More Defence: Suit Preference Signals

The “More Defence” lesson modules have been designed to build on the Online School Curriculum. They include some Quick Tips to help you focus on the lesson topic. Using suit preference signals at certain times in the defence gives partner a “road map” of how to continue. It’s absolutely essential to read partner’s cards correctly.

Play and review the lesson hands here, and if you have more time, you can also complete the fourth Defence lesson: Suit Preference Signals.

Quick Tips

·      The most elegant of signalling methods, suit preference provides a road map for partner to follow on certain hands you defend
·      When partner knows you can trump a suit they’ve led, the card they play for you to trump with, is a signal 
·      Watch carefully because it will tell you how to return to partner’s hand so that they can let you trump again
·      If it’s a high card, partner is telling you to return the higher of the two remaining suits 
·      If it’s a low card, partner is telling you to return the lower of the two remaining suits
·      If you see a singleton in dummy, and partner has led their Ace, show them what suit you’d like them to switch to by playing an unnecessarily high or a low card of that suit
·      It’s obvious that you don’t want the suit continued if there’s a singleton in dummy

This week’s hand:

We are focusing on defence again, so our panel have been asked to diagnose what’s going on at the start of the hand.

The hand the panel are discussing today is hand 4 above. What move would you make next?

David Appleton.jpg

David Appleton

One wonders if we play the♦️A from ♦️AK, then if partner plays the ♦️K then the ♦️A, the implication is a doubleton. (Visa versa is also true.) If that is the case, we need a heart switch so we can give partner a diamond ruff. Hence we should play high-low to show preference for the higher non-trump suit, hearts.

If we were certain that partner did not have a singleton ♦️K, then we could afford the ♦️J, being clear suit preference, however there is a marginal possibility that declarer has five diamonds to the ace, so should we part with a natural diamond trick in that case?
Simply put, yes, we can afford it, as partner will then need♠Ax to hope to beat the contract (he will have to, else there is little point in leading a singleton). In that rare case we will also require partner to have the ♥️Q.

GeO Tislevoll.jpeg

GeO Tislevoll

How to solve this and similar situations depends on agreements. Personally, I like always "overleads" (highest from sequences) with length - so here the ♦️A is led from the ♦️AK.
So, a King lead against a suit contract is in my method promising the King and denying the Ace,  except when you continue with the Ace at trick two. That is an unusual play, and tells partner you have ♦️A-K doubleton.
As this is now clear, it is a shift situation (as you can't continue the suit, of course).
Therefore, at trick two, South should give Suit Preference, so, if he has an entry, he can get in and give a ruff.
Here South will play the ♦️5 or ♦️2 (also depending on agreements) to the first trick, and when North reveals he has A-K doubleton in diamonds, South plays the ♦️J -  suit preference, asking for a shift to the higher-ranked of the two other suits. North shifts to a heart to the ♥️A and gives his partner a diamond ruff for one down.     

Matt Smith.png

Matt Smith

If your partnership leads ♦️A from ♦️AK

With the ♦️Q visible in dummy, the ♦️K lead is from ♦️AK doubleton. We should play the ♦️J and the ♦️5 to try to tell partner we have the ♥️A. 

If your partnership leads Ace for attitude, King for count
Play ♦️J trick one. Playing the ♦️J looks risky as a signal, but it cannot cost a trick here. When playing reverse count, it is incredibly important here to signal with the ♦️J first NOT the ♦️5.

Signalling ♦️J first gives you the freedom to signal suit preference next with the ♦️5 (high) or the ♦️2 (low).
Signalling♦️5 first heavily restricts you on the next round.


Joan Butts

Playing the correct card for partner on opening lead (here the ♦️K followed by the ♦️A), allows us to help partner know what to do next. The boys all agree that seeing the ♦️Q in dummy makes up wake up and realise partner is trying to tell us that they have a doubleton. Whether or not you play the ♦️J at trick one or two, you must show partner with this card that you want a switch to the higher-ranked suit, hearts.

Related Workbook

The Defence Workbook contains hands analysis and lesson tips and tricks.

Test your knowledge

The quiz below may not work properly on some mobile devices. If you are having trouble using it, please click here to open the quiz in its own window.