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improve your defense signal against notrump
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Improve your defense signal against notrump

by Dick Yuen    May 24,2017

first published (Unit 390 Kibitzer October 2017)

last updated: Feb.4,2018

Consider this example (taken from the book Partnership Defense in Bridge by Kit Woolsey ).  You are east  ,

 north is dealer and has  A Q 7 K 4 9 8 5 Q J 9 7 3

 west has 10 9 5 2  Q 9 8 5 2 A 6 A 4

  east has  J 8 6 4    J 7 3   K Q 10 3 2   6

   south  has K 3 A 10 6 J 7 4 K 10 8 5 2

 The auction is as follow: (with E-W silent )

  1C -- 3C,  3S -- 3NT

T1. Lead is 5-H, East's J is won by south's AceT2. South's K-C won this trickT3. West is in with A-C.... what is your discard?

The normal signal for a diamond switch is an encouraging spot card,say the 10. Partner cooperates by cashing A-D and lead another,resulting in one down.

It works and it is simple! You discard an encouraging spot in the suit you want partner to switch to. But the price of this simplicity is NOT cheap since your signal card would have been another trick for the defense. One can argue that it costs only an IMP, which is a small price to pay in a team game if it leads to the defeat of opponent's contract.

But let us take a step back. Why must we discard a potential winner for this simplicity? Especially when we have the other two suits that could do the same job AND cost you nothing extra?

Change the IMP scoring to a matchpoint or Board-a-match scoring format, and now this simplicity might cost you a Championship title! Even in a team game, one IMP might turn out to be very significant.

Let us examine an alternate discarding system that has been around for a longtime---revolving discards, or as I like to call them, 'bicycle' discard signals.

On your first discard(first discard ONLY) on a suit lead by the opponent, you discard the suit you don't want partner to switch, exactly the opposite of the simple signal above !

The obvious advantage is flexibility: you have two suits to pick from.But how does partner know which suit you do want led ?

Suppose declarer is leading the spade suit where you are void.

(1) If you want a heart suit switch from partner. The two suits available for your first discard are diamonds and clubs. To ask for a heart switch, you have the option of playing a high diamond, or a low club. This is where the term'bicycle' coming from. The three suits other than spade form a circle or cycle.A high diamond or a low club touches the heart suit (skipping spade).The 'bicycle' signal system employs the 'touching' suit concept to pinpoint the exact suit identity.

(2)If you want a diamond suit switch--- the two suits available for your first discard are hearts and clubs. You have the option of playing a high club, ora low heart.

(3)If you want a club suit switch,You can play either a high heart or a low diamond.

This 'bicycle' signal system allows you to save all your potential winners instead of having to spend one for the sake of signaling.

In the example hand described above, using 'bicycle' signals, you have the luxury of discarding either (1) J-spade, or (2) 3-heart. Both pinpoint clearly your desire of a diamond switch.

How about if you hold spade KJ64 (switch K-D to K-s)?Now you want a spade switch and signalling with the 2-D or 7-H (which hopefully partner will be able to interpret as high) will do the job.

Caveat: One wonders how to signal when you cannot afford to discard either of the other two suits. Firstly, this seldom happens. Secondly, no signal system worths anything if it gives away the contract. Your best shot is to discard a middle card in the suit you like and hope partner can read your preference from the spot card you played.

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Extended use of 'Bicycle' signal in a Trump contract.

e.g. With silent opponents, N/S arrives at a 4S contract, declared by south

   north  A8765 KQJ J109 K4

   west has  43  109  AKQ87 Q876

    east has  K   65432  32  J10932

     south has QJ1092 A87 654 A5

Partner cashed AK-diamond, you signaled hi-lo, showing doubletonT3. Partner leads the Q-diamond.....

'bicycle' signal is useful here----lowest heart/a high club asks for a diamond continuation;either discard a 2-H or J-C, asking partner to give you an uppercut, defeating 4S.

(BTW, a low club would request a heart switch, or a high heart asksfor a club switch, according to 'bicycle' signal system)

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