Try today’s deal as a defensive problem.  You are East, defending against 4after:

Dealer West E/W Vul

 West North East South 1 1 Pass 1 2 2 3 3 Pass 4 End

West leads the Q and dummy produces quite a good hand for his raise to 2.

 A Q 9 6 K Q J 8 5 9 5 9 8 7 5 10 7 4 2 K A K Q J 10 6 J 3 9 3 A 10 6 4 3 2 5 4 3 K 10 8 4 2 A 6 Q J 8 7 7 2

On the Q you play the three, declarer the seven. West continues with the 10, eight, four, two. What message, if any, did you send with your club plays? Has West sent any message with his two club leads?

West switches to the K. What do you play and why? Try answering all the questions before continuing.

It is standard practice to lead the king from holdings headed by both the ace-king and king-queen. Here West’s lead of the queen from a holding including both the ace and king, and his continuation of the ten were both noteworthy. By choosing the “lowest of equals” he was trying to direct East’s attention to the lower side suit, diamonds, rather than the higher side suit, hearts.

East’s 3 was a count signal, low showing an odd number. With two cards (possible for East’s raise as West had shown at least six) he would have played his higher club first. His second club, the lower of two remaining cards, also suggested strength in the lower side suit, diamonds.

On West’s K East could encourage a diamond continuation by signalling with the six or ten, but West, out of diamonds, would have to allow declarer to gain the lead and claim ten major-suit winners. To defeat the contract, East cannot signal at all but must overtake the %K with the ace and give West a diamond ruff.

If West held king and a small diamond, he should switch to the small card at trick three. East would win the ace and return a diamond to the king. Therefore the K had to be a singleton and East should rise majestically to the occasion. Signals are very useful, but they are no replacement for logic.