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Splinter Bid Is Key To Reach Slam

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal occurred last weekend during the bridge tournament at the Bonaventure Resort. It features the use of a “splinter bid,” a gadget that greatly improves slam-bidding accuracy.

6 H SouthS 3WestNORTHEastSouth
None VulH K Q 7 41 DPass1 H
D K Q 3 21 S3 SPass4 D
C A K 8 4Pass5 CPass6 H
S A K 9 7 4TableS Q 10 8 6PassPassPass
H 3H J 9 6
D J 10 9 7D 8 5
C Q 10 3C J 9 6 5
S J 5 2
H A 10 8 5 2
D A 6 4
Lead: S KC 7 2

The auction began routinely with a one-diamond opening, one-heart response, and one-spade overcall. A great majority of players now would raise to four hearts — ostensibly the correct bid by North, but concealing the hand’s most important feature: the singleton spade.

Enter, the splinter bid. Many good players and virtually all experts play that an unusual jump bid (one that has no logical use as a natural bid) shows a singleton or void in the suit bid and implies good trump support for partner’s suit — hence, North’s jump cue-bid of three spades was a perfect description.

The advantage of a splinter bid is that partner can determine the degree of fit (how the two hands mesh) to better evaluate slam chances. Holdings like A-x-x-x or x-x-x opposite the splinter are good; holdings like K-Q-x-x or K-x-x are poor. To put this into a formula: Only 30 points (distribution included) are needed for a slam if partner of splinter bidder does not count points for the king, queen, jack or shortness in the splinter suit.

Let’s see how this works on today’s deal. South counts 8 points in high cards (spade jack is not counted), 1 point for the doubleton club, and 1 point for the fifth heart — 10 points. North shows about 20 total points for his implied raise to game, so the partnership is in the slam zone.

Rather than bid the slam directly, South explored further with four diamonds (ace-showing). This allowed North to show the club ace, which was all the information South needed. Six hearts!

West led the spade king then shifted to the diamond jack, won by the ace. Declarer played carefully: Spade ruff; heart king-queen; club ace-king; club ruff; spade ruff; club ruff; then he could draw East’s last trump and claim.

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© 1989 Richard Pavlicek