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Shawn Stringer, President
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Apr/MayArticle by Steve RobinsonAug/Sep
Which forcing raise with a singleton do you choose? (Jun/Jul 2006)

I asked my expert panel:

Partner opens one-of-a-major. You have a game-forcing hand with at least four-card support for partner and you have a singleton or void. With what types of hands do you splinter? With what types of hands do you make a forcing raise (Lets assume you're playing Jacoby 2NT –meaning that a bid of 2NT over one-of-major usually shows at least four-card support for opener’s major; a game-forcing hand; and asks partner to bid a singleton at the three-level or a second good five-card suit at the four-level.) With what type of hands do you bid a suit and then support partner?

1 - 4 is a splinter. It shows at least four-card spade support, singleton or void in clubs and game-forcing values. 1 - 4 shows shortness in diamonds; and 1 - 4 shows shortness in hearts. After a 1-opening bid, 3 shows spade shortness, 4 shows club shortness and 4 shows diamond shortness. 1 - 4 and 1 - 3 are the best splinters; they leave maximum room to explore slam possibilities.

 

1 - 4 and 1- 4 are the worst splinters. There is no room to explore below game. These splinter have to be very descriptive. After 1 - 4 and 1- 4, there is only one bid below game. I think its best to play that the bid of the in between suit shows more than a minimum but not enough to bid above game (and says nothing about the in-between suit).

 

 Splinters work.

 

You have AKQxxKQJxxxxx. You open 1 and partner bids 4. You have at most one spade loser. If partner has two aces, you have a cold slam. Three aces and you have a grand.

The problem with bidding a suit and then supporting partner is that partner might not know that you have four-card support. After1
- 2 - 2, there is no way to differentiate the length of your spades.

There are some experts who prefer Jacoby 2NT. Their splinters are very descriptive.

Larry Cohen: Splinter with classical hand (roughly 11 points--not more, no special feature in either side suit--not heavily weighted anywhere). Jacoby 2NT on other hands, unless I have a good reason to show a side suit and hear a reaction.

Jill Meyers: I splinter with hands where I have controls in the other two suits; and not with a hand where I have a good five card suit to bid at two level. If I didn't have a good five-card suit and I didn't have controls in the two unbid suits, I would bid Jacoby 2NT.

Ralph Katz: Splinter with about 12-14 HCPs. I also don't have a side holding of Jxxx or worse. I use Jacoby 2NT with probably all other hands that don't qualify for a splinter. You probably should also use Jacoby 2NT with a side suit of Jxxx or worse; not only would it be great to find partner with a singleton in that suit, but when they don't have that singleton why help the opening leader.

 

You also probably should Jacoby also with a side suit of Axx and certainly Axxx. I probably would never start with a two-level bid. That’s because an opening bidder with AQx in the two-level suit bid by responder will think they are at least five tricks for us in that suit. A two-level response also helps the opponents too much. Maybe if you as a responder were in a bidding contest, you would make your first bid suit at the two-level way.

Henry Bethe: My agreements are: A direct splinter shows either a minimum game force or a hand worth a drive to the five-level. I treat "seven loser" hands as a minimum GF, e.g. KxxxAxxxxKxxx would be about average for 1 - 4. With KxxxAQxxxAQxx I would splinter and bid again over 4. With a hand in between I go through 2NT. The hands on which I bid a new suit, then force to game have a source of tricks, e.g. KxxxxxxxAKJxx I would start with 2.

Carol Simon:”---I splinter when I have the type of hand that I want partner to become captain;.never with a singleton ace. Hands in a closely defined range: 12-15 HCP no powerful suit as a source of tricks.

 

I bid Jacoby 2NT on hands where it might be advantageous for me to become captain; hands that I might be able to place the contract opposite a known singleton. Hands where limiting partner's range and distribution would help. Hands outside the normal splinter range and I have no source of tricks.

I bid a suit when I have a source of tricks and will splinter next round if the auction permits. If partner bids my singleton, I'll simply make a game-forcing raise of the original suit, or bid fourth suit whichever applies.

I disagree with never with a singleton ace. I’d prefer not to have a singleton ace or king but the usually the only way to show shortness is to splinter.

Grant Baze: I splinter on hands that fall into the rigidly defined parameters of the partnership. In most of my partnerships, those parameters are: 13-15 for a full splinter, 4-4-4-1 or 5-4-3-1 patterns only; 10-12 for a mini-splinter, 6-4-2-1 pattern possible, lower limit not cast in stone.

 

I use Jacoby on hands too strong for partnership splinter parameters. I bid a suit with hands with a five or six-card broken suit, where fit is important, such as AxxxxAQxxxAxx. Also "Five level drive hands." These hands have two, three, or four small cards in one suit, are solid on the outside, and do not have enough high card points that partner must have a control in the weak suit to justify his opening bid. For example: AQxxxxxxvoidAKQxx; AxxxxxAxAKQxx; or AxxxvoidxxxAKJxxx.

Other experts prefer the splinter.

Kit Woolsey:  On most hands I would splinter. I might bid Jacoby 2NT if my other side suits were something like Axxx and KQxx. Now catching a singleton in the right side suit would be gold. I guess I could bid a side suit first if everything appears to depend on the fit for that side suit -- something like QxxxxAQ10xxAKx. But I don't think I have ever done that -- good rule of thumb is to set trumps as quickly as possible.

I should add that my answer assumes I am playing Standard American with normal Jacoby. If I am playing Precision I am much more likely to bid Jacoby, since with partner's hand being limited I am better placed to make the full decision -- particularly if the Jacoby structure is sophisticated.

Bob Hamman: My opinion is that bidding over splinters is quite sensitive to context. Therefore I prefer to either incorporate splinters within the 2NT response or have some other bid which allows opener to somewhat define his strength, such as one-under limit raises. With respect to bidding suits and then raising, I recommend a method such as one-of-a-major-2NT = GF raise + side suit and one-of-a-major-3 is a balanced raise or moderate splinter. 1-3 or1-3 is a limit raise or game-forcing splinter with accepts being made by bid of one-over-trump-suit.

Eddie Kantar:” I don't respond 2NT with a singleton; against my religion. If I'm that strong, I splinter. If I have 10-12 HCP, I jump to 3NT, partner asks with 4. If I have 13 or more I jump to three-of-the-other-major and the next step asks. With weaker hand I either make a limit raise (3), or a preemptive raise (3). I can't imagine raising to the two-level with four trumps and a singleton, though I guess there are some hands that qualify. I might also jump shift (don't play many strong jump shifts - just from one of a suit to 2) and then bid my singleton as the jump shift either shows a one suited hand or support for partner. Bidding a new suit shows a singleton, presumably with a hand that has support.

Steve Bloom: This is easy for me. I usually splinter. If the hand looks too strong for a splinter, then I would choose 2NT. Bidding a suit first, planning to support later, is asking for trouble. On too many auctions (i.e., fourth hand bids my short suit), I will have no chance to announce primary support for partner. Splinters come in three varieties: 1) we've told our all and we will sign off next; 2) we have a bit in reserve, and will gladly cooperate with partner; 3) we have quite a bit extra, and will drive to the five-level ourselves. If the hand seems not to fit one of these categories, then 2NT is fine. For instance, AKxxxAxxxAxxx, looks like a 2NT response to 1. Shortness in partner's hand will be useful, and a 4 splinter takes up too much room. Indeed, the one-under splinters are awkward, and rule out type two.

Experts suggest their conventions.

Barry Rigal: As to what I think you SHOULD do: Use two-tier splinters (1-3 and 1-3 for 9-12 splinters), with 4/4/4 as 13-16 splinters. Given that you don't do this -- and in fact even if you do -- you should not splinter directly with a five-card suit (particularly a minor) with KJ10xx or better. The source of tricks may be critical to slam making. Bid the suit then splinter. AKxxxKQxQxxxx facing QJxxxAKxAxxxx has 11 tricks and no chance of more.

AKxxxKQxQxxxx facing QJxxxAKxxxAxx probably makes 12 tricks in a canter unless both spades and diamonds do not split. With a stiff ace or especially king splintering is very dangerous, whether minimum or maximum for the planned auction. 2NT may be better. Don't splinter with a void if 13+ (with 9-12 it may be the least harmful lie). 2NT then unusual jump for exclusion, with a void.

Rigal suggests two-tier splinters. 1-3 shows 9-12 HCP, four-card support with an outside singleton. Over 3, 3NT asks for the singleton. Then 4, 4, 4t show singleton club, diamond, spade. If you have a minimum opener, you don’t have to ask for responder’s shortness. He suggests 1 - 3 as a spade splinter but I like 1 - 3NT as a 9-12 splinter. Over the splinter, next higher bid asks for shortness. Using two-tier splinters, all other splinters show at least 13 HCP, usually 13-15. 1 - 3NT shows a 13-15 spade splinter. All other splinters are natural.

The following experts use limited splinters.

Curtis Cheek; I splinter on 90% of hands with 11-13 HCP (hedging my bets - probably 95+). I make a forcing raise with 95% of hands with 15+ HCP. 14 HCP is the breakpoint. I just try to put them on one side of the line or the other. I bid a suit with about 13 HCP with xxx in a side suit. In reality I hardly ever (the remaining 5% at best) bid like that with four-card support. I like partner to ‘know’ I only have three-card support to aid in his evaluation of the trump situation.

Marty Bergen : I splinter on all hands with fewer than 17 points, counting distribution and bid Jacoby 2NT on stronger hands. I never bid another suit.

Richard Freeman: I splinter with no outside five-card suit unless weak, bid 2NT with very strong trumps and bid a five or six-card suit with two of the top three honors.”

Nick Nickell: Splinter should be used with hands that fall into fairly tight ranges. Dick Freeman and I utilize three-of-the-other-major as showing four+ trumps, an undisclosed splinter and 9 -12 HCP. Opener can ask to find out partner’s singleton or just place the contract and leave the opponents in the dark. We splinter at the four-level to show 13 – 15 HCP with 4+ trumps. We do not splinter with better hands, or hands that seem better suited to asking about partner’s hand type.

 

We tend to bid a new suit and raise partner when you have a concentration of honors in our suit and partner’s suit without any side controls. AQxxxxxxAQxxx is a hand where we would bid 2 over 1 and then bid 4. With most other hands we start with a forcing raise.

I like a jump to game in this situation to show a very bad two-over-one. Shows no outside aces with at most one trump honor. An example would be ªQxxQJxKJx KJxx.

Joe Kivel: My splinters are limited in strength. If I have more than approx 15 HCP I'll either bid Jacoby, or take charge in another way. Exception: If I splinter and then take another call, it shows a void. For example, holding ªKJxxAKJxxxxxxvoid. I'll splinter and then bid 5. I rarely bid a suit first with four-card trump support, but I suppose holding a suit that I need minor help for, eg AQ10xx, I might bid that suit and then support partners suit. 

Jeff Rubens: I splinter with a game-force with side shortness seeming most important. I make a forcing raise with neither side shortness nor useful-looking side suit. I bid a suit when the side suit looking most important.

Rose Meltzer: I play mini and stronger splinters. I use mini-splinters with game interest only. 3NT shows a strong splinter in the other major, four-of-a-minor is a strong splinter with slam interest. I make Jacoby type 2NT bids when I need partner to describe his hand, e.g., I need to know about shortness, second suits. When bidding suits and then support partner, hands should be concentrated, i.e., ªQxxxxxAKJ10xKx.

Bobby Wolff: When playing Jacoby 2NT I prefer to only splinter with classic type hands, e g. 4 over 1ª with ªAJxxK10xxxAxxx. 11-13 HCP, usually four but very occasionally five little trumps; a singleton not a diamond void.  With all others I would go through 2NT and ask and then perhaps tell when asking partner to help with the decision. Some hands where I would change suit at the two-level and then either raise or jump raise partner's major are: Over 1ª: ªKxxxxxAKJxxKx bid 2and then over 2ª or 2NT I rebid 4ª; with ªKJxxAKQxxxxxx over 1ª bid 2 then over either 2ª or 2NT, I splinter with 4. With ªAQx(x)xx(x)AKQJxxx I would jump shift to 3 and then raise spades. My tendency is for the responder to underbid slightly giving the opener some leeway (perhaps at times too much) with his opening bids.

Chip Martel: Complicated answer since it depends on several factors: hand strength (the stronger the more likely to bid 2NT), honor location (with pure holdings, helpful to find out about partner's shape), space considerations (4over 1 leaves no space, 3ª over 1 leaves a lot). For the last question, with four-card support only show side suit if good but not solid (ideally AQxxxx) or so solid it might be the trump suit. I give responder the option to show a strong splinter after bidding 2NT. (Opener bids 3 with all minimums
and 3 with no stiff and extras. Over these, 3ª and four-of-a-minor show a splinter with 15 –17 HCP.

Jon Wittes: Ross Grabel and I have a fairly intricate major-suit raise system. We play a two-way Bergen . 3 show either 6-8 with four-card support or 12-13 balanced with four-card support. 3 show either 9-11 with four-card support or 14-15 balanced with four-card support. We can then make game or slam tries opposite the small or big hands, and ask for shortness by opener by using relays (game try opposite the small hand), the other major (slam try opposite either hand), and 3NT (slam try opposite the big hand only).

 

We play a modified Jacoby 2NT where 2NT shows either 13-15 unbalanced with four-card support or 16+ balanced with four-card support. Our direct splinters are void showing. Since we have so many options using these bids, we would use them almost any time we have four-card support for partner. The only exception might be the hand where we have four little for partner and a long solid suit of our own. On that type of hand, we might bid our own suit first, and then support partner, though even with that hand, we might use our primary methods, since we can find out just about anything we need to know for slam purposes.

 

Personally, I feel splinters are one of the most important slam going bids in bridge. Sometimes all you need to know is about shortness in a certain suit, and, conversely, to know that your secondary-values are opposite shortness, to stay out of a slam. Therefore, I would go out of my way to splinter, whenever it is available. As I said earlier, the only exception might be when I had four little trumps and a solid suit of my own on the side. Even then, partner might only need to hear about my shortness to get interested or to slow him down. This is especially true in those situations where, if I fail to splinter at this point in the auction, partner might never get to know about my shortness. Shortness is just as important with only three-trump support, but in those instances, it is important to have a source of tricks elsewhere, since the same ruffing potential is not available.

Ron Smith: I like to have methods were I can show the number of trumps and what strength it is. I like four-level splinters to show minimum hands and no real source of tricks (reasonable to good five-card suit) and mini-splinters to show 10-12 and the same requirements. Jacoby 2NT can be a variety of hands -- balanced hands and really good hands that I think I should initiate slam investigation. Two-over-one hands usually show three trumps and a source of tricks. All of these bids can be changed to mean whatever, but its important to know the number of trumps, the strength, and whether there is a source of tricks.

Marinesa Letizia: I splinter only on hands that meet strong splinter parameters, first or second-round control in the other two suits. I use Jacoby 2NT on hands that if partner has the right shortness we may make a slam or hands that don't meet strong splinter parameters. I bid a suit on hands without four trumps or hands with a good five-card suit so that if we have adequate controls we may have a slam and partner will know the value of a king in this suit.

Karen Allison: I splinter with lesser hands, not in the slam zone, where the main story of the hand is the singleton. 4-4-4-1 hands fit this description; they play less well than other distributions and the main feature of such a hand is the four-card fit and the singleton. I make a game-forcing raise when I have excess high-card values as well as most likely a more shapely hand like 5-4-3-1. These are hands where I am more interested in asking than telling; where partner's shortage needs to be opposite a pure holding like Ace or small cards. I bid a suit with ‘picture bid’ hands where I want to ‘picture’ a long, strong suit in addition to my fit for partner's suit.

Zeke Jabbour: As usual, judgment plays an important role. Anytime a bid devours that many levels of bidding, it ought to be narrowly defined so that partner can make a rational judgment as to whether it is safe to make a move that otherwise might propel us past the level of safety.

 

Loosely speaking, I splinter: 1. when I have a hand that ranges from a good limit raise to a minimum forcing raise (i.e. a good 11 to a bad 14) with the requisite stiff, or 2). when I have a slam range hand and plan to bid again even should partner sign off. When I then proceed, say with Keycard, I have conveyed the information that I have second-round control of the splintered suit, which might later help partner make a grand slam decision if it is revealed that we, in fact, own all the key cards (by bidding a 5NT keycard continuation). In short, I splinter when I deem it more important to tell partner about that feature of my hand, than to inquire about the nature of his hand, in order to involve him in the final decision.

I do not splinter with intermediate hands, or when I deem it more important to inquire than to reveal. Say I held ªQ10xxAKxAxxxxx. After a 1ª opening, I would use some variation of Jacoby. With first or second round control of every side suit, the hand is just a little too rich in controls to splinter even though it falls within the described
splinter HCP range. I would be very interested in a singleton diamond in partner's hand; lacking that, I would be interested in the strength of partner's hand.

 

Propelling the auction to the four-level may make it difficult for partner to describe a hand which will produce a likely slam-- such as ªAJ9xxQ10xxxAxx. He may or may not make a try. Whereas, once I discover partner's stiff diamond, (or should he show a maximum opener by bidding 3ª), I would take control.

Doub Doub: I would splinter with virtually any hand that meets the conditions of sound game-forcing values, at least four-card support and a singleton or void.

When you use Jacoby 2NT, you’re want to become the captain. When you splinter you want opener to become the captain. In other words, you Jacoby 2NT when you want to learn about opener’s hand. You splinter when you want opener to learn about your hand.

Don Berman, Web Master.