Source: February  2016 ACBL Bridge Bulletin   Spade Suit Heart Suit Diamond Suit club suit Good hand evaluation depends on deciding how well your secondary honors mesh with partner, plus the impact of distribution. Raw point count is only the first step. Would you rather hold a queen that helps take a trick, e.g., Q,-x-x facing K-J-x-x, or a king that is wasted, K-x-x facing x-x-x with the ace likely offside? If partner bids your Q-x-x suit, that is a good sign. If LHO bids your K-x-x, that is ominous. There is no formula to tell you how much to add or subtract, which is just as well since it is important to escape point-count prison and mechanical counting. One of the most common and dismaying comments I hear is when players say, “I couldn’t possibly bid 4Spade Suit; I only had ‘X’ points,” or “I had to bid 4Spade Suit, just look at all my points.” The best we can do is to upgrade or down-grade our original evaluation when the auction furnishes clues. Let’s say you (South) hold: Spade Suit Q J 9 2 Heart Suit A 8 5 Diamond Suit 7 6 2 club suit A 9 7. Playing matchpoints, the auction: (1) Forcing. Do you double? I hope so, because you rate to have the contract beaten in your own hand: two well-located spade tricks behind the long spades and two aces. It is possible that East holds a heart or club void, but that must be against the odds. If 4Spade Suit is a normal contract and you defeat it one trick undoubled, expect a poor matchpoint result. Same auction, but this time you hold: Spade Suit Q J 9 Heart Suit K J 10 Diamond Suit Q J 10 2 club suit K 9 7. Would you double 4Spade Suit? I hope not. Your 13 HCP don’t rate to produce many defensive tricks. West has announced a balanced 10-12 points; don’t be surprised if either your Heart SuitK or club suitK, or maybe even both, are swallowed up by a finesse. Your values are poorly located which diminishes their value. Try another: LHO opens 1Spade Suit, partner intervenes with 2NT (minors) and RHO raises to 3Spade Suit, opponents vulnerable. Which of the following two hands has greater offensive potential? A) Spade Suit J 7 5 Heart Suit J 8 76 Diamond Suit Q 9 5 2 club suit K 2 B) Spade Suit Q 5 4 Heart Suit Q J 7 6 2 Diamond Suit 5 2 club suit A 8 2 The answer is hand A by a wide margin. Facing a distributional partner, think tricks, not points. Assign partner a representative hand for this auction. Given that the opponents seem to hold at least half the missing points, let’s give partner a minimum: Spade Suit A x Heart Suit x x Diamond Suit K J x x x club suit Q J 10 x x. Match that to hand A; in a diamond contract, there is one spade loser, two hearts, one diamond, and one club. Meanwhile, on defense, the opponents have an easy spade game, perhaps even a slam. These calculations strongly suggest a jump to 5Diamond Suit. It rates to produce a worthwhile sacrifice, down three doubled, minus 500 against a vulnerable game. And if the opponents have a slam, your jump blocks Blackwood, forcing them to guess their correct level. Your hand became much better than its point count because you fit partner’s two-suiter so well. In contrast, Hand B rates to go down at least a couple in 4club suitagainst average splits, and your defense against 4Spade Suit is uncertain. Much depends on how distributional the opponents’ hands are, and the location of the club suitK. Expect declarer to guess spades correctly; the unusual notrump often provides declarer with a roadmap. Why bid 4club suit and goad them into a contract they might not reach on their own, meanwhile risking a penalty double of 4club suit, down a few. 4club suit is apt to offer the opponents a fielder’s choice: Whether they bid 4Spade Suit with extra shape or double holding balanced strength, they are likely to be successful. This analysis of the tactical possibilities is lost if all one does is count points.