MIke's Advice


A Splinter Quiz

Your side is playing the Jacoby 2NT response to one of a major.
1— Pass — 2NT
Your partner has a number of bids he can make. He can show a balanced hand. He can show a singleton. According to your preferences, he can also show a five-card suit or a void. To confuse the issue, some partnerships start by telling partner how good opener’s hand is and then they get around to showing their shape. The Jacoby 2NT bid used to be a fairly simple structure. The things that have been added to this convention are extensive.
For now, let’s assume that you are the 2NT bidder and your partner bids a new suit, showing a singleton.

Partner You
1 2NT
3 ?

Firstly, a reminder. Your 2NT bid promises a balanced hand with four or more trumps and game points or better. You will never make this bid with three trumps, you probably should not make this bid with a singleton, and you should never make this bid with less than opening-bid values.
When you bid 2NT, your partner bids 3 showing, in your methods, a singleton diamond. His bid says nothing about whether he has a minimum hand, a good hand, or a great hand.
Here are four hands that you might have. In which order to you rank these hands after hearing partner’s 3 bid?

  1. ♠Q 8 6
    K Q J 8 4
    K Q 6
    ♣Q 6
  2. ♠K 3
    10 8 6 4
    Q 7 6
    ♣K J 3
  3. ♠A K J 2
    J 6 5 3
    Q J 3
    ♣Q 10
  4. ♠9 7 6 3
    A J 8
    A 8 7 3
    ♣K Q

The first thing to do is to note that Hand 4 has only three hearts. There are a few players who feel that making a Jacoby 2NT bid with only three trumps is OK if those three trumps are all honors. Make the hearts A-Q-J or better and I can imagine bidding 2NT if there was no better alternative. For me, the A-J-8 does not qualify so I do not bid 2NT with this hand. This means there are only three hands in this quiz to evaluate.
Of the three remaining hands, the worst is Hand 1. This hand has 15 high-card points, the most of any of these four hands, but it is just an awful hand.
Those lovely hearts are not worth as much as it first seems. If your partner has five to the ace, you can usually get by with K-x-x-x-x for no losers. This suggests that you do not need the J and probably you do not need the queen either.
Next, you have the KQ6, values which may not take a meaningful trick. Partner showed a singleton diamond, which is not good news for this diamond holding. This is a terrible hand that has only three certain useful points. It is true that the two black queens will turn out to be valuable, but how valuable they will be is unclear.
Of the remaining two hands, Hands 2 and 3, Hand 3 is fair but not greatly so.
It has spade honors which rate to be excellent given opener has some spades. It has bad hearts, though, and three wasted points in diamonds. The ♣Q10 may or may not be useful. I rate hand three as average.
Hand 2 is the one of these four examples that comes to life. It has a fifth heart, something useful whenever partner has the king without lesser honors. It has only two wasted points in diamonds. Its black suit honors are superb. It has a doubleton king of spades and the club holding is strong with its two honors supporting each other. Hand 2 has the fewest number of high card points of the four hands here but given opener’s 3 rebid, it is worth a lot more than any of the other three hands.
The Jacoby 2NT bid helps a lot when opener can show a singleton because that information can be used by responder, as was done on these hands.

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