DRC Bridge Lecture for Hearts Ch5 (March 6, 2017)

Our chapter for today — ACBL’s Heart Series, 2nd Ed., Ch. 5 — explains how to communicate with Partner through cards. If we play our cards Hi-Lo, then we are encouraging Partner with our attitude (favorable), count (even), or suit preference (up the alphabet). Conversely, if we play our cards Lo-Hi, then we are discouraging Partner with our attitude (unfavorable), count (odd), or suit preference (down the alphabet). You may download this lesson in one of the following formats:

  1. Paragraph: ACBL Hearts Ch5 Para
  2. Outline: ACBL Hearts Ch5 Note.docx
  3. Practice Hands: BeB Signals for Blog

Theory of Signals

Defenders can develop tricks by promotion, length, finesse, and ruff. The two Defenders can get the most tricks if they cooperate by signaling their attitudes, counts, and suit preferences. Since Defenders can see two hands (Dummy’s and their own), any information from Partner’s signals also infers valuable defensive information about the 4th hand (Declarer’s).

Types of Signals

Attitude: Hi-Lo signals that you like-dislike the suit. With a like, Partner will continue to play the suit, because Declarer should not be able to win with high cards or a ruff. With a dislike, Partner may continue or may seek a different suit.

Count: Hi-Lo signals that you are even-odd in the suit. With even, Partner will know you hold 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12 cards in the suit, including the card used to signal. With odd, Partner will know you hold 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, or 11 cards in the suit, including the card used to signal. Partner will discontinue the suit when Declarer is likely to be void. As the hand approaches the 13th card, Partner will know the suit that Declarer is most likely to lead on the last trick. The Guideline is to give count whenever an attitude signal is unneeded. You can give count on suits led by Declarer, too (see pp. 198-199).

Suit Preference: Hi-Lo signals that you have an entry up-down the alphabet. There are two relevant suits, which are not the suit being played and not the suit that is trumps. With a Hi signal, Partner will seek entry to your hand by leading the higher of the other two suits. In NT, where there are three suits other than the suit being played, a high discard in a suit encourages Partner to lead that suit while a low discard discourages Partner from leading that suit. The Guideline is to give suit preference whenever an attitude or count signal is unneeded.

When to Signal

You should signal on as many tricks as possible. If you have shortness in a suit and have trumps, then an attitude signal will encourage Partner to continue in the suit even though the Declarer holds what appears to be the ranking card. If Dummy has no entries to a runnable suit, then a count signal will let Partner know when to win in that suit. If you are RHO, you hold a tenace, and Dummy holds the gap card, then a suit-preference signal will encourage Partner to lead that suit through Dummy’s strength.

What to Signal

You cannot signal when winning a trick as 3rd-hand high, but you can signal whenever you have a choice of losing cards to play. In general, the cards 987 are considered obvious high cards while 432 are obvious low cards. The 65 are obvious middle cards that show indifference. If you don’t have a spare card in the desired range, you must “echo” (loud signal followed by softer signal) with two cards: play your non-obvious high or low card as a signal to Partner, then on your next discard, throw a lower card if your original signal was Hi-Lo encouraging or throw a higher card if your original signal was Lo-Hi discouraging.


  1. Best eBridge: Log on, then choose Defense, Techniques, Signals, Attitude. There are 10 hands. On each, you choose your next card to play based on your hand and the bidding. Click on Solution and you can see a play-by-play analysis of how Defenders could have set the contract.
  2. Best eBridge Login: Here is a link to Best e Bridge where you can go and practice what you learn — https://bestebridge.com/?lps=70001234.

Test of Comprehension

  1. Attitude Signals: For a test on giving attitude signals, go to Exercise One.
  2. Attitude Signals: For a test on receiving attitude signals, go to Exercise Two.
  3. Count Signals: For a test on giving count signals, go to Exercise Three.
  4. Count Signals: For a test on receiving count signals, go to Exercise Four.
  5. Suit-Preference Signals: For a test on giving suit-preference signals, go to Exercise Five.
  6. Ch. 5: For a test on all signals, go to Exercise Six.
  7. Responder’s Rebids: For a test on Responder’s 2nd bids, go to Exercise Seven.
  8. Developing Tricks: For a test on not drawing trumps immediately, go to Exercise Eight.

Hands to Play, from Hearts = “ACBL Defense in the 21st Century” (404p)

Deck Hands Declarer Dealer Bid Lead Hints
Hearts P. 220 #5-1 S N 4♠ T♥ A
Hearts P. 222 #5-2 E E 4♠ A♦ B
Hearts P. 224 #5-3 W S 3NT K♠ C
Hearts P. 226 #5-4 N W 2♠ A♥ D


  • A: N=13 PVP[i] . S=13 PVP. North (N) opens their better minor, 1♦. South (S) bids a cheap 5c 1♠. N has 4c support, raises to 2♠. S is a maximum, so goes to game. West (W) leads top of a sequence. East (E) with a winner in the suit led, plus two As, encourages. If Declarer draws trumps, the contract fails. If Declarer sets up either minor, the contract makes. Assume AG’s way. Down 1.
  • B: E=11 PVP. W=16 PVP. W opens their longest 5cm, 1♣. E dives with 5, starting with 1♠. W with 4c support and a medium hand, jumps to 3♠. E with a medium hand raises to game. S leads top of a 2c sequence. N encourages, gets a ruff on the 3rd round, cashes their own A for the setting trick. Down 1.
  • C: E=9 PVP. W=18 PVP. W opens their convenient minor, 1♣, prepared to bid 2NT next to show 18-19 HCP. E is a minimum, but has bidding room to mention their 5cm, 1♦. W hopes that E is at least an average hand (10 HCP) and goes to game, 3NT. W’s bid is very dangerous, as E does not have more than 3c in any major. N leads their 3c sequence, and S signals a negative attitude. Declarer opens a new suit, and S gives count. N wins the 3rd round with an A, and runs the ♠. S signals a suit preference for ♥. Eventually Declarer loses a low ♣ to N or a low ♥ to S. Down 1.
  • D: N=15 PVP. S=8 PVP. N opens 1♠ with a 5cM. S has the length but not the points for a limit bid, so only raises to 2♠. E leads top of a 2c sequence. W can’t signal with a singleton, but E continues anyway. E signals an entry in ♦. W wins a ruff, returns a ♦, and gets a second ruff. Defenders take 6 tricks. Down 1.

Student Notes: (nb: The latest version of ACBL Hearts Ch5 Note may be downloaded at BetterBridge.blog.)

[i] PVP = Partnership Valuation Points = the sum of HCP, length points, Dummy points, and any other additions and subtractions.

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