Study 9Z00   Main

Contract Comparisons

  by Richard Pavlicek

This study compares choices of contract in 72 major events from 1996 to 2014. Source data consists of 40,069 deals (80,138 results) from vugraph archives of the Vanderbilt, Spingold, U.S. Championship and World Team Championship — widely considered to be the four strongest team events each year.

Choice of PartscoreChoice of Game

The basic idea is to consider only cases where a different contract was played at one table than the other. Further, both contracts must be of the same genre (partscore or game) and in the same direction (N-S or E-W) as the objective is to determine which contract choice is superior in the long run. Results based on minimal data may be unreliable but otherwise should be meaningful, because all participants were experts, including the world’s best.

The winning choice for each comparison is tinted gold to aid recognition. To view the actual deals for any comparison, click on the number in the Cases column.

Choice of Partscore

The following table compares cases where Table 1 N-S played a different partscore than Table 2 N-S.

Results are more or less as expected: Trump fits of 8+ cards fare better in a suit; those of less fare better in notrump. The exception is for 5-3 fits in a minor, which have a better expectation in notrump.

ComparisonCasesTable 1IMPsPercentTable 2IMPsPercent
Notrump4-3 Major1051 NT15159.922 H/S10140.08
Notrump5-2 Major1111 NT13851.492 H/S13048.51
Notrump4-4 Major811 NT5226.262 H/S14673.74
Notrump5-3 Major771 NT2412.442 H/S16987.56
Notrump4-4 Minor401 NT4143.622 C/D5356.38
Notrump5-3 Minor431 NT5956.192 C/D4643.81

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Choice of Game

The following table compares cases where Table 1 N-S played a different game than Table 2 N-S.

Results may seem surprising, particularly that 4-4 and 5-3 major fits fare better in notrump. (Only 6-2 major fits fare better in the suit.) Keep in mind, however, that only cases where different games were reached are included, so both hands were almost always balanced when a major fit was eschewed. This often arises out of accepted expert practice not to pursue a major fit with 4-3-3-3 shape after partner opens 1 NT.

Minor-suit fits, even up to 10 cards, almost always lost out to 3 NT, mainly because of the additional two tricks required for game. The exception is a 5-5 fit, which makes sense if you think about; minimal length for tricks in notrump but great ruffing potential.

The last three rows compare cases where a deal contained two major fits of different lengths. No surprise that the 4-4 beats the 5-3, as only the latter can provide a discard. Observe, however, that this does not extend to the 6-2 fit, which beats all by a wide margin, albeit based on sparse data.

ComparisonCasesTable 1IMPsPercentTable 2IMPsPercent
Notrump4-3 Major1273 NT42760.234 H/S28239.77
Notrump5-2 Major1683 NT46261.764 H/S28638.24
Notrump6-1 Major973 NT25068.494 H/S11531.51
Notrump4-4 Major2263 NT61958.234 H/S44441.77
Notrump5-3 Major3963 NT84353.354 H/S73746.65
Notrump6-2 Major1373 NT22142.184 H/S30357.82
Notrump5-4 Minor463 NT12664.955 C/D6835.05
Notrump6-3 Minor1013 NT34674.575 C/D11825.43
Notrump7-2 Minor343 NT13463.515 C/D7736.49
Notrump5-5 Minor443 NT6235.845 C/D11164.16
Notrump6-4 Minor553 NT11154.155 C/D9445.85
Notrump7-3 Minor313 NT5753.275 C/D5046.73
4-4 Major5-3 Major344 H/S 4-46260.784 H/S 5-34039.22
4-4 Major6-2 Major144 H/S 4-43332.044 H/S 6-27067.96
5-3 Major6-2 Major104 H/S 5-31327.664 H/S 6-23472.34

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© 2014 Richard Pavlicek