Now you have decided on your spot card and honor sequence leads. And you have decided your own priorities for signals to partner’s opening lead (read Part 1  if you haven’t). In Part 2 we looked at a few examples of other signals available to you at trick one.

Question 1:  When is the 3rd hands spot card not your agreed preference (attitude, count, or suit preference)?

If you agree that your signal to trick one will always be attitude or count or suit preference, you can skip this reply. However, I am assuming you have agreed to a sequence of preferences for these signals. My personal preferences are Attitude-Count-Suit Preference, so for this discussion that is what I assume yours to be. If it is different, the same type of rules will apply.

The first priority of a signal (my way) is attitude. So if I play the right card (either high or low), I convey the information that I like the lead. Generally this means that I have a supporting honor. If partner leads the Ace (playing Ace from AK) against a suit contract, this could mean I can ruff the third round.

Question 2: If there is a singleton in dummy at a suit contract when dummy has several trumps, does that mean that attitude is off (makes no sense to give an attitude signal), and thus my signal has switched down to one of the other two?

The answer is a resounding maybe. It would be so much easier on all of us, if dummy has a singleton (or even a void), that our spot cards meant something other than attitude… after all, the next round will be ruffed anyway.

  1. Sometimes as 3rd hand that is exactly what you want.
  • Perhaps by forcing dummy to ruff, you can remove a critical late entry to dummy.
  • Perhaps by forcing dummy to ruff, you will be able to establish a critical trump promotion in your hand.

The only way to convey this need to force dummy to ruff is if you signal meant «please continue this suit».

  1. At other times when dummy is short in the suit lead, the dummy will have plenty of late entries and the trump spots clearly indicate that no trump promotion is going to be possible.

It is in these situations, where the «attitude» clearly no longer makes bridge sense. So, what kind of signal does your 3rd hand play mean?

  • If your preference is for «attitude-count-suit preference» you might think it would drop to count. But that would be wrong. Your partner is going to switch to something now, it is best if you give him some help. So here your card should be suit preference.
  • When declarer leads partner’s original suit (and he will) and ruffs it in dummy, then you give your partner a count signal in that suit.

Question 3: What if dummy comes down with a strong holding in the suit partner started? What does my card mean in this case?

Sometimes it will become obvious that you can not really desire partner to continue a specific suit.

  • Example 1: Against a 3NT contract, dummy hits with KQT9 of a suit partner lead the small and dummy played small. Here you can give count or suit preference, which ever you and your partner think is most important. I give count now, because partner will not be on the lead at the end of this trick.
  • Example 2: What if they bid 6♥, partner leads the Spade Ace (from AK) and dummy hits with ♠QJx ? Well, attitude is not important here. What partner needs to know is if he can cash a second high spade or if he has to switch. The way you tell him that is show him how many «spades» you have with a count signal. Then he adds his spades to yours and to dummy’s and he knows whether or not a second high spade will win.

Notice I didn’t discuss what kind of count or attitude or suit preference signal you give. There are a variety of kinds:

  • Standard
  • UDCA
  • Odd/Even
  • Lavinthal
  • Reverse Lavinthal, etc.

Some of these can actually serve two purposes. For instance, playing odd/even signals, an «odd» spot card (3,5,7,9) is encouraging attitude, while an «even» spot card is discouraging, and the height of the card is related to suit preference. I do not favor this odd/even for beginners. If for no other reason than the incredible huddle when they lack an odd card to encourage with or when they lack an even card to show suit preference and discourage (or only have one even card that is either high when they need a low, or vice-versa)… after a long huddle, they eventually play a spot card. Somehow, when the card is played fast, their partner always interprets and follow its meaning with deadly accuracy. When played slow, their partners become geniuses and work out that perhaps this is a good time to ignore partner’s signal. No one meant to convey unauthorized information, it just sort of happens.

Next time, we shall discuss the various methods for signaling, including options of «present or original count», «Smith Echo», «obvious shift principle» and the types of signals listed above.

To be continued…