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Signalling on Defense (Attitude)

#1 User is offline   Lesh18 

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Posted 2012-April-11, 05:05

Hey guys

Having covered the 'Learn to play Bridge' software, I have come across a slight problem.
It taught me to use three types of signals when playing defenders: Attitude, Count and Suit preference. I have tried it already and must say that it is almost impossible to rely on those signals throughout the whole deal, much to the fact that I or my partner never seem to have those spot cards required to signal our messages at a right time.

Thus we ended up using only Attitude signals (giving a message about the strategic honor card or preference to play a suit) by playing low or high spot cards. However, we only kept this rule for the first 4 tricks played, since later in the game we tended to run out of correct spot cards and ended up in confusion and misleading the partner.

Is there any way how to securely approach using signals? Are there, perhaps, any more reliable signals out there? Is it good to only use attitide signals for first few deals and then abandon it altogether?

Thanks
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#2 User is offline   billw55 

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Posted 2012-April-11, 06:37

It is true that sometimes you will not have a card in your hand to send a good clear signal with. We must all do the best we can with the cards we actually hold!

It is also true that the most useful signals are usually given early in the play. You cannot expect to signal on every trick, or with every card in your hand. On many tricks, your play is dictated by need to win a trick, cover a card played by declarer, or just plain follow suit. You can only signal when you have a reasonable choice.

Very often, the first signal given is the most important, and most of the time you should be able to find a card that sends the message you want to send. Not all of the time - but most. The second signal is also important. Subsequent signals can also be useful, but occur less and less frequently. As a guess, I would say that I almost always give at least two signals when defending a hand, sometimes three, and infrequently four. Experts may give four more often, or more, for all I know. But, three signals will usually not be given on the first three tricks, for reasons above. They will be sprinkled over the first several tricks. Ultimately you should signal any time that you are able and it is useful, but I find that I rarely signal later than trick 8 or so. Again, experts may by more thorough.

And to answer your specific questions:

As for other signal systems, yes there are many, but the good old fashioned standard signals will be good enough for a long time.

No, you should not have a rigid rule about stopping signals after any particular trick.
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#3 User is offline   jillybean 

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Posted 2012-April-11, 08:09

When I joined our clubs mentor/mentee program signaling was one of the first areas we worked on. I had little idea or practice with signaling as playing on BBO with casual partners the most I ever managed was "high I like it" "low I don't".

Here are the notes my mentor gave me, fwiw we play udca.


Signals
First, not every card is a signal, but many more are than you may think.
 
Secondly, if you can't afford the necessary card for a signal, don't play it. Try a counter signal in another suit (e.g. signal for say a diamond lead, by signaling negatively in spades, if these are the two possible suits for partner to lead).
 
Third, most often it is the first card you play in a suit that is the key signal. Don't keep repeating a signal - if partner missed it, tough luck.
 
Fourth, signals can show up in strange places. It was standard practice in the past to play high low in the opps trump suit to show a third trump and an ability to ruff somewhere. Since this doesn't come up often, more modern practice is to play high low in trumps as suit preference for the higher side suit, while low high tends to suggest the lower suit (but this is less definitive, since partner may not have any preference or may not be able to afford a higher card). Of course you do not waste a 10 simply to signal high low, unless it is clear it is going to be drawn by declarer.
 
Fifth, remember that partner is not the only person at the table who is interpreting your signals. If partner should know you have a certain card (or must place it with you to defeat the hand), do not necessarily signal that you have it, because it may cause declarer to adopt a less likely line of play that will work, when his simple finesse will not work, based on your signal. Similarly if partner can't possibly have an entry, signalling should only be done to enable partner to determine what suits she needs to save/protect. 

When you have touching honours, if you are going to play one, the play of the top one generally promises the next lower one or a singleton. For example you hold QJ (or even QJx), partner leads the A which is assumed to be from AK, play the Q so partner can underlead the K to your J next.
This may be really useful if partner can now lead another suit through declarer. You need to be relatively certain that partner has the K, so if partner leads a lot of unsupported aces, be careful. (This technique is particularly useful later in a hand when you may have a holding like JT.) Alternatively, if you have appropriate cards to encourage with a very low card, do that, but the honour play tends to be more specific and attention grabbing.

Another one that may be new. If partner leads the A of a suit (presumably from AK) and dummy has Qxx or longer, you must give count, not attitude, so that partner knows whether or not the K will cash, if partner wants to cash the K. 
 
Otherwise, count is usually only given on suits the opponent leads, but do not rely on this signal as partner may be falsecarding to mislead declarer. Also count should be given when declarer has a long suit in dummy and we are trying to cut off access to it or limit how many cards can be cashed.
 
When there is a singleton remaining in dummy and partner leads this suit, your play should be suit preference. 
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#4 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2012-April-11, 10:44

Once again I have to recommend you get a good beginning-intermediate defensive text (Root or Kantar); you are repeatedly asking questions indicating you have out-run the material in the software. You are essentially question-by-question asking forum posters to compose a basic defensive text for you, which is very inefficient compared to just going out and getting a book written by champion authors who are generally much better than all but a few posters here, and in any case can give many more examples and be much more clear & throrough in book form. Signalling actually gets to be a quite advanced subject, and whole books are written just about it, to be tackled after getting through general defense introductory books.

As for signalling, the 3 types of signals are given in different situations. In all cases, playing a card needed to maximize trick-taking potential takes priority over giving a signal. You only signal when your card won't matter in taking the current trick or subsequent trick in the suit. So a lot of the time your card is going to not be a signal because it was basically forced, partner has to figure this out, whether you had choice of card or not.

Attitude signals are given:
1. Partner first leads a suit, you don't have to play a particular card for trick taking or unblocking purposes. Usually because partner's card is high, or you can't beat dummy's K or Ace (or need to strategically duck a round even when you can beat dummy, to maintain communication). You are signalling whether you want the suit continued in a subsequent trick.
2. First time playing a suit as a discard, when can't follow suit to what is led (if playing a standard discarding scheme).
3. From length, leading a new suit in the middle of the hand after you won the previous trick. You are indicating whether you want this new suit returned if partner can win.

Count signals are given:
1. when first following suit, 2nd or 4th to a trick begun by *declarer*. Mainly this is so if partner can control a suit in dummy, he can hold off winning until declarer's last card in the suit, and cut declarer off from running the long cards in the suit, if dummy has no side entries or partner has higher cards over those potential entries.
You want to not habitually signal count in situations where it will help declarer pick up the suit, when there are plenty of sure entries and stopping the run of the suit isn't possible.
2. high-low in the trump suit, either when ruffing, or following suit to declarer indicating an odd number of trumps and the desire to ruff.
3. If the first time you played a suit you had to play a high card to take a trick or promote a trick, your subsequent return will often be indicating your remaining length. E.g. partner led a card to your ace and you return the suit from small cards, you'd lead high from 2 left (started with 3 cds), low from 3 left (started with 4 cards).

Suit preference signals are mainly given:
1. When giving partner a ruff, indicating which side suit you prefer (or if you have no preference), so that he can get to your hand for another ruff.
2. In notrump, if you have a choice of cards to drive out declarer's last stopper, your card indicates where your entry is.
There are some other situations where suit preference should apply but as an beg-intermediate this is probably all you need.
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#5 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2012-April-11, 11:09

View Postjillybean, on 2012-April-11, 08:09, said:

Another one that may be new. If partner leads the A of a suit (presumably from AK) and dummy has Qxx or longer, you must give count, not attitude, so that partner knows whether or not the K will cash, if partner wants to cash the K.


This one is controversial. Many authors (at least Woolsey, Kantar, Root) argue against this below the 5 level. Say the suit is AKxx Qxx ? ? . The auction is such that it is possible partner has a doubleton, but also possible for partner to have 4. If partner is signalling high from 4, how can you tell what to do? Their recommendation is to (usually) discourage from 3 or 4 (i.e. this is an attitude situation, not a count situation), only encourage from a doubleton.

Quote

When there is a singleton remaining in dummy and partner leads this suit, your play should be suit preference.

[partner leading a high card that's going to win, suit contract]
Also controversial. Just because a singleton is in dummy, it doesn't mean it's always right to switch the next card. Forcing dummy to ruff may be one of:
- necessary for a trump promotion
- necessary to shorten dummy's trumps to prevent running a side suit after trumps are drawn
- simply the safest exit to avoid blowing a trick breaking another suit
- there may often only be one logical switch and it's only necessary to signal whether to take it (discouraging encourages that switch), and otherwise choose between continuing the suit or a trump shift, whatever seems percentage.

I only like playing suit preference here when 4th hand is known to have 5+ cds in the suit, personally, so that there are lots of options and the signal can be clear.
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#6 User is offline   Cthulhu D 

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Posted 2012-April-11, 17:51

My mental rule of thumb is that after partner has played a suit twice they are likely to be so strapped for cards that they will be unable to signal, but one the first round of a given suit (or if partner discards that suit before it has been lead), partner will be making the best signal they can with the cards they have.

So I'd say yeah, dropping signalling after a particular trick is bad, but use some judgement about when partner is likely to be able to afford to signal (first round of a suit), and when they are not (3rd round of a suit).
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#7 User is offline   Flameous 

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Posted 2012-April-12, 00:36

I haven't tried the software but what I get from your text is that it didn't emphasize enough that (almost) every signal consists of two played cards. Might be that this is clear but I was distracted by the word "correct" spot cards, since every spot card is correct if there is another available spot card remaining.

From T98 the T is high and the 8 is low even though 8 usually isn't a low spot. Partner isn't likely to know 8 is low until you have played another round of the suit. Thus it's not the one card you play that is the signal but the combination of the two.

If I held that T98 in hearts and have some high cards in spades. Declarer leads hearts so I start with T (Playing udca), next round I follow with 9. Now partner knows I had odd number of cards in the suit, yet I played high one (I assume partner can read me without honor in hearts) so partner can read the 9 as suit preference for spades.

However if my suit was T86 I follow with T and 8, now partner still can't be sure I signaled for spades as I could hold T98 so it takes again second round to finish my suit preference signal.

Maybe this was clear, at least now it should be. :)
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#8 User is offline   Stephen Tu 

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Posted 2012-April-12, 10:20

Uh, in the novice and beginner forum, at least in an English based website, you probably shouldn't be using acronyms like udca without saying what it actually means (upside down count and attitude, the reverse method of standard signals, low-high to encourage rather than high-low), and maybe shouldn't be mentioning udca at all.
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#9 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2012-April-13, 09:35

View PostStephen Tu, on 2012-April-12, 10:20, said:

Uh, in the novice and beginner forum, at least in an English based website, you probably shouldn't be using acronyms like udca without saying what it actually means (upside down count and attitude, the reverse method of standard signals, low-high to encourage rather than high-low), and maybe shouldn't be mentioning udca at all.


Didn't "FYP", just expressing my own opinion.
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#10 User is offline   Zelandakh 

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Posted 2012-April-19, 01:46

My recommendation for beginners is to signal as often as possible in a very rigid framework where it is absolutely clear what things can mean. This gets you into the habit of thinking about the spot cards that you play while also misleading partner as little as possible. However, you should also get into the habit of relying on good bridge thinking more than signals - sometimes partner just does not have the right card or declarer can play a fasle card to sow uncertainty. To take an obvious example, say you lead an ace and partner has a singleton and wants a ruff...but they only have the 2 which is normally discouraging. It does not mean you should switch if bridge logic tells you that continuing is obviously correct. Partner's 2 is not really a signal here as it is forced; similarly for K2 doubleton, this kind of situation occurs often. What this shows is that until partner plays a subsequent card in the suit you cannot always be certain that the first was a real signal and not simply the best they could afford to play (signalling always comes secondary to winning tricks!).

What I would suggest is a priority signalling method that applies throughout the hand. When partner leads then give signals in the order: attitude -> count -> suit preference. That is, the first card you play in the suit shows attitude, the second is count, and subsequent cards are for suit preference. Always remembering that you only signal when you can afford to do so. You only skip a signal if it is 100% clear that this is already known (say partner leads a king (showing the queen) and dummy turns up with AJT98 in the suit).

When declarer leads then drop the attitude signal, so cards are played as: count -> suit preference. Later on you will learn exceptions as well as additional signalling possibilities. However, this system is enough for starting out. At first it is hard but you will quickly find that you get the hang of it. It is quite important in my opinion that you do not give this up as it is a very important part of your development as a bridge player.
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#11 User is offline   P_Marlowe 

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Posted 2012-April-23, 01:08

View PostLesh18, on 2012-April-11, 05:05, said:

Hey guys

Having covered the 'Learn to play Bridge' software, I have come across a slight problem.
It taught me to use three types of signals when playing defenders: Attitude, Count and Suit preference. I have tried it already and must say that it is almost impossible to rely on those signals throughout the whole deal, much to the fact that I or my partner never seem to have those spot cards required to signal our messages at a right time.

Thus we ended up using only Attitude signals (giving a message about the strategic honor card or preference to play a suit) by playing low or high spot cards. However, we only kept this rule for the first 4 tricks played, since later in the game we tended to run out of correct spot cards and ended up in confusion and misleading the partner.

Is there any way how to securely approach using signals? Are there, perhaps, any more reliable signals out there? Is it good to only use attitide signals for first few deals and then abandon it altogether?

Thanks

#1 Attitude is the most important signal.
#2 You only signal really at the beginning, e.g. your first free discard, after that, it gets more and more random.
With kind regards
Uwe Gebhardt (P_Marlowe)
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#12 User is offline   P_Marlowe 

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Posted 2012-April-23, 01:10

View PostStephen Tu, on 2012-April-11, 10:44, said:

Once again I have to recommend you get a good beginning-intermediate defensive text (Root or Kantar); you are repeatedly asking questions indicating you have out-run the material in the software. You are essentially question-by-question asking forum posters to compose a basic defensive text for you, which is very inefficient compared to just going out and getting a book written by champion authors who are generally much better than all but a few posters here, and in any case can give many more examples and be much more clear & throrough in book form.


I want to stress this point - alternative, he should try an find a regular training session.
With kind regards
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#13 User is offline   mgoetze 

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Posted 2012-April-23, 07:11

View PostStephen Tu, on 2012-April-12, 10:20, said:

maybe shouldn't be mentioning udca at all.

Despite the English name, UDCA is absolutely standard in certain parts of the world, and I don't believe there is any particular reason why it should be harder than "Standard".

I agree otherwise.
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#14 User is offline   Vampyr 

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Posted 2012-April-23, 10:32

View Postmgoetze, on 2012-April-23, 07:11, said:

Despite the English name, UDCA is absolutely standard in certain parts of the world, and I don't believe there is any particular reason why it should be harder than "Standard".



This is true, but in places where "Standard" carding is taught to beginners, if they learn something else they will have trouble playing with other beginners.
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#15 User is offline   FM75 

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Posted 2012-April-26, 18:58

I would heartily recommend that you join Beginner-Intermediate Lounge on BBO if you have not already done so.

Once you do that, there are two outstanding resources available for learning defensive carding and defense in general.

Hondo717 has an 8 session series on it. The first four cover the principles of carding and the next four review them in practice.

Chick runs an interactive session most of the year on Monday afternoons (US Eastern time) covering signaling. She teaches the technique and has you decide what to play. Normally about half of the kibs will be "playing" one hand, the other half are at the other.

She also runs a more advanced session on counting. This is more oriented toward declarer play, but practicing the techniques she teaches are also useful for defenders.
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#16 User is offline   ahydra 

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Posted 2012-April-27, 05:18

We should _definitely_ be mentioning UDCA! Well, upside-down attitude (low encourages) at least. It's about time it replaced standard signals - no more wasting a useful 10 or 9 to encourage. I'm still not sure whether upside-down count (low even) is better than regular count (low odd).

I play upside-down attitude, regular count and also use upside-down attitude on discards - and rarely have a signalling problem :) (Am I doing it wrong, I wonder!) As for when to use each one, I play:

first round of a suit:
- attitude on partner's lead, count on declarer's lead
- suit preference in "attitude is already known" cases like when dummy has a singleton

first discard, and sometimes the second round of a suit:
- suit preference

anything else is just "a card".

This may not be the best, but it's a fairly simple and effective way to start out.

One important tip is: look at your own and dummy's spot cards. If you have 98 and dummy has 764, a 5 from partner is likely to be a "high" signal rather than a "low" signal - e.g. if he held the 532 and declarer the 10.

ahydra
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#17 User is offline   mgoetze 

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Posted 2012-April-28, 04:46

View Postahydra, on 2012-April-27, 05:18, said:

I play upside-down attitude, regular count and also use upside-down attitude on discards - and rarely have a signalling problem :) (Am I doing it wrong, I wonder!)

One reason why UDA and UDC go well together is this: if your partner leads an ace or king against a suit contract, you have a small doubleton and are not entirely sure whether your signal is supposed to be count or attitude, it doesn't matter - you can show even count and at the same time encourage because you want to get a ruff. Of course this shouldn't happen if you have good rules about when to give count and when attitude but it can be useful in pickup partnerships. ;)
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#18 User is offline   Mbodell 

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Posted 2012-April-30, 02:24

View Postmgoetze, on 2012-April-28, 04:46, said:

One reason why UDA and UDC go well together is this: if your partner leads an ace or king against a suit contract, you have a small doubleton and are not entirely sure whether your signal is supposed to be count or attitude, it doesn't matter - you can show even count and at the same time encourage because you want to get a ruff. Of course this shouldn't happen if you have good rules about when to give count and when attitude but it can be useful in pickup partnerships. ;)


I know that is stated as a reason, but I think it hides the real issue. The real issue is are you signaling attitude or count? It is possible for you to have a doubleton in the suit and still have a negative attitude (because a trump will not help or some other shift will be more valuable). I haven't found a problem with upside down attitude and standard count. I also prefer standard attitude discards because I'm more likely to be able (and desire) to throw a discouraging card from a suit I don't like [and then I'd rather throw a small one] rather than a card from a suit I do like [shortening my suit might be too costly].
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#19 User is offline   ColdCrayon 

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Posted 2012-May-25, 07:43

Everyone has their own pet system, but my own preference for honor leads is top of series or bottom of interior series. So A through Q always imply the next lower card. When you get to the jack, it either means JT(9?) (top of sequence), or AQJ (bottom of interior sequence).

The reason I like it is that the two things a jack (or a ten) can mean are so radically different that partner will know which it is, if not immediately, then when dummy comes down. I don't know why it's not more popular; it's much better than "top of everything" or "bottom of everything".
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