Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Picture Splinter -- Yes or No?

On a different topic, we're also confused about some of the more unusual Picture Splinters. What are the criteria for deciding whether a particular sequence is a Picture Splinter Sequence or just an ordinary splinter sequence?
The Picture Splinters discussion in your book begins with the classic 2/1 GF >auctions, and with trump already agreed, and we have little trouble with those. Add in the minor complication of using the jump to set trump, and we still seem OK.
However, when we get to the auctions which aren't already GF we reach dangerously different interpretations. To help us sort this out, which of the following (and why) are reasonably Picture Splinters versus being ordinary splinters, and which might not be splinters at all. I've tried to have enough variety to let you clarify the definition, or maybe you'll just be able to state it so obviously you won't need to torture yourself with all these examples.

1. West East
1D 1H
2H 2S

Here, I would expect 4C to be a Picture Splinter, with a high likelihood of Qx(x) in spades. Why? I can cuebid in response to 2S as a game-acceptance on most hands that would qualify for a club Splinter that are not right for a Picture Splinter (better spade honor, lesser trumps, lesser diamonds).

2. West East
1D 1H
2H 3S

Here, I would not expect a Picture Splinter, without discussion, because there is no second suit shown by the person splintering. I could see describing this as a fit-showing Picture Splinter (diamonds being the assumed second suit -- great double fit), especially as Responder has many options with hands that include a stiff spade.

3. West East
1D 1S
2S 4C

This seems identical to (2.) -- same analysis.

4. West East
1S 2S

Here, I would not view this as appropriate for a Picture Splinter, because there is no second suit held by Opener. Further, there is no assumed suit possibility (provided by Responder). So, I would expect this to be a "normal" splinter. However, I would strongly suspect 5440 (a void splinter).

5. West East
1D 1S
2C 3H

No Splinter at all, the way I play. I'd expect Responder to have 5-5 pattern.

6. West East
1D 1S
2C 4H

This one is weird, as I use 4th-suit GF. The jump also takes away RKCB, and, if a Splinter, the minor fit is unknown (unless a default is agreed). If I had to guess at the table, one thing. If I was allowed to discuss this and settle on an agreement for this specific auction, I'd prefer Redwood (4D as RKCB for clubs, 4H as RKCB for diamonds).

7. West East
1C 2C (inverted minor)
2D 3H

Similar to above; best use may be a Picture Splinter, with the assumed second suit being diamonds. Note how this principle (not discussed in the book) might be viewed as similar to the Picture Jump to 3NT after a major is agreed. Note also how useful this might be in practice. "If I have shown only a raise, then my Picture Splinter shows good trumps, good support in YOUR second suit (two of the top three honors), a stiff, and no control in the fourth suit."

8. West East
1D 3S

Normal Splinter. No second suit can be inferred in any way.

9. West East
1C 1S
2C 3H

Same analysis as for 1D-1S-2C-3H.

10. West East
1C 1S
2C 3C

If discussed, this seems like another good candidate for the principle of a Picture Splinter, with the assumed suit being spades (probably KQx+).

11. West East
1C 1H
1S 3C (invitational)

I'd expect a normal splinter, because of limited options.

12. East West
1C 1H
1S 2C

Same as (11.). The problem with having these be Picture Splinters is the inability to clearly define alternative auctions as cuebidding.

13. East West
1C 1H
1S 2C

Same as (11.) and (12.). An additional point. After simple preference auctions, into a minor, the Moysian fit possibility in Responder's major adds one more level of options and confuses the issue too much, IMO.

14. West East
1C 1D

Clearly a splinter. IMO, not Picture Splinter because of option limitations. I dislike the idea of making a "convenient" but false jump shift into a major just to establish a force so that I can later raise a minor, all to ensure purity of a Picture Splinter in support of the minor. Too much for me. I want 2H and 2S protected as legit. So, normal Splinter for me.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Correspondence with a Minor Suit Question

Also our current system uses Hardy's idea, that a re-raise of the minor to 4m is RKC for that minor. As in say 1NT-2S(MSS)-3C-4C is RKC for Clubs. or 1C-2C;2H-4C is RKC for clubs. We have not worked out what is RKC with your approach yet.

The most usual RKCB for a minor would be the cheapest out-of-focus major, normally 4H. Here, that does not change unless a 1-2-4 auction calls for RKCB. I am more convinced that the need for a 4C cue and a 4D cue/LTTC are too valuable to simply use 1-2-4.

With that in mind here is our auction from last nite: (The ops were silent, very strange as you will see.)
1S-1NT (Forcing)
2C-3C (Sets trumps right? )

Yes, in that it sets clubs as the "focus" suit. You may want to incorporate a BART CONVENTION here, as a valuable tool to distinguish "couresy" raises to 3C and "power" raises to 3C. You can find various versions of this described on line (google).

3H- (Could be attempt to get to 3NT, could be S.I. right? if SI denies a diamond control right?)

Exactly. The inferred diamond weakness is also a diamond control weakness, as it was bypassed.

-- 5C also denies a diamond control right?

I would agree. RKCB on route to a minor-sit game is nearly always "free" and should therefore be bid most of the time.

All Pass
Is 3H g/f?

I would think so. However, if BART CONVENTION is used, the weaker club raise might allow for a 4C stop, if agreed.

3NT over 3H would have been natural right?

Yes, although it implies at least some diamond value, not necessarily a control (e.g., QJ10?), in case Opener continues.

Then 4C would be a slam try.

Yes. With two of the top three clubs.

4D would show a diamond control, but would not promise extras right?

4D by Opener after 3NT, instead of 4C, would seem to be Last Train, denying two top clubs.

4C would show weakness and deny a spade card right?

4C by Responder, after 3H, would seem to be a waiting bid without a diamond stopper.

What would you use for RKC after this start?

4H (see above).

Now here are the actual hands:
x Qxxx Ax Q8xxxx (N)
AQJ9x --- xxx AKJTx (S)
South felt that because of the silence of the ops, pard probably had hearts, and if he jumped to 3C over 1NT the auction would become too crowded after a 3H call. Now how do you find out if 3NT is right or 4S on the 5-2 etc. Accordingly he took a slight gamble and bid only 2C at his second turn.
North felt that he had already bid enough with his raise to 3C. He wanted to discourage with 4C over the 3H bid, but was afraid that South would take it as RKC. SImilarly he felt that a 4D call would show slaminterest he did not have. Using your ideas I think that North is OBLIGED to bid either 4C (not RKC) or 4D is that so? Would 4C here just deny slam interest or would it show two of the top 3 honors?

If the auction goes:

3H-4D (Not 4H picture splinter because it is a void)
4S- With the diamond Ace, North can seriously consider 6C.

But what if he has only the Diam K? Say x Q98x KJx Q9xxxx Is there a way for either pard to find out if the red suit control is first or second round?

Thanks for your time,

First, I would have liked to use a "Power 2NT" structure after 1NT. With this structure, 2NT is a GF Relay to 3C (Responder can bid other things, but usually bids 3C). This handles all strong jump rebids and jump shifts, with 2NT...3NT showing clubs. 2C would be semi-forcing and semi-artificial, possibly a balanced hand (the usual 2NT hand). Jump Shifts, then, show 5-5 pattern and five losers, not necessarily great HCP's. You can see how this 3C call would help here.

Not using that, BART would help Responder's problem, as I mentioned.

Not using either. 3C seems fair. Opener's 3H call was right on -- isolates the diamond problem.

Responder might consider 3NT with the diamond stopper. If he bids 3NT, Opener should probably bid 4C (two top club honors; no diamond control; slam interest), and Responder has enough to use RKCB, IMO. He has the first-round diamond control issue resolved (he's looking at it), a tertiary control, and extra club length.

If Responder instead decides to decline 3NT, I think he should bid 4D. He has first-round diamond control and extra club length. He will have inferred, slightly, the stiff spade because he did not bid 3S. 4D must be seen as a power bid, IMO, and the hand merits this. Now, Opener should move, although a passive 4S cue might actually work when Responder takes one last stab by bidding 4NT. 4NT should be last train, and Opener should accept this.

All of this is, of course, much easier after POWER 2NT, BART, or both (I use both personally).

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Publisher's Website Update

I just noticed that the Master Point Press website now has included an except from the book, including the Table of Contents and the beginning of the book, through page 16. For those who have not read the book, this may be of interest.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Page 50 Error Addressed

Hello Ken,Looking at page 50 there is this auction:

1♠ 2♣
2♥ 2♠
2NT 3♣
3♦ 4♥

This is described as a "delayed picture jump". I think a picture jump delayed or not is a jump into a side suit that was previously bid by the person making the jump. So this would not seem to qualify. I would assume it to be a picture splinter.Please clarify.Thanks

You are right -- this would be a Picture Splinter, albeit a Delayed Picture Splinter. This blip I remember as tweaked by the editor, and it seemed off at the time, but I could not put my finger on it.

It seems odd to distinguish the delayed Picture Splinter, here, from the immediate Picture Splinter. The club cuebid told us nothing new, as the immediate Picture Splinter should show good clubs. The delay until 3♦ is bid is irrelevant, as the Picture Splinter would deny a diamond control anyway.

Thus, this seems to be a redundant auction. 4♥ after 2NT would have shown ♠HHx(x) ♥x ♦xx(x) ♣HHHx(x)(x). So would 2NT-3♣-3♦-4♥. Strange.

In assessing the actual redundancy, one must consider what might happen if Opener were to jump to 4♦ after 3♣, the only bid that might ruin plans after 3♣. This would seem to be a Delayed Picture Splinter, showing one top spade (per force of 2NT), a stiff diamond, HHHx(x) in hearts, and no club control.

So, when would this be a problem, or when would enabling this move help? It seems like Responder might want to induce a 4♦ Picture Jump from Opener when he holds the stiff Q or J of hearts.

So, perhaps the Delayed Picture Splinter by Responder, in this example, strongly hints at the stiff heart being the Q or J in the delayed auction, but small in the quick auction. Alternatively, the slow action might be agreed to show stiff King in hearts? Or, a top stiff (Ace or King)?

I like this second option appeals to me most. "If a Delayed Picture Splinter is truly and completely redundant, as available earlier, then the delayed action identifies the stiff as the stiff Ace or King. A Yummy Toes Asking Bid for that suit goes (1) King, (2) Ace." If you prefer the earlier version, change "Ace or King" to "Queen or Jack."

Monday, January 1, 2007

Strange Coincidence

After posting the information on another "Leaping Serious 3NT," (see below), I happened to browse through the vugraph archives for the 2006 Reisinger. Strangely, I noticed that Moss-Ekeblad missed even slam on a hand where the Grand makes on a 4-3 spade split and the small slam is pretty icy. Their opponent bid the small slam with an auction I could not find.

Ekeblad opened 1♠ with ♠A109xx ♥KQ985 ♦A10 ♣x. Moss responded 1NT, presumably forcing, with ♠x ♥A10xxx ♦Kxx ♣A109x.

When Ekeblad rebid 2♥, this must have interested Moss, but he probably had no tools available to handle this hand. Enter the Leaping Serious 3NT!

After 3NT from Moss (heart support, great hand), Ekeblad should visualize that slam is probable and cuebid 4♣. Moss cuebids 4, and Ekeblad takes over. 4NT, RKCB, yields 5♥ (two keys, no trump Queen). If Ekeblad now realizes the potential of this hand and invites the Grand (5NT), Moss has enough to think about it. I like to think the Grand was at least sniffable.

So, if Moss-Ekeblad are a good indicator, this Leaping Serious 3NT might just be a good idea...


If you have any questions after reading the book, feel free to send them to me. Or, simply post a question as a comment to this post.

Another "Leaping Serious 3NT"

Having tried this with no sessions yet, I have no idea as to its value. But, my friend Ken Eichenbaum and I have decided to solve a "problem" auction with a new agreement, one you may like. I'd appreciate any thoughts on this.

The concept arose as a result of a real-world auction. Opener starts 1♠, you respond a forcing 1NT, and partner rebids 2♥. There are times, especially at IMP's, where Responder wants to bid 4♥ on a hope and a prayer, gambling. Or, Responder could have every ounce of his call.

We have decided that, after this auction, 3NT by Responder should show the serious raise to 4♥. We agreed that the normal 1NT...3NT auction was usually a masterminding auction, where 2NT would have been the better course (especially if Opener was a tad light for his opening, a common occurrence for us).


One common source of problems in notrump auctions is a lack of empathy for an unbalanced responder. It took me a while to articulate a manner of viewing the world in this situation.

When you open 1NT (or 2NT, or 3NT if balanced...), partner expects a "balanced" hand within a very tight HCP range. What does that mean?

First, it means some degree of balance as to the pips. In other words, at least two cards in every suit. (Probably.) Note that this does not mean 4-3-3-3 pattern, or even close. Any suit could have five cards, or two. Six in a minor is even plausible. But, some balance of pips is expected.

What is far from assured, especially in modern thinking, is a "balance" of honors.

Consider two hands. AQ-xxxx-KQxx-Axx. xx-AQxx-Axxx-KQx.

You would probably open each 1NT (15-17). Each has identical pip pattern (2-4-4-3). However, neither is "balanced" as to honor cards. Only a hand like Ax-Axxx-Axxx-Axx or Kx-KJxx-KJxx-KJx is "balanced" as to honor cards.

When analyzing strengths of hands, keep in mind that there is a difference between honor holdings in a suit. Ax is much better than Kx in a side suit. KQx in an "interior suit" is great, but the same holding is lousy opposite a stiff. This translates into analysis for a 1NT opening, a call that is purportedly well-defined as to range. Far from it. I figure that a 1NT opening, if 15-17, might provide as many as six honor cover cards (AK opposite doubleton, KQ/KQ in two key suits). However, it might also cover much less.

If, for example, Responder has 5-5 in the majors, 5-5-2-1 pattern, Opener might have AKx-xxx-QJxx-KQJx, a 16-count with only two covers.

So, the touted "tight range" of the 1NT opening provides perhaps somewhere between 2 and 6 cover cards? Remember this when assessing whether to super-accept, cue, bid Serious 3NT, and the like, and when considering whether this "fine tuning" of such a "precise bid" is as necessary as I have suggested.

5-4 Secondary Fit Discovered?

In reviewing and rethinking one auction, I discovered a missing pattern of great interest.

Consider the auction after a major opening and (constructive?) raise, followed by a new-suit game/slam try by Opener. For example, 1♥-P-2♥-P-3♣. As mentioned in the book, the partnership has increased slam prospects if the club suit turns out to be 4-4. We now can expect an extra trick from the 4-4 fit.

What if, however, Responder holds a fifth club? Perhaps 2335 pattern? Now, our trick potential includes Opener's five hearts, Responder's five clubs, and a club ruff from Opener's side. That's 11 tricks on pure shape, as opposed to 10 from the 4-4 fit.

It seems that a Responder with something like xx-KQx-xxx-KQxxx is perhaps too strong for a constructive raise only. However, xx-KQx-xxx-Kxxxx or xx-Kxx-xxx-KQxxx are certainly possible. Describing these hands, the hands with a fifth card in the second suit and three covers, through the four-of-the-major response to the 4♣ asking bid (after the Constructive Responder's Serious 3NT) is inadequate. If you review the responses available after this 4♣ call, you should notice that there is "no meaning" to a bid of five of the second suit.

Thus, I propose that, after a major opening is raised (constructive), followed by a second-suit game try by Opener, a Serious 3NT by Responder (offering a conversion of slam focus to the other suit), and a 4♣ call (agreeing the second suit and slam interest; asking) by Opener, that a response to 4♣ by Responder of five of the new suit show three (3) covers, plus a fifth card in the new trump suit.

If you could have the four-cover holding mentioned earlier, a tad rich for my idea of a "constructive raise," then perhaps you could cover this option with the jump to five of the original major after the 4♣ call.