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Play and Defend Better: for improving players

Getting the Message Across.

As a defender, we are not allowed to speak to one’s partner during the defence. You can communicate by the play of the cards but that is all. We call it signalling. It takes two “to tango” and two to signal as well, as there is the player making the signal and their partner who is to interpret the message.

What, therefore, is going on when partner produces a couple of seemingly unnecessary 10’s during the defence of the following board?

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

 

The opposition’s bidding has silenced you, especially when you heard that North’s 1Club-small opening promised at least a 4-card suit. Your choice of opening leads seemed particularly unappealing with partner having little more than 13 cards and virtually nothing in the way of honours.

One they might hold was the Diamond-smallJ. So, you start off with the Diamond-smallQ. Your style of signalling is “low encourage” with trick 1 producing the Diamond-smallK from dummy, Diamond-small10 from your partner and Diamond-small7 from the declarer.

Declarer calls for dummy’s Heart-small9 on which your partner plays Heart-small10 and declarer the Heart-smallJ. You win and see nothing better to do than lay down the Spade-smallA. Since you hold Spade-smallJ, declarer would have no guess if you led a low spade hoping the Spade-smallQ was in your partner’s hand. Furthermore, if declarer held Diamond-smallAJ and no Spade-smallQ, they might have tried discarding a spade on the third round of diamonds.

On the Spade-smallA, your partner played their third 10 in three tricks (who said they did not have any honours!), Spade-small10. What now for trick 4?

There are many ways of signalling. It is a great idea if you and your partner use the same approach!

Surely, East had a choice of diamond and spade cards to make? Why play the 10 each time? The Heart-small10 might have been played out of necessity.

Did you get the message that your partner was keen for you to switch? Switch to what? There was only one suit left, that long club suit on the table. Hopefully, your next move was the Club-smallA to be followed by a second club:

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

 

There is an argument that says when a dangerous side- suit appears on the table, that your signal should be a suit preference signal. Others prefer to stick to giving count. The Diamond-small10 at trick 1 could have been simply showing the top of a sequence: assuming probably that their partner had led from QJ.

If East wanted a club switch, then the card to play may have been Diamond-small2 (lower of the other two suits) or else maybe a high diamond asking for a switch. If you believe a high diamond asked for a switch, then Diamond-small9 might have been a better, less confusing card, as it seemed to deny Diamond-small10, taking away the possibility that East was showing a long run of diamonds.

There are thus many ways to interpret that trick 1 Diamond-small10. The Spade-small10 was a much clearer signal. The defence were close to being in a cash-out situation as soon discards were going to be available on those clubs, no matter who held Club-smallA.

Of course, East did not know that West held that card. If they did, they would love to see it played while they still had a trump. Unfortunately, the defenders were on different wavelengths with the contract making as East did not get their ruff.

A weak hand usually has very little to signal for. If it does, then a ruff is very likely the reason.

 South could have made the contract after any initial lead except Club-smallA by playing ace and another trump though there seemed no immediate danger of a ruff to South and a first-round trump finesse was reasonable.

The above shows there are many ways you can legitimately signal to your partner. How would you as West have interpreted those two 10’s at tricks 1 and 3? Would you as East have been able to get the message to your partner that you needed an urgent ruff?

Maybe West should have tried Club-smallA and a second club anyway as there seemed no other realistic chance of beating the game. That does not negate having an agreed signalling method for when one player may not find the winning defence without a bit of guidance. "Talk to your partner", legally.

communication 2.jpg

Richard Solomon

 

 

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