Double Dummy 19

Surprisingly few players seem to play suit preference signals, though they are not at all difficult to understand or make use of when required. Here is an example of the very basic suit preference signal, though in the actual deal, Deep Finesse would have made the contract despite the defenders’ use of the signal. Yes, the suit preference signal can also help declarer if declarer knows that that is what it is!

Board 8 from Friday 5/04/24
Dealer W Nil Vul


There were a number of different contracts that may have resulted from different bidding sequences, as is apparent when we look at the hands. This is what happened at one table, and in my view the bidding was correct. West opened 1H and East bid 2D, which must surely be a better bid than 1S. So let’s just look at the sensible 3D contracts, after West opened 1H and East responded 2D and South came in with 2S, West raising to 3D passed out. A sensible contract and useful for our discussion on suit preference signals.

South led the ace of spades, North following with the nine. It was obvious now for South to continue with the king, North showing out and discarding a heart. Next, South continued with the TEN of spades. This was the most basic ‘suit preference’ signal: when you know partner will ruff, you want to tell them which of the other two suits you have an entry in for another ruff. A high card asks for the higher suit, a low one for the lower. The ten of spades was unequivocal and told North that South had the ace of hearts. North was reluctant to lead a heart, because declarer might finesse the jack later, but then again, declarer should surely place South with the ace, for two reasons: South had freely bid 2S, so should have the ace of hearts, if not the queen as well. The other reason is more obvious, if declarer knows that the defenders employ suit preference signals. In the end, North was persuaded to lead a heart, and South was then able to lead a fourth spade. That would most likely have resulted in down one, unless of course declarer was Deep Finesse and ruffed with dummy’s king and then ran the ten through North, swallowing up South’s nine for a very well defended and even better played hand. I suggest only Deep Finesse would have made 3D against such ‘best defence’.