The origin of these leads and plays remains unknown, but it is strongly rumored that they evolved through a necessity of one player of a partnership to lead or play a certain card in order to wake him up to a certain defense tactic, which would / could possibly defeat the contract.

Although not an official bridge term or designation this feature of the game utilized by the defense players to wake up partner, to alert partner, to warn partner via a signal can be employed effectively if the signaled partner indeed understands the lead or a certain play during the game.

Even if the partner is truly attentive, then such a tactic can be utilized in a manner that the partner quickly becomes fully aware and attentive to the unusual lead or play, become prepared for a definite action, defense, and even protection possibly presented and prepared by the declaring player and/or the signaling partner.

     
     

Examples

It is only through examples that the concept of such carding truly becomes clear to the bridge player. The American Contract Bridge League presents such an alarm clock lead in the following illustration:

  North  
Declarer  
Dummy
J87
65
K973
KQ62
 
You
643
A43
108642
A7
 
South (D)   West   North   East
Pass   1   3   3
4   4   All Pass
Lead: 2

Analysis

North's 3 Hearts showed a weak hand and a long suit (typically seven of them, occasionally only six). It is a preemptive bid designed to disrupt the enemy auction. Nonetheless, East/West achieve a 4 Spade contract and partner (North) leads the 2 of Hearts, which you win with the Ace, Declarer following with the 8 of Hearts. Question: does anything seem odd about partner's opening lead?

Have you figured out partner's holding in the Heart suit? Surely not, it is impossible since the lead makes no sense. Partner's 2 of Hearts is clearly non-standard. The lead cannot be 4th best when he is known from the bidding to have at least a 6-card suit nor is it top of a sequence (as in King from KQJ). What is he up to? The answer is that he issuing a wake-up call requesting you to think outside the box. He does not want you routinely to continue Hearts, since he has something else in mind. What could that be?

Partner wants you to do something a little out of the ordinary, and the only explanation is that he can ruff a minor suit! But which one? Surely not Clubs, that would give Declarer seven of them. Partner must be void in Diamonds! Take a look at the full diagram:

 
North
52
KQJ10972
--
9854
 
Declarer
AKQ109
8
AQJ5
J103
 
Dummy
J87
65
K973
KQ62
 
You
643
A43
108642
A7
 

North's alarm clock lead, as it is known, alerts you to the winning defense. A Diamond shift is ruffed at Trick 2, then a Club returned to your Ace, after which North gets a second ruff. Down one! Those alarm clock leads won't come up very often, but they are great fun when they do.

Additional Side Note: After getting that first Diamond ruff, how did North know that you had an entry with the ♣ Ace, and that there was a second Diamond ruff to be had?

When you were giving North the first ruff, you had a choice of Diamonds you could lead back, allowing you to make a suit preference signal:

- A low Diamond says: return the lower-ranking side-suit, namely Clubs
- A high Diamond says: return the higher-ranking side-suit, in this case Hearts.
- A middling Diamond indicates no preference.

If you had returned a high or middling Diamond at Trick 2, then North would have taken her ruff and, abandoning hope for a second ruff, would have reverted to Hearts.

Note: Since alarm clock leads and plays are not officially recognized by the regular sponsoring organization of tournament bridge, they continue to be an integral feature of defending and carding. There is no law, rule, or guideline, which states that such leads and plays are not allowed, not permitted, or will be met with a penalty.

Note: For other examples and illustrations of such leads and plays the student of bridge can search online.

 

 

If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.

 


     
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