~Trump Suit Preference

I always read my monthly copy of the ACBL  Bridge Bulletin from cover to cover. I never fail to find therein a bidding technique, a bridge convention, or a playing tip that will upgrade my game. A few months ago, one of my favorite contributors to the Bridge Bulletin, Zeke Jabbour, stated that in his many years of playing bridge, the method of play to the opponent’ trump suit as a lead signal that he had employed had occurred exactly zero times! He then recommended that readers play Trump Suit Preference. Interestingly enough, since that time, I have seldom played a bridge match where I did not use Trump Suit Preference at least once. Here are my recommendations for its use:

When following suit as declarer plays trumps, and holding 2-3 small trumps, use the order in which you play your small trumps to signal partner where you hold strength that has not been shown before. A high-low play in trumps can be used to tell partner you hold the A or K of the highest side-suit–or that for whatever reason you would prefer to have that suit led should partner gain the lead. Failure to make a high-low play merely denies the cards or the need to give such a signal. It should be noted that a low-high trump sequence does not signal for the lowest side-suit; however, partner may be able to deduce where any values you hold are.

Example: the opponents are in  4S contract, and your partner is on lead. He leads a diamond and declarer takes two diamond tricks and leads a trump.
Dummy (N)
S  K953
H Q53
D K54
C 543
You (E)
S 92
H A876
D J765
C Q54

You want to tell partner about your heart ace, so play the 9 of spades followed by the spade 2. If declarer loses a spade finesse to partner, partner knows where you have some strength. Knowing where your values are and holding a third trump and the Kx of hearts, partner is able to lead the K and small heart and gain a setting ruff when you lead a third heart. Even if the finesse in trumps was lost to partner at trick 1, partner is likely to take your play of the 9 on the first spade led as the start of a high-low signal and make the same killing shift to hearts.

Dummy (N)
S AJ53
H AK62
D K54
C 54

What if you play high-low on trumps with this dummy? Are you showing values in diamonds since you cannot possibly be holding a high heart or are you asking for a “safe” heart lead? Partner will have to make a determination of the meaning of your signal based on all available information.

Playing Trump Suit Preference,you are likely to have one or more opportunities to give a useful signal in trumps every time you play bridge. Usefulness on a daily basis clearly beats no use in the last forty years from your current system!

3 Responses to “~Trump Suit Preference”

  1. Josh Carino Says:

    Thanks for the info. I sure will include it in my arsenal of defensive weapons.

  2. Walter Bogaerts Says:

    My bridge teacher/coach told me to read this after I suggested we start playing this (the wrong way…low/high lead the lowest side suit). After listening to her and reading this, I will now do it correctly! It makes all the sense in the world! Thank you.

    • bridgetips Says:

      Since you must either signal high or low, but cannot signal both, picking one or the other may work equally well. The convention was designed to affirm or deny HIGHest Side Suit. Good luck using this convention. It often works well for me!

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