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PLAY and DEFENCE for Improving Players

There are many ways of discarding which work most of the time. Sometimes, they all run into difficulty. When that happens think about the easiest way you can get your message across to your partner. If your card is not going to be easy to interpret, is there any other way?

If you can make it easier, do so. Watch.

South Deals
E-W Vul
10 5 2
A 9 4
K Q 8 7 6 5
J 10 9 7 4 2
K Q 9 8
K 7 3
W   E
A J 7 6 4
10 8 2
J 10 4 3
A K Q 8 5
Q J 6 5
A 9 2
West North East South
2  3  3 NT All pass


North-South were playing Precision so that 1Club-small was 16+ any shape. West made a weak jump overcall in spades and after North’s natural game-forcing 3Club-small bid, South decided to have a go at 3NT. Surely partner can look after the heart suit!

West might have tried the unbid major as their partner had shown no interest in spades, though declarer got a small reprieve when West led their top spade. South won with the Spade-smallQ and had 9 easy tricks as long as clubs were not 4-0. When West started to think on the lead of Club-smallK to trick 2, South cursed their bad luck.

West threw the Heart-small8 and on the second round of clubs, the Spade-small7. Declarer ducked the second round of clubs to East, who had to find the heart switch to beat the contract.

“Easy” you might think as East-West were playing “reverse attitude” signals (a low card as one’s first discard shows interest in the suit shown, a high card shows lack of interest) but when East saw the Heart-small8, they failed to see the significance of that card and with no spade to return, switched to a diamond.

"Your fault, my mistake!"

Declarer’s lucky day and West could indicate in the post-mortem how they had asked for a heart. “It was the lowest I had, partner. Could you not work that out?” Indeed, perhaps, East probably should have worked it out as the only low heart East could not see was the Heart-small3. Yet, the Heart-small8 was perhaps not the most helpful discard. Just say South held the Heart-small64 as well as Heart-small3. Then, the request to lead a heart becomes quite murky.

West could, maybe should have thrown a high spade as their first discard saying they did not like that suit. West had bid the suit and led it. If East had a second spade, they might simply return the suit. Then, on the second round of clubs, West could throw their high diamond (Diamond-small7). Those two discards were not a clear signal to switch to a heart but they were indicating that playing a spade or a diamond was not a good idea. Maybe East should therefore try a heart.

East’s mistake but West could have helped.

Other systems' proble

Reverse Attitude is not the only system to have difficulty with discards. Playing high encourage, try telling your partner to switch to a suit where your holding is KQ32, in one discard!

“Odds and evens” where an odd card asks for the suit returned and an even card is a suit preference signal can run into difficulties with a holding like 9753. If that is the only suit from which you can afford to discard, your message may have difficulty getting through.

In our hand above, East was the guilty party but West might have thought of the impact of the Heart-small8, especially if East was likely to return a spade had they got one. I hope West understood East’s problem...and might think of a different suit to lead next time.

Richard Solomon



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