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Splinter Bids show 4+ card support for partner's suit, shortness in a side suit, game forcing values, and slam interest.  Splinter Bids help partner assess how well their hand fits with yours to determine whether a slam may be available.  



Problem Solved


Splinter Bid

Showing a game forcing raise for partner's suit with shortness in the suit bid.

With a trump fit and shortness, a slam may be available with less HCP than would typically be needed.  Splinter bids position your partner to assess how well their hand fits with yours and whether a slam may be available.

A double jump shift shows game forcing values, 4+ card support, and a singleton or void in the suit bid.  In a 2/1 Game Force auction, a splinter bid is shown with a jump shift.  

Two balanced hands typically need 33 HCP for slam.  With a trump fit and shortness, tricks may be available with less HCP than would normally be required.  Ruffs can provide extra tricks.  Trumps can act as stoppers, preventing your opponents from cashing their winners.  The hands below have a combined 20 HCP, but can take 12 tricks if hearts break 2-1, a 78% chance.

A 9 8 5 3
A 6 4 2
K Q 2
W   E
9 5 3 2
K 7 6 4 2
A 6 3

These hands illustrate the trick taking power of a trump fit with shortness and working HCP.  Note that South has nothing wasted opposite North's spade singleton.  North has nothing wasted opposite South's diamond singleton.  All honors are working.  In the hands below North has wasted values in spades, and South has wasted values in diamonds.

A 9 8 5 3
K J 4 2
K Q 2
W   E
K J 3 2
K 7 6 4 2
9 6 3

North-South have the same 20 HCP, but their hands don't fit well together.  It isn't clear 10 tricks are available.  

What a Splinter Bid Shows

  • 4+ card support for your partner's suit
  • Game forcing values
  • Shortness, a singleton or a void, in the suit bid

Strength for Opener's Splinter Bid

Because a 1-level response can be made with a weak hand, a splinter bid by opener shows a strong hand, 18 or more points including distribution.

South West North East
1 Pass 1♠  

Opener (South) has no need for a natural 4♣ bid.  South could rebid 2♣ to show clubs.  If South has a powerful hand with diamonds and clubs, South could use a jump shift to 3♣ to force to game and show their 2nd suit.  A double jump shift to 4♣ is a Splinter Bid showing a spade fit (4+ spades), a singleton or void in clubs, and the strength to force to game opposite responder's 1♠ bid.  Since responder could have as few as 6 points (possibly less), opener needs 18 or more points to force to game.  

On the auction above, South might have a hand like ♠K873 AK3 AK642 ♣2.   

Strength for Responder's Splinter Bid

The requirements for responder to force to game with a splinter bid is lower because their partner has shown the strength to open the bidding. 

South West North East
1 Pass 4♣*  

A splinter bid by responder shows:

  • 12 to 15 Support Points
  • 4+ card support
  • Shortness in the suit bid ( a singleton or void)

On the auction above, North might have a hand like ♠K873 A73 K9642 ♣2.   

Responder's Splinter Bid is limited to 15 Support Points because the space consumed by a double jump shift splinter bid with 16+ points makes slam bidding awkward.  Limiting responder's splinter bid to 15 points makes the room consumed by the double jump shift a good investment because opener becomes the Captain of the Auction and is well positioned to guide the partnership to the right contract.  If responder is strong, beginning with a Jacoby 2NT game forcing raise, or a 2/1 Game Force and then a raise is advisable.  See Andrew Gumperz' "Slam Bidding: Limiting your hand with a splinter" article for more on this topic.

Using Splinter Bids to Find Slams

 Slams are easy to bid when your partnership has overwhelming strength.  For example, two balanced hands can typically make 6NT with a combined 33 HCP .  Trump fits with shortness allow slams to be made with fewer working HCP that would typically be needed.  Splinter bids position your partner to assess whether their fits well with your hand.  Honors working in support of your suits are valuable.  Honors opposite your short suit may be wasted, i.e. not working.

On the auction below, North's 4♣ splinter bid allows opener to assesss whether their honors are working well.

South West North East
1 Pass 4♣*  

If South held ♠72 AQ873 KQ2 ♣A74, they don't have wasted high cards in clubs.  A slam is likely.  Opener should begin the slam search with a 4 Control Bid.  If North shows a spade control, South will ask for key cards.  

South will not look for slam if they have a minimum opener with wasted values in clubs.  If South held  has ♠72 AQ873 Q82 ♣KQ4, South would place the contract in 4.

Short Suit Total

How many tricks are available playing in a trump fit often depends on the locations of honors (are the hands fitting well together?) and the length of each partner's shortest suit (when you can begin ruffing).  Splinter Bids helps your partnership assess whether your high cards are working (fitting well with your partner's hand).  The concept of Short Suit Total is used to estimate the number of tricks available based on working HCP and the combined shortness of the two hands.  

When your partner has opens a major and you respond with a Splinter Bid, your partner knows you have a singleton or a void.  Since a major suit opening bid promises a 5+ card suit, opener will have a doubleton, a singleton, or a void.  If opener's doubleton (or shorter) is in a different suit than responder's short suit, the combined shortness of the partnership's hands will be 3 or less (a doubleton in one hand, a singleton in the other).  A doubleton opposite a singleton gives you a Short Suit Total of 3 (2 + 1).   A Short Suit Total of 3 suggests 20 Working HCP will provide 10 tricks.  6 more Working HCP may put you in the slam zone.  

Splinter Bids help a partnership assess whether their HCP are working, and positions them to consider their Short Suit Total to assess whether they should look for a slam.  To learn more about Short Suit Total, see the following aticles by Andrew Gumperz.

  1. "Limit Bids: Evaluating Hands For Slam"
  2. "Limit Bids: Evaluating Hands for Slams Part 2"
  3. "Limit Bids: Evaluating Hands for Slams Part 3"    
  4. "Limit Bids: Evaluating Hands for Slam Part 4"