Recently I wrote a column about how players can upgrade the value of their hands. Let’s say you hold:

♠A J 4

♥Q J 3

♦K Q J 6 4

♣10 4

The hand totals 14 high-card points, but the fifth diamond in a strong suit is worth one more. Therefore, open 1NT (15-17 HCP) rather than 1♦.

The converse applies: players can also downgrade the value of their hands.

Barbara Besse was sitting North, with West dealing and no one vulnerable, on board 24 at the Island Bridge Club the night of July 23:

NORTH
♠ A K 4
♥ A J 6
♦ A 9 8 7
♣ Q 7 4

WEST                                     EAST

♠ J 10 6 3                              ♠ Q 7
♥ K 5                                     ♥ Q 4 3 2
♦ K Q J 6 2                            ♦ 10
♣ 5 2                                      ♣ K J 10 9 6 3

SOUTH
♠9 8 5 2
♥10 9 8 7
♦5 4 3
♣ A 8

After West passed, Besse took stock of her hand. She held 18 HCP, and players are supposed to open 1NT with 15-17. On the other hand, she had flat distribution (some players will automatically deduct a point for that), plus a queen and jack of questionable worth. Therefore, instead of opening 1♦, she bid 1NT, passed out.

Besse made the contract for a cold top of +90. Every other contract, be it 1♦ by North, 1NT by West or anything else you could imagine, went down.

Here’s another candidate for devaluation:

♠ Q J 4
♥ Q J 8
♦ Q J 5
♣ K Q J 3

With flat distribution and eight “quacks” (queens and jacks), this hand isn’t worth its 15 HCP. Open 1♣.

And another:

♠ K Q 4
♥ J 7 6
♦ Q J 9 5 3
♣ Q J

You have 12 HCP and a five-card diamond suit, but among six quacks you hold a possibly worthless queen-jack doubleton. Pass.