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World Class Players Signal Attitude

Is it better to primarily signal attitude or count upon partner’s opening lead? This has been a controversy for ages. Both have advantages and disadvantages at times. Bridge literature, rather than analyzing the issue, mostly features the authors’ hobby horses.

What do world class players signal? We conducted an investigation into the issue by consulting the convention cards of the teams in the play offs for the open and women’s category at this year’s world championships in China, as we wanted an objective criterion for what should count as ‘world class’ (we did something similar in 2011). Results are summarized in the table here (text in Dutch). Teams are in order of final standings in the round robin.

Pairs who usually signal attitude upon partner’s opening lead but count in certain situations only (e.g., on a king lead against suit declaration), are counted for ‘attitude’. The ‘Other’ column contains mostly pairs for whom their signal structurally depends on something, usually the declaration: suit or notrump. Sometimes it remains unclear what it depends on. One Japanese pair did not fill out their signals section at all.

We did not investigate the method of signaling (high/low, UDCA, odd/even, et cetera), as this is much less important than the signal’s meaning. Neither did we investigate signaling in other situations, such as when discarding.

Conclusion

Upon partner’s opening lead a clear majority of 73% of world class players prefer attitude for their priority signal. Just 10% of the pairs play (almost) exclusively count. For 17% their signal depends on the declaration or means something else.

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