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Splinter Bids By Marty Bergen

Source: ACBL

Dear Marty, Our 3NT contract was a disaster. North led a heart and we went down one. Meanwhile, 6 was lay-down, and because South had the K, we could have made seven. Was this bad luck or did one of us do something silly? Barbara in Pittsburgh

aaxxDear Barbara, Using Standard methods, many players would bid exactly as you and your partner did. However, there is a better way. When partner opens 1NT, I prefer defining responder’s jump to 3 or 3 as a game-forcing splinter. A number of players have asked me about this convention. Responder needs at least 9 high-card points to make the splinter bid. 3 and 3 are game-forcing with shortness (0 or 1) in the suit bid. 3 guarantees four hearts, while a jump to 3 can be made with only three spades. Responder usually has a three-suited hand. However, he could have a long minor. He is usually looking for the best game rather than slam. The only slam tries by either player are cuebids in responder’s short suit. All other bids are natural.

On the hand above, with heart shortness, responder is worried about playing in 3NT. Of course, if responder shows a singleton or void in hearts and opener announces that he is not concerned about hearts, responder will be content to play in the cheapest game. On this hand, the logical splinter auction is:


4 shows slam interest. All of opener’s 16 HCP are located in responder’s three suits, so opener knows that he has the right hand for slam, and correctly jumps to the laydown 6 .


A straightforward example. When West bids 3NT after learning about East’s spade singleton, East can be sure that West is well prepared for a spade lead.

West’s spades are strong enough for 3NT, but with a known 4-4 heart fit, he is happy to play in the major suit fit.

When opener bids spades, East’s 3NT bid says that he has only three spades. If West’s hearts were weak, he would not pass 3NT.


Same start as the previous example, but this time West has no interest in playing in 3NT.


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