~Lead Signals on the First Discard

There is an alternative to Standard, Odd-Even, & Lavinthal discards that you should be aware of; that is Odd-Even with Lavinthal principles. That is what I prefer and it has served my partners and me well for years. Since I think it is superior to any one of the three above, I think I would be remiss not to mention it, so that you can consider it when you select your signaling system. First a short discussion of the three alternatives mentioned above:

Standard: high, I like it, low I do not like it. If I cannot give you a signal in the suit I like because I do not have a high card in that suit that I can afford to play, I can play a low card in another suit and hope that partner can figure out the correct lead by looking at his hand and the dummy. Partner will only have two choices.

Lavinthal: The suit I discard is of no interest to me. A high card in a suit I discard says switch to the higher of the two side suits and a low card says to switch low. If I do not have the right card for the signal I want, I will hope that partner can determine the right lead. Lavinthal is of prime value, upon occasion, when defending against a NT contract when discarding a high card to request a lead in THAT suit, may cost you a trick–you may have just thrown away a good trick to ensure that partner leads the right suit. If you can request the suit you want by discarding from a suit of no interest, you will OCCASIONALLY gain a trick. If I hold AQJ98 in a suit, I do not want to discard ANY card in that suit–if partner leads my suit, I may be able to take five tricks in the suit; only four otherwise.

In basic Odd-Even, an odd card says I like this suit and an even card says I do not like this suit. If you combine this with Lavinthal, you often can deny interest in a suit by playing an even card in that suit and ALSO signal the suit you do like by the size of the even card you play–a low, even card (2 or 4) says switch to the lower ranking side suit (the six is somewhat ambiguous) and a high, even card (8, T, Q) says switch to the higher ranking side suit.  

SOMETIMES, playing either system, you will not have the right kind of card for the signal you want to send, but when you have three suits to signal with instead of one, I find that I seldom find myself without an absolutely clear signal. Here is a hand where Odd-Even (playing the system with Lavinthal principles) would be a good discard system to play.

In the following hand, the bidding has gone
South       West            North        East
1S              P                    2S               P
4S             All Pass  

I (West) hold
S 2
H AQ32
D Q8432
C 854
and lead the 3 of diamonds (4th down). Not an attractive lead, but I may cost partner a trick with a spade lead, finesse partner with a club lead, and give opener a free trick with a heart lead. I don’t like any of my leads, but I lead as shown. Dummy comes down with
S KJ43
H T74
D J75
C J73
Note that Dummy has 6-9 HCP (S/A) but does not meet the requirements of a Constructive Raise (8-10 TP).

Opener covers partners Diamond K with the A and will ultimately lose a trump trick, as partner holds
S QT5
H 965
D K96
C T962
When partner gets into the lead, I desperately need a heart lead. If declarer wins the diamond lead and pulls two or more rounds of trumps, I will signal for a heart lead. Without a signal, partner might lead a heart, but might also return my diamond lead or might lead a club through South’s possible club strength. Setting the contract will be tough with any lead, but even tougher with any other lead than a heart from partner.
~I do not want to play my heart Q and have no other heart to suggest a heart lead if playing Standard.
~Playing Lavinthal, I can signal for a switch high with the diamond 8, or the club 8.
~Playing Odd-Even as suggested, I can play the 3 of hearts (odd, I like it). Change the 3 of hearts to the 4, and I can play the club 8 (I don’t like clubs, switch high) or the 8 of diamonds (same message).

Most of the time, the signalling method doesn’t matter; occasionally it does. Odd-Even has proven to be the best 1st discard for me and my partners.You may choose to stick with the Standard system for simplicity’s sake, since Lavinthal and Odd-Even can only be used legally for the First Discard of the hand. Just be aware of the method described herein in making your decision.

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