Splinter Bids


Splinter Bids

There are various ways in modern bidding to show shortness, ie a singleton or void, in response to an opening bid. One of the best is the splinter bid, which is used mainly by responder(but may also be used by opener) to show a forcing raise after an opening bid of 1♠ or 1♥. A double jump (or an “unnecessary” jump, i.e. one that is beyond a natural meaning) in a side suit shows a singleton or void in that suit, four-card or longer support for opener’s major, and 10+ high card points (adding extra for the shortage; 3 for a singleton or 5 for a void). It’s then up to opener to decide whether to stop at the game level in the agreed major, or try for slam. What strength is shown by a splinter bid? Let’s say, enough for game, but not enough for slam unless partner has a hand that fits perfectly.

West                                        East
♠AQ9832                               ♠K1074
♥Q8                                        ♥KJ73
♦KJ2                                       ♦3
♣84                                         ♣K952

West                                        East
1♠                                            4♦
4♠                                            all pass

East’s hand is worth a good raise in response to West’s opening bid – 10 high card points + 3 shortage points for the singleton diamond. East’s double jump may only be understood as a splinter bid. If in doubt, go through this:

  • a non jump of 2♦ would be natural, showing diamonds

  • a single jump of 3♦ would  be a jump shift, showing a strong diamond hand (or playing Bergen raises would describe a four-card raise of spades)

  • 4♦ doesn’t really have a natural meaning , do shows diamond shortness and a fit for opener’s suit, and is a splinter

On this hand West has wasted high cards in diamonds opposite East’s announced shortness, so there’s no reason to move beyond game. West signs off in the agreed trump suit, and East has nothing further to say. If the splinter bid is good for opener’s hand (ie there are no wasted values), then opener should cue bid their lowest ace hoping to make a slam.

Opposite partner’s splinter bid, what type of hand would want to bid beyond game? Look at your holding in the suit partner has advertised shortness in, and if there are wasted values, there is probably no slam.

Wasted values (“soft” honours, like a K, Q or J) in the splinter suit, e.g. QJxx or KJ10x lose value, whereas honours in the other three suits gain value. Non-wasted values in the splinter suit would be Axxx, xxxx
It just means that if there are honours in other suits, they will be in opener’s long suits and will improve the trick-taking potential of the hand.

Eg: Opener bids 1♠ with this

and responder splinters with 4♦ with this
♦ 2
opener would know that the diamond values opposite shortage are wasted, so would bid only 4♠.

But if opener held
opener would know the fit is great, and no wasted values in the diamond suit, so 6♠ might be reached.

So when opener hears a splinter, look at the short suit partner has advertised, and decide whether your cards are good or bad, i.e. wasted or not.

Opener may splinter too, showing a good raise for responder’s suit, and shortage, e.g. 1♥ p 1♠ p 4♦ would show a hand like:

Although a splinter bid takes a lot of bidding space, they are very descriptive and useful tools. Give them a go. Partner won’t forget and pass you in your singleton or void, although this has been heard of! (with unhappy endings!)

Test your knowledge

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