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We all know the basic high-low signal that we use when defending against a trump suit contract. For example, if West leads the A and East has the Q92, East plays the 9 to signal encouragement. West will now continue by leading the K and a third round of follows to East’s Q. However, East would also signal with the 9 if he had only a doubleton and could ruff the third round of the suit. West does not know when East signals high whether he has the Q or a doubleton in the suit.

There’s a special signal you can give when your partner leads an Ace against a trump suit contract and you hold the QJx of that suit (assuming you lead Ace from AKx on opening lead).

You cannot ever hope for your side to score 4 tricks in this suit, defending against a trump suit contract. Thus you must play the Q under partner’s Ace and this will tell partner that you also have the J or that you held only a singleton Q. Partner now has an immediate way to get to your hand, if he should wish to do so. Note therefore that if you hold Q3 and partner leads the Ace of that suit, you must not play the Q, since to play the Q would guarantee that you own the J or a singleton Q.

Let’s see how this works in real life:

W N E S
1♣ 1 P 1♠
P 2♠ P 4♠
  North  
K 10 3
8 7 2
A Q J 6 2
9 2
West East
8 4 9 7 5
A K 9 3 Q J 10
7 5 4 9 3
A Q J 10 8 6 4 3
  South  
A Q J 6 2
6 5
K 10 8
K 7 5

West leads the A. 2 from dummy. East plays Q and South follows with the 5. West ponders the situation. “North-South got to 4♠. They must have approximately 26 pts including distribution, let’s say approximately 24 HCP. I, West, have 14 HCP. That leaves East with not much else after the Q which he played at Trick 1. Hold it! The Q promised the J. Let’s see, the odds on collecting three heart tricks plus the ♣A are not as high as collecting two heart tricks plus two club tricks. I need to get East on lead to lead a club.” Of course, West cannot lead a club from his side of the table or declarer’s ♣K will become a trick.

West now leads the 3 to East’s J. East knows that West wanted to get him on lead and looks at dummy’s gorgeous diamond suit. Suits as wonderful as this are always a clue to defenders that they should cash all tricks in side suits immediately or declarer will be able to throw away losers on that suit. East must now lead to dummy’s weakness: clubs. (When dummy is on your right, lead to the weakest suit in sight.)

Poor declarer, whatever club she plays will be wrong. East-West will take two clubs and two hearts, defeating the contract. Note that without East’s Q signal at Trick 1, West would never have been able to work out how to get East on lead.

Of course, the play of the Q under the Ace does not say: “I wish to be on lead.” It merely says: “Partner, if you want me to be on lead, here’s how you can make it happen.” Partner is under no obligation to lead a small card to your J.

Photo creditvoxtheory