Polling You 65, Bridge Defense, Attitude and Signals – Part 1


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Good defenders make use of numerous tactics to ensure they take all their tricks.   Top among the favorites include:

1. Opening Leads – For better or worse, the opening lead often determines the outcome of the hand.  And while no one always makes perfect leads, the players who make the best lead most of the time score more tricks in the long run.

2. Third Hand Play: Signals – After partner has led, in third seat there’s far more to the game than remembering the general axiom “third hand – high.”  Aside from the third hand’s duty to immediately take tricks, good players always strive to effectively communicate various signals with their partner using an assortments of signals depending on the situation at hand.

3. Playing on Opponents Lead: Possible Signals –  Even when the opponents have lead, in either second or fourth seat on occasion we have the opportunity to communicate with partner using signals.

4. Inferences: Bidding, Play, Hand Evaluation – Entire Bridge libraries have been written about the plethora of logical deductions associated with evaluating one’s assets and deducing other players cards (honors and length) based on everyone’s bidding and play.

Opening Leads

  1. Top of Honor Sequence 
  2. Ace from Ace-King, etc. 
  3. Count: Fourth Best, Top of Doubleton, etc. 
  4. “BOS-TON” Bottom Of ‘Something’ – Top Of ‘Nothing’ (promise an honor) 
  5. Lead Partner’s Suit

Third Hand Play

  1. Analyze Partner’s Lead 
  2. Win – Lowest of Equals (bottom of sequence) 
  3. If Unable to Win, Show Attitude/Count/Suit Preference 
  4. Dummy Becomes “Boss,” Count or Suit Preference 

Special Situations – Unblock, Underlead Request, etc.

Polling You 65, Hand 1

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul
♠ K J 4
8 7 4
K J 9
♣ J 10 8 7
♠ 6 5
A K 6 5
4 3 2
♣ 9 4 3 2
♠ 9 8 7
Q 9 3
A Q 10 8
♣ Q 6 5
♠ A Q 10 3 2
J 10 2
7 6 5
♣ A K

West North East South
1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ All pass

Trick West North East South
1. W A 4 3 10
2. W 2 9 10 5
3. E K 7 9 2
4. W 3 J Q 6
5. E 4 K A 7
6. E 5 8 Q J

South opens 1 Spade with a reasonable 14 High Card Point hand and working honors.  North signs off in 2 Spades with nice supporting Spades but questionable Hearts and Clubs and more concerns with 4333 shape.

On lead, West begins with the Heart Ace from Ace-King and takes a peek at the dummy.  While East holds the helpful Heart Queen, East really wants a switch to Diamonds.  So East responds with the Heart 3, wanting a switch.  Looking at the dummy, West deduces finessing through dummy’s Diamond tenaces is the best option.  East happily wins with the Diamond 10 (lowest of equals) and returns a Heart to East’s waiting King.  Returning a second Diamond East wins 2 more Diamonds and cashes the Heart Queen setting South by 1 trick.  If East errs on trick 1 and plays an inviting Heart 9, the declarer will win 5 Spades and up to 4 Clubs – Club Ace, Club King, low Spade to dummy Jack, ruff third Club with East forced to play Queen, win 2 more Spades ending in dummy, winning Club Jack and pitching loser in South’s hand.

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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,



  1. Charles Lawson says:

    Since you didn’t specify whether this polling you was a suit or notrump contract I’m assuming a suit contract so attitude would be my choice. The 10 could have an entirely different meaning in a notrump contract depending on partnership agreements. At notrump I play the lead of a King asks for count.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello Charles,
      Thank you for sharing your views. Yes, in fact some play the lead of “King to ask count” and “Ace for attitude” for both Notrump AND suit contracts. Even for those not playing this method, a problem exists when dummy holds the Queen-length (with 3 pieces) and opening leader begins with the Ace from Ace-King. Let’s say the suit splits 6-3-2-2. In this situation, partner’s signal in third seat should show count even for those who lead the Ace and don’t play “King for count.” Otherwise, declarer might pitch a side suit loser on the third round of play to dummy’s Queen. Even worse, the suit might split 7-3-2-1 again with Queen-third in the dummy. In that scenario, if partner leads Ace and continues with the King it will be ruffed and dummy’s Queen is promoted.
      So yes, whether playing the lead of “King for Count – Ace for Attitude” or even when dummy has Queen-length, the third hand play of a 10 (etc.) may have special significance with players who have such agreements.
      Regards, Michael
  2. BridgeHands says:
    Hello Bridge Pollsters,
    So, how is your attitude (signals) at the Bridge table? On our first installment of our series on opening leads, our poll asks:
    On lead, you begin with the King holding K-Q-J-x-x. The dummy wins with the Ace from A-8-2. Partner plays the 10. What is the meaning of partner’s signal?
    The responses were:
    5 percent – Discourage suit continuation
    63 percent – Encourage suit continuation
    8 percent – Promise the 9, request you to underlead to partner’s 9
    5 percent – Show an odd number of cards in the suit
    20 percent – High card asks for a switch to a high ranking suit
    Most agree that typically a lead from a top of a sequence, partner’s signal on the card shows attitude (up = like, down = frown) on a suit. Of course, in Bridge as in life there are typically a few exceptions to the rule. For those who play the lead of an Ace or Queen asks “attitude” while a King asks for “count” then they will adjust their leads and third hand play.
    Ditto when the declarer is playing in a TRUMP suit and it’s clear the dummy will soon ruff partner’s lead. In that situation, many will play the magnitude of the player in the third seat will show *suit preference* – a high card asks for a HIGH suit, while a low card asks for a switch to a LOW suit. Ah, the joy of Bridge players who simply love to communicate!
    And as we will see in the lesson, advanced players would understand that against a suit contract the lead of the Ace from Ace-King, when third seat partner plays a Queen it absolutely promises the Jack and asks partner to underlead their King. This allows third seat partner to come first seat partner in another suit, hopefully finessing the declarer in a side suit before they pull trump and pitch those side suit losers in a promotable dummy suit. Cool, eh?
    Okay, look for more videos and polls in the coming weeks!
    Happy Bridge Trails,

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