Giving your partner legal signals by the cards you play is an important part of the defence. To get an overview you may look up a few of these links.

But you must have an agreement with your partner which card to play with which holding.
There are many different agreements possible. But to begin with you should try to follow a very simple system.
I suggest to my mentees to employ these conventions. I’ll use these in my lessons about defence.

Ben says: I will tell you something that you will hear many, many times.... having an agreement (even perhaps an inferior agreement) is better than no agreement at all. Decide what you like here, and get your partner to agree to it.

Beware this: Signals are important, but must be employed with wisdom. Declarer looks at your spots too. To imagine declarers hand by counting and drawing conclusions from bidding and earlier play is much more important than signalling.

These are the points you must talk about with your partner:

1. Lead conventions

2. Third-hand-reactions. (If your partner leads a suit (not only to the first trick), you are ‘third hand’. )

3. Giving the count. If the declarer plays a suit AND it is decisive for partner to know the count, you must give the count to him.

4. Suit preference signals to read are very difficult because it is so easy to mix up with attitude and count.
The most important suit-preference-signal is the first free discard.

If you want to read more than my brief summary here are a few links, I found for you.

Ben (inquiry) posted in BBF

Possible Lead conventions (must be discussed and agreed)

  • 4th or 3th/5th from a long suit not headed by a sequence of 3 Honours.
    Is there a change, if partner bid the suit, if you raised him?

  • Highest or next to highest from a sequence of 3 honours ( AKJxx, KQJx, KQ10xx …)
  • 10 promises … higher cards ??
  • 9 promises … higher cards ??
  • Leading the J denies a higher honour ??
  • High from a doubleton?
  • In a suit without future we play top of nothing or MUD (middle up down) or small

Reactions of third hand (openers partner)

  • Priority of signals: Attitude – count – suit-preference
  • If opener leads an honour, what is the meaning of a low or a high spot?
  • Do we signal standard or UDCA?
  • If opener leads a small card, you should try to gain the trick.
    This is done normally by playing your highest card.
    There are exceptions from this depending an dummys holding, we’ll explain later
    Holding sequence of 2 or more cards you play the lowest.
  • If you win the first trick with an honour, you play
    o       the  original 4th if you had 4 originally
    o       the highest, if you had 3 cards and now remain 2.


Count normally is given when declarer plays a suit.

If you agreed standard carding, you show an even number of cards by playing high/low

If you agreed UDCA, you show an even number of cards by playing first low then high


The first free discard

The first time you cannot follow the suit, which is played, you make your first free discard.

With the first-free-discard you can show (but will not always do) your partner to which suit you want a shift:

There are many different agreements possible for the first free discard:

  1. Direct signals:
    1. Agreed standard, discard a high card, of the suit you want to be played, means play this suit.
    2. Agreed UDCA, discard a low card, of the suit you want to be played, means play this suit.
  2. Lavinthal discards
    1. Playing a low spot 2,3,4,5 means: Shift to a lower ranking suit.
    2. Playing a high spot 7,8,9,10 means: Shift to a higher ranking suit.
  3. Roman discards:
    1. Playing an odd spot 3,5,7,9 means: Play this suit of the spot.
    2. Playing a low even spot 2,4,6 means: Shift to a lower ranking suit.
    3. Playing a high even spot 6,8,10 means: Shift to a higher ranking suit.