SIGNALS AND DISCARDS
Bridge Forum International
Declarer has the advantage of being able to see dummy's cards as well as her own, planning the play as one unit. A defender can do none of this. All one has is inferences from the bidding and a view of the dummy after the opening lead. The defense also has the advantage of making the opening lead, which may or may not be a positive message. Intelligent defense needs a large amount of cooperation between partners. This can only work well if both partners have an agreed system of legal signaling.
There are three types of signals:
1. ATTITUDE SIGNAL
This tells partner if you like or dislike a suit. A high card encourages partner to continue the suit and a low card discourages (unless you and partner have agreed to play upside down signals). The signal can be used both when following to a suit and also when discarding. A like signal is made with a high card followed by a low one (called a "peter" or "echo") and the reverse for a dislike signal. This is because sometimes you will have cards which may be misinterpreted.
|(a)||S Q J 3 2||H A K 7 6||D 9 5 4||C 10 8|
Partner leads the HA. You play the 4. Partner can see the 3 and 2 in dummy and knows that it is your lowest card. You are in effect saying "Lay off - this suit will do us no good"
|(b)||S Q 3 2||H A K 7 6||D 9 5||C J 10 8 5|
Again the HA is led. You play the 9, encouraging partner to cash his K and
|(c)||S A J 8||H K 9 6 2||D Q 5 3||C 10 7 4|
Partner leads the 2 and declarer plays the A. You've got poor cards to signal with. Nevertheless you play the 5. If partner is alert she will notice your 3 on the play of the King and will know to continue the suit.
|(d)||S A 8 5||H K J 4 3 2||D 9 3 2||C J 4|
Partner clearly has the Q and you would like her to continue. You "encourage" with the 4. Partner cannot be certain of your message (declarer could have the 3 and 2), so he switches to another suit. Next time this suit is played or if discarding on a different suit, you will play the 2, which completes the message.
|(e)||S K Q 5||H A K 9 3||D 9 5||Q 8 5 3|
You are defending against 5D. Partner leads the SK, taken by declarer's SA. Declarer cashes three rounds of trumps and leads the SJ. On the third round of diamonds, you should play the H9, telling partner to shift to hearts.
|(f)||S 9 5 2||H A K 3 2||D Q 5 3||C Q 8 5 2|
You are again defending 5D (almost the same as the previous hand). On the SK, you play the 2 (dislike spades). On the third round of diamonds, play the 2 of clubs (dislike clubs). You can't afford to play the 3 of hearts, as it will be misinterpreted and partner is likely to lead a club into declarer's AKJx combination.
Thus another way to use attitude signals is to show suits which you dislike so that partner can deduce which suits you like.
2. COUNT SIGNAL
The system of "high-low" and "low-high" can also be used to give a count of the number of cards that you hold in a suit.HIGH-LOW shows an EVEN number of cards (two, four, etc..)
LOW-HIGH shows and ODD number of cards (three, five, etc....)
By looking at dummy and one's own cards (as well as taking into account the bidding) partner can usually tell how many cards you are holding.
Please note that you cannot use attitude and count simultaneously. You have to play one system of signals or another.
The count signal is particularly useful as it allows partner to count a particular suit and makes it possible to hold up the A or K in a suit long enough to "kill" the suit.
|S 5 4|
|H 8 6 3|
|D K Q 7 5 4|
|C 7 5 3|
|Lead: S2||S K 9 5 3|
|H Q 8 4|
|D A 9 2|
|C 10 8 4 3 2|
Partner leads the 2 of spades against a 3NT contract (you deduce that she led from a 4-card suit). You put up your K which holds. You return the S9, covered by the 10 and J. Partner leads the 8, 5 from you and declarer wins with the SA. Declarer now leads the DJ, partner playing the 3 and you hold up. He continues with the 10 (partner playing the 6), and overtakes with the Q. Should you hold up again?
Partner's play of the 3 and 6, shows that he has an odd number of diamonds, (i.e. he has three.) Dummy and you hold a total of eight. Now, 8+3 = 11 and therefore declarer started with only two diamonds. You must take your Ace right now, otherwise you are giving declarer an unnecessary trick (which could well be his ninth!) and return another suit. The diamond suit is now "dead" - declarer cannot get to it.
COUNT IN THE TRUMP SUIT
A special procedure is used to give count in the trump suit. The order of play is reversed. You suggest an odd number of trumps (nearly always three) by playing your middle trump, then your lowest. To show an even number, play your lowest trump first.
There are several reasons for reversing the signaling method. Firstly, with only two trumps, your highest one may be too valuable to waste (Qx, Jx, 10x, or even a 9x may promote a trump winner for your partner). Secondly, a high-low, showing three trumps, will suggest to partner that you may:be able to trump a suit (in which he knows or suspects a shortage) or b) it is imperative that you get the lead so that you can lead a third round of trumps -- taking "two for one" -- in order to thwart a cross-ruff game. Thirdly, a count in the trump suit may help partner to work out declarer's distribution.
3. SUIT PREFERENCE SIGNAL
This signal indicates interest in a suit other than the one being played.
An unusually high card in the played suit, suggests strength in a high-ranking suitA low card suggests interest in another low-ranking suit.
There are three typical situations:
A SINGLETON IN DUMMY AND PARTNER HAS LED THE A OR K:
|Lead D A||S 5|
The contract is 6S and partner leads the A of diamonds. You should "shock " partner by throwing the Q of diamonds. This should be interpreted as a suit preference signal telling her that of the remaining two suits (hearts and clubs), you want an immediate shift to the higher ranking suit (hearts). Note that if partner shifts to a club, declarer has time to draw trumps and discard his heart losers on dummy's fourth club.
If you had held the CA, you would have signaled with the 3 of diamonds. Even if partner does not lead A or a K and there is a singleton in dummy, you should still give a suit preference signal. Sometimes partner will hold the A or K of their trump suit and needs to know which suit to shift to, as soon as she gets the lead.YOU ARE ABOUT TO GIVE PARTNER A RUFF
|S AK962||S J3|
|H Q104||H J5|
|D 64||D J1095|
|C A92||C A92|
You lead SA and partner encourages with the J. You cash the K and have the 9, 6 , and 2 for him to ruff. You should lead the 2. This is a SUIT PREFERENCE signal asking him to return a club, after he has taken his ruff. Sure enough, partner returns a club. You win your A and lead a fourth spade. Partner ruffs with the J forcing South to overruff. This promotes your trumps into two winners. Defense takes SA, SK, a spade ruff, CA and two trumps for one down.
|S 87542||S A3|
|H 65||H K7|
|D 5||D AJ964|
|C QJ962||C 10873|
|LEAD D: 3||S: A4|
The contract is 4S and partner leads the 3 of diamonds, J from dummy, covered by your K diamonds and the A. Declarer leads the 2 of spades, 6,Q and your A. What should you return? You're not sure, but you suspect that partner's lead was a singleton. Return the 9 of diamonds. Partner obliges by ruffing with the 5 of spades. You now know that he had three trumps (he played the 6 and 5 - an echo). She knows to lead a heart (your 9 of diamonds was suit preference for the higher suit out of hearts and clubs). Declarer puts up the K losing to your A. You return the D7, confidant that partner can ruff this and return another heart.
C. IF LENGTH IN A SUIT IS KNOWN
In the situation where partner knows your exact suit length and you end up defending, you are able to use that suit for suit preference signals. If you play Law of Total Tricks raises where 1S-2S shows precisely 3 spades or Bergen raises where 1S-3S (also 3C and 3D) shows 4 spades, 1D-2D shows 4 diamonds and 1C-2C shows 5 clubs, there are many opportunities to use suit preference signals here.
You, West, lead the HA. Partner plays the H3. Declarer drops the HQ. How do you continue? Partner's H3 is not a very enlightening card. Is it count (showing three) or attitude (dislike)? Has declarer got another heart and is false carding? The H3 could be interpreted as asking for a shift to clubs. Perhaps she has the CA and we will take two hearts, the CA and a diamond. So much ambiguity and the slightest wrong guess could give away the contract.
The actual deal and auction, using Law-raises:
|S K7||S 96|
|H AK842||H J1073|
|D K862||D A3|
|C 106||C 98543|
When you lead the HA, partner plays the HJ. First of all, you know that partner has four hearts and that a continuation is pointless. Secondly, since East's heart length is known, she can use her hearts for suit preference signals. The HJ asks for a shift to the higher suit (diamonds). Accordingly you shift to the D2, partner takes the DA, returns a diamond to your DK and you give her a ruff, which is the only way to set the contract.
|ALL PASS||4S||ALL PASS|
After a Law Raise auction (3D guarantees five diamonds), you lead the DA, partner contributing the D2. How do you continue?
|S 632||S K1087|
|H 74||H 6|
|D AKJ5||D 109762|
|C KJ42||C QT7|
Since partner is known to have five diamonds, her D2 asks for a shift to clubs. This is the only shift that beats 5H. A spade shift loses tempo. Declarer can cash the SA, draw trumps in two rounds and a low spade towards her S QJ9 allows her to discard two clubs from dummy.4. EQUAL HONOR SIGNAL
The opportunity to use this signal is fairly rare and it consists of dropping your highest card from a 3 card sequence, when either following a suit or discarding.
Thus if you have a sequence like KQJxx, QJ10xx, AKQxx, J109xx, you would drop your highest card. The discard of an honor guarantees the card below.
There are three types of situations where the signal may be useful.Partner leads the A (from AKxx) and you have QJ10x and see the need for a shift. You drop the Q on his A. Partner knows that he can afford to underlead the King in order to put you on lead.
|S 65||S 42|
|H AK75||H QJ102|
|D AQ72||D 10863|
|C 964||C 853|
The opposition is in 4S. You lead the HA and partner drops the Q. After examining dummy, you can see that it is imperative for partner to lead a diamond through declarer. So lead the 7 of hearts to partner's J. She can see that diamonds is dummy's weakest suit (as well as your suit preference signal - you did not lead the 5) and a diamond return allows your side to score two hearts and two diamonds. If you were to cash the HA and KK unthinkingly and lead a trump or a club (in the hope that partner has the K), it will be too late. Declarer can discard one of her losing diamonds on dummy's long clubs.When declarer is running a long suit and you are being squeezed, an equal honor signal may help you or partner to discard correctly.
|S Q932||S KJ106||NORTH||SOUTH|
|H 85||H KJ93||1H||3C|
|D J10973||D Q84||3H||4N|
|C 86||C 72||5H||6C|
Partner leads the 2 of spades and your K is taken by the A. Declarer leads a heart to the Ace and a small heart is ruffed with the CA. A club is led to the J and another heart is ruffed with the CK, West discarding the DJ. Declarer draws the remaining trumps with the Q and leads the C10. Partner throws the 3 of diamonds and you discard the SJ. Now all hopes for a squeeze by declarer are dashed! Partner knows that you have the S10 and will throw all her spades whilst you throw away all your diamonds (your Q is the equal of the J and 10). After 3 more rounds of clubs the position will be:
|S -||S J10|
|H -||H K|
|D 1097||D -|
|C -||C -|
Declarer must lose either a spade or a heart. Without the equal honor signal, there was a danger that you would both throw out all the spades.When you know that partner will have a problem in finding the correct suit shift, an equal honor signal may be of help.
|LEAD S J||S 3|
West leads the SJ against the doubled contract. Declarer wins the A and continues with the K. What do you discard? Partner has the strong hand and you have no idea which suit you would like her to lead when she gets in. Your only sensible discard is the HQ. By telling partner what you have, you leave her well placed to make an intelligent decision.
This is the full deal:
|S J10||S 3|
|H A95||H QJ1087|
|D KJ93||D Q842|
|C AK83||C 1062|
At trick 3, declarer will lead a low club towards his Q, taken by partner's K. After your discard of the Q of hearts, West has no problems. She knows that declarer has the HK. She cannot play the CA as this may be ruffed setting up the J for a discard, nor the HA. He has no option but to lead a diamond. Now passive defense allows the defenders to collect four tricks.