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  I have given examples of splinter bids on various occasions in the news-sheets and I was asked if I can describe them in more detail. Always willing to oblige, so here goes: -  

Splinters make use of bids that would otherwise rarely be used; they allow the responder to agree trumps and show a shortage (singleton or void) in an outside suit all in one go.

A splinter is always an unnecessary jump into the short suit and agrees partner's last bid suit as trumps. And what do I mean by unnecessary? – It is a jump to one level above what the forcing bid for that suit would be. One can splinter over partner's major or minor suit, but over a major is more common and is what I shall concentrate on.

  A splinter raise is strong and is best played as game forcing and slam invitational. It normally promises 4 trumps although sometimes it is OK with just 3 card support if partner is known to hold a 5(+) card suit.  
Hand A

With hand A, if partner opens 1 or 1 then a 2 bid would be natural. Most players would play a bid of 3 as a good hand with a good long suit, so the splinter bid is 4.


Of course, if you play 4 here as asking for aces then you cannot play splinters - just one reason why most experienced players use 4NT or play Kickback. 4 as the ace ask inhibits the use of splinters and cue bids.

  Note that with Hand A it would be unwise to splinter if partner had opened 1. To start with, you have gone past 3NT which may be the best spot when partner opens with a minor suit. But also partner may only have 3 's playing better minor and he may well have a 4 card major.  
  Let's stick with this Hand A and suppose that partner does indeed open 1 . The correct pesponse is 1 (always bid 4 card suits up the line). To support 's is incorrect as it denies a 4 card major. So you bid 1 and partner bids 1, what now? Splinters are not just applicable at your first bid and may be made later in the auction (by either opener or responder). So over partner's 1 you again bid 4 (or 3 according to partnership agreement).  
  And another variation. Partner opens 1, you bid 1 and partner raises to 2 . Partner has limited his hand (to about 14 or 15 points max) and you could simply bid 4 . But with the right cards, there could well be a slam. Now in this sequence (1 - 1 - 2 ) you have agreed trumps and a 3 bid would be a game try. So 4 is again a splinter and is the best bid. Let's look at a possibility for both hands: -  
West East West   East    
                (1) Splinter
AJ K764 1   1   (2) cue bid
AQ82 KJ76 2   4 (1) (3) RKCB
K9762 AQ54 4 (2) 4NT (3) (4) 2 key cards + the trump queen
75 6 5   6    
  An excellent slam on a combined 27 count. East's splinter at (1) shows slam interest and a singleton/void . West has a max for what he has shown so far and co-operates with a cue bid. East then simply checks on aces (keycards)on the way to slam.  
  Of course West may not have the ideal hand. He may be minimum or have wasted values in the short suit. No problem, nothing is lost and he can simply sign off in game: -  
West East West   East    
                (1) Splinter
105 K764 1   1   (2) not interested
AQ82 KJ76 2   4 (1)  
KJ76 AQ54 4 (2) pass    
KJ5 6          
  West has the same point count as before, but with wasted values in East's short suit he signs off in game.  
  Now splinter bids are usually pretty obvious, but there are a couple of sequences that need to be agreed: -  
  Sequence B: 1 - 3♠
  Sequence C: 1 - 4
  These two bids are both one above the natural strong jump shift. However, some players prefer to play these as pre-emptive and you would have to agree if they are weak or a splinter.  

Showing a Void

  When you splinter you show a singleton/void, but it is unwise to splinter a singleton ace (partner will downgrade the king in the suit). If you have a void and partner is interested in slam, a subsequent cue bid of your splinter suit shows a void: -  
West East West   East    
                (1) Splinter
A Q764 1   1   (2) cue bid
AQ82 KJ763 2   4 (1) (3) void
KJ762 AQ54 4 (2) 5 (3)  
752 - 5 (2) 6 (2)  
        7   pass    
  Note. There is an alternative method to splintering with a void, and that is to use Exclusion Roman Keycard Blackwood. I will write up something on this soon.  

Splinters later in the Auction

  We have seen that a splinter always agrees the last bid suit, but it may not always be convenient to splinter immediately.  
Hand D

If partner opens 1 then it is probably preferable to show your good suit rather than splintering with 4 , so bid 2. If partner bids 2 then 4 would be a splinter showing this type of hand with a good 5 or 6 card suit. If, however, opener rebids 2 then you cannot splinter as that would be in support of 's.



Splinters by Opener

  Opener may also splinter in support of responder's major suit, and it is again an unnecessary jump:  
Hand E

You are dealer and open 1 and partner responds 1. 2 would be a normal weakish natural rebid, 3 would be natural and forcing and so 4 is a splinter agreeing 's. Obviously as partner may have as little as 5 or 6 points, you need a hand this good to insist upon game.

Hand F

You are dealer and again you open 1 and partner responds 1 .This time you want to splinter in 's. 2 would be a reverse and forcing (or virtually forcing – depending upon your methods) and so 3 is the splinter agreeing 's.

Hand G

This time you open 1 and partner responds 2 . The 2response promises 5+ 's and it is perhaps up to partnership understanding if you allow splinters with good 3 card support. It seems reasonable to me with this hand. 3 would be natural and forcing and so 4 is the splinter agreeing 's.


Splinters after a strong opening?

East West   East  

West's 2 bid is game forcing. If East had a good suit then 3 is quite sufficient. So 4 here is a splinter agreeing 's.

7642 2   2    
K876 2   4♣ ?    

Splinters after Stayman?

East West   East  

East's jump could well be used as a splinter agreeing 's. Fine. But the problem is that there is no equivalent bid with shortage as 4 here asks for aces/key cards (4NT is quantitative).

KQ42 1NT   2  
KJ76 2   4 ?  
4       There is a scheme for splinters after Stayman, but it's a bit complex. It is covered in Splinters after Stayman and it's all in chapter 2.9 (Looking for slam after Stayman) of the NoTrump bidding book

Mini Splinters

  Playing Standard American then a sequence such as 1 - 3 is a strong jump shift (with some people preferring to play it as weak). But if you play the 2/1 system then you do not need a strong jumps shift and some players play a jump like this as a ‘mini-splinter' – showing a shortage but not necessarily game values (it can be just game invitational).  
  This is not standard and most certainly has to be agreed.  

Ambiguous splinters opposite a 1 heart or 1 spade opening

  When partner opens say 1 then 3, 4 and 4 are traditionally used as splinters. However, this is a bit wasteful as the 4 and 4 bids can be put to better use. A scheme for Ambiguous Splinters over a 1/ opening is given in that link. The scheme is actually exactly the same as that used after a transfer or after Stayman has found a fit.  
  Game Tries, cue bids, splinters and 4th suit forcing are often confused with each other. For a fairly comprehensive explanation of what is what, refer to Game Tries, cue bids, splinters, 4 th suit forcing and all that Jazz.  
  For a more complete survey, refer to Max Hardy's book Splinters and Other Shortness Bids  
  Pattaya Bridge Club - www.pattayabridge.com
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