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

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Simple Signalling in Defence – 6 May 2010

Ned has pointed out that a while ago I sent an email entitled Defence Pt 1 . As yet there has been no Pt 2 so today folks … !!!

Defence Part 2:

As I’ve said before defence is the hardest part of the game. Just as bidding is about you having a cosy fireside chat with partner to get to either the best contract, or the least worst contract (!) so too defence must also be a chat where you help each other to make – hopefully – the right leads, plays or discards. But how can we do this without winking at partner or rubbing your chest when you want hearts led? The answer is that the individual cards you hold can be used to give information. This is the only legal thing you can do, but it does mean that as well as being alert to the signal you give, you must also be alert to any signal partner is giving you.

There are three different kinds of signal you can give:

1) Attitude
2) Count
3) Suit Preference

1) Attitude
This is about your attitude to the initial suit led by your partner, i.e. do you like it or not? Has partner hit on a good lead as far as you are concerned? When partner regains should the lead be continued or should partner switch to another suit?

Two further questions arise:

a) WHEN do you give an attitude signal?
b) HOW do you do it?

a) WHEN: I’ll keep it simple. There are other situations but the key one is when partner makes a lead and declarer/dummy wins the trick before you play a card. Now partner needs to know if you liked the lead. Let’s say partner leads a low spade against a NT contract,
4th best from the Q. Dummy has:

A J 7

and you hold

K 10 8 2

Dummy plays the A. What do you play? You want partner to continue the suit when on lead again so you must give a loud positive attitude. But HOW?

b) HOW: There’s a very popular and simple mantra which is “Low Likes; High Hates.”

Following this mantra you play the 2, meaning: “I like your lead, you can continue the suit when you get in again – as long as there’s nothing better to do!”

It follows that if you had held only 9 8 2 you would play the 9 to say “Sorry! Can’t help you there!”

BE CAREFUL!! THIS ONLY APPLIES IN THIS SPECIFIC SITUATION! For the rest of the time you should give COUNT…

(Editorial caution! Playing a low card to encourage partner’s lead and a high card to discourage as Kit advocates above is called “reverse attitude”. You’ve guessed it. “Standard Attitude” is the other way round – low discourages and high encourages. Most newer players play Standard Attitude ’cos that’s what they’ve been taught. It doesn’t matter as long as you and your partner are both agreed on which you are doing. The key thing is doing it all. NP)

2) Count
I've done this before so: Count signals also have a When? How? quality so here again I’ll keep it simple: WHEN declarer plays a suit you will mostly be playing smallish cards, but they can still
give your partner information. HOW?

With 8652 you play a HIGH card (8) first, then a LO card (2), so that HI-LO means you have an EVEN number of the suit. While if you have 862, play a Lo card (2) and then a Hi card (8) signalling an ODD number of cards. This will help your partner work out what declarer
has got in that suit.

3) Suit Preference
This mostly applies to suit contracts and is a way of telling partner what suit to lead if they get the lead.

Following the mantra above, when you are forced to make a discard, try to signal in a suit
with a LO card if you like that suit (LO Likes), otherwise a HI card (HI-Hates) says you do NOT like that suit. (“Reverse Attitude” again. NP)


After a number of tricks in a Heart contract you are left with:

A 9 2
8 3
Q J 9

Declarer plays a heart. What do you throw away/discard/signal with? A LO Spade (2) says you like the suit. a HI Diamond (8) says you don’t like that suit and the Club suit looks best untouched. As to what you actually play – well that depends on what’s happened so far, but at
least you can give fairly accurate information to partner about what you’ve got! This is a GOOD THING!

You’ll no doubt have noticed that all this means that nearly every card you play in defence – when you’re not actually cashing winners – is part of an information system of signals and discards, just like the system of bids and passes. It is your job as defenders to give declarer as rough a ride as possible, so watch what partner’s doing. Watch: what card did partner lead, play or discard and ask yourself “Why?”


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