By Bob Klein.
I cannot overemphasize the value of splinter bids in slam bidding, particularly when combined with judicious use of Losing Trick Count. Here are two spectacular successes I had recently.
In a pair game at the recent regional in Sacramento playing with Dave Neuman, I held, in first seat, neither side vulnerable:
I thought it was a bit of stretch to open it, so I passed. LHO passed and Dave, in third seat, opened 1 Heart. RHO passed. Now, this marginal opening bid had turned into a monster! First-round control of all side suits, 4-card trump support, and only 6 losers using the adjusted losing trick count where you subtract a half-loser for each ace when there are no queens. I decided that the hand was worth a game force, so I made a splinter bid of 3 Spades. Dave now bid 4NT, RKC. I had the perfect hand to show that the splinter was a void by bidding 5NT, which shows 2 keycards and a useful void. This hit the jackpot as Dave jumped to 7 Hearts.
The two hands combined were:
The grand slam came home easily. Hearts were 3-0 but diamonds were 3-2.
Note how my splinter bid improved the value of Dave's hand. Once he knew that I had 4 hearts and no more than 1 spade, he could envision ruffing three spades in dummy or discarding them if I had any aces. Moreover, he could envision me holding the 2 minor suit aces since I couldn't have much else to justify a game force opposite third-seat opening bid.
Nobody else in the field bid the grand slam. Only one other pair even got to six.
In a recent team game at the club, I picked up this hand:
My partner, Joanne Pransky, dealt and opened 1 Spade. I saw that while the hand had only 9 HCP, it had only 7 losers, decent 4-card support and prime controls in the side suits. So I forced to game with a splinter bid of 4 Hearts. Joanne bid 4NT, I bid 5 Diamonds to show one keycard (we play 0314), she bid 5 Hearts, asking if I had the queen of spades, I bid 6 Clubs, showing her the queen and the club king, and she bid 7 Spades.
The two hands were
The grand slam came home easily. My counterpart at the other table chose to treat it as a limit raise and bid 3 Diamonds, showing a 4-card limit raise (Bergen), and they only got to six, so we won 13 IMPs for the only swing in a 6-board swiss match.