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Splinter bids and how to develop them

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The 2022 Ladies Pairs Championship takes place over two sessions at the Bridge Club today, so expect full results next week. The Men's event has once again been postponed due to the withdrawal of one pair, which then left the field below the minimum required. More on that later.

Bridge players love bidding gadgets, but all too often don’t delve into how the bidding should develop after the gadget has been employed, and the end result is that the opponents get too much information and the bidding pair gets no real benefit. Perhaps the best example of this are “splinter” bids.

Most pairs agree that a splinter bid, usually an unusual jump in another suit, shows a singleton or a void in the bid suit and at least four-card support for partner’s last bid suit.

That much is fine, but what else? Is it a singleton or a void? How many points does it show? How does partner investigate further?

Before we go there let’s understand a bit more about a splinter – let us say that South opens one spade and North jumps to four diamonds, showing spade support and diamond shortage. What that bid does is commit the pair to game and allows opener to decide whether to go to slam based on where her points lie. Typically, Kings and Queens are considered “wasted” opposite the singleton and should be devalued.

The ideal hand would either have the Ace opposite the singleton, or no honours opposite the singleton. The latter means that all the points of the two hands are concentrated in three suits and you are in effect playing with a 30-point deck — and if you have a combined 26/28 hcp between the two hands out of a 30-point deck, you are likely to take the rest of the tricks.

The hand in Figure 1 is a perfect example.

Figure 1

South opens one spade and North jumps to four clubs, showing club shortage and at least four spades.

Despite South having only 12 points, the hand is a perfect fit – once the club is lost the hand is being played with the other three suits and South knows that all his points and partner’s points are in those three suits — so South bids RKC Blackwood and once he hears that partner has three key cards (two Aces and the King of trumps) he can bid the slam and almost claim before dummy comes down. A laydown 23-point slam!

So, what is key here is hand evaluation after the splinter bid.

Let us say you open one spade and partner bids four diamonds, showing a singleton diamond.

You hold two similar looking hands, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Again, the first hand is perfect for slam, as your three small diamonds are taken care of by the singleton.

The second hand is not as appealing – partner will have some length in the club suit and there are too many holes in that suit — so despite the 16 points, prudence will dictate that you stay at the game level on the second hand.

See partner’s hand in Figure 3.

Figure 3

The slam is laydown with Hand 1 and has no chance with Hand 2, even without a club lead and the Queen of hearts lying favourably as there are always two clubs to lose.

So, to finish off, a few suggested rules for splinters:

• Always at least four-card trump support

• 12/15 high card points

I strongly suggest that the splinter always shows a singleton — you are usually making a knife-edge decision on whether to go to slam and not knowing whether you are opposite a singleton or a void makes any decision too difficult. If you have a hand like the one shown in Figure 4:

Figure 4

If partner opens one spade, I would bid two clubs first to establish a game-forcing situation, then agree spades and, if partner sounds interested, cue bid your diamond void.

There you have it – happy splintering!


Friday, May 13


1. Pat Colmet – Elysa Burland

2. Kath Bell – Geoff Bell

3. Elizabeth McKee – Molly Taussig


1. Aida Bostelmann – Heather Woolf

2. Martha Ferguson – Judy King

3. Marge Way – Tony Saunders

Monday, May 16

1. Marge Way – Gill Butterfield

2. Gertie Barker – Jane Smith

3. Louise Rodger – Dorory Lusher

Tuesday, May 17

1. Tracey Pitt – Desiree Woods

2. Malcolm Moseley – Mark Stevens

3. Angela McKittrick – Janice Bucci

Wednesday, May 18

1. Bill Pollett – Des Nash

2. Joyce Pearson – Joe Wakefield

3. Caroline Svensen – Jane Clipper

Thursday, May 19


1. Wendy Gray – Molly Taussig

2. Kathleen Keane – David Petty

3. Diana Diel – John Rayner


1. Bill Pollett – Des Nash

2. Elizabeth McKee – Linda Pollett

3. Inger Mesna – Sharon Shanahan

Non-Bridge Club Online Results for Bridge Club Members

May 19: Judy Bussell and Diana Diel, seventh out of 254 pairs

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Published May 21, 2022 at 7:46 am (Updated May 21, 2022 at 7:43 am)

Splinter bids and how to develop them

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