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Daily Bridge in New Zealand

         The Simple Way?

Bidding is simple. Well, it can be. Shall we take the simple line on today’s deal? Shall we simply tell our partner we have support for their suit? If the answer is “no”, then we might run into trouble. Yet, even if we show support, how good is our hand?

Bridge in NZ.pngnz map.jpg

A Q J 9 8 3
Q 9 3 2
7 3
West North East South
Pass ?    

 You are playing Teams and 5-card majors. What do you bid?

There is no danger today in having a united panel. Let’s start with those who are quite happy to proceed with our 9-card (or more) heart fit. Even they fall into two camps. Firstly, there are those who show their diamond shortage.

Pam Livingston “ 3Diamond-small: Invite or better with 4+hearts and 0 or 1 diamonds.  This hand has good playing strength and I will push on to game after a sign off of 3Heart-small by partner.  Showing the diamond shortage is useful information for partner if they have a fitting hand and wish to explore slam.”

And the same concept but a level higher, and a welcome back to the Panel for:

Julie Atkinson “4Diamond-small: I always like to have simple auctions and support partner when I have a fit with their major.  I have great distribution, and a good side suit that can be easily established.

I will bid 4Diamond-small-splinter, distributional values and wanting to be in game. Hopefully this will enable partner to have an idea as to whether the hands are well fitting or not if they wish to investigate slam.”


Bruce Anderson “4Diamond-small: a splinter, showing at least four hearts and a singleton or void in the suit bid.

The bid says game is virtually certain and if opener is strong the big advantage is that he/she can assess their hand accurately. Obviously, high cards in the splinter suit, with the possible exception of the ace alone, are wasted values.

Opener can also assess their hand on the basis that the splinter bidder must have a side suit. So, in this case honour cards in clubs or spades will be an asset.

 I agree with all the above and indeed such a game-force splinter (Pam’s 3Diamond-small is not game-forcing though she too would bid game) is usually in the 10-13 hcp range so that partner has a reasonable idea of your hand. I do though wonder whether having such a strong side-suit is normal for such a splinter. Therefore, even though we have only 9 hcp, I feel we may some days understate our hand. Since we all agree we are going to game,  I rather put myself in the following camp:


Michael Ware “2NT: Jacoby. Although spades may be better on a very rare day (e.g. hearts 4-0), not showing hearts now will make it murky for partner as to how many I have later in the auction.
I don't mind a splinter, but I am too good for a minimum opening hand splinter and not really good enough for a 13+ HCP splinter. It will depend on partner's spade holding a bit. Jacoby will find out if partner has spade shortage. If not, a simple matter of how many key-cards and
Heart-smallQ/Spade-smallK will determine optimal level.”


I would certainly be signing off in game if partner showed a spade shortage in response to 2NT though that holding did not seem to upset:


Nigel Kearney “2NT: A splinter should give a good, descriptive picture to partner allowing him to take control but this hand is too unusual. 1Spade-small followed by supporting hearts suggests more high card values and only three hearts and my spades are good enough to produce tricks even opposite a singleton. So, bidding them may not help partner do the right thing. I think it will work out better if I try to find out what partner has. Starting with 2NT is the way to do that.


Michael Cornell “2NT: 4+Heart-small game force over which we have a well -defined system, which commences with showing shortages.

The alternative is a 4Diamond-small splinter which is furthermore very space consuming. Ash and I play this as a limited splinter(approx. 9-13 ) but this hand is better- a grand is cold opposite 3 aces and the major kings. So why not try to investigate?!


Why not? Some see that good 6-card spade suit as worth mentioning.


Stephen Blackstock “1Spade-small: If there’s a good reason to conceal the main feature of my hand, I can’t find it. 4Heart-small next. For me a splinter would promise a little more and preferably also a club card.

Kris Wooles “1Spade-small: first then planning to support Heart-smalls strongly as the auction unfolds.”

Peter Newell “1Spade-small: As this is the key feature in my hand, I’ll start with that. When I later support hearts, partner will value highly cards like the Spade-smallK and minor suit aces. If I don’t start with a bid showing spades, it will be impossible to show them later and partner will have very little idea what I have.  The other advantage of 1Spade-small is it keeps the bidding low which makes it easier for partner to describe their hand.

We have already heard about possible drawbacks of 1Spade-small. They are reiterated by:

Bruce Anderson “The alternative of 1Spade-small to see what opener rebids could be considered. But it may then prove difficult to get across the primary support for hearts and the singleton diamond, particularly if partner rebids 2Diamond-small  or 2Club-small. To jump to game after that would show a relatively balanced hand with greater high card strength.”

The actual deal provided another problem for those who started with 1Spade-small. That was when your partner showed strong spade support and you had nothing special to cue, assuming you wanted to explore for slam:


A Q J 9 8 3
Q 9 3 2
7 3
West North East South
Pass 1  Pass 3 
Pass ?    


Yes, you could try 4Diamond-small though the heart fit becomes lost. However, at least one pair found a good sequence after 3Spade-small using 3NT as a waiting bid. Of course, if you do that, you can never offer 3NT as a place to play. However, the waiting bid worked very well here:

South Deals
Both Vul
A Q J 9 8 3
Q 9 3 2
7 3
J 7
Q 7 6 4 3
A Q 8 5 4
W   E
10 4
10 6
K 8 5 2
J 10 9 6 2
K 7 6 5
A K 8 5 4
A J 9
West North East South
Pass 1  Pass 3 
Pass 3 NT Pass 4 
Pass 4  Pass 4 NT
Pass 5  Pass 5 
Pass 6  All pass  


A good sequence from Kate Davies and John Patterson at the Auckland Easter Teams. North signed off in 4Spade-small, concerned about clubs but their partner had that suit under control and used key-card to reach the cold slam.6Spade-small showed Spade-smallQ but no outside kings.

Had one used a 4Diamond-small splinter to agree hearts, South would have been ecstatic and would have lurched straight into Key Card. Likewise, after 2NT Jacoby, South’s club singleton would be good for North. Cue-bidding would be needed to establish South has Spade-smallK and then the 6Heart-small slam would be reached via Key-Card. 

Had West bid 2NT for the minors, then the 4Diamond-small splinter would seem to be the most practicable approach.

 Roads to Success.png

All routes this time!

6Spade-small is a marginally better slam because it can survive a 4-0 heart break (subject to a trick 1 ruff). So, three routes to slam. Which do you prefer?

What to do?


North Deals
None Vul
W   E
Q 10 8 6
K 9 7 3
A J 5 2
West North East South
  Pass Pass 1 
2  3  Dbl 4 
Pass Pass ?  


It’s Teams and no-one is vulnerable. 3Club-small is a spade raise, obviously less than an opener.

Do you agree with double? What now?

Richard Solomon


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