The Signal That Is Essential For Good Defense - Audio Lesson

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Approximate running time: 110 minutes.
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Most pairs do not defend well. You can disagree,

or believe that the statement does not apply to you and your favorite partner.

But it is a fact.


However, every cloud has a silver lining. If the two of you can make some

progress in this area while your peers fail to do so,

your results will improve significantly.


What is the realistic way that a non-expert pair can make that progress?

Improve their signals.


Which types of signals should you learn about that offer

the best opportunity to greatly improve your results on defense?

Answer: Suit preference and SPINS.


"Marty, that sounds good. I just have one question.

I've seen SPINS listed on the bottom of the back side

of a convention card under OTHER CARDING.

But what is SPINS?"


SPINS stands for "Suit Preference In Nothing Suits."

Some players regard the phrase "nothing suits"

as referring only to the trump suit, or to those suits

where the defenders are known to have no relevant strength.

However, since all suit preference signals focus on giving information

about suits other than the suit led, it is accurate to say that:

"All suit preference signals can be regarded as SPINS signals."


In this lesson, I will discuss:

  • The correct thought process to go thru before making your signal
  • The correct thought process to go thru after receiving partner's signal.
  • How to ensure that your partner will do the right thing
  • How to help your partner find the key shift
  • How to give the best signal when you lack the perfect card
  • How to determine the right time to give a suit preference signal.
  • SPINS signals in the trump suit when your side leads trump
  • SPINS signals in the trump suit when declarer leads trump
  • How to make your signal so clear that any partner will get the message.
  • How to KNOW if partner's signal is suit preference, attitude or count.
  • Notrump deals where SPINS signals are crucial
  • Those deals where a suit preference signal should NOT be given

Here is an example of what I will teach:


NS Vulnerable
Contract: 4

K Q J 9
4 3 2
K 6 5 3 2


K 8 7 2
A 10 8 5
Q J 9 7











All pass


You are West.

Against South's 4 contract, you make the obvious lead of your singleton K.

East plays the A and declarer follows with the 10.

At trick 2, East leads the Q.

Declarer ruffs with the 10.

How will you defend?




Answer to How will you defend?


Here is the recommended thought process:


1. Unless your partner has no spades, he is NOT void in hearts or clubs.

If he was, instead of overtaking your K,

he would have been happy to let YOU win the first trick

and would signal you where his void was.


2. Declarer must have the A.


If East had it along with his 8 diamonds headed by the A Q J,

he would be far too strong for a preempt, especially at favorable vulnerability.


Also, if your partner had the A,he would have led back a lower diamond than the Q.


It's also true that South is very unlikely to have freely bid 4

when vulnerable with a mere 3 HCP.


3. You must assume that East is NOT void in spades.

If declarer has all 8 missing spades, then 4 is cold for exactly 10 tricks.


4. In general, when a defender has a chance to overruff with a sure winner,

he should NOT over-ruff. Why? By not rushing to shorten his trump

by grabbing his sure winner, he will often be able to later

win an additional trump trick. In addition, not overruffing may gain

by deceiving declarer as to the location of that card.

Of course, even the best guidelines have exceptions.


5. If partner has any spade above the 8 (even if a singleton),

if you don't over-ruff declarer's 10, you are guaranteed to eventually

win two trump tricks with your K 8 7 2.


6. At trick two, your partner could have led back

any one of his seven remaining diamonds. He chose his highest one.

What type of signal was that? Suit preference for hearts.


7. What must he have in hearts? Since he overtook your K trick one,

he can't have a void in a side suit. He can't have any strength in hearts,

so his heart signal must be based on a singleton heart.

Since he has interest in getting a ruff, he must have at least one trump.


8. You have the A, so you are in a hurry to gain the lead

and give partner a heart ruff. Therefore, you should overruff the 10

with the K and lead the A and another heart.

Partner will ruff, and that is the setting trick.


9. Partner will then lead another diamond.

Declarer will ruff with a high trump.

He will then lead a trump and your partner will show out.

Declarer will lead a club to his ace, and draw trump and be down 1.


10. Why didn't East return a heart at trick 2?

He did not know you had the A. If you lacked that card,

then a heart shift would be a waste of time. In that case,

the best chance for the defense was for him to lead the suit

you were KNOWN to be void in to try to promote your trump holding.


Here is the full deal:



K Q J 9
4 3 2
K 6 5 3 2


K 8 7 2
A 10 8 5
Q J 9 7


A Q J 9 8 7 6 5
10 8 4


Q J 10 9 6 5 4
7 4 3 2


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