Tables such as these purport to show the probability, X, of making Y tricks with Z high card points in the declarer's hand and dummy (using computerized double dummy analysis).

How do actual tournament results compare to such theoretical results? Some experts believe that declarers will do better, and defenders, worse, than these theoretical results. That's because it is harder to defend than declare. Such experts might e.g. bid suit games with 23 combined high card points, even though the computers say this is usually a losing proposition.

Does the record show that making such aggressive bids "beats the spread?"

  • It was often quipped that the late great Barry Crane could simply will an opponent into a revoke - when needed to make a contract. Always seated Table 1A N-S (except for the one notable time when two pairs were thus seated: Table 1A N-S Green and Table 1A N-S White), everyone knew when they were facing the master face to face. Feb 13, 2022 at 15:46
  • The nature of the game, being head-to-head competition rather than against any sort of par (occasional exceptions noted), guarantees that stronger players will always outperform weaker players. Thus weaker players concede tricks to the objective standard and, by the nature of the competition, also to the stronger players currently facing them. This cannot be avoided. Feb 13, 2022 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


Richard Pavlicek has explored this question. In his article Actual Play vs Double Dummy, he compares actual play in four high-level events 1996-2014 to double-dummy play on the same hands.

He finds that below 5NT, declarer has a slight edge, mostly because defenders get off to the wrong opening lead with some frequency; at the slam level, the opening lead becomes less important (or at least it becomes less difficult to make a non-damaging lead). After the opening lead, he finds that defenders have a slight edge over double dummy.

However, these edges are quite small, and his final conclusion is that

The overriding impact of the tables is that actual play versus double-dummy is pretty close, so analyses based on double-dummy play should generally be on track.

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    Of course, this is only a study of what happens on average. One could probably figure out a way to look at hands (possibly even automated) and predict which hands will have a declarer advantage and which will have a defender advantage. Feb 28, 2022 at 20:45

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