In bridge, a Vinje signal is a trump echo by a defender to relay his hand pattern to partner. Playing high-low in trumps shows a hand with exactly one odd-numbered suit. Conversely, playing low-high shows a hand with one even-numbered suit.

Vinje signals "work" because all bridge hands have one of the above distributions.

Sample hand patterns with one even-numbered suit:

  • 4-3-3-3
  • 5-3-3-2
  • 6-3-3-1

Sample hand patterns with one odd-numbered suit:

  • 4-4-3-2
  • 5-4-2-2
  • 6-3-2-2

Note that Vinje signals are incompatible with the standard trump echo that shows count in the trump suit.


Example

The following deal illustrates the potential utility of Vinje signals.

Dummy (North)
Q2
T42
You (West)J952
J3KQJT
J65
T87
A8732



You     
Pass
All Pass

North    
Pass


Partner     
1H1


South    
4S


  1. 5-card majors


Against South's 4S contract, you lead a heart to partner's queen and declarer's ace. Declarer now pulls trumps with the SQ and SA, partner following with the S5 and S7.

At trick 4, South leads the C4. Should you take your ace or duck?

East's Vinje signal showed exactly one even-numbered suit. That suit looks like spades. It's hard to imagine South jumping to 4S with AKxxxx or less. So if partner started with two spades, then he must have an odd number of cards in the remaining suits.

Partner must hold 5 hearts for his opening bid, but cannot possibly hold 7. (Declarer would have been void at the first trick.) Thus partner's major suit distribution looks to be 2-5.

The question now is partner's minor suit distribution. He must hold an odd number of cards in diamonds and clubs. Does he have 5-1 or 3-3 shape?

Well, partner can't hold 5 clubs, since you and dummy hold 9 combined clubs. Conversely, if he holds 5 diamonds, then declarer's shape is 7-2-1-3. In that case it would seem immaterial whether you take your CA now or later.

The pivotal case, though, is if partner is 3-3 in the minors. In that scenario, declarer is 7-2-3-1 and you must grab your CA now. The full deal:

North
Q2
T42
WestJ952East
J3KQJT75
J65KQ987
T87SouthAKQ
A8732SAKT9864965
HA3
D643
C4


Declarer could have tried harder by immediately leading a club at trick 2 and hoping (praying) to enter dummy with the SQ later. But such is not always the caliber of play encountered.

If you managed to reach the right conclusion on this hand without suffering a slow play penalty or brain aneurysm, congratulations. You may safely add Vinje signals to your convention card.


Origins

Vinje signals are named for their inventor, Danish player Helge Vinje.

See also

  • Bechgaard Signals
    A delayed count signal that's used on defense.

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

  • Present Count
    A type of discard that's used as a count signal.

  • Trump Echo
    Playing high-low or low-high in the trump suit to show an even or odd number of trumps, respectively.

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