Attitude or Count


Author: Michael Berkowitz
Date of publish: 04/15/2019
Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Don't bring up porcupines around my family. No, there wasn't some pincushiony incident with a beloved family pet.

Porcupine was a language I invented as a four-year-old. My parents were introducing me to new animals as one does. The cow goes moo, the rooster goes cock-a-doodle doo, the rhinoceros goes... you know, that kind of thing. When they got to porcupine I apparently fell in love with the word--can you blame me? It's a great word.

Anyways, I would point and call every animal a porcupine for a while--and my parents would be amused. Then I decided that everything was a porcupine; animals, buildings, relatives. This was less amusing.

If we use a particular word, it should mean a particular thing. As a defender there are many different things we’d like to be able to tell our partner. We sometimes want to tell them whether we like the suit led. Sometimes, we’d like to tell them that we like a specific suit. And, sometimes, we’d like them to know how many cards we have in a suit so that partner knows whether to cash tricks. Unfortunately, we can’t always communicate all of that information all at once. Instead, we have to decide what information to give partner to get her to make the right decision. Ultimately a card, like a word, can only mean one thing at a time.

 

Vul:None
Dir: S

Dummy (North)

♠ 632
♥ KQ109
♦ Q63
♣ KJ5

 
♠ 
♥ 
♦ 
♣ 
 

You (East)

♠ J74
♥ 8643
♦ 72
♣ AQ103

  ♠ 
♥ 
♦ 
♣ 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WestNorthEast(you)South (dEclarer)
       1♠
Pass  1NT  Pass  2♠
 Pass  3♠ All Pass  

 

 

 

 

 

Partner leads the ♠A. What’s your plan?

Normally we would play high-low with a doubleton. The reason isn’t that we are showing two cards, it’s that we are telling partner that we want her to continue. This is a clear attitude signal, not a count one (or one that does both). Here, you don’t want your partner to continue--why? Well imagine partner continues with two more diamonds. We get a ruff and then? We can cash our ♠A and that’s all we get. Partner has already shown up with seven points so declarer must have almost all of the rest for her opening bid. She can’t be missing the ♠A as well.

Instead of encouraging, we should try to get partner to switch suits. If we play our ♠2, partner will know that we want her to switch. It's clearly unlikely that we can take two heart tricks on this auction, and with this dummy. If partner switches to a club, now we win and can return with our second diamond. Partner continues clubs and we win the ace, cash our last top club with everyone following and now…?

We know declarer has the ♠A so we can’t get a heart trick, but what about a spade trick? If partner has the ♠Q, we’ll always get a trick, but we might be able to get another trump trick, via promotion. If we play the 13th club, declarer has to decide what to ruff with. Yes, it's a ruff/sluff, but since your partner can also ruff, and since declarer has no more side losers, it might generate an extra trick for your side. On this hand declarer can’t help but lose another trick. Instead of four tricks, you’ll get six. The full hand:

Vul:None
Dir: S
♠ 632
♥ KQ109
♦ Q63
♣ KJ5
 
♠ 105
♥ J72
♦ AKJ85
♣ 762
  ♠ J74
♥ 8643
♦ 72
♣ AQ103
  ♠ AKQ98
♥ A5
♦ 1094
♣ 984