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Obvious Suit Preference Signal - In situations when normal signals have no useful value, clearly the defenders should use an alternative signaling method. 

The prerequisites for obvious suit preference signals are:


When partner is anticipated to win the suit led and upon analysis of the rank (high/low magnitude) of the leader's card, a high/low suit switch is likely to allow leader to win tricks by ruffing, onside finesses, etc.


Never the suit led


Always in side suits, never trump


Never a long side suit bid by declarer


Never a significant side suit disclosed by declarer during bidding, except in Notrump contracts when the defense is found to have a longer aggregate suit (7+ cards)

Circumstances where attitude or count signals are valueless in a suit include:


After opening lead, the dummy is found to either immediately control the suit or will control the suit after the first trick.  Examples of subsequent trick control includes singletons, K x when Ace is led, and top honor sequences as K Q J x.

Of course one exception is when declarer is in a trump contracts where dummy has a long suit and defense has an opportunity to ruff the suit


When a normal suit preference signal points to side suit controlled by Dummy, either by shortage or top honor sequences as K Q J or Q J 10 [x]


Declarer has or is anticipated to pitch on the suit led (losers on losers)

Considerations for correct obvious suit preference suit:


Defender leads or plays a high/low ranking card asking for high/low suit switch


Potentially opening leader or partner have bid the suit


Often suits not bid by the declarer or dummy


Frequently the declarer's weak 3+ card side suit in hand or dummy


When the dummy exposes weakness:


Partner Behind Dummy

J x x [x]

A or K

Q x x [x]

A or K

K x x [x]

A or Q

A x x [x]

K or Q

Lastly, a not-so-obvious suit preference switch signal may be called for when partner plays an artificially and unexpectedly high ranking card on the suit led.  Example:

  Q J 10 9
A Q 10 2
A 10 9 2
7 5
6 5 4
A K J 6 4 3
8 7

Contract: 4 Hearts

A K 3
9 8 7
Q 9 7 2
6 5 4
  8 6 4 2
K J 3
10 8
K Q J 3

  W N E S
  2D X 4D 4H

West begins with the DA and the defenders are disappointed to see dummy comes down with a singleton.  East's 4D preemptive raise shows good Diamond support so West knows East can easily make a obvious suit preference signal, low for a Club switch or high for a Heart switch.  Certainly a D9 or D7 by East will cause West to switch to a Heart, particularly noting the dummy tenaces. 

However, if East unexpectedly plays the DQ, then West should pause and consider the alternatives for an unlikely switch - in this case to the Spade, even though dummy will eventually setup the Spades.  West is also enthusiastic to lead a Spade from a doubleton, hoping for a Spade ruff to set the contract after East cashes two Spades.

Also see Details on signaling and books on Leads

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