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Signal & Discard

The most important situation in which the suit preference signal operates is when you are leading a suit for partner to ruff

East (you)
A 10 8 5 4 2
(i) A, (ii) A

West leads  3 v the heart contract — surely a singleton. You win  A and lead a second diamond, and partner duly ruffs. Partner returns...?

That’s the point. Partner doesn’t know what to return and is guessing between spades and clubs. Here’s where the suit preference signal comes into play. If you want the higher-ranking of the other two suits led back, you lead back  10; if you want the lower-ranking suit returned, you lead back  2. In (i), you lead back  10; in (ii),  2. In either case, partner leads back to your  A/ A and you give partner a second diamond ruff.

It can get quite subtle, especially in expert circles. If you’re not sure what you want partner to return, lead back  5, the middle card. If you think you want a spade but you’re not sure, lead back  8; if you think you want a club but are not sure, lead back  4

♥  4
♠ Trumps
East (you)
A 9 7 6 3 2
(i) A
You win  4 lead with  A and place partner with no more hearts (he’d have led top of two). Before you lead back a heart for partner to ruff, cash the bare  A to void yourself. Then lead  2 as a suit preference signal for clubs (as opposed to diamonds). Partner ruffs and returns a second club which you ruff. You return a third heart, ruffed and partner returns a third club, ruffed. Assuming you and partner both begin with at least two spades, while declarer and dummy both begin with at least three clubs, you win the first six tricks.
South Deals
None Vul
K Q 2
Q J 8 6 4
K J 5
4 2
9 3
A 10 3 2
A 10
J 9 7 6 3
W   E
8 7 6
Q 6 4 2
K Q 10 8 5
A J 10 5 4
K 9 7
9 8 7 3
West North East South
Pass 2  Pass 3 1
Pass 3  Pass 4 
All pass      
  1. 1 -2  shows five (or more) hearts.

West was listening to the bidding. North-South had advertised eight hearts between them, leaving just one for East. At trick one, he led  A, knowing he was voiding his partner. At trick two, he led  10, a suit preference signal for the higher-ranking diamonds (over clubs).

East ruffed and resisted the temptation to switch to  K, rather leading a dutiful  2. West won  A and led a third heart, East ruffing again. Down one.

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