~Jacoby 2NT, Splinter Bid, or 2/1?

When partner opens 1 of a major and you hold 4 of that major and an opening hand, you have three descriptive bids available:

~A hand with a good side suit (headed by at least the (AJ or KQ). The side suit may be a source of tricks; show it first; however, if playing Standard American, responder’s bid is not a game force but a game invite.
~Jacoby 2NT: no splinter and no strong 5-card side suit.
~A Splinter Bid: make a double jump shift in the suit with the singleton or void. If there is a K, Q, or J singleton, do not make a splinter bid in that suit unless holding 13 HCP in the other three suits.

When you hold a Jacoby 2NT hand, you will usually have either a balanced hand of 4-3-3-3 shape, 4-4-3-2 shape, or 4-2-2-5 (these are not laid out to represent any particular suits other than you will always have four trumps). By defintion, 2NT denies holding a splinter (You might bid Jacoby 2NT with a singleton K, but rarely). With these three shapes you will usually respond Jacoby 2NT over partner’s opening bid of one of a major. The exception is when the 5-card suit is a strong suit.

As responder, you will hold different shapes when holding a splinter with an opening hand and four cards in partner’s major suit. You will hold a splinter in one suit, and that splinter will not be the ace. Shapes are 4-4-4-1, 4-3-5-1, 4-4-5-0, or even with five trumps: 5-4-3-1 or 5-4-4-0. It is usually proper to make a double jump shift into the splinter suit: those bids would be 3S or 4C, 4D, or 4H.

Experts remind us that “long suits take tricks, short suits prevent losers.” If partner opens one of a major and you have an opening hand, four cards in partner’s major suit, and a good five-card side suit, do you make a 2/1 bid into the five-card side suit or make a splinter bid? Say your hand is as follows after partner’s 1S opener:

S KQ86
C 3

You and partner must decide whether to bid the splinter or the 5-card side suit. One criteria is to bid the side suit and not the splinter; the side suit should hold either at  two+ honors with at least 5 HCP in the suit (AJxxx, AQxxx, AKxxx, or KQxxx). This suit-quality requirement is conservative, but you want partner to know that with a fit, the side suit can yield 5 tricks.

But if you as responder bid 2D and opener responds 2H, is your 4C a splinter in support of hearts or spades? It probably does not matter, as opener with a minimum hand would just bid 4H or 4S rather than make a slam try.

If the bidding sequence were
Partner                       You
1S                               2C
2D                               2S (in SA, bid 3S, 4S, or 4NT)
4S (Fast Arrival–opener has a minimum opener and nothing to match your hand that suggests slam. With a big hand, responder can bid past 4S (Blackwood, RKC, or cue-bid) to pursue slam despite opener’s minimum hand).

If the bidding sequence were
Partner                       You
1S                               2D
3D                               3S probably 4S in SA)
Partner can read the bid as having a double fit with 5 diamonds and four spades. What would you bid with only 3 spades? Since you can always correct to spades and since opener cannot pass short of game  playing 2/1 (you made a game-force with your 2D bid), you could now bid 4S with a minimum (instead of 3S). With extras, slam might still be possible, so make the most descriptive bid available. You might hold the A of clubs–if partner bids 5D you can continue on; you might hold the A of hearts and can cue-bid that suit.

If partner opens one of a major and you hold 4 cards in that major and an opening hand, can you think of any holding where you would bid two of a lower-ranking suit–meaning no splinter, yet unbalanced? What if you are 4-2-5-2 with an opening hands and four of partner’s opening major? Whether you bid 2 of the 5-card side suit or 2NT depends on the quality of the side suit and the quality of the doubletons. One hand, due to the cards held in those suits, might have more potential opposite a splinter. For instance, if you hold a 5-card side suit of KJ432, partner’s splinter bid in that suit would leave 4 wasted HCP in your hand but if the suit were JT432, only one wasted HCP exists. If your side suit were KQJ32, you would want to show that suit rather than bid 2NT; you potentially have 4-5 tricks in the suit.

In summary, when partner opens a major and you hold an opening hand with four cards in partner’s major, make the descriptive bid:
~2NT with balance or semi-balanced (4-2-5-2) with a weak second suit.
~Splinter, unless holding a strong second suit of 5+ cards.
~2/1 with a strong second suit.

10 Responses to “~Jacoby 2NT, Splinter Bid, or 2/1?”

  1. Christel Says:

    Partner opens 1 of a M, and you play Bergen or reverse Bergen, you have a 10 hcp point hand with a sglt., a 7 looser hand, what do you bid, your sglt. at the 4 level or the appropriate Bergen raise? and then go to game?

    • bridgetips Says:

      The appropriate Bergen Raise; you have too few HCP for a splinter bid and a slam invite. The slam invite of a splinter bid invites slam based on 26+ HCP, a 5-4 M trump fit, and no wasted values in the splinter suit. Better to start with a more accurate description of your hand.

    • bridgetips Says:

      Bergen. You are to weak to make a slam try with 4 trumps and a singleton but only 10 HCP.

  2. Christel Says:

    If partner happens to have Axxx/Axx in your sglt. and 16 + hcp, and may have a sglt. himself, you will be missing the slam, for sure. If you start out with a Bergen raise, partner will just go to game. I thought that you use splinter bids to either go for game or slam. Do you use a splinter bid with 13 hcp and 4 pieces of pd’s opening M? See, I think that’s wasting 2 conventions on the same info. But I am listening for more. Thanks

    • bridgetips Says:

      Splinter bids are a game force and slam invite. Normally you do not want any “wasted values” either in or opposite your splinter; that is, no singleton K or Q that you used to get to 13 HCP. If you have 13 HCP not counting the wasted values, then the singleton honor or honor opposite the splinter should not be a negative. Is an Axxx wasted values” Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

      27 HCP combined with 9 or more cards in the major 5-4 or 6-4 will usually produce a slam if the points are all in the same three suits. There just isn’t a lot of room for holes in the combined holding. With 4 of the 5 keycards, slam will usually make.

      When 4 of the combined 26+ HCP are in the fourth suit, the solidity of the other three suits is somewhat flawed; but if you were counting on losing one trick in the splinter suit, that loser has disappeared. One of the partners must decide on the suitability of the slam holding.

      A singleton ace should probably not be shown as a splinter. Else, partner will be unable to evaluate the usefulness of your splinter bid combined with your keycard holding.

      If your partner has 16 HCP and Axx or Axxx, that should be an excellent holding opposite a splinter–no losers in the splinter suit and extra HCP.

      Judgment at the bridge table cannot be reduced to absolutes. One bridge author said that good judgment at the bridge table is the result of learning from past bad judgments.

      I do not see what Bergen Raises has to do with splinter bids. If you have a splinter bid (or Jacoby 2NT), just bid the convention. If not, you can benefit from a Bergen Raise.

    • bridgetips Says:

      Not sure under what conditions your 1st sentence refers to. I do not understand your last sentence. Give me another try with more specifics, please.

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  4. Christel Says:

    thanks for comment on splinter vs Bergen raise – I never knew that a splinter bid implies looking for slam….

  5. Nancy Evins Says:

    my question is this: when you could not splnter the first time your partner bid, but then could after he rebids that suit which is now up to 3 spades, how can you splinter with no room?

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