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Weekly updates from Kit Jackson offering hints and tips for the modern Bridge player. Enjoy!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Signals – Co-operating To Thwart Declarer – 24 Feb 2010

I get asked a lot about defensive leads, signalling and discards. Rather than give you all a list of do’s and don’ts I’m actually going to have a look at what the defence is really trying to do; how they can do it together and try to thwart the dastardly declarer.


As you all know there are various mantras about leads: 4th best, MUD, top of a sequence etc etc. These are merely guidelines about which card of a suit to play. What they don’t do is tell you which suit to lead. The suit you lead will depend on one or all of at least four parameters.

  1. The hand you have.
  2. Whether you defend a Suit or a NT contract.
  3. The opposition bidding.
  4. Your side’s bidding.

Let’s take an example:


Against a NT contract you might lead the 4th best Spade, trying to establish the suit. Against a suit contract you might lead the singleton Heart, looking to get a ruff from partner. If partner has bid Diamonds you might lead the QD. If opponents bid S,H,& D then settle sheepishly in 3NT you might decide partner has the C’s and lead the CK. Then again, if the contract is 1NT - as opposed to 3NT - you might think that a spade lead could give away the 7th trick and
therefore lead a low D.

Any of these might be right on any given deal but the important thing is to be clear about what your thinking is; what your aim is.

Sometimes you will want to make an attacking lead – you can see how the contract might go down. Other times you’ve no idea if the contract can go off or not, so now your aim is not to give declarer cheap tricks that are not deserved, so you want a passive lead.

What all this really means is that the card you lead will depend on the suit you lead which will depend on your CAREFUL attention to the bidding. A classic example is this kind of hand:


You and your partner pass throughout while the opponents have this auction:

1S - 2D - 3D - 4S.

Superficially it looks as if the contract might make, losing only the two aces and the king of trumps. What do you lead? On the basis that against a suit contract you must never, ever, nevernevernever lead away from an unsupported ace (OR KING!) you might lead a heart (the middle one - MUD). In this case you’d be wrong because you didn’t pay close enough attention to the bidding.

Let’s take a step back. What do you know about the opponents hands? What therefore do you categorically know about your partner’s hand? Opponents have bid and supported diamonds. They therefore – most probably – have an 8-card diamond fit as well as the spade fit. Do you see? If they have an 8-card fit in diamonds and you have four of them as well, (making 12) then your partner can only have at most one diamond.

So, lead the ace of diamonds, give your partner a ruff, partner leads back a club to you, and you give partner another diamond ruff, sit back and wait for the king of spades to make and the contract is 2 off!!


Well defended. BUT ..... how did partner know to lead back a club and not a heart? Let’s say you had this diamond suit: A952. You play the Ace, Then you play the 2. Why? When partner takes the first ruff the only thing they need to know is how to get back to your hand so you can give them another ruff. Work together. So your lead at Trick 2 must be a Suit Preference signal, helping partner work out what to lead back to you. The 2 is the LOWEST card you have, so you are asking for the LOWER suit back (ex cluding the suit you are leading and the trump suit. In this case the lower suit you are asking for is CLUBS.

If your other ace had not been the ace of clubs but instead the ace of hearts (the higher of the two possible suits) then you would have led the C9 – the higher card asking for the higher suit.

The point is that it doesn’t matter what the correct card to lead is if you haven’t listened carefully to the bidding and worked out what the right suit is in the first place. It won’t always be as simple as this, but the principles remain the same. It is your job to help partner build a mental picture of declarer’s hand so partner can have an idea of which is the right card/suit to play.

Next week it’s my old favourite the COUNT signal.


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