There are many ways to indicate, show, promise and inform a partner by the lead of a certain card or via a discard of a specific card the expectation of the ensuing play. These defense signals have a definite meaning and belong in every partnership agreement. These different leads and/or discards have been posted separately on this site and should be reviewed.
The purpose of this web page is to give the reader a short summary of the different approaches, which a partnership may employ. This summary does not include every possible lead, defensive signal, and/or discard method, rather only those which frequency is higher than usual for the general partnership.
General Rules of Defensive Signals
1. When following to a suit or when discarding in a suit, the relative spot of a card is used to send signals.
2. Signals are usually given with cards from the Two spot to the Nine spot.
3. A signal can be, with a high frequency, interpreted:
A. From the bidding.
B. From the cards visible in the dummy.
C. From the cards held in your hand.
4. It is sometimes necessary, if not prudent, to wait until partner plays to the second round in a suit to fully understand a signal.
5. It is not always appropriate to signal, especially with a strong defensive hand.
6. It is not mandatory to follow your partner’s signals when it is deemed not suitable given the context of a hand.
7. It is generally profitable to signal as much as possible against less experienced players.
8. It is strongly recommended to always signal on the opening lead.
The attitude signal indicates the level of interest toward the suit, in which the signal is given. Common practice include positive and negative attitude signals.
1. A relatively high card shows positive attitude toward the suit being led.
2. Or a relatively low card shows negative attitude toward the suit being led.
3. An echo is a positive attitude signal consisting in a high card followed as soon as possible with a lower card.
Coded Nines and Tens
1. Coded Nines and Tens leads are used against No Trump contracts.
2. The lead of a Ten promises the Jack plus another non-consecutive higher-ranking honor or shows top of a sequence without a higher-ranking honor.
3. The lead of a Nine promises the Ten plus another non-consecutive higher-ranking honor or shows top of a sequence without a higher-ranking honor.
The count signal is used to show the number of cards held in a suit being led.
1. A relatively high card shows an even number of cards in a suit being led.
2. A relatively low card shows an odd number of cards in a suit being led.
Count is given by playing:
1. High-Low from two cards.
2. Low from three or five cards.
3. Second-high followed with Third-high from four cards.
Journalist or Lead of an Honor Against No Trump
Each lead of an honor has a special meaning:
A. The lead of a Jack denies a higher-ranking honor.
B. The lead of a Ten promises the Ace, the King or the Queen.
C. The lead of a Nine promises the Ten or no higher-ranking honor or a doubleton. For example: lead the Eight from 987.
D. The lead of an Ace shows AKJxx or AKQ10x or AK109x.
E. The lead of a King shows Ace-King or King-Queen.
F. The lead of a Queen shows QJ10 or KQ109 and requests unblocking the Jack when held.
Advantages: Journalist leads eliminate the ambiguity of leading from the top of inner sequences. For example: lead of the Jack from KJ109.
1. A relatively low card shows a preference for the suit ranking immediately below the suit being discarded. For example: Clubs ask for Spades.
2. A relatively high card shows a preference for the suit ranking immediately above the suit being discarded. For example: Spades ask for Clubs.
1. Allows suggesting a shift to a given suit from two other suits.
2. Avoids wasting a high card in a suit you wish your partner to shift.
3. Reduces the possibility of false carding by declarer.
MUD means Middle-Up-Down when leading from xxx and xxxx, with or without a useful honor card. MUD Leads do not apply to suits bid by your partner during the auction.
This method is a lead convention in which the original lead from three small cards is the middle one, followed by the higher card. This particular lead applies to all suits, but possibly more so if the suit of partner is a Major suit.
Reverse Signals or UDCA
The designation is an abbreviation of the actual action referenced by the card played: Upside Down Count and Attitude
1. A relatively low card encourages the continuation of a suit being led
2. A relatively high card discourages the continuation of a suit being led.
1. Avoids wasting a high card to signal positive attitude in a suit.
2. Reduces the possibility of false carding by declarer.
Roman Discards – Odd / Even
1. An odd discard encourages continuation of a suit being led.
2. An even discard discourages continuation of a suit being led.
3. A relatively high even-card suggests a shift to the higher-ranking suit other than the trump suit.
4. A relatively low even-card suggests a shift to the lower-ranking suit other than the trump suit.
Advantages: When wishing the continuation of a suit, but lacking an odd card to encourage, the attempt to give a preference signal would appear inconsistent.
Rusinow Leads or Journalist Leads
Lead the second higher-ranking honor from a sequence of two or more honors. Applies only against suit contracts in suits not declared by your partner during the auction. Leads other than the opening lead are standard.
Advantages: Reduces the ambiguity of leads from Ace-King or King-Queen.
Definition contributed by Mr. Stephen Tu. A defense signal mechanism devised by Mr. Anders Wirgren, and which uses standard or upside-down attitude signals depending on the situation, in an attempt to retain the advantages of each while not taking on the disadvantages.
Standard signals fail when a clear signal might waste a critical spot card. Upside-Down signals fail when a clear signal might block a suit. The basic principle of Scanian signals is to use Upside-Down signals when the dummy contains a card which can be finessed, or when it is presumed that the signaling player is long in the suit and declarer short, or when discarding. Standard signals are used otherwise. Several examples are illustrated below.
Hearts AK105 Hearts Q83
The object is to use normal signals unless the dummy contains a card, which can be finessed. Once the Ace or King is lead, East signals “upside-down” with the Hearts3. West will then lead the Hearts10.
Hearts 873 Hearts KQ104
Lead is the Hearts8, or top of nothing, and the dummy plays Hearts Ace. To signal encouragingly in third seat, the play of the Hearts4 is necessary.
Hearts KQ954 Hearts A102
The contract is No Trump and the lead is Hearts King. The Scanian signals in this example are standard and the Hearts10 is played, which simultaneously encourages and unblocks. If the upside-down carding were used, then either the suit would be blocked or the Hearts10 may be interpreted as discouraging.
Signaling with Touching Honors
Contributed by Cornelia Yoder.
Whenever you have two or more touching honors, they are equal in value, so either can be used to signal.
a. When you are winning the trick, play the lowest of touching honors.
b. When you are following to a trick that you cannot win, play the highest of touching honors.
The play of an honor when not winning the trick has special meaning.
a. It denies the card above it.
b. It shows the card below it (unless it is a singleton or clear unblocking play).
For example, holding the QJ10 and partner leads low:
a. If dummy wins the Ace, play the Queen, denying the King and showing the Jack.
b. If dummy plays low, play the 10, denying the 9.
Smith Echo Signal
A card signal, showing attitude, at the first opportunity by the partner of the opening leader against a No Trump contract indicating the attitude for the opening leader’s suit. This signaling feature is attributed to Mr. T. R. H. Lyons of England, although Mr. I. G. Smith of England suggested the same principle in the British Bridge World magazine in December 1963 issue.
The preference signal is used to show a preference for one of the two suits outside the trump suit and the suit being led.
1. A relatively high card shows a preference for the higher-ranking suit outside the trump suit and the suit being led.
2. A relatively low card shows a preference for the lower-ranking suit outside the trump suit and the suit being led.
Precedence When Signaling
1. When following to a suit led by your partner:
A. Signal attitude with the first card.
B. Signal preference with the second card.
2. When following to a suit led by the declarer:
A. Signal count with the first card.
B. Signal preference with the second card.
3. When discarding in an suit not yet led:
A. Signal attitude with the first card.
B. Signal present count with the second card.
4. When discarding in a suit already led:
A. Signal present count.
Trump Suit Preference
This is a signal by the defenders employed when the declarer first plays the trump suit. If the player plays a high trump, then this signal shows interest in the higher-ranking non-trump suit. If the player plays a low trump, then this signal shows interest in the lower-ranking non-trump suit.
For example, if Diamonds constitute the trump suit, then when declarer plays the first trump card, then from a holding of 952 the play of the 9 is asking for a switch to the next higher-ranking non-trump suit, or Hearts. If the 2 is played, then this signal is requesting a switch to the next lower-ranking non-trump suit, or Clubs. In the case that the trump suit is Spades, then the next higher-ranking non-trump suit is Clubs and the next lower-ranking non-trump suit is Hearts.
Such a signal is not confined to the declarer playing the first card of the trump suit according to the publication Easy Guide to Defensive Signals by Mr. Julian Pottage. In this publication he states that the partnership is free to apply this trump suit preference signal when the player on lead also leads the trump suit. The conclusion is that the partnership must decide and mutually agree.