BridgeCast on RealBridge - Splinters


My BridgeCast has four daily instructional channels, Beginner, Improver, Intermediate & Advanced. Each day, subscribers will receive an online video in which I talk about an interesting Bridge hand. It's something we hope you may enjoy with a cup of coffee in the morning.


I hope you enjoyed playing four of my deals featuring splinters. I have run through deal three in the video above and all of the deals are analysed in the notes below. These deals were taken from my "Slam" book, part of my Bridge Lesson series of books.

Deal one

Splinters are one of the most powerful tools for effective Slam bidding - the Splinter Bid. It is a double jump in a new suit, agreeing partner’s suit with at least the values for game and showing a singleton (occasionally a void) in the suit bid.

By saying so much with one bid, the Splinterer puts his partner in a great position to judge whether a Slam is likely. Though the rest of his hand (especially his trumps) will be important, the most critical factor for the partner of the Splinterer will be his holding in the Splinter suit.

Facing a singleton in partner’s hand, the king, queen and jack are virtually wasted, whereas the ace is not. Having no honour in the suit, but all the honours outside (facing the Splinterer’s length), is even more useful.

Having shortage in partner’s Splinter suit means that there will be much work to do in theoutside suits - third (even fourth) round losers in those suits may well be a problem.

Good Holding: go for Slam (perhaps via Roman Key Card Blackwood).
Bad Holding: sign off in game in the trump suit.

Exercise: Which of the following are good holdings and which are bad ones?
(a) Axxx, (b) KQx, (c) xxxx, (d) KJ, (e) x.

Answers: (a) and (c) are good holdings facing a Splinter. (b), (d) and (e) are bad.

Board 1
North Deals
None Vul
A Q J 5 2
9 6 3 2
A K 8
A Q 10 8 5
J 10 9 6
9 4 2
10 8 4
K J 4
4 3
Q J 10 8 7
K 7 6 3
Q 7 5 2
A K 5 3

1 Pass4 1
Pass4 N2Pass5 3
Pass6 All pass
  1. Splinter bid - showing a singleton heart and a game-going hand in support of spades.
  2. Four small cards facing a singleton is a wonderful holding. South bids Roman Key Card Blackwood.
  3. Two of the “five aces” (including  K); no  Q.
6  by North

Declaring 6  on the queen of clubs lead after a Splinter auction, declarer wins dummy’s king, and immediately leads dummy’s heart. West wins the ace, and returns the jack of diamonds. Declarer wins the king, ruffs a heart, crosses to the jack of trumps, ruffs a third heart with the king of trumps, then leads to the ace-queen of trumps. He cashes the ace of diamonds, crosses to dummy’s queen, cashes the ace of clubs discarding his last heart, and so claims his slam.

Deal two

So far we having only considered Splinter Bids as immediate responses to opening bids, agreeing opener’s suit and showing a game-going (or better) hand with a singleton (or void) in the bid suit: e.g. 1  - 4 , 1  - 3 , 1  - 4 . But Splinters are so powerful that they should not be restricted to such situations alone. How about opener double-jumping in a new suit after he hears a response from partner? eg:

(a) 1  - 1  - 4 
(b) 1  - 2  - 4 
(c) 1  - 1  - 3 .

(a) 4  is a Splinter bid agreeing responder’sspades, showing a hand good enough to bid 4 . In Losing Trick Count terms that means opener has at most five Losing Tricks (a One-over-One responder can be placed with nine). But instead of merely jumping to 4 , opener tells partner about his singleton (or void) club en route. If responder has a slammy hand and a club holding that works well facing a singleton, he can go for slam.
(b) 4  is a Splinter Bid agreeing diamonds, showing a hand good enough to bid 5 , with a singleton (or void) heart.
(c) 3  is a Splinter Bid agreeing responder’s hearts, essentially showing a 4  bid with a singleton (or void) spade.

Here are possible hands for opener to fit the three examples:

Hand a) ♠ AQ75  AQJ63  KJ10 ♣ 5

Hand b) ♠ AK532  6  AQJ6 ♣ K72

Hand c) ♠ 8  AQJ6  K62 ♣ AKJ62

Board 2
East Deals
N-S Vul
9 8 6 4
J 8
J 10 9
K J 8 4
A J 5 2
7 6
A K 8
9 7 6 2
K Q 10 3
A K Q 5 2
Q 7 6
10 9 4 3
5 4 3 2
A Q 10 5
1 Pass
1 Pass4 1Pass
4 N2Pass5 3Pass
6 All pass
  1. Splinter bid agreeing Spades, showing a 4  bid with a singleton (void) club.
  2. Four small cards is great news facing a Splinter. South bids Roman Key Card Blackwood.
  3. Two of “five aces” (including  K); plus  Q.
6  by West

In 6  declarer wins North’s jack of diamond lead with the king, and plays the ace of trumps and a trump to dummy’s queen, South discarding. He cashes the ace-king of hearts, and trumps a low heart with the jack of trumps (key play).

Hearts now set up, declarer leads to dummy’s king-ten of trumps, cashes the queen and established fifth heart, then the ace and queen of diamonds. He merely concedes a club at the end. Slam made.

Deal three

A Splinter Bid is an unusual jump in a new suit, showing a singleton or void in the suit bid, at least four cards in partner’s last bid suit, and game-going values or better. By “unusual” I mean that bid has to be a double jump, unless it at the Four-level or above.

The most common Splinter bid is an immediate response to an opening bid, e.g. 1  - 4  or 1  - 4 . But opener can splinter in support of responder, e.g. 1  - 1  - 3  or 1  - 2  - 4 . Taking it one step further, responder can splinter in support of opener’s second suit, e.g. 1  - 2  - 2  - 4  or 1  - 1  - 1  - 3 .

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul
7 5
A Q 7 5
A J 7 6 3 2
Q 10 6 3
10 8 4
K Q J 10
9 5
J 9
9 6
A 8 6 5 4 2
Q 10 8
A K 8 4 2
K J 3 2
9 7
K 4
Pass2 Pass2 
Pass4 1Pass4 N2
Pass5 3Pass6 4
All pass
  1. Splinter bid, showing a singleton (void) diamond, and a game-going or better hand with four or more hearts.
  2. Delighted at the mesh with his two small diamonds, South uses Roman Key Card Blackwood.
  3. Two of “five aces” (including  K); plus  Q.
  4. Just what South was hoping to hear. Had he heard 5  (two aces but no  Q), he would have passed, expecting to lose an ace and  Q.
6  by South

Responder splintered in support of opener’s second suit, hearts. West led the king of diamonds against the 6  contract, and continued with a second diamond. No other defence looked promising, and forcing dummy to use up one of his trumps might prove awkward for declarer.

After trumping in dummy, declarer cashed the ace of trumps, then led a low trump to his jack. Had an opponent discarded, he would have led back to dummy’s queen of trumps, crossed to his king of clubs, cashed the king of trumps, then staked everything on the club finesse, leading to dummy’s jack, hoping for West to hold the queen.

But when both opponents followed to the first two trumps, declarer switched to clubs. He cashed his king, returned to dummy’s ace, then trumped a third club with the king of trumps (key play). He next led his last trump to dummy’s queen (drawing the last missing trump in the process), cashed the three established clubs, and finally finished up by crossing to his two top spades. Slam made.

Deal four

A Splinter Bid is a double jump in a new suit. It shows a singleton (or void) in the suit bid, and a game-going hand with at least four card support for partner’s last bid suit. Thus 1  - 4  shows a hand worth at least 4  with a singleton (void) diamond; 1  - 1  - 3  shows a hand worth at least 4  with a singleton (void) spade.

Question: does a Splinter always have to be a double-jump, or can it ever be a single jump?
Answer: a Splinter can be a single jump provided it is at the Four-level or higher.

Board 4
West Deals
Both Vul
10 7 4 2
Q 10 8 5 2
J 10 5 2
A K Q 6 3
A J 6 3
Q 8 6
K 9 7 5 4 2
A 6 4 3
K 3
J 9 5
Q 10 8
K J 9
A 9 7 4
1 Pass2 Pass
4 1Pass4 N2Pass
5 3Pass6 4All pass
  1. Despite being just a single jump, this is a Splinter Bid (showing a singleton diamond and a raise to at least 4 ), as it is at the Four-level.
  2. Axxx is a super holding facing a Splinter. East uses Roman Key Card Blackwood.
  3. Two of the “five aces” (including  K); no  Q.
  4. East knows the partnership are missing one ace and  Q. Because he knows only three trumps are missing, he is not worried about  Q.
6  by East

West’s 4  bid was just a single jump. But because it was at the Four-level, it was a Splinter Bid. East, extremely excited by the news that partner had a singleton (void) diamond and a hand worth at least 4 , bid 4 NT (Roman Key Card Blackwood), then advanced to slam.

South, with a good chance of a trump trick, had no hesitation in leading the ace of clubs. He followed with a second round of the suit, and declarer won the king. The contract looked secure, but declarer considered the possibility of a three-nil trump split. If North held  Q10x sitting over the jack, there was nothing he could do. But if South held  Q10x, his queen could be finessed provided he retained the finesse position (dummy’s  AJ).

To this end declarer cashed the king of trumps at Trick Three (key play). North discarded, but, giving himself a mental pat on the back, declarer was now able to lead a second trump to South’s ten and dummy’s jack, then draw South’s queen with dummy’s ace. He cashed his winners in the outside suits - he had plenty to spare - and chalked up his slam.