By Prof Tony Campbell

SLAM bidding is one of the most difficult to judge, and often requires some clever conventions to arrive at the best contract. Here is a hand I played on Bridge Club Live, a team of four match, where all players were members of Penarth Bridge Club.

The Auction

South with four clubs, four spades and 15 points rightly opened one club. North decided to bid his six card diamond suit first. But when South responded with one spade, North realised that a slam was likely to be on. His bid of four clubs is known as a Splinter, even when his partner had opened one club. The splinter bid was invented independently by David Cliff and Dorothy Hayden Truscott in 1963. There are variations of this convention. Some players use the double jump to show strong support for the major suit of the opening bidder, and a singleton or void in the suit jump. However, a useful variation is what has become known as a mini-Splinter. In the bidding of the hand shown, a double jump to four clubs shows a void and at least four spades. A single jump to three clubs would show a singleton. South knows now that North must be at least 5/4 in diamonds and spades. So his ace and king of clubs can be used to get rid of any heart loser’s in North’s hand. South wisely decided next to cue bid his king of diamonds. North was really interested now, and bid four no trumps. This was Roman key card Blackwood that I have discussed before. South’s bid of five spades showed two key cards, the ace of clubs and king of spades, but also the queen of trumps, as spades had been agreed by the Splinter bid. North now knows that there must be a key card missing, and was happy to bid the slam of six spades as he can count 12 tricks between the two hands.

The play

West led the jack of hearts. This put South as declarer in a dilemma. On this lead West was unlikely to hold the king of hearts, so the contract would go one off straight away if South played the queen of hearts on this first trick. The best percentage play was therefore to take the first trick with the ace of hearts, playing for the diamonds to be 2/2 or 3/1. So after winning the first trick, declarer played a small diamond that he won in hand with the king. He then played the ace of clubs, discarding the losing queen of trumps from dummy. A spade was then won by East’s ace who returned a heart, which was trumped in dummy. After drawing the last two trumps, declarer claimed the rest of the tricks, making the slam of 12 tricks – 1 spade ruff, 3 other spades, the ace of hearts, 6 diamonds, and the ace of clubs. Well bid and well played. At the other table, North/South were not playing Splinter, so they missed the slam making four spades plus two.

What have we learnt?

1. The Splinter convention is very useful in telling partner two things in one bid – at least four trumps and either a singleton or void in the suit he jumped in.

2. Roman key card Blackwood is far superior to conventional Blackwood. Here it was vital to tell North that his partner had either the ace or king of spades, and the queen, and the ace of clubs.

3. Percentage plays are important in bridge. A finesse is 50%. But playing for either a 2/2 or 3/1 break in another suit is better odds.

Further information

I wonder what you did during the long lockdown. I spent a lot of my time writing a scientific mystery novel I have been meaning to write for thirty years. Its title is Mirror Image – what Darwin missed. It is available at Griffin Books, Penarth, and also online at The story is set in the stunning scenery of Anglesey. The hero, surprise-surprise, is a brilliant biochemist and a keen bridge player. There is a whole chapter based at the local bridge club, with an amazing, even crazy, hand I am sure you will enjoy. In spite of many shops, restaurants and pubs opening, sadly there is little chance of bridge clubs resuming in the near future. Penarth and other Wales’ clubs have many members over 60. We are the high risk group, and must be protected. Professor Brian Morgan, of Cardiff Metropolitan University, and I are setting up a Wales COVID communication group between the business, education, science and arts sectors to help find creative solutions to the restrictions the SARS-Cov2 coronavirus has imposed on us. See If you have any views, experiences and information you would like to share, please email me. Meanwhile, good luck with your online bridge. Bridge Club Live (BCL) is very good and may be open again for new registrations. BBO is still open for registrations. Contact for information. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep an eye on Email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up.