ACBL13 – Defense: Attitude & Count                  Ward Trumbull

                                                         Signals                                     Aug 22, 2002

                                                                                                               Page 1 of 5


      The first step towards good defense is structured opening leads.  Therefore I suggest you should review ACBL07 - Opening Leads.  If your opening leads are willy-nilly then your overall defense will likewise be willy-nilly.  Your partner must know what your defense intentions are.


      The second step is to watch which card signals your partner plays.  It could be as simple as paying attention, or as expensive as buying a new pair of glasses.


      I will be quoting from Eddie Kantar’s book “Modern Bridge Defense”.  In this excellent book Chapter 1 is “Leads Against Notrump”, and Chapter 2 is “Leads against Suit Contracts”.


      Two keywords on defense strategy are ATTITUDE and COUNT.  Just remembering these two concepts will vastly improve your game.


             Attitude Signals - The card you play in partners lead suit indicates

                                         either an encouraging signal or a discouraging


                                             High Card - Encouraging

                                             Low Card  - Discouraging


             Count Signals   -  The card you play in the lead suit (partner or

                                         declarer) indicates the number of cards you have

                                         in the suit being lead.

                                             Low Card           - An odd number in that suit

                                             Next to low card - An even number in that suit.


Kantar on Attitude Signals



      Attitude signals are far and away the most common defense signal.  Whenever PARTNER LEADS AN HONOR (a common lead), you are expected to give an attitude signal.  A relatively high spot card is an encouraging signal and a relatively low spot card is a discouraging signal.


                       ACBL13 – Defense: Attitude & Count         Aug 22, 2002

                                                                          Signals                           Page 2 of 5


Kantar on Attitude Signals (continued)



   .  What is the ‘relatively’ all about?


      Well, if partner leads a suit you don’t like, you play your lowest card.  On the other hand, if partner leads a suit you do like, you play the highest spot card you can afford.  However, if you have the Q 3 2, then the 3 is the highest card you can afford.


      Alas, we come to the awful conclusion that you cannot always tell what partner’s attitude is by looking ONLY at the card partner played.  You sometimes have to look UNDER-THAT-CARD.  What are you looking for under there?  You are looking to see if any lower spot cards are missing.  If they are, partner is probably signaling encouragement.  However, if you can see every spot card lower than partner’s between the dummy, your hand and the card declarer played, then partner’s card is discouraging no matter how “high” it is.


      Example:                            North (dummy)

                                                 Spades 4 3 2

                        West (you)                                    East (partner)

                        Spades K Q 9 6                            Spade 7

                                                 South (declarer)

                                                 Spade 5


      You lead the spade king against a heart contract, partner plays the spade 7 and declarer plays the spade 5.  Is partner’s 7 encouraging (showing an honor or doubleton) or is it discouraging showing you neither?  Since you can see all spots lower than the 7 (dummy 2,3,4 – declarer 5 – your 6), it must be discouraging.  The actual distribution is:


                                                 4 3 2

                                    K Q 9 6            10 8 7

                                                 A J 5


                       ACBL13 – Defense: Attitude & Count         Aug 22, 2002

                                                                          Signals                           Page 3 of 5


Kantar on Attitude Signals (continued)



      The declarer is trying a Bathe Coups by not taking the Ace.  If you continue the suit, he will get both the Ace and the Jack.


      The answer to most signaling questions can be resolved by remembering the bidding and twisting your neck a bit to look at dummy.


Kantar on Count Signals



      The COUNT SIGNAL tells partner (and declarer) how many cards you have in the suit being lead.  Once your partner knows how many cards you have, he also knows how many cards the declarer has.


      It is important not to confuse the Attitude Signal and the Count Signal.


                   Attitude Signal - Given when partner leads an honor card.


                   Count Signal   - Given when:


                                            1. Declarer or dummy initiates a new suit.

                                            2. Partner leads a suit and it is quite clear from

                                                dummy’s holding or declarer play that you

                                                don’t have an honor.


      When giving a count signal, play high-low with a doubleton, but not necessarily with an honor doubleton.  More often than not, the honor should be saved.







                       ACBL13 – Defense: Attitude & Count         Aug 22, 2002

                                                                          Signals                           Page 4 of 5



Kantar on Count Signals (continued)



      Giving a count signal is very important when dummy has a strong suit missing the Ace or King.


                Example:                           North (dummy)

                                                          K Q J 9 4

                                West (partner)                               East (you)

                                 a) 2                                               A 8 6

                                 b) 7

                                                          South (declarer)



               When declarer leads the 5, you need to know if he has two or

               three cards in the suit.  If he has two, you should hold off your

               ace one time.  If he has three, you must hold up your ace till the

               third lead.  


                         a) Partners 2 indicates an odd number, or three cards.

                             Therefore declarer has two.


                         b) Partner’s 7 indicates a high-low signal, or two or four

                             cards. Therefore declarer has three or one.















                       ACBL13 – Defense: Attitude & Count         Aug 22, 2002

                                                                          Signals                           Page 5 of 5


Rules of Touching Honors



      First of all, what is meant by ‘touching honors’?  Two-or-more honors in the same suit that are sequentially adjacent are called touching honors.



                                          A K

                                          K Q   

                                          Q J 10


      The rule is that you lead from the top and follow suit from the bottom.

Suppose that declarer is in a heart contract, and you have one of the above sets of touching honors in diamonds.  Opening lead or later from either defender, you should lead the ace from A K, king from K Q or queen from Q J 10.


      However, if someone else leads diamonds (partner, dummy or declarer), you should play the lower of the touching honors.  That is, king from A K, queen from K Q, or ten from Q J 10.


      Let’s see how the latter could pay off on defense.  Against that heart contract partner leads a small diamond indicating a diamond honor.


                            A K      - Playing the king suggests that you have the ace.

                                          Playing the ace indicates that declarer has the



                            K Q      - Playing the queen suggests you have the king.

                                          Playing the king indicates that declarer has the



                            Q J 10  - Playing the 10 (which will force declarer’s ace

                                           or king) tells partner that you have the Q J.

                                           Playing the queen indicates that declarer has

                                           the jack, and the 10 location is unknown.