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A Thorny Issue

Do you play splinters and/or cue bids, and if so, how? Last night provided a wonderful example of the use of the ‘splinter’ bid.

Board 8 from Thursday 11/10/2018.
Dealer W Nil Vul

Board#8 11/10/2018

Take a look at the East hand. By itself, it is no more than a 1C opening. But when West responds with a bid of 1S, East’s hand becomes huge, enough to be in game in spades. Four possible but highly unlikely losers at most, the moment West announces at least four spades and at least enough to respond. How does East proceed in order to get that message across? After all, West should have some say when it comes to deciding on the final contract.

The answer is in the ‘splinter’ bid, we used to simply call it a cue bid in the old days. When West responds 1S, East jumps to 3H. This is an unusual jump, because 2H would be a reverse and therefore forcing and strong (17+ HCP). Such an unnecessary jump must therefore have a special meaning. What the 3H bid says, whether you call it a cue bid or splinter, is: ‘I have a huge hand now that you have bid spades, in fact enough to raise you to game. I also have a singleton heart. If that is of interest to you, we may even have a slam on.”

In the circumstances, West has as good a hand as he possibly could and, in return, can now cue bid the ace of diamonds by bidding 4D. Yes, it must be the ace and not a singleton, in normal cue bidding sequences, you start by cue bidding FIRST round controls, even though East’s 3H splinter bid was almost certainly a singleton rather than the ace. So, West now cue bids 4D and that should be enough to stir East into more action. East can bid 4NT to make sure, and whether you play ordinary Blackwood or Key Card, the two aces are enough for East to be certain of the slam. Note that just asking for aces after the 1S response and finding West with two is not enough for certainty because of the possibly unprotected king of diamonds. Knowing West has two aces INCLUDING the diamond ace (thanks to the cue bid) makes the slam a certainty.

Due out in November: My new book “13 Tricks and Evil Acol”. Great holiday reading or Christmas present for a partner. Email me at for more information.

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