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The Attitude Signal

Part 1 of a 3-part series on basic defensive signals

The general idea of the attitude signal is simple. When partner leads and you follow suit, a high card says you like the suit and can stand a continuation. A low card is discouraging and suggests a shift..

Board 1
South Deals
None Vul
♠ J 9 6 4
A 7
K Q J 8
♣ J 10 6
♠ 8 7
Q 9 6 2
7 5 2
♣ A K 4 3
WE
WestNorthEastSouth
1 ♠
Pass3 ♠Pass4 ♠
All pass
Lead: ♣ A
Your ♣A (or the king, if that's your agreement) wins. How do you continue?

Why not get partner's input? If he signals encouragement with a high card, you probably ought to continue.
Board 1 - A
South Deals
None Vul
♠ J 9 6 4
A 7
K Q J 8
♣ J 10 6
♠ 8 7
Q 9 6 2
7 5 2
♣ A K 4 3
WE
♠ A
10 8 5 4 3
10 9 4 3
♣ Q 8 7
♠ K Q 10 5 3 2
K J
A 6
♣ 9 5 2
If this were the entire hand, partner would play the ♣8. You could tell this was high and would continue with the king and another for down 1. Any other lead lets Declarer pitch a losing club on a diamond.

But suppose this were the layout.

Board 1-B
South Deals
None Vul
♠ J 9 6 4
A 7
K Q J 8
♣ J 10 6
♠ 8 7
Q 9 6 2
7 5 2
♣ A K 4 3
WE
♠ 3
K 10 8 4 3
A 9 4
♣ 9 8 7 5
♠ A K Q 10 5 2
J 5
10 6 3
♣ Q 2

Here partner would play the ♣5, which you can tell is the lowest. This does not tell you what you should lead. It just says partner doesn't like clubs. [Reread this paragraph after you study Suit Preference in part 3 of this lesson series. The ♣5 is NOT suit preference.] Of course, it's pretty clear there is no hope in diamonds. If partner has the A, it isn't going anywhere. So your best hope is hearts.

This switch lets you collect your heart trick before Declarer can pitch his heart loser on either the ♣J or a diamond.

One other note. While this hand does not illustrate it, your first discard in a suit no matter which side is leading is usually an attitude signal toward the suit discarded. A high discard says you like the suit. Discarding a low card in a suit implies you don't like it. For example, if you discard a high club when hearts are lead, you have something worthwhile in clubs.
 

The source for all hands in this lesson is Partnership Defense in Bridge, by Kit Woolsey, pp 5-10. [This is a great book on defense but aimed at experienced players.]

Thanks to Marty Nathan for this 3-part lesson series.  Contact Marty (mjnathan@comcast.net) or your bridge teacher with any questions.

Part 2: The Count Signal
Part 3: The Suit Preference Signal