Upside-down count and attitude signals are the opposite of standard count and attitude signals. In a count situation, playing high-low shows an odd number of cards in the suit, while playing low-high shows an even number of cards. In an attitude situation, playing high-low is a discouraging signal, whereas low-high is an encouraging signal.

The benefits of upside-down attitude signals are:

  • Preserving suit strength. A defender might like to show count or attitude in a suit like KT82, but a standard count or attitude signal here would require the 8. This could be a valuable card. Theoretically, it's more practical to discard a high spot card from a lousy holding like 872.

  • Using the clarity of a deuce to maximum benefit. Because a deuce is the lowest card in a suit, its meaning is unmistakeable in either standard or upside-down attitude signals, but it is actually more valuable in the latter. When there are three possible side suits for partner to lead, it is generally more useful to signal encouragement than discouragement. An encouraging signal tells partner which one of the three suits to lead, whereas a discouraging signal discourages one suit but leaves partner guessing about the other two suits.


Example

The opponents wind up in 3NT after a weak 1NT opening. Partner leads the 3 (playing fourth-best leads).

North
A32
Q98
AJ8You
Q842J65
75
KQ932
T97


West

Pass
Pass
North

3NT

You

Pass

South
1NT (12-14)
Pass


Declarer plays dummy's 8. Since you can't beat this card, you should give count and play the 5. This is an upside-down signal showing an even number of hearts.

At trick two, declarer leads a club to his ace, cashes his K, and leads a club to dummy's queen, partner following suit the whole way. Declarer now leads the 13th club from dummy. What do you discard?

Since you want a diamond switch, you should discard the 2. This is an upside-down attitude signal. Declarer discards a diamond as well, and partner discards a heart. Declarer now calls for dummy's A, and then continues with a low spade to his queen, captured by partner's king. The situation is now:

North
3
Q9
AJ8You
--J
7
KQ93
--


Partner now obliges you by returning the 7. Dummy plays low and you win the trick with the queen. A heart return goes to partner's ace, and he returns the 6. Dummy plays low again, you win the king, and then cash the J for the setting trick.

The full deal:

Dummy
A32
Q98
PartnerAJ8You
K74Q842J65
AT43275
76DeclarerKQ932
J65SQT98T97
HKJ6
DT54
CAK3


Declarer could have handled the spade suit better, but points are won by taking advantage of such everyday mistakes.

Now imagine you were playing standard attitude signals when declarer led the last club from dummy. What could you discard? A heart wouldn't tell partner anything about spades or diamonds. Alternatively, a low spade would discourage spades, but wouldn't explicitly encourage diamonds.

If you try encouraging diamonds by discarding the 9 instead, declarer has a much better line available:

Dummy
A32
Q9
PartnerAJ8You
K74----J65
AT47
76DeclarerKQ32
--SQT98--
HKJ
DT5
C--


Now he leads a heart back to the J. If partner ducks his ace, declarer can float a diamond to dummy's 8, letting you win the trick. You are now endplayed in spades and diamonds. A diamond return immediately costs a trick, while a spade return drives out partner's king.

If instead partner captures the J with his A, the same result may ensue. A spade return by partner immediately blows a trick, while a diamond or heart return allows declarer to achieve the same endplay against you. The 9, as it turns out, is a pivotal card for the defense.

See also

  • Attitude Signals
    Signals used to encourage or discourage the lead of a suit.

  • Count Signals
    Signals used to show the number of cards held in a given suit.

  • Scanian Signals
    Situational upside-down attitude signals by third hand.

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