Polling You 66, Bridge Defense, Attitude and Signals – Part 2



As we previously discussed, being a good defender requires a variety of tactics to take all your tricks.   Top favorites include: making the right lead, third hand play, signaling on opponents leads, considering inferences, etc.

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In this session, some of the common themes we will use include:

Uppercuts – On a good day, occasionally when both the opponent (declarer or dummy) are void in a suit and our partner sitting behind the void player are also void, our partner has the option to either over-ruff or not when opponent plays high.  However, when the opponent plays a high honor, in some situations partner’s intermediate honor might be promoted.   Or perhaps when partner ruffs (declarer sluffs) or partner over-ruffs, our partner may be able to return a favorable lead back to us (finesse or ruff in another suit).

Unblocking – Just like when we are declarer and need to be careful leaving an entry to the other hand (promotion, future finesse play, ruff/cross-ruff, etc.), as defenders we should also be on the lookout to unblock partner’s suit.   Unblocking clues include the situation when partner leads the top of a sequence suit, Ace from Ace-King (or vice-versa for those who lead King from Ace-King), or an earlier suit preference signal by partner when you have few cards in the given suit.  Incidentally, when we return a shorter suit requested by partner (or not), we typically show count in the suit.  So with a doubleton we return the high card and with three we begin with a low card.   One notable exception is when we have a bust hand and should consider leading a Jack from a three card holding since we will no longer have an opportunity to gain the lead. Hopefully partner has “counted out the hand” in High Card Points and realize we may not have a doubleton, understanding we are trying to help partner pin an honor by our Left Hand Opponent.

Communication – Effective communication is paramount to mounting an effective defense.  Once we realize the importance of teamwork to gain the maximum number of tricks, we’re all ears (okay, eyes) watching partner’s signals.  Leads, attitude signals, length count signals, suit preference signals all provide important clues on how to play the hand.

Inferences – What is partner doing during play?  How about the declarer?  What happened during the bidding phase?  Did the opponents hesitate and if so, what inference should we make from the change in tempo?  How about our hand – how does that contribute to the evidence of what’s going on during play?   What have we learned when we saw the dummy?   After viewing the dummy and looking at our hand, what inferences can we make about partner and the declarer’s hand?  Inquiring minds are very busy pondering these and other questions on the opening lead, once the dummy comes down, third hand play, how the declarer plays the hand and more.

Polling You 66, Hand 1

Board 3
South Deals
E-W Vul
♠ 9 8 7
9 8 7
K J 9
♣ K Q J 7
♠ J 6 4
A K J 2
8 7 2
♣ 9 8 3
♠ 5 2
Q 6 5
A Q 10 6
♣ 6 5 4 2
♠ A K Q 10 3
10 4 3
5 4 3
♣ A 10
West North East South
1 ♠
Pass 2 ♠ All pass
Trick West North East South
1. W A 7 5 3
2. W 2 9 10 3
3. E J 8 6 10
4. W 7 J Q 4
5. E K 9 Q 4
6. W 8 K A 5
7. E ♣ 3 ♣ 7 6 ♠ Q
8. S ♠ 4 ♠ 7 ♠ 2 ♠ A
9. S ♣ 8 ♣ J ♣ 2 ♣ 10
10. N ♠ J ♠ 9 ♠ 5 ♠ 3
11. W ♠ 6 ♠ 8 ♣ 4 ♠ 10
12. S ♣ 9 ♣ Q ♣ 5 ♠ K
13. S 2 ♣ K ♣ 6 ♣ A

South opens 1 Spade with a great Spade suit and 13 High Card Points.  Partner North has 10 HCP with nice working honors in the minor suit. That along with 3 Spades, North’s response is above a 2 Spade signoff but perhaps short of 3 Spades with an unfortunate 4-3-3-3 flat hand.  Should North decide to go the high road and invite bidding 3 Spades, with a 7 Losing Trick Count hand (6 in red suits, 1 in Clubs), South will probably accept the game invitation.

On lead, West safely begins with the Heart Ace to peak at the dummy and it’s up to East to signal with attitude.  Noting that East has complete tenaces to finesse the dummy’s Diamond suit, even with the Heart Queen East should discourage suit continuation.  Looking at the dummy, West should be able to deduce partner should be able to make use of a Diamond switch (based on West’s 9 HCP and opponent’s bidding, East must have points somewhere).   Note – it is important that in this situation, West begin with a LOW Diamond 2, which shows an ODD count (lead high from doubleton).  Winning the finesse, West returns a Heart being fairly sure partner holds the King – good partners do not needlessly lead an unprotected Ace on trick 1.  Back on lead, West continues the choreography returning another Diamond that once again East just overtakes (never win higher than necessary).  East may now win with a high Diamond knowing South had 3 Diamonds (East 4, dummy 3, and partner began with a low Diamond indicating an odd number – 3 or 5, not 5 since the suit was not a 5-4-3-1 split).  Looking at the dummy’s honorless Spade trump suit, East smartly plays a fourth Diamond leaving South in a predicament.  South must play a high Spade and East sluffs.  Winning the remaining Ace and King, West’s Jack has been promoted.  Had South ruffed low, West would uppercut declarer.  After the dust clears, the declarer is dumbfounded to find they only make 5 tricks with 23 HCP and a great Spade suit.  Ah, the joy of great defenders.


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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,



  1. BridgeHands says:
    Hello Bridge Friends,
    On part 2 of our continuing series on opening leads, we dig deeper into signals and attitude addressing tactics including uppercuts (overruffs), unblocking, and begin to explore inferences. On our recent poll, respondents results are:
    How might an uppercut help the defense win extra tricks?
    6 percent – Uppercut allows defense to promote a long suit
    0 percent – Upper-cut consists of cutting few cards from the deck prior to the deal
    72 percent – Uppercut allows defender to over-ruff declarer/dummy or later win a trump trick
    7 percent – All of the above
    15 percent – None of the above
    So, most pollsters agree that an uppercut/overruff may allow partner the luxury to either play a higher trump card than their Right Hand Opponent or perhaps later promote a trump honor.
    Of course, other possibilities might also exist! Let’s say partner West’s trump suit is a so-so 10-x-x in the trump suit, unable to overruff declarer’s K-Q-J-x-x. Yet good things can still happen. Declarer ruffs with the Jack and plays a trump King, partner West playing low to partner East trump Ace, East plays yet another high side suit with declarer now holding K-Q-x-x in front of partner West’s 10-x. West will either pitch if South wins with an honor or later win with the promoted 10 – well done!
    Stay tuned for more episodes on our opening lead defense series.
    Happy Bridge Trails,
    • André Latour says:

      HI. My name is André Latour. I am a premium member. When clicking on polling you, i didnt see the vidée.
      I just hear the voice of Michael. Perhaps i am doing something. Can u help me pls ?

      • BridgeHands says:

        Hello André Latour,

        Thank you for pointing out your problem trying to play the videos! We have made the corrections to the Free, Premium and ULTRA videos.

        Many thanks, BridgeHands

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