Sunday, April 27, 2008

Splinter GP's

I have recently seen a theme come up a few times. Worth restating general principles.

Some splinters are made as quantitative shape-bash bids in some sequences. In other words, "I have a stiff and slam interest" is all that we know.

That said, GP suggests that LTTC be available, at a minimum, if available.

Thus, consider a sequence where spades is (or will be by the splinter) agreed.

A 4♥ splinter sends that message, but the range should be rather tight, because partner must decide now, on this information alone, whether to resign to game only or venture into the five-level, often without a good safety net, on a slam try.

A 4♦ splinter, however, can be more flexible. This is because partner has three options. First, he could "Hell No!" your try and resign to 4♠. Second, he could giddily charge forth into the five-level. Third, and critical to the point, is that he can send it back at you with a 4♥ Last Train bid. The ability for partner to hedge here allows you to be more flexible with your two-under splinters, showing either a good sound splinter (will accept a LTTC bid) or a weakish splinter (will decline).

Three-under splinters (4♣ here) have even more room with which to work and can, therefore, be even more flexible. One might want to devise some techniques here to distinguish, for example, a 4♦ reply to a 4♣ splinter, a 4♥ reply, and, as to the 4♦ reply, the meaning of 4♥ by the person who splinters.

There are even four-under splinters, where LTTC and Serious 3NT are both available. 1♥-P-3♠ is a classic example. Opener can start cuebidding with or without a Serious 3NT if he wants.

The point, ultimately, is that there is not a need to define all splinters equally, or to treat them equally. Recognize this space principle, and recognize partner's recognition of the space principle.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Empathetic Auto Splinter?

An empathetic splinter is typically a bid of a worthless fragment to show great values everywhere else and worthiness of slam IF partner has a stiff in THIS suit.

An "auto splinter" is a splinter made in "support" of your own suit, such as a jump to 4♦ after transferring to hearts.

What about an "Auto Empathetic Splinter?" A bid of a worthless fragment, expressing the need for a specific stiff if partner can support your own suit? Yep, the beast exists.

The idea arose from a problem at BBF ("matmat" proposed the problem). You have ♠KxJxx ♦Ax ♣AKxxxx and open 1NT. Partner bids 2♣ Stayman, and you obviously respond 2♦. Partner bids 2NT, invitational. What now?

The vast majority responded with something like "3NT. What's the problem?"

But, give partner decent club support, a stiff heart, the spade Ace, and maybe the diamond King. It is easy to construct hands for partner where 6♣ is a very strong bet.

So, why not bid 3♣? The concern is that zooming to 3NT avoids helping the defense make a lead. Fair point, but I doubt that a club lead was coming, anyway. The 3♣ bid, therefore, probably does not help much. Responder bidding stoppers might, though. So, perhaps 3♣ should simply be a natural call expressing uncertainty, suggesting a hole, and asking a conditional question:

"If you have an unbalanced hand and support for my clubs, bid your shortness."

The parallel is a 3♦ call from Opener, instead of 3♣. As only 3♥ and 3♠ are available for Responder, however, a 3♦ call would suggest long diamonds and a worthless holding (for notrump) in one of the majors -- an either-or empathetic splinter if you will. A 3♦ call, then, announces a different question:

"If you have support for my diamonds and shortness in one of the majors, indicate your short major."

If Opener has diamonds and interest in short clubs from Responder, he can bid the cheapest unbid major. Thus, for instance, after the example auction of 1NT-2♣-2♦-2NT, Opener could bid 3♥ as an "Auto Empathetic Splinter," showing long diamonds and a worthless club fragment.

I say "the cheapest unbid major" to cover 1NT-2♣-2M-2NT sequences. Opener could rebid his own major because he has five of them. If Opener bid 2♠, then 3♠ is natural (five-card suit) but 3♥ could be the Auto Empathetic Splinter, with diamonds and a stopper hole in clubs. If Opener bid 2♥, and if 3♠ is not needed to handle 4-4 majors, then 3♠ would serve that function. Obviously, in this latter situation the diamond suit will be shorter because of the obvious length in the bid major.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Matchpoints is a strange game. +430 beats +420 as much as +980 beats +480. This causes unique concerns for bidding in the context of matchpoints.

A problem faced by my opponents illustrates the concern well. Opener had started 1♥ and received a 2♦ response in an uncontested auction. Opener raised to 3♦ (not my call, but a fair call) and heard 3♥ setting trumps. After 3♠ from Opener, Responder bid a serious 3NT. Opener finished the auction by bidding 4♥. My partner, of course, elected a club lead from Qxx(x) instead of a spade from J109x(x) [I cannot remember the exact lengths], allowing us to hold the contract to +450 instead of +480. Actually, the score was +420 for them because of an eight-ever-nine-never violation, perhaps done because of a fear that the cues had resulted in an unfavorable lead.

Now, I found this somewhat humorous, as it had been quite a while since any cuebidding sequence had a noticed detriment for me personally. The poor opponents!

I also recognized that my sequence would not have been entirely the same, as I would have opted to not raise diamonds (with xxx support and a minimum) and would not have made a serious slam move with Responder's hand. So, I technically may have avoided this problem. But, the reality exists that some sequences may result in a lead-direction that can be costly at MP scoring. As I hate MP anyway, my normal reaction is to find this to be a fortunately rare occurrence and to simply bid as I think I should anyway.

However, I do understand the concern. One possible tweak I considered at the time was to switch the meanings of 2NT and 3NT for matchpoints, and then making 2NT frivolous instead of serious. I don't think that this is ideal, but it might be a consideration at MP.

Imagine a sequence like 1♠-P-2♣-P-2♥-P-2♠. If Opener now bids 2NT, this could be a "frivolous" 2NT, rendering all other cuebids serious. (Picture Jumps remaining the same.) After a frivolous 2NT, Responder could sign off, or he could cuebid anyway with a hand that has slam prospects opposite a frivolous holding.

In either event, three of the major would still be a trump cue (two of the top three honors), bypassing of which would limit the major honor contribution. Also, 3NT would then be another "trump cue," showing extra trump above that already promised, or the the third trump honor, or two trump honors if partner has denied two, bypassing of which denies the same.

A direct 2NT-P-3NT sequence would seem to be a suggestion of 3NT as a MP contract.

The full permutations resulting from this MP tweak I have not worked out, nor will I because of my strong dislike of system impurity to cater to MP analysis and playing the (idiot?) field. Even if I were to try, my biases are too ingrained to allow me to do this effectively, I am sure. For anyone who likes this or a similar idea, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.