~4-4 or 5-3 Trump Fit?


Which is better–a 4-4 or a 5-3 fit in trumps?


Fact: The 4-4 fit is usually better.


Reason: With equally divided trumps, either hand may become the short hand to create extra tricks by ruffing long suits.


If two hands each hold four trumps, the odds are about 2 in 3 that trumps will split 3-2. Either hand can trump 1-3 times with a short suit facing a long suit in partner’s hand. If the trump split is 5-3, you must trump in the hand with short trumps to gain tricks. With only three trumps, the hand holds 10 cards in the other three suits and is less likely to have a short suit.


Here is an easy hand to demonstrate the theory: there is a formatting problem with the hand layout; arrange the cards in the proper format.


North  S AK97  H AKT97  D 3    C 875
West   S 4    H 8652   D KJT4   C JT92                     

South  S QJT8  H QJ4   D AQ2    C A63
East    S 6532    H 3   D 98765  C KQ4


The bidding has gone:
North       South
1H        1S

3S         4NT

5H*      5NT
6H        All Pass


* Blackwood; RKCB players (1430) would bid 5D; playing 0314, bid 5C.


Consider 6S versus 6H. With spades as trumps, there are 13 tricks available by ruffing two diamonds in dummy. With hearts as trumps, there is nowhere to put the two club losers, making only 5H. If the Diamond K were onside, you could make 6H.


8 Responses to “~4-4 or 5-3 Trump Fit?”

  1. René de Milliano Says:

    I just joint.
    Anyone ideas about when to play in a 5-3-fit H or S or in (3)NT?

    • bridgetips Says:

      It has been my experience that playing in the 4-4 major-suit fit OR the 5-3 major suit fit will usually score better than playing in 3NT. An exception is when the responding hand or the hand with only three trumps has no singleton or doubleton. With a 5-3 trump fit, it is usually worth an extra trick if the hand with only three trumps can ruff at least one loser. Ruffing in the hand with the long trumps often will not add a trick to the total. Not so with a 4-4 split; you can ruff in either hand and retain four trumps in the other hand to control the trump suit (in the absence of a really bad trump split). With a 4-3-3-3 shape in responder’s hand, even with a 4-4 trump fit, a NT contract will usually score better than a suit contract following a 1NT opening.

  2. René de Milliano Says:

    No I am not high, I just joined!

  3. Bill Butler Says:

    Generally, playing in the 8-card major-suit fit will score better than will 3NT.

    • Kate Salamon Says:

      Hi Bill – are you the Bill married to Alice Eastland Butler? I am an old friend of hers trying to get in touch.

  4. Ron Williams Says:

    I would appreciate comments on the choice when the fit is 4-4, and 5-4?

  5. René de Milliano Says:

    Crystal clear. This would indicate that playing 3NT with a 44-fit Major is outright foolishness but is an option with a 53-fit major (no rufs and one trick less, provided all suits are stopped. Note that in the example 3NT is the best contract in either case.

    • bridgetips Says:

      In most cases, playing in the 4-4 major suit fit or the 5-3 major suit fit will produce more points and a higher score than playing the contract at 3 NT. This scoring difference is important in duplicate bridge but not in contract or party bridge. The one distribution that suggests playing the contract at 3NT even with a 4-4 major suit fit (but not a 5-3 major suit fit) is when one hand has 4-3-3-3 shape. There is no sure shortage in a side suit to take advantage of a ruff in one hand while maintaining 4 trumps in the other hand.

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