Passion of The Game of Bridge

Better Minor vs Short Club: Which One Is Better?

Better Minor vs Short Club: Which One Is Better?

When using 5 card Major “standard” or “natural” system, one of the classic debate is whether to use “better minor”(a.k.a convenient minor) or “short club”. Unfortunately some people use one or another not by choice, but just by default without knowing the reason of each choice. Let us take a look a bit deeper on this better minor vs short club system and then check whether what you have been using so far meet your expectation.

Better Minor vs Short Club Characteristics

There are 5 main differences below:

Better Minor Short Club
1♣ opening promises 3+cards Club 1♣ opening only promise 2 cards Club
1opening promises 3+cards Diamond 1opening promises 4+cards Diamond
3cd-2cd♣ minor open 1 3cd-2cd♣ minor open 1♣
2cd-3cd♣ minor open 1♣ 2cd-3cd♣ minor open 1♣
3-3 minor open the best 3-3 minor always open 1♣


Simple Quantitative Analysis : Good and Better

To make an objective assessment and analysis, let’s give every aspect a fair statistical “point” that can be summed at the end of this article.

  1. First and foremost. The main critics for better minor is that knowing that partner have at least 3 cards is not really useful info. Or is it? Most people don’t realize, that there are exactly 2 distribution only when someone only has 3 cards minor: 4-4-3-2 (have both 4 card Major) and 4-3-3-3 (3-3 minor with at least a Major with 4 cards).
    And what is the percentage of those 2 exact distributions occur?
    When one open 1 minor with guarantee 3 or more cards on that minor, the possible hands distribution is 442,008,413,181 combinations.
    There are 33,452,928,080 combinations for 4-3-3-3 distribution and 11,402,157,300 combinations for 4-4-3-2 distribution (See breakdown of bridge distribution for more detail) – total 44,855,085,380 combinations. This total combinations represents only 10.1% of possible hands.
    In other words: 89.9% of the time, the better minor opener will have 4 cards on that minor – so, if partner open 1♣(better minor) 10 times, only 1 is the chance for he/she got only 3 cards Club. We have then a very good assessment: for guarantee 4 cards when opening 1: short club will have full 1.0 point (100%), and better minor only have 0.899)
  2. How about 4 cards ♣ when opening 1♣?
    When a “Short Club” player alert the opponent that 1♣ could have only 2 cards Club, the total possible hands of having 2 or more cards is 572,734,034,613. The differences of possible hand if it were promising 3+ cards C is 130,725,621,432. And by above calculation, we know that there are 44,855,085,380 combinations that has no 4 cards
    Hence, the hands that have 4 or more cards is 572,734,034,613(2 cards or more) – 130,725,621,432 (2 carders) – 44,855,085,380 (3 carder)= 437,522,904,654+. So, the possibility of 1♣(Short Club) opener has 4+ cards is only 76.4% or 0.764 point
    For “Better Minor” the point is still 0.899 as the situation is exactly the same as with Diamond (see point (1) above).
  3. What is the percentage of having 3+ cards minor when opening 1 in that minor?
    By definition, 1(better minor) promises 3+ cards and 1(short club) promise 4 cards – so both have 100% guarantee to have 3 cards when open 1.
    Also by definition, 1♣(better minor) promises 3+cards ♣- 100% guarantee or 1.0 point. But 1♣(short club) which as  572,734,034,613 possible hands that have 2 or more cards ♣, only have 442,008,413,181 hands that have 3 cards or more ♣. So, in this case, the score for the Short Club is only 77.2% or 0.772.
  4. When you have equal number of minor, how to indicate the better one to partner?
    Say you have: S-K32, H-J543, D-AKQ, C-432. You open and at the end of the auction, partner need to lead as your side is defending. Would it better to tell partner that your Diamond is better than Club by opening 1D? So, “better minor” provide this feature to indicate stronger suit – while those that use “short club” have to toss a coin – 50-50 chance to pick the correct minor to lead.

Better Minor vs Short Club: a wrap up

Summarized all the points above, we can see the following table:

Better Minor Short Club
1C opener has 4+cards Club 0.899 0.764
1D opener has 4+cards Diamond 0.899 1.000
1C opener has 3+cards Club 1.000 0.772
1D opener has 3+cards Diamond 1.000 1.000
Information of which minor is stronger 1.000 0.500
4.798 4.036
Better minor vs Short Club index

It seems, quantitatively, based on statistics, the “Better Minor” system have about 18.8% advantage over the “Short Club” system.

At the end – put all the technical/statistical aspect aside –  the familiarity and the confidence of the player plays significant role. A system could have distinctly better, but if the person behind the gun doesn’t know the advantages and/or not fluently understand the system, then it will not be much advantageous, right?

So, which one you prefer ? Better Minor vs Short Club ?
What other advantages or disadvantages of either system that I have not mentioned?

Let me know what you think in comment below….!

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