Defending is more difficult than declaring. Declarer sees all of their side's assets. To take all your tricks on defense, you need to learn your partner's distribution and the location of their honors. The only legal way to communicate with your partner is with your bids and the cards you play. The primary defensive signals used to share information with your partner are:
The Attitude signal is used to encourage or discourage the lead of a suit. Applies when partner leads a suit or when discarding. Using standard signals, high-low encourages and low-high discourages. This is reversed for pairs using upside-down signals.
For example, if your lead the King from KQT4 and dummy tables with 3 small, should you continue the suit? If declarer has AJ3, continuing the suit is costly. Partner’s attitude signal is your guide. Partner encourages with a fitting honor. Otherwise, partner discourages.
The Count signal is used to help partner learn your distribution and therefore declarer's distribution. Applies when a suit is led by declarer or dummy. Using standard signals, low-high shows an odd count in the suit led. High-low shows an even count.. This is reversed for pairs using upside-down signals.
For example, if dummy tables with KQJ92 and no outside entries and you have the Ace and 2 small cards in the suit, how long should you hold up your Ace to prevent declarer running dummy’s suit?
If declarer has a doubleton, you should take your Ace on the 2nd round. If declarer has 3 cards in the suit, you should hold up until the 3rd round. Using the Count signal, you will learn if your partner has an odd number or even number of cards in the suit. If partner signals an even number (2 cards), you should hold up 3 rounds. If partner signals an odd number of card (3 cards), you cut off dummy and avoiding giving declarer an extra trick by taking your Ace on the 2nd round.
The Suit Preference signal is used to show a preference between side suits. Applies against suit contracts when partner leads an Ace and dummy tables with a singleton. The 3rd hand defender plays a high spot card if they desire a switch to the higher ranking side suit. A low spot card shows a preference for the lower ranking side suit.
The Suit Preference signal is also used when leading a card for your partner to ruff to show which suit to return. Leading a low card shows a preference for the lower ranking side suit. A high spot card shows a preference for the higher ranking side suit.
When it clear there is no benefit in continuing a suit, a Suit Preference signal should be used instead on an attitude signal. See this article by Ted Horning for an
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