Splinter Bids

What is a splinter bid?

A splinter bid is when you make a DOUBLE JUMP in a suit. For example if partner opens 1♠, RHO passes and you bid 4♣ then this is a splinter bid.

The purpose of a splinter bid is to let partner know that you have a hand that is at least worth game BUT might be suitable for a slam (otherwise you could just bid game!).

What does it show?

A splinter bid typically shows-

  • Good Support – at least 4 card support for partner’s suit
  • Shortage in Suit Bid – a singleton or void in the suit bid as a splinter (e.g. if partner opens 1♠ and you respond 4♣ then you are showing a shortage in clubs.)
  • 11 – 15 HCP – with a singleton you should have game points with a good 10 or 11 HCP.  The maximum points you should splinter with is around 15 HCP , more than that and you can go straight to your own slam investigation.

In this example East has a great hand for a splinter bid. They have 4 card support for partners spades, 12 HCP and a singleton heart. Splinter bidding 4♥ shows this hand exactly.

Responding to a Splinter Bid

Partner has splintered, what should you do?

If you have a poor hand you should simply sign off in game in your fit. Signs of a poor hand include-

  • Minimum HCP
  • No first round controls (aces and voids)
  • Values in partners short suit (no use in being able to trump winners!)

On this hand East is not good enough to investigate a slam. Although they have good points they lack values in spades, have no use for trumping hearts and has concern about diamond losers. All in all a slam is too risky so East should just sign off in 4♠.

If you have a hand with slam interest (better than minimum) then you have some choices. If you are strong enough then go straight to 6!

If you are not sure of a slam then you can use blackwood in this position, but it is not as useful for hands with voids.

On this hand West knows that they have the opportunity to trump their small hearts. The main concern is that you might lose the Ace of clubs and the Ace of hearts. Blackwood is best for this situation then. Once West finds out that East has an Ace they should be happy to go to 6♠.

All West needs to do is trump 2 hearts in east and throw one on a club!

Cue Bids

Sometimes your best option is to use CUE BIDS.

ANY new suit bid over a splinter is a cue bid. It shows first round control in the suit bid (ace or void).

You and partner can continue to cue bid first round control until you decide if a slam is on. If you think it is then bid 6 of your suit. If not then sign off in the lowest available contract for your suit fit.

This hand is similar to the last, except that this time West has a club void. This time then blackwood would be less useful (not as helpful if partner turns up with an ace opposite your void and leaves another suit unprotected). 

West might consider bidding straight to 6♠, but to make things a bit more secure they can cue bid their diamond control.

This means that East knows that diamonds are covered and can comfortably bid the slam.