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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

The Best of All Worlds

Signalling…easier to give than to interpret. “How could I realise that the 7 was your lowest heart?” exclaimed a frustrated player after they failed to find a club switch. “How could you want me to switch to a diamond, leading into AQT on the table?” was another pleading statement during the post mortem when declarer had never bid a 5 card diamond suit in their own hand? Another ruff went begging!

So, we need to try and make our signals as clear as possible for our partner. Not just that, but we want to signal as much information to partner about our hand as possible. On the following deal, your style is to lead the king of a suit asking your partner to give count, let’s say “natural count” in the suit played.

North Deals
None Vul
K Q 9 7
Q 8
J 9 3
9 5 4 3
6 5 4
6
A K 8 5 2
A Q 8 7
 
N
W   E
S
   
West North East South
YOU DUMMY    
  Pass Pass 1 
2  Dbl Pass 2 
3  Pass Pass 3 
All pass      

 

You lead the Diamond-smallK with partner playing Diamond-small4 and declarer Diamond-small7. Since your partner has been requested to give you count (natural), you can tell they either have one or three diamonds. So, you continue with the Diamond-smallA and see Diamond-small6 from partner and the annoying Diamond-smallQ from declarer. You know your partner has the missing Diamond-small10 and that declarer can discard a club on the Diamond-smallJ in dummy as soon as they gain the lead.

If declarer has both the Club-smallK and the Spade-smallA, the situation is hopeless (unless partner held Heart-smallA). So, let’s assume declarer has only one of those two cards. Yet, which one do they have?

If South has the Club-smallK and your partner the Spade-smallA, then you must play a spade so that your partner can play a club through declarer’s Club-smallK and you can then beat the contract by one trick.

Yet, if South has the Spade-smallA, you need to switch to clubs urgently in order to cash as many club tricks as you can.

How do you know what to do?

The answer can come from partner’s signalling while they are giving you the count. Since after two rounds of the suit, both you and your partner know that they have a third diamond, they can play their two lowest diamonds, as indeed they played above to indicate a switch to the lower of the unplayed side-suits is required while a low card (where there is a choice of only two suits, the play of the Diamond-small4 should confirm that East has an odd number) followed by the Diamond-small10 would suggest a switch to the higher suit, spades. So, hopefully after two top diamonds, you switched to clubs (a low club maybe in case East had three little clubs and your partner Kx) though any club switch was required as this was the full deal:

North Deals
None Vul
K Q 9 7
Q 8
J 9 3
9 5 4 3
6 5 4
6
A K 8 5 2
A Q 8 7
 
N
W   E
S
 
J 10 3
J 7 3 2
10 6 4
K 10 2
 
A 8 2
A K 10 9 5 4
Q 7
J 6
West North East South
  Pass Pass 1 
2  Dbl Pass 2 
3  Pass Pass 3 
All pass      

 

Had West switched to a spade at trick 3, the defence would take just one further trick. Declarer would not risk their good fortune by taking a heart finesse, but would play three top hearts, followed by a second spade to dummy, Diamond-smallJ and then two more spades. Had West found the club switch at trick 3, then South must play very carefully to make even 9 tricks (ruff the third club, play 2 rounds of hearts, spade to dummy, Diamond-smallJ ruffed, two more rounds of spades finishing in dummy with the end position as below)

                                                                North

                                                                Spade-small 9

                                                                Club-small 9

                West (irrelevant)                                             East

                                                                                         Heart-small J7

                                                                South

                                                                Heart-small A10

 

That would be good play to make 9 tricks but a wrong or careless signal at tricks one and two could mean South makes an easy 10 tricks.

abacus.png                                                  I     love hearts.png

So certainly signal count but if you can signal suit preference at the same time, all’s the better.

Richard Solomon

p.s. If you are new to giving count, then you will find the suit preference approach at the same time too hard. For the future. Also, the suit preference signals work just as well with reverse as with natural signals.

 

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