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Bridge 7/12

Which is better, a 4-4 or a 5-3 fit?

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    In yesterday's deal, North had an 11-count with three spades and four hearts. South opened one spade. North responded two diamonds, planning to support spades at the minimum level on the next round. When South rebid two hearts, though, North raised to three hearts, going with what he thought would be a 4-4 fit in preference to a 5-3 spade fit. Why?
    A 4-4 side suit will be worth at most four tricks. But if you make it trumps, you will usually get an extra trick by ruffing — as in this deal. A 5-3 fit will not often generate an extra ruffing trick, but will normally provide two discards on the long cards — as in this deal.
    If spades are trumps, South will win only 11 tricks: five spades, four hearts, one diamond and one club. Now make hearts the trump suit. South wins West's diamond-king lead, draws trumps in three rounds, and runs his spades, discarding two diamonds from the dummy. Then he can ruff his low diamond on the board and end with five spades, five hearts, one diamond and one club — 12 tricks and a juicy slam bonus.
    The South hand, based on its loser count (four: one in each suit), is strong enough for a two-club opening bid. But if North cannot supply a major-suit fit, opening two clubs might well carry the auction too high; hence South's one-spade start. When North raises spades, though, South wonders about a slam. However, knowing the advantage of a 4-4 fit over a 5-3, he rebids three hearts to see if North has support for that suit too. And when North does, South bids the makable slam.
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