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Play: The 2 basic signals
On many hands, a major goal is to get both partners' aces cashed before both opponents have been able to cash theirs. Dummy (declarer's partner) is particularly desirous of this; declarer presumably has long trump, which will usually control the latter stages of the hand, and often has short suits. But, it's also valuable that if one defender gets in before dummy, to get his partner in to cash before dummy.

A fundamental notion in signaling is, it has to be something that Stands Out. If it looks like ordinary card play, it's probably NOT going to be seen as a signal. Why should it? Thus, we can define a principle: a signal has to be either a 'dramatic' card, or a significant departure from 'normal' play. This post will deal with the 2 cases of 'dramatic' cards.

To keep things simple, we'll deal with dummy giving signals to declarer, while declarer is cashing his aces initially. You're dummy. Declarer plays a side-suit ace; what cards would stand out? Well, it can't be a K or T; you're just giving partner a point. An ace is VERY dramatic. Between the Q and J, IMO the J is the more unusual and unexpected...ergo more dramatic.

Thus, there are 2 signals, A or J on an ace of his, that suggest to your partner, "Hey, I've got the remaining aces in the suit, so you may be able to reach me in that suit." Of these two, A on A is a *promise*. You HAVE the missing ace(s), or potentially, you'll ruff his lead. There are 2 exceptions:

a) You started with exactly AA in that suit. On the first ace, you don't have any choice. This is rare, but does happen occasionally.

b) Your RHO, who'll play before you do, has melded aces, AND your ace would get dropped by his. For example, you start with AKJ; on partner's first ace, you play the K. On his 2nd ace, play your ace; save the point.

THIS ONLY APPLIES when RHO has melded aces. Yes, I've seen players who simply do this "to save the point"...but that is grossly misguided. The point *won't* automatically be lost. If partner doesn't have it, it's 50-50 as to which opponent does. And, it's possible partner still has it, perhaps in a holding that has no T. Say partner started with AAAKJJ. The first 2 rounds in that suit go


What does he pick for the 3rd round? Probably, reasonably, the K...force a T, you ruff to win the trick and cash yours, and hey, he's still got the last A for the endgame.

Oh. You didn't ruff.

Now he's lost a trick he should not have lost, and the opponents are in, not you. The total loss can easily be 2-3 tricks, or 5-7 points. Here's a straightforward example:


The first 3 tricks are Di A, He A, He A. If your heart plays are K,J, the next 2 tricks will be He A, He K which you ruff. Then you cash your 2 club aces. Your side has the first 7 tricks. He loses 2 diamonds and 1 club, but he can play those to either let you ruff more, or make the opponents ruff. That's fine, too.

If your heart plays are K,A, his trick 4 play is He K, losing to a T. Now opponents cash 2 club tricks before you do. That's one trick gone for sure. Partner still has the 4th heart ace...but a smart opponent may well read the situation and lead a heart *through* his hand, forcing you to ruff his winner.

Now, playing A on A is potentially throwing away a trick. That's often a bad idea; a trick is 2.5 points. So, in most cases, you have at least one T, to be the 'extra' winner. What if you don't? That's where the J signal comes into play: you have the remaining aces, but you can't afford to give an A as a signal. Play a J if you can.

Between the 2 signals, the A signal is MUCH stronger. I play it's as close to an ironclad promise (barring the case that aces around is blocking access to you) as there is. The J may well be forced. The key is to note that with a holding like AKQJ, you play the K on partner's first A, but the Q on partner's second A. The J would suggest both missing aces; the Q suggests you *don't* have them.

Messages In This Thread
Play: The 2 basic signals - ToreadorElder - 09-14-2012, 12:03 PM
RE: Play: The 2 basic signals - TigreLXIX - 04-23-2016, 02:42 PM
RE: Play: The 2 basic signals - rakbeater - 04-18-2016, 09:30 AM
RE: Play: The 2 basic signals - TigreLXIX - 04-18-2016, 10:20 PM
RE: Play: The 2 basic signals - rakbeater - 04-18-2016, 09:36 AM
RE: Play: The 2 basic signals - rdwrites - 04-18-2016, 12:45 PM
RE: Play: The 2 basic signals - rdwrites - 04-18-2016, 11:59 PM

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