Is 5-3-3-2 Really Better Than 4-3-3-3?
Reader Rod Bias is interested in the relative value of a fifth card in the
long suit. The following pair of simulations yields some idea,
in terms of
12 HCP opposite balanced 8-20 HCP:
This result is surprising to me. The five-card suit produced only
8.06/7.98 as many tricks on average — an increase of
16 HCP opposite balanced 8-18 HCP:
This time the 5-card hand generates 9.90/9.75 as many
tricks — a 1.5% improvement.
Note that in both comparisons the 5-3-3-2 hand has greater results at the
extremes — more hands taking a lot of tricks, and more hands taking
few tricks. When the diamonds are weak in both hands, bad things happen; w
hen north covers that suit, life is good. At a later date,
SIM will study this phenomenon in detail.
Yet why is the second differential greater than the first? It must
have something to do with the combined strength of the two hands.
1,000-deal simulations yield these results:
These data seem inconclusive to me; larger samplings
might prove more meaningful. On this chart, however,
the average gain from the longer suit is
approximately the value of a jack. It appears
that Charles Goren might have been correct! Using
Standard American methods, the hand with the 5-card
suit, featuring a doubleton perforce, is worth 1 point
more — the value of a jack.
(Please do not take this as a personal endorsement of S.A. valuation!)
* In notrump, the fifth card in a suit is not as valuable as is commonly perceived.
It also appears that the 5-card suit is maximally useful
when the combined strength is in the
range — enough to more or less ensure the utilization
of the long-suit card, yet not so much power that the long
suit becomes redundant. Those numbers suggest this directive:
* When considering a marginal slam, invite only when holding a
Actually, I was just guessing that an extra jack would
represent 2.4% of the the total tricks. It might well take
more than that on average to produce such results. Mr. Bias
suggested that a queen might be closer to the truth; he could be
right. Eventually, SIM will get
busy and determine
The Way It Is.