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Week 17, 6th & 10th July: Improve Your Defence Part 3

During closed periods, we will try to make two weekly feature hands available for at least 48 hours each, giving us time to prepare and upload each summary.  The first hand from 9:00 am Mon. to 9:00 am Weds. and the second from 9:00 am Fri. to 9:00 am Sunday.  This should improve learning of linked topics, including weekend consolidation (use the print icon top left if you want a copy).  We hope you enjoy.  Comments to Paul and Pat welcome .

 In part 3 of our defence series this week we will look at suit preference signals (SPS) and at whether or how we should signal at the first discard.  That will conclude our six tuition hands on defence as well as the current series over the past 17 weeks.  Today, east opens 1D, expecting a 1S response, whereupon he will retreat to 2C, implying 5-4 shape:  much better than implying 5-4 shape if opening 1H, or reverse bidding after a terrible1C opening.  Give east the diamond king instead of the 2 and he's strong enough to re-bid 1NT over 1S.  Don't jump to 2S as south, unless you are still playing old Acol.  Keep 2S for the weak 6-carders. West's 2H promises 10+ HCPs and at least 5 cards.  Otherwise, he makes a negative double to guarantee hearts, 4 or more, in a 6+ hand unlimited.  With a weak hand but good spade support, north pre-empts to the 9-trick level to guarantee a 9-card fit and no interest in game (he did not cue-bid diamonds or hearts).  A 6-loser east opposite an 8-loser or better west bids the heart game over which south has an easy sacrifice in 4S, expecting to go only 2 or 3 off doubled for minus 300/500 versus minus 620.  West can make the same calculation, so rightly tries 5H as a 7-loser opposite a 6-loser:  11 tricks are certainly a possibility. Never double as NS after this type of auction:  we know that 4S is unlikely to make, so we havn't been "robbed" of that score, whereas 5H might well make and at least we have a better chance of beating it than 4H.

SPS Principle 1: a singleton or void in dummy turns off "attitude" and "count":  what's the point?  Here, after leading his spade ace, north obviously must change suits and south should tell him what to do.  South wants a diamond switch because a club risks wasting his ace when dummy plays low.  Because SPS signals ignore the trump suit, there are only ever two suits in question, so south must play his spade king at trick one:  partner, switch to the higher rank suit (a low spade asks for the lower rank).  He can afford the king becasue all three top honours are known within our 10-card spade fit.  North now plays his diamond 4 and south either wins or waits to break the contract now or later.  On a disastrous club switch, declarer has time to draw trumps, cash the diamond ace and throw his diamond loser on dummy's club 3.

SPS Principles 2 & 3: (2) If you have a chance to offer a void partner a ruff (not in today's hand), the card you ask him to ruff becomes an SPS in case he can put you on lean again after ruffing.  (3) If dummy appears with a threatening side suit, it might be right to suspend attitude and count in favour of SPS.

All bridge players should use SPS signals when key to their defence, typically called McKenny or Lavinthal signals. They are simple to learn and there are no variations such as "reverse" versions: for once in bridge, everyone plays them the same way.  That's important, as we will see in Friday's hand. 


Last updated : 5th Jul 2020 15:56 BST