Jeff Lehman

Culbertson’s Rule of Hand Evaluation #2

Jeff Rubens defines the Rule as “your hand is worth an invitation to game (or slam) if a perfect minimum holding from partner will make it a laydown”.

Here’s a couple more recent hands to which one might apply Culbertson’s Rule.

In third hand, you open 1 on ♠AK75  A  Q64  QJT65.  LHO overcalls 1.  Your partner bids 1NT, 7-10 HCP by partnership agreement.  After a pass by RHO, do you bid on?

Partner would be expected to have some combination of the  KQJ.  Because the QJ makes the suit most difficult for the opponents to attack, let’s “give” him those three HCP.  You also would welcome a filler in clubs, so let’s “give” partner the ♣K.  That’s a total of six “perfect” points out of the seven that is the agreed bottom range for his 1NT response. The extra HCP that seems to fit best with our hand is the J, and we can accompany that with T, perhaps.  So, overall, our “perfect minimum” for partner might be xxx, QJxx  JTxx  Kx.  Now, how might the play go, since a benefit of Culbertson’s Rule is that it integrates bidding with card play?  Assuming a start of a heart lead followed by knocking out the A, we have a total of 7 top tricks.  When in with the A, the opponents will presumably know not to continue hearts but will instead switch to a pointed suit.  Assume that pointed suit is spades.  We can win the spade, run the clubs, and begin to knock out the high honors, and then volley between spades and diamonds for the next two tricks.  After ten tricks (one heart, five clubs, two spades and two diamonds), the defense is on lead with a high diamond in a three card end position; we have won seven tricks.  If it is RHO who is on lead and is voided in spades, then we are gin: we must win a heart and a diamond while the best RHO can do is win the K.  If, on the other hand, LHO is on lead at Trick 11, we will probably go set as he can cash a high spade and then lead a heart to his partner’s king for the fifth trick of the defense.

All in all, given “declarer advantage”, I think a raise to 2NT (surely the raise is invitational and not some sort of minor-two suiter, right?) is justified.  Partner should be well-placed to make a decision with a hand that is neither a clear minimum nor a clear maximum, because he will highly value a secondary honor in hearts (such as the jack) and a supporting club honor.

Another hand for applying Culbertson’s Rule.  You hear a third hand opening bid of 1.  You hold AQJT5 983 AQT7 5.  You overcall 1.  LHO makes a negative double.  Partner raises to 2.  RHO bids 3.  Your call?

Well, you expect partner to hold a doubleton heart on the auction.  You also expect that all diamond finesses will work.  You “give” partner four spades to the king.  Let’s say his hand is Kxxx xx xxx xxxx.  That might not be enough for a raise.  But the hand has only three losers if the diamond finesses work and trumps split.  Surely, you must be worth a game try (presumably a maximal double on this auction).  Again, partner should be well-placed to make a good decision: surely he will value a trump honor and the fourth or longer trumps and he will similarly know to discount honors in the heart suit.

Partner will not, of course, always (some would say “never”) hold perfect cards … but then he does not always own a minimum, either.  Therein, lies one of the beauties of Culbertson’s Rule: you assume that the two assumptions — one favorable and one unfavorable — balance out, thus justifying your decision whether or not to invite.

1 Comment

Robert E. HarrisMarch 30th, 2011 at 6:49 pm

A nice explanations with the examples that make things clear to some of us. (I’m from Missouri, and you will have to show me.)

Leave a comment

Your comment