Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Empathetic Splinters -- Strange?

I find it humorous to hear back from people who are afraid of new things. Sometimes, "new things" are not all that new.

A case in point. On of the concepts that I have employed and developed is what I call the "empathetic splinter." Anyone reading this probably already knows that an "empathetic splinter" is a call, in simple form, that essentially shows interest in a slam if partner has this stiff. In other words, a jump to 4♥ might show slam interest if partner happens to have a stiff heart. You would use this typically when some constraint of the auction prohibited partner from splintering himself. So, you empathize a possible problem and answer it.

Some people have thought that this is a completely new and strange concept. Something extremely esoteric. However, I would suggest reading the definition of a conventional call known as a "Bluhmer." It seems that the "Bluhmer" and the "Empathetic Splinter" are essentially the same bid. What is different about an empathetic splinter, if there is a difference, is merely that I have noted certain sequences where a "Bluhmer" seems to make sense even though the existence of a short suit is not yet known.

In other words, a "Bluhmer 4♥" might be made opposite a known stiff heart or opposite a known stiff in either hearts or spades, for example. An "empathetic splinter" is a Bluhmer made when partner might have a stiff heart, might have a stiff spade, or might not even have a stiff. It is a call made in case Opener has a stiff.

Not much difference. It seems that all Bluhmers are empathetic splinters, but some empathetic splinters are used when a Bluhmer might not be available without assuming the existence of a stiff that might not be there. All of this is also explained with more theory, of course, than you will find in a mere definitions section of the Encyclopedia of Bridge or a bridge glossary.


Alex said...

My partner David Morgan (a frequent author on the Bridge World magazine) has long proposed a similar "but opposite" concept known as anti-splinter -- bidding the suit where partner's singleton would NOT be welcome. For example, that's a great idea after opening a strong NT and hearing partner's Jacoby transfer -- if opener wants to super-accept he's more likely to have a suit where a splinter would be UNwelcome (e.g, a KQx...) than one where a splinter would be just great (xxx or the like). Just like the now-ancient "splinter vs fragment" controversy, this new "emphatic splinter vs antisplinter" one promises to be hard to solve -- cases where only 2 suits are in play need not apply (generally, either idea will work as well then), it's "3 suits available" cases that need to be examined!-)


kenrexford said...

That's interesting. I do the same thing, essentially, in super-accepting transfers after 2NT openings, bidding a COV suit.

The three-suit scenario is the key to my think as to E.P.'s in some 1NT sequences, where an E.P. is not just a showing of a hole but is more akin to a picture bid, showing a hole, a specific focus COV suit, and an implicit "Ace-only" suit.

The key, though, is that whether you go with E.P. or A.S. analysis, you are seeing the same issue and resolving it in a much better manner than those who do not even see the issue (and often laugh at the esoterica of the concern). It is sort of like the debate about serious or frivolous 3NT, each of which is superior to no meaning for 3NT, and the debate between good cuebidding, good denial cuebidding, or hopeless cuebidding.