One poster has noted on other questions that a 4-4 trump fit was better almost a trick better than a 5-3 trump fit,and had a smaller premium over a 5-4 fit because of the ability to make either hand the master hand.

I could see that being the case where the two hands both had HHxx, where the "H's" are honor cards, and the x's are random small cards. But about "extreme" cases like AKQ6 opposite 5432, or JTxx opposite xxxx? How would the 4-4 advantage still hold? In the latter case for instance, I would welcome a fifth trump in either hand, because if it were a "spot," it would be a "long" trump after the opponents take their honors, and if it were a Queen or better, it would be a third honor?

In response to my Stayman question, the same poster (Pieter Geerkens) noted that one of the weaknesses of the four card heart suit was its lack of a ten (an honor) or nine (close enough). Could a lack of honors in "four card" major suit like 8632 dissuade one from using Stayman, or otherwise seeking a 4-4 fit?

2 Answers 2


The considerations which you describe affect the overall strength of the hand very much more than the playability of the suit. If you have two or three high card losers in your 4-4 fit, where are they going? If your combined holding with partner is sufficient for a play at game, J9xx vs T8xx has a legitimate chance for 2 or even 3 tricks with ruffs when the trump suit, but only a long-shot-con at 2 tricks if not the trump suit.

That being said, having the preponderance of your high cards in short suits makes a hand feel more balanced. For example with

S - xxxx
H - ATx
D - K9x
C - QJx

a raise of partner's 1NT opening to 3NT looks like the most descriptive call even playing Puppet Stayman, whereas with

S - QJxx
H - ATx
D - K9x
C - xxx

a Stayman call starts looking more attractive.

  • 1
    OK, I see. In a NT contract, a 4-4 fit could be a "stopper" in an otherwise weak suit (making 1 trick on length against a 3-2 split of opposing honors), while your high cards concentrated in short suits take the remaining eight tricks. Ditto for two tricks (one or both of them a ruff) in a ten-trick suit contract.
    – Tom Au
    Oct 29, 2015 at 22:20

Sometimes a 4-4 fit plays better as trumps than the 5-3 fit with regards to using the long suit for discards, for example:

S: Axxx  | Kxxx
H: AQJxx | Kxx 
D: Kxx   | Axx
C: x     | Axx

Here you can make 6 spades if trumps break 3-2 as you can draw 2 rounds of trumps, discard a diamond on one of the long hearts and then ruff a diamond.

Move one of the small clubs from East's hand into hearts and still you can make 6 spades but in neither hand can you make 6 hearts (even though with the adjustment you have a 5-4 fit now) as you have to lose a diamond and a spade.

The 5-3 trump fit is likely to work better when you have strong trumps and want to draw all the trumps then set up a trick elsewhere. If trumps break 4-1 you will still have a trump to stop another side suit. It can also work better if trumps break 4-1 and your opponent tries "drawing" all your trumps.

The scenario I think you were referring to is where they can only "force" in one suit and are going to do so twice.

S: KQxx | Axxx H: QJxxx | KTx D: Kxx | AQx C: x | xxx

A weaker set of hands now but you don't need a diamond discard. If you are playing 4 spades and they start with 2 rounds of clubs, you ruff and play KQ of spades noting they break 4-1 then play on hearts. If they get a ruff it's with a natural trump trick for them anyway but if they take the ace and force with another club you have a trump to handle that. If hearts are 4-1 too they can only beat you if the long heart hand has the ace of clubs and they get two ruffs.

If hearts are trumps and they and are 4-1 you lose 2 trump tricks now as well as a club and a spade if they are also 4-1.

If spades are 3-2 you still risk losing control in hearts. They play 2 rounds of clubs and you ruff. Draw trumps but the defender with Axxx takes his ace on the 3rd round and leads another club. So when you find trumps are 4-1 you don't play a third one but play on the side suits and let your opponent ruff in. If he plays yet another club you ruff and continue on with the side suits.

  • 1
    OK, so the 5-4 heart suit is better as a long suit for a discard of the low diamond.
    – Tom Au
    Nov 4, 2015 at 20:30
  • Yes, and note that on the hand posted above but without the jack of hearts, you can make 6 spades on a 3-2 trump break even if hearts are 4-1.
    – CashCow
    Nov 5, 2015 at 15:12

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