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Help your partner to defend better

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One way to improve both your partner's and your partnership's defense is to buy the reissue of "Defensive Signals" (Master Point Press) by the late Marshall Miles.

It is wide-ranging with lots of excellent advice across 11 chapters and 216 pages. But caveat emptor: From page 62 onward, Miles uses upside-down signals, where low encourages and high discourages. Sometimes, you cannot afford a high card to encourage, but you can usually spare one from a weak suit.

In this deal from the book, East must plan his defense against three no-trump after West leads a fourth-highest heart six and dummy plays the four.

North's double was negative, showing exactly four spades.

East should apply the Rule of Eleven. Six from 11 is five. So, there are five hearts higher than the six in the North, East and South hands combined. Since East can see four of them, he knows that South has only one high heart. Given his one-no-trump rebid, surely he has ace-doubleton.

To ensure that declarer cannot collect two heart tricks, East must play his two at trick one. Declarer will probably win, cross to the board with a spade and run the club queen. West takes the trick and leads another heart. East collects two tricks in that suit and shifts to a diamond; the contract goes down three.

Yes, if East plays the heart 10 at trick one, when West leads another heart at trick four, South might misguess, playing dummy's queen instead of the nine. But why rely on declarer's misread when you can always succeed?

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