hand orientation is not tightly correlated to hand strength.  There are weak offensive hands and strong defensive hands;  there are strong offensive hands, too.  A weak defensive hand might slide into the 'junk' category.  Smile

OK, perhaps I should say there's a fourth orientation...some offense, but also quite a bit of defense.

A hand's offensive aspect is based on distribution...balanced hands are bad, unbalanced hands are good...and when strength lies outside the mid-length suits.  The offensive aspect is based primarily on the ability to win tricks *other than* aces...and with short-suit aces, the fact that you can ensure they win tricks when you're on lead to start the hand.

Balanced hands are 5-5-5-5, 6-5-5-4, 6-6-4-4, 6-6-5-3, 7-5-4-4, and 7-5-5-3...the last two are sliding into the 'hybrid' category.  But the 2nd longest suit is an issue.  If you have 8-4-4-4, only the 8 card suit offers any appreciable chance of a non-ace trick.  8-6-4-2, on the other hand...the 6 card suit can do so.  This is also where the location of your strength matters.  Consider these hands:

AC AC TC TC KC KC QC JC AD AD TD TD QD JD TS TS QS JS QH JH 

versus

AC AC TC TC KC KC QC JC AD AD QD QD JD JD TS TS QS JS QH JH 

versus

AC AC TC TC KC KC QC JC TD TD QD QD JD JD AS AS QS JS QH JH 

The first will produce about a trick more than the second on average, and the second will probably produce about a trick more than the third.  The first hand can attack diamonds by leading the Q immediately, if shooting for *4* diamond tricks.  The second hand, the value of the diamond suit is in finding partner with short diamonds (hopefully he gets a ruff or two), OR in using them to force opponents to ruff.  This can really help you maintain trump control.  The third hand gets neither.  You need to be on lead, to play diamonds, too much of the time.

Strength isn't just about aces.  Tens reinforce aces.  That's the difference between the first 2 hands...reinforcement. :Smile A trump suit that is ATKKQQJJ is nice enough, but quite vulnerable.  Even ATTKKQQJ is a fairly significant improvement, by making your suit a bit deeper while also making the frequency an opponent has a deep suit, that much lower.  You're North:

       ATKKQQJJ
ATTxxx            xxx
       AAx

Say you exit with a trump; dummy cashes his aces, and at some point exits with his last trump.  You still lose 2 trump tricks because West has the 6th round winner (even if he wins the 3rd round.)

       ATTKKQQJ
ATxxxx            xxx
       AAx

Now, you control the 6th round. 

It helps on the 5th round:

       ATKKQQJJ
TTxxx            ATxx
       AAx

Assume you reach South in a side suit.  You still have 2 trump losers here.

       ATTKKQQJ
Txxxx            ATxx
       AAx

Here, if West leads through, you insert a ten;  you force East's ace.  You still have AT to finish drawing trump.

Longer-suit texture is a crucial factor in winning the tricks with something other than an ace.

A hand has a defensive or support (ie, helping partner declare) orientation when it's balanced, or its long suits are weak.  A defensive hand can be perfectly playable:

AC TC KC KC QC QC JC AD TD KD QD JD AS KS KS QS JS AH AH KH QH

it just has no compelling need to call trump.  

Now...relating this back to bidding:

--most offensive hands consider bidding to play, not giving meld.  The exception is usually lacking a run, and not having fairly strong meld.  
--defensive hands give meld or pass if they're bidding in front of partner...even if fairly strong.  Say you're in first seat with

AC AC TC TC KC QC AD AD KD QD JD AS TS QS JS TH TH KH JH JH

Nice enough, but no bid.  Now, if partner can show you considerable meld, you might elect to compete...if he shows 30, you should have 6 tricks.  60 is a good contract...but this also requires your RHO to pass.  If RHO bids anything, you have no good bid.

--tweener hands can be bid in a wide variety of ways.  Go back to our massive tweener:

AC TC KC KC QC QC JC AD TD KD QD JD AS KS KS QS JS AH AH KH QH 

In first seat, you could:
--give aces, planning to rebid to show 40...this really shows your hand.  The rebid must, IMO, imply a viable trump suit.  You have that.  
--bid 50, asking.  If partner asks for meld back, you have more confidence he's got a fairly good suit.  However, finding the best hand and suit to play the hand is harder after this start.
--bid 54.  The risk is when partner is even less offensively oriented than you are.  Smile
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#2
Here's a hand that that combines defensive orientation with a hand where it REALLY matters:

You are in 3rd seat after Pass - Pass.  You have:

AS AS AS QS JS AD TD KD QD JD JD AC AC KC KC QC AH KH KH QH


You're ALL defense;  the trump suit is short and has no texture.  You're not short in anything.  You have 26 meld without the run, so you make the board...and with a hand like this, you'll usually save it.  

Beyond that, there's a pretty good chance the opponents are in trouble, AND your hand doesn't look very good for pulling 31.  Change 2 black aces to diamond aces...now you have offensive orientation.  But this hand and this auction, taken together, make pass a VERY attractive option.  Note that you've even got 2 diamond jacks...so dealer is VERY unlikely to have a double pino.  You've got triple ace of spades...so probably no aces around.  Even if the opponents get on the board, they'll need at least a split deck...and that doesn't look good for them.

One thing of note:  if the opponents don't make the board, you'll lose probably 35-40 points by passing...because there would be no play phase, and of course, you don't score the run...but they lose 70.  The 50 they lose for the set, and the 20 they WOULD get unless you can pull 31.  But in bridge parlance, this would be called an Aces and Spaces hand.  Yes, you'll take ace tricks, but nothing else.  In fact...consider this.  On a bad day, a defender has short spades (say, 2) and you get a bad diamond break...give partner 3.  YOU MAY NOT PULL 20.
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#3
Hmm...lemme continue the thought.  2 hands later, I held this in 3rd seat:

AS KS AH AH TH TH QH JH AC AC TC KC QC JC AD AD AD TD QD JD

The *actual* auction started Pass - 52.  

But say the auction had started Pass - Pass.

My *gosh* passing looks attractive...BUT here, spades is a major risk. and 31 for me is closer.  I've got possible extra tricks in hearts or diamonds...including possible ruffs by partner.  I *may* only need 6 trump from partner, and no really bad breaks.  So I'd probably bid over pass-pass.

Over pass-52, there's no board set, and they may only need 20ish.  In spades, this looks too likely.
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