At this past Saturday’s game at the club, the North hand had an AVERAGE 13.02 HCP and so Peter Shwartz and I, playing East/West, had plenty of opportunities to practice our defense. I, playing West, picked up the following hand:
The bidding proceeded as follows:
I led the obvious lead of the ♦A and the dummy below came down:
Peter then played the ♦2 declarer following low. What was Peter trying to tell me? (We play upside-down count attitude signals).
Typically, partner’s obligation when you lead the Ace of a suit is to give an attitude signal, but there are several exceptions to this, this hand illustrating one of them: when the dummy shows up with the protected Queen, there is typically little point in continuing the suit, since the play of the King will just promote dummy’s Queen to winning rank. An attitude signal is useless here and so Peter’s signal defaults to the 2nd signal in the signalling hierarchy — count. So the ♦2, playing upside-down count, gave EVEN count (HoLe — HIGH odd, LOW even). But which is it? Did Peter start with 2, 4 or 6 diamonds?
Well, it can’t be 6 since else declarer would have ruffed but did not. 2 or 4? Sometimes this is a tricky determination to make but here it is easy. I know from the bidding the Peter is void in hearts and so if he had only 2 diamonds, he would have been 6-5 in spades and clubs and certainly would have bid something. Moreover, even if for some reason, he did not bid this 6-5 hand, he has no hearts and so there is no point trying to give him a ruff. I might as well assume he has 4, not 2, diamonds.
I’m still on lead. What do I do next?
Since Peter has 4 diamonds, declarer has another diamond and so I am at a grave risk of allowing the declarer to quickly promote the diamond Queen on the board. It’s time to “go active” and try to promote our tricks before declarer can promote hers. So I must shift — but to what? Spades or clubs?
If partner has the KQJx of spades, I must knock out declarer’s spade Ace right now; but if partner has AJ(10)x of clubs, I don’t have to act immediately as I will get back in the with the ♦K soon enough. So a spade shift is best. I shift to the ♠6, my middle spade, planning to play the ♠8 on the next round of the suit to show 3 of them (MUD — middle up down to show 3 without an honor in the middle of the hand).
Dummy ducks, Peter plays the ♠9 and declarer the ♠A.
Now declarer plays the inevitable ♦9, dummy following low and Peter playing the ♦5. What do I do after winning the ♦K? The following cards remain between my hand and dummy:
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Continue reading “The Many Faces of the Suit Preference Signal”