Suit Preference Signals

Seven Methods to Improve
Your Discards

 

By Ron Lien

D22 President

 

The key to suit preference signals is to agree with your partner when they apply. As defender you have to decide when it is right to signal your partner knowing declarer is watching. False carding is certainly allowed, for example when your partner cannot get in. The following seven methods start with the basics and end with advanced agreements. Defenders in these examples use upside down discards (low encourages, high discourages) and count (echo with odd, up the line with even).

Other suit preference signals are standard – high for the higher suit and low for the lower suit.

 

1. First Discard

For ACBL events, defenders are only allowed to use suit preference discards on their first discard.

North

♠8743

KQ87

106

♣A74

West                                   East

♠AJ92                                ♠K5

542                                  J1063

J9853                               Q72

♣5                                      ♣QJ62

South

♠Q106

A9

AK4

♣K10983

 

Auction:

          South     West      North     East

           1NT       Pass        2♣        Pass

             2        Pass       3NT       Pass

            Pass      Pass            

Opening lead: 3

 

After the 3 lead is won by declarer’s K, a club is led to the ace followed by a low club. East is allowed to win the ♣J, but West discards the discouraging 8, asking for a spade to beat the contract. From East’s vantage point, partner may have led from AJxxx, which could be shown with a high spade discard. The discouraging (high) diamond leads East to the winning defense of the ♠K and ♠5.

2. Dead Suit Discards

A dead suit is one in which the defense cannot win any more tricks.

 

North

♠A643

AQ

J973

♣J106

West                                   East

♠9                                      ♠K102

KJ9753                            1082

AQ10                               8742

♣753                                  ♣982

South

♠QJ875

64

K6

♣AKQ4

 

Auction:

          South     West      North      East

             1♠         2          3        Pass

             4♠       Pass        Pass      Pass

Opening lead: 5

 

With the heart lead the defense can see there are no tricks in hearts, the dead suit. After the ♠A and a spade, East wins the king. West discards the K to ask for the higher suit, diamonds, to hold the contract to four. If West holds the ♣AQ, the 3 is the correct discard

 

3. Second Card after Count

hen declarer leads a suit in which the defender holds at least three cards, the second card played indicates the suit preference for the two remaining suits.

 

North

♠K104

QJ73

86

♣KJ57

West                                     East

♠Q75                                    ♠982

K108                                  A542

K10542                              Q73

♣98                                      ♣1063

South

♠AJ63

96

AJ9

♣AQ42

 

Auction:

          South     West      North      East

           1NT        Pass      3NT       Pass

           Pass        Pass

Opening lead: 4

 

After the low diamond lead is won by the ace, declarer leads a spade to the king and finesses, losing to the ♠Q – the safe hand. East gives upside down count with the ♠9 showing an odd number of cards and then shows the heart entry with the ♠8, the highest of two remaining spades. A heart to the ace and a diamond return beats 3NT. Following with the ♠2 would show the ♣A. Partner will have an ace here unless the 1NT opener had only 14 hcp. In some cases, playing the lower card shows no preference.

 

4. Giving Partner a Ruff

When you expect partner to ruff a suit, you lead with suit preference to that trick.

North

♠Q6

KJ98

Q52

♣QJ64

West                                        East

♠J9754                                    ♠1082

Q                                          5432

A109                                     J8743

♣AK95                                    ♣8

South

♠AK3

A1076

K6

♣10732

Auction:

          South     West     North       East

            1♣        Pass       1♥          Pass

            2       Pass       2NT        Pass

            4       Pass       Pass        Pass

Opening lead: ♣A or ♣K

West starts with the ♣AK and then leads the ♣5 to show an entry in the lower suit, diamonds, for the second ruff. The ♣9 would show a spade card

 

5. Playing Third Seat from AK

The order in which you play from an A-K combination is often showing suit preference. Playing king then ace shows either no preference or the lower of two suits, neither this suit nor trump.

 

North

♠876

K65

QJ93

♣J106

West                                    East

♠10                                    ♠AK9542

Q1074                             AJ93

86542                              10

♣A75                                ♣98

South

♠QJ3

82

AK7

♣KQ432

 

Auction:

         South      West       North     East

                                                      1♠

          1NT        Pass       Pass       Pass

 

Opening lead: ♠10

West leads a spade. By winning the ace and then the king, East asks for the higher suit, hearts. West asks for the club lead with the “upside down” ♣5, so West can lead the Q.

6. Trump Suit Preference

When leading or following to the trump suit you can often give suit preference as long as you don’t give up a trump trick.

North

♠Q5

972

J973

♣KQ102

West                                    East

♠98432                               ♠KJ1076

AJ3                                  Q1084

862                                   1054

♣93                                    ♣A

South

♠A

K86

AKQ

♣J87654

Auction:

        South       West      North       East

         1♣           Pass      1NT        DBL

         2♣            3♠         4♣          Pass

        Pass         Pass

 

Opening lead: ♠3

After the opening spade lead, declarer leads a club. Assuming West has at least two clubs, playing the ♣9 first shows cards in the higher suit, hearts. If West plays the ♣3, that would indicate no preference or cards in diamonds.

 

7. No More Tricks in a Suit

Against a suit contract when it becomes obvious the defenders can win no more tricks in a side suit, one or both defenders should give suit preference. Partner will give suit preference for the two remaining suits outside trump.

 

North

♠A643

KQ

Q1097

♣J109

West                                    East

♠9                                       ♠Q102

AJ1032                            98642

J65                                   843

♣A654                               ♣K8

South

♠KJ875

7

AK2

♣Q732

 

Auction:

         South     West       North       East

           1♠         2            3♥           4

           4♠         Pass        Pass        Pass

 

Opening Lead: A

 

On the A lead East plays the 2, showing a club card. A low club to the ♣K and the ♣8 back to West’s ♣A for a club ruff defeats the game.

 

Partnership

If you aren’t currently playing some of these suit preference methods, give them a try with a partner who watches the cards, and can play in tempo.

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