Source: Aussie Youth Bridge Bulletin
Playing a natural system, a common question arises as to which minor-suit openings to play. Which is better? Better Minor or Short Club? Is there a difference? There is a subtle difference, but in reality, not by much.
Let’s take a look at Short Club first. Short Club is where a 1 shows 2+’s and a 1 opening shows 4+’s. Essentially, any hand with four diamonds (unless you have longer clubs or a five-card major) will be opened 1. 4=4=4=1, 3=4=4=2, etc, you name it. This means that whenever you open 1, you will generally have at least three clubs. (43)33 would be opened 1, as is 4=4=2=3. The only time that you will have a doubleton club is when you have an exact shape of 4=4=3=2: if you think about it, if you have a doubleton club with any other shape, you must have a fivecard major or 4+’s, so you will be making some other opening bid.
Better Minor essentially means that both 1 and 1 openings show a minimum of 3 cards. When you have 3-3 in the minors, some like to have choice between either opening depending on suit quality (i.e. AK2 984 would be opened 1). However, I believe that to get the maximum usage out of Better Minor, it is more beneficial to open 1 any time you are 3-3 in the minors. This would mean that your 1 opening would generally have at least four diamonds, and the only time that you will have only three diamonds is when you have an exact shape of 4=4=3=2. This would help out your competitive auctions: whenever your partner opens 1, you can safely compete in diamonds knowing that partner will most likely have four of them.
So what’s the difference between both styles?
Not much really! Both ways are essentially the same, but the underlying focus is knowing what to do with that dreaded 4=4=3=2 shape. What you want to do is to look at it from a competitive auction’s point of view. If the auction goes 1-(1) or 1-(2), or 1-(1) or 1-(2), would you rather be absolutely certain that the 1 promises at least four cards, or would you prefer that the 1 promises at least three cards? Of course, you should generally always assume that partner has 3+’s for the 1 opening and 4+’s for the 1 opening, since the chance of having an exact 4=4=3=2 shape is about 3%. Furthermore, when you have interference from the opponents (especially when it’s an overcall of a major suit), the chances of partner having a 4=4=3=2 greatly diminishes! The choice, ultimately, is up to you and your partner.