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Intermediate Bridge
LESSON 2
Splinter raises
  1. The Game raise response
  2. Splinter raises by the Responder
  3. Splinter raises by the Opener
  4. Splinter raises of Minor suits

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IBR 2.1 - The Game raise response

The standard responses of a raise of Partner's suit are :

  1. 1♥ - 2♥ = 6-10 points, 3+ trumps
  2. 1♥ - 2♣ * = 10-12 points, with 3+ trumps Responder bids 3♥ at his next turn to bid
  3. 1♥ - 3♥ * = 13+ points, 3+ trumps : Game forcing
  4. 1♥ - 4♥ = 6-10 HCP, 4+ trumps and unbalanced : Game raise

Response d above is an iconic bid identifying a hand which has an abundance of trump support (4+) and is unbalanced in shape, ensuring considerable ruffing power.
Although weak in terms of HCP these hands can secure Game opposite a Minimum Opening hand : a combined HCP holding of only 18-20 HCP.   This is far less than for most Game contracts (26+ points).


*
There is a current popular trend (not an improvement) which reverses the traditional meanings of Responses b and c above, so that 1♥ - 3♥ becomes invitational rather than Game forcing. The Jacoby 2NT (1♥ - 2NT) is by some players then used as the Game forcing response (13+ points).



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IBR 2.2 - Splinter raises by the Responder

Obviously the great advantage of having an abundance of trumps and an unbalanced hand (holding a singleton or void) is not limited to weak 6-10 HCP hands only.

If you have 4+ trumps in Partner's suit, a singleton or void and 11+HCP you make a so-called splinter raise, by making a double jump shift into your short suit.

For example :   1♥ - 4♣   or   1♥ - 3♠   or   1♠ - 4♥   or   1♣ - 1♥ - 1♠ - 4♦

In above bidding sequences the double jump responses confirm the previous bid as the trump suit and show a void or singleton in the bid suit.
Splinter raises are Game forcing and encouraging to Slam which in most cases can be secured with as little as 26-28 HCP (even less when both hands are unbalanced) !

Say your Partner opened 1♥. You respond 4♣ with a hand like this :

(E) ♠ - K 10 6     ♥ - K 10 9 2     ♦ - A Q J 6     ♣ - 7

If Opener holds a hand like this :

(W) ♠ - A 3     ♥ - A Q 8 4 3     ♦ - K 9 8     ♣ - 8 5 3

He will immediately check out your Aces through Blackwood :   1♥ - 4♣ - 4NT - 5♦ - 6♥

Whereas with the hand below Partner will stop in 4♥, because most of his side suit HCP (♣K and ♣Q) are in your singleton suit, largely negating the ruffing advantage.

(W) ♠ - J 3     ♥ - A Q J 4 3     ♦ - 9 8 2     ♣ - K Q 4

The Splinter bid is always above the Game force level, but below the actual Game bid itself.
The Splinter bid shows :

  1. The values for Game and possibly Slam, 11+ HCP
  2. 4+ card support for Partner's suit
  3. A singleton or void in the bid suit
  4. Normally 6 or 7 losers

The Splinter bid is also a warning to Partner that if he holds HCPs opposite the short suit, they are wasted, unless it is the Ace.
Three or four small cards opposite the short suit on the other hand, are a positive sign for they can be ruffed, providing extra tricks. Also Partner's high cards are therefore located in the more useful suits.

After Partner's splinter bid take the following action :

Responses 

to a Splinter bid

After an initial positive assessment of the splinter raise, both players may continue with Blackwood or Cue bidding their Aces (or void) up the line (excluding the trump Ace, for bidding the trump suit is a sign-off).

Example 1     Opener (W)
♠ - A 4
♥ - A Q 10 8 2
♦ - 9 4 2
♣ - K Q 6
  Responder (E)
♠ - K J 8 5
♥ - K J 9 5
♦ - 7
♣ - A 9 8 4
 

Comment
Opener with only small cards in the splinter suit and good values in Clubs and Spades makes a positive response by showing his A♠ (4S).
He then shows 2 Aces plus the trump Queen after Partner's RKC Blackwood.

 

Bidding : (W) 1♥ - 4♦ - 4♠ - 4NT - 5♠ - 6♥


Example 2     Opener (W)
♠ - A 4
♥ - A Q 10 8 2
♦ - K Q 6
♣ - 7 5 2
  Responder (E)
♠ - K J 8 5
♥ - K J 9 5
♦ - 7
♣ - A 9 8 4
 

Comment
Opener's Diamond and Club values have been reversed, and his HCPs in Diamonds are largely useless. With no support in Clubs a Slam contract is doomed.
Opener therefore signs off in 4H.


Bidding : (W) 1♥ - 4♦ - 4♥ - Pass

Note
Some experts recommend that as a Responder you should hold 7 losers or less in order to make a Splinter raise (showing that a Slam contract may be a possibility).
The important part in my view with these type of hands is that there is a seamless transition from the Game raise (1♥ - 4♥) to the Splinter raise response (1♥ - 4♣).

Therefore if you prefer
make a Game raise with 8 losers or more
make a Splinter raise with 7 losers or less
Most 11 HCP response hands do have 7 losers, but very very rarely this may not be the case :   ♠ A J x x   ♥ x   ♦ A J x x   ♣ J x x x
In such cases make a Game raise with 11 HCP, but never bid a Splinter with less than 11 HCP!


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IBR 2.3 - Splinter raises by the Opener

Splinter raises can also be made by the Opener. In these cases too the splinter is either a double jump shift or a single jump in those cases where bidding a new suit would be forcing.

For example :   1♣ - 1♠ - 4♦     or     1♠ - 2♥ - 4♣

Example 3     Opener (W)
♠ - K Q 10 6
♥ - A Q 8
♦ - 4
♣ - K J 10 6 5
  Responder (E)
♠ - A J 9 8
♥ - J 10
♦ - 7 3 2
♣ - A 9 8 4
 

Comment
With Opener's Diamond singleton favourably placed and holding 2 Aces East has no qualms to go straight to 6S.

 

Bidding : (W) 1♣ - 1♠ - 4♦ - 6♠ - Pass


Example 4     Opener (W)
♠ - A K J 9 3
♥ - Q J 9 5
♦ - A J 6
♣ - 9
  Responder (E)
♠ - 7 4
♥ - A K 10 7 6
♦ - 7 5 4
♣ - K J 6
 

Comment
With all his side suit points in Opener's singleton suit, East sees no prospect for Slam and signs off in Game.


Bidding : (W) 1♠ - 2♥ - 4♣ - 4♥ - Pass



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IBR 2.4 - Splinter raises of Minor suits

Although not that common, Splinter raises can also be used with minor trump suit contracts. In these cases they have either one of the two following objectives.

  1. A Splinter raise at the 3-level shows stoppers in the unbid suits and asks Partner to bid 3NT when he has the Splinter suit stopped. If not Partner bids 5 of the minor trump suit.
              1♦ - 3♠ - 3NT     or     1♦ - 3♠ - 5♦  

  2. A Splinter at the 4-level (therefore beyond 3NT) shows a clear interest in Slam.
              1♣ - 1♦ - 2♦ - 4♠ - 4NT* -     or     1♣ - 1♦ - 2♦ - 4♠ - 5♦  
(* in minor suit contracts a bid of 4 in the agreed trump suit can be used to ask for keycards or Aces. See Lesson 4)

Example 5     Opener (W)
♠ - K Q 10
♥ - Q 9 8
♦ - A J 9 4
♣ - Q 10 7 3
  Responder (E)
♠ - 8
♥ - A 10 3
♦ - K 10 8 3 2
♣ - A 8 6 4
 

Comment
West has good stoppers in Partner's Splinter suit spades, so confidently bids 3NT

 

Bidding : (W) 1♦ - 3♠ - 3NT


Example 6     Opener (W)
♠ - 7 5 2
♥ - K Q
♦ - A J 9 6 4
♣ - K Q 10
  Responder (E)
♠ - 8
♥ - A 10 3
♦ - K 10 8 3 2
♣ - A 8 6 4
 

Comment
With East showing to have 11+ HCP in the other three suits, West knows that Game is certain and Slam

* 4♦ can also be used here to ask for Aces.


Bidding : (W) 1♦ - 3♠ - 4NT* - 5♥ - 6♦
              * = Simple Blackwood



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© 2012 Michael Furstner


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