Andre Asbury

Partner Led a King – Do I Give Attitude or Count?

I’ve been finding a lot of situations lately where there are disagreements on which kind of signal to give. I suppose I’ve been looking for things like this more because I have been making a more conscious effort to be a better defender. Playing with some new people lately has also been more conducive to carding disagreements.

People generally say attitude is their primary signal. When in doubt, giving attitude is a good rule to follow. But in some cases one person is in doubt and the other thinks it’s a clear count situation or something like that. That’s part of what is so hard about defense – being on the same page as far as what signals you give on certain situations. Bidding and declarer play are largely formulaic and lend themselves more to following a clear set of rules, and therefore are easier to be good at. Defense seems to me to require more visualization and imagination and cooperation, so defense will be what I try to write about more than anything else.

To say you’ll always give attitude to partner’s leads and always give count when the opponent leads the suit means you’ll never have a misunderstanding about what signal is given but sometimes those aren’t the signals you need. A good player/partnership will be able to recognize most of the times when the exception to the rule occur.


Dealer: N

Vul: NS

West East
West North East South
  1 1NT 2
3 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass Pass Pass

In the latest situation, you’re defending 4S. Partner wins your heart lead with the K and at trick 2 shifts to the K in a side suit, declarer playing the ace. Is this a count, attitude, or suit preference situation? In a small informal poll of my peers, a slight majority gave count while most of the others gave attitude. I think I was able to convince most of the people that attitude is the correct signal here, but I can understand people wanting to give count because it seems that the location of all the club honors is known already. If partner has led from the KQ of clubs, he’s getting 1 club trick eventually and there doesn’t seem to be a rush to take it. In fact, he won’t cash it regardless of what the count in clubs is because he’ll want to get you in to capture dummy’s J. So, partner doesn’t care about the count in clubs. Partner also doesn’t need a suit preference signal. He will know to lead diamonds next if you have nothing in clubs. It seems that no signal can really be of use to partner… unless he has led from Kx of clubs, in which case he needs to know whether you have the CQ so that when he wins his trump trick, he will know whether to lead a club to your Q and get a ruff or to lead diamonds, where you must have an honor or two by process of elimination.

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