Source: BBO News
Giving your partner legal signals by the cards you play is an important part of the defense. Remember, bridge is a partnership game. Communication in the bidding is important; communication in defense can be vital. Especially on the opening lead, partner does not have the information available that you do! In the light of that, consider what your partner needs or wants to know about your hand. Like most things in bridge, there is no quick-fix. However, experience guides your judgment as to what partner needs to know; and when you should keep your own council.
The very first opportunity you have to signal comes at trick one. As opening leader, you have several ways you can give your partner a clue to your holding.
Honor leads is one way. You have to agree with your partner what an honor lead means. IF you lead the King do you promise the ACE or deny it? If you lead the Jack will you have higher cards or does it deny it? You will frequently see or hear people say… «A from AK, J denies». What this means is they will lead the A when they have AK, and if they lead the JACK, they deny having the AK or Q.
Sadly, we often lack a suitable honor sequence when on defense, so we will have to lead something else. There are a number of useful (and not so useful) agreements. Many, many people lead either «fourth best» or «top of nothing». What this means is they will lead the fourth highest card when they have some useful card in the suit or they will lead their highest spot card when they lack honors in the suit they lead.
Each of these convey information to partner (and declarer!). If you lead top of nothing, your partner can work out what high cards declarer has in the suit… but declarer can do the same with partner’s hand. Fourth best provides lots of information through use of Rule of 11 and starts partner off on the right road to counting out the hand. I personally am not fond of top of nothing, but that is just me. Also, top of nothing could be confused for a doubleton (less likely to be confusing if you have 4 or more than if you have 3 card suit).
Other choice for leads are a mixture of 3rd/5th best or 2nd/4th best, as well as «attitude» leads, where the lower the card lead, the more the leader «likes the suit.»
I recommend at first, beginners stick with 4th best and learn the Rule of 11. Later, when you are ready, you can switch to the other methods.
Now that we have discussed a little the opening lead, what about as 3rd hand to the first trick? Of course if you have to try to win the trick, you do so. But what if partner leads a high honor or dummy plays a high honor, what choices are there for you?
The three most popular choices are to give
- count signal
- attitude signal, or
- suit preference signal
Generally, you need to agree with your partner the preference for such signals. Note a signal can not serve all three purposes. The spot card you play has to be one or the other of these three. In other words, if you first choice is attitude, playing a low card to discourage in this suit can not also mean switch to specific different suit, or that you have an «odd» number of cards in this suit. Discuss with your partner the preference for signals at trick one… Attitude-count-suit preference seems like a good order to me, but I play with partners who have a different preference, and that is OK too.
Review – First trick signals
- What does our opening lead show? What do honors show? What do spot cards show?
- What is our preference of spot cards as third hand? Attitude? Suit preference? Count?
I will tell you something that you will hear many, many times. Having an agreement (even perhaps an inferior agreement) is better than no agreement at all. Decide what you like here, and get your partner to agree to it.
To be continued… This series is based on a discussion in the Bridge Base Forums that can be found HERE.