Discards and Signals
From Better Bridge (9/3/14)

To discard on the run of declarer's or dummy's long suit is a tough task. Consider these guidelines :

1. Keep Length With Dummy

If dummy holds four cards in a suit and you also have four in that suit, keep the same length as dummy if you can beat one of dummy's cards.

J 10 87 5 3 2
9 6

South has three tricks in dummy. If East discards one of the seemingly useless cards, declarer has four tricks in dummy, for the 4 will become the thirteenth if East comes down to three cards. However, if dummy held A-K-Q-9, East could throw one or more as East cannot beat any of dummy's cards.

Q 109743

South has three tricks as the queen falls on the second round. If East discards a card, declarer can score four tricks.

Q953 J 10

Declarer can set up one extra trick by playing ace, king, ruff, cross to dummy and ruff again. As long as there is another entry to dummy, declarer can cash the established winner. If East discards a card in this suit, declarer can set up two extra tricks via ace, king and ruff, and needs one less entry to dummy as well.

2. Keep Length With Declarer

If the bidding has revealed a 4-card or 5-card suit with declarer, do not discard from that suit if you also hold four cards until declarer comes down to fewer than four cards.

J 9 810743

South has bid this suit and has three tricks. If East discards a card, South has four winners.

3. Try To Keep At Least One Card In Partner's Suit So That You Can Return Partner's Lead

If you are likely to obtain the lead only once, try to keep at least one card in partner's suit. However, if it is highly unlikely that you will obtain the lead at all, it is better to discard all your cards in partner's suit so that partner can place the rest with declarer. In most cases, it is also more important to keep length with dummy or keep length with declarer.

4. If none of the above apply, watch declarer's discards. You can usually afford to throw the same suit that declarer is discarding.

5. If declarer could ruff a suit in dummy but instead leads out trumps after all trumps have been drawn, you can discard the suit which declarer could have ruffed in dummy.

6. Make a mental note when declarer shows out of a suit. You can discard that suit unless you need to keep length with dummy.

Signalling With Your Discard

Standard discard signals are :

Lowest discard = Not interested in this suit.
High discard = Interested in this suit.
High-then-low discard = Please play this suit

These signals apply both at no-trumps and for suit contracts. In a suit contract you may be able to signal high in the suit that you want, but in no-trumps you usually cannot afford to discard the suit you want. In no-trumps it is far more common to discard lowest in the suit(s) that you do not want.

Non-Standard Signals When Discarding

1. Reverse Signals: The opposite of standard signals, Ie. high discard = not interested in this suit, lowest card discard = "Please play this suit". This is superior to standard methods since it does not require you to play a high card in the suit you do want, and you can usually afford to discard a high card in a suit you do not want.

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