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Defence Signalling

From David Schokman

Writers often claim that defence is the most important part of bridge as we defend twice as much as we do anything else. Being dummy is best and when you are dummy you can relax and should avoid trying to play the hand which your partner is doing so competently. If you had ever watched Tim Seres, and probably any other good player, you would see that they turn off completely when they are dummy. After 66 years of playing bridge I still have not achieved this calm serenity which is so important to winning bridge! Obviously you have to get your bidding right before anything else and then agree on your carding. The problem is that it is not always 100 clear and we sometimes need to be innovative in our signalling and hope that partner gets the picture. McKenney helps. Most competent players read signals well so try and make it easy for partner to read what you are trying to say. This was an interesting deal with both sides being able to make nine tricks on best defence.

South Deals
Both Vul
K 9 6
Q 5 3
K 8 6
8 7 6 2
A 7 4
A 9 8 7
9 5 2
K 9 5
J 10 8 5 3 2
10 7 3
A J 10 4
K J 10 6 4 2
A Q J 4
Q 3

The results show, very clearly, that we all march to the beat of a different bidding drum. You get the very cautious, the aggressive and the foolish! However, in the end it boils down to your decision and is based on style and partnership agreement. This deal has issues and there will be no consensus. South will open the bidding with 1H and north will certainly bid 2H, assuming that they are playing Standard or Precision. We will go with 2H as the bid. You are east. Do you bid 2S or do you pass? Will your decision change if you are playing imps or match points? The vulnerability is probably wrong, but one thing that you do know is that north does not have four spades, and that any outstanding trumps are with your partner, so she/he could hold some valuable assets. Many people were allowed to play in 2H but 25 percent bid to 4H. What is my choice? Certainly to bid 2S in any type of game even though it is a horrible hand, particularly if partner has to lead a way from the doubleton king of spades, and hopes to get a ruff! So you take your advice from one of our expert players, and I will still stick my neck out on this bidding sequence.

Over 2S, south will bid 3H, some of them bidding to four. Now you hop into the west seat. What do you do? Partner has made a vulnerable overcall after a limited response by north. Your partner almost certainly must/should have six cards for this overcall, and has, without doubt, no more than a singleton heart. Your king of clubs looks good with the opening bid on your right. Do you bid, do you pass or do you double? Your heart suit could only bring in one trick and there are lots of losers to cover. Sticking my neck out again I would bid 4S which, as the cards lie, should be defeated by one trick. Then again, if south leads a heart the contract should now make, though the one pair that bid 4S were defeated on the heart lead, probably by taking the club finesse against north.

Then you might decide to double as you certainly have two certain tricks, and possibly a third with your club king. Surely you partner must have a trick or two for this vulnerable overcall.

So you double and confidently lay down the ace of spades. You see the king in dummy and declarer drops the queen of spades - certainly a singleton. Your partner has dropped the deuce of spades and your style is low encourage. Pause for a moment - pauses are so important - and think what cards does partner need to defeat 4H? The ace and queen of diamonds are the perfect cards but does partner have them? No, on his discard he cannot have them, and that is where we have to analyse a signal which does not really mean what it says in the true systemic way. Why would partner want a spade back when the king is staring at us from dummy? The spade would allow an immediate discard of a loser. So what suit does partner want back? If he had wanted a diamond the discard would certainly have been a high spade, the eight, but you can actually spare the knave, to make certain of the signal. Make it easy for partner.

So even if your signalling is "low encourage" on this deal the deuce of spades must say, "I want a club": it might even say, "I demand it".


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