Ever since the game of bridge, in whatever form, has been played, the object of the defenders during the play period has been to employ defense methods in order to communicate information to partner via a play of a card. This action can also occur with the play of the very first card to the very first trick, which is called the lead.

If a defender is not able to play to the suit, which has been led, then the partner can play a card, which may carry certain information. This card is called a discard. These cards constitute the act of carding, the act of signaling, and which should be a part of the agreement formed by the partnership. Certain information is attached to the significance of this particular card and pertinent, vital information is communicated via this card.

The attempt has been made to list various carding methods, to present discarding methods, and to provide the information in the best possible and most accurate manner.


Carding: 1. (verb) to furnish with or attach to a card
  2. (verb) to communicate information with a certain distinct card;
  3. (verb) a defensive action, by which partner can determine the best course of action for all following tricks.
Discard: 1. (verb) to play a card that is neither of the suit led nor of the trump suit.
  2. (noun) name of the card played literally to the action described above.
Lead; 1. (verb) the action of playing the first card to trick;
  2. (noun) the first card played to a trick;
  3. (noun) the first card played to the first trick once the declarer has been established.
Signal: 1. (verb) to play a card to a trick in such a manner as to communicate per partnership agreement certain information;
  2. (noun) the action, in which a player communicates to partner certain information per partnership agreement during defensive play about the shape of the hand. Note: often referred to as the language of defensive play.


The set of agreements between two partners relating to the meanings of cards played on defense. There are several carding and signaling methods devised for the game of bridge by experts experimenting with different variations. Many methods have withstood the proof of time and have lasted from the days of the game of Whist in order to communicate to partner generally attitude, count, and preference.

See also: Signals by Mary Hemenway from 2004 (.pdf file).

See also: Carding Signals Summary (.pdf file) by BridgeSlam.com (off line).

0 -2 Higher Leads - Zero Or Two Higher
This is an opening lead convention, the intention of which is to eliminate certain ambiguities of standard honor leads. For example, the lead of a Ten or Nine promises either zero honors or two higher honors in that suit. The lead of the Jack, however, denies any honor higher than the Jack. According to partnership understanding these leads can be used against either a suit contract or a No Trump contract, or against both forms.

American Leads
Such leading techniques were a feature originally in the game of Whist before the present-day game of bridge evolved. They were employed to provide partner with a count when a solid suit was being led. The lead of the Jack followed by the Queen of the same suit, for example, shows a solid seven-card suit.

These American Leads were devised by Mr. Henry Jones, aka Cavendish, of London, England, and by Mr. Nicholas Browse Trist of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. Such leading signals have become obsolete, but they are, however, considered by bridge historians to have been a milestone and a significant element in the development of defensive signals.

Note: The link is to the publication American Leads Simplified, authored by Mr. Henry Jones. The publication is the Third Edition, published in the year 1892, and is in a .pdf file format and will open in a new window. This .pdf file is only archived and preserved on this site for future reference.

American Leads Origin

This lead method was devised at during the period of the card game Whist to give partner a count when a solid suit was being held. The lead of the Jack of Hearts, for example, followed by the Queen of Hearts showed a solid seven-card Heart suit. The developers were Mr. Henry Jones Cavendish of London, England, and Mr. Nicholas Browse Trist, born in the year 1840, of New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. The concept of American Leads was introduced around 1874-1875. Source.

Note: Although these particular leads have been obsolete for some time, they were considered a milestone in the further development of defensive leads. The two popular books during that period, which described in detail the American Leads are: American Leads at Whist, 1891, Publisher: C. Scribner's Sons, New York, LC: 05001295 and American Leads at Whist: With Directions for Play, c1892, 1894, Publisher: C. Scribner's Sons, New York, LC: 28010160, both books by Mr. Fisher Ames.

Alarm-Clock Leads
Also colloquially known as wake up calls. These leads are applied when defending a contract. It constitutes an unusual lead which strongly suggests to partner the suspicion of an unusual situation, such as a possible ruffing strategy by the declarer. If the lead-card does not conform to any other interpretation, then the lead should be considered to be unusual. The general guideline is to lead the fourth highest from five or six cards, and to lead the fifth highest from seven cards.

Bechgaard Signals
This method of discarding or signaling partner at the bridge table was devised by Mr. Kai Bechgaard of South Africa. These signals include a delayed signal to show suit length, a continued signal to show suit length, and a double signal to show suit length.

Blind Leads
This is a term for the first lead on any hand under almost specific conditions. First, the term is applied to those circumstances when the opening leader has not seen the tabled dummy. Secondly, the term is especially applied when the partner of the leader has not contributed to the bidding auction and more so if the declaring side has only bid one denomination. The entire concept is based on the ability to apply logic for leading a specific suit, on the indications provided or not provided by the auction, on reasonably drawn inferences.

Note: Once the term was coined and accepted the bridge personality Mr. Terence Reese quoted in the most proverbial British wit that blind leads are for deaf players, which is a reference to the lack of listening to the auction, and thereby being ill-equipped to make the best logical and reasonable decision based on what has been bid and what has not been bid.

Note: Mr. Alan Truscott in his bridge column for The New York Times on March 8, 1992, describes how Mr. Michael (Mike) Lawrence underled his Ace on an important board at the Regional Swiss Team Championship in Portland, Oregon, United States, in order to prove, as a result of this action, that blind leads are for deaf players. This information has also only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.

Note: Mr. David Gold in BRIDGE, Number Ninety-eight, Christmas 2009, and posted online by Mr. Bridge Online, provides a clear explanation as to why blind leads are for deaf players. Example are provided and explained. This information has also only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.

Cincinnati Leads
Most of the information contained here is from the book Count Coded Leads, published by Mr. Jerry Fink and Mr. Joe Lutz. The origin of the designation Cincinnati Leads is unknown; otherwise the preferable designation is Count Coded Leads. Some references also designate this carding method as American Leads Convention Cincinnati Style.

Cooper Echo
The Cooper Echo was devised by Mr. Peter Cooper of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The concept behind the Cooper Echo is, simply stated, information passed to the partner of the declarer, or the dummy, that the contract will be made. This is the only information passed by the declarer, perhaps for the reason of assuring the partner that the contract will make. The Cooper Echo does not automatically establish a claim in any form by the declarer of a certain number of tricks and/or overtricks.

Desperation Lead or Play
In the evolution of the game of bridge, from whist bridge to auction bridge, there have been a multitude of devised guidelines to communicate information to partner either by the first led card and also during the play itself. The desperation lead or play is one of those guidelines employed in certain circumstances.

Finch Discard Signal System
An updated system of discarding to communicate with partner devised by Vivienne Finch, who registered it with the English Bridge Union in the year 1981. The original version was contributed to this website by her brother-in-law Mr. Alan Finch via email in February 2012. The concept of the discard signal system is that suits are ranked alphabetically CDHS as in bidding. An even card shows preference for the higher of the two remaining suits , and an odd card shows preference for the lower of the two remaining suits. This information is presented in a .pdf file format, which will be opened by your browser automatically in a new window.

Finch Discard Signal System
This is a carding method registered in the year 1981 with the English Bridge Union by Vivienne Finch, who devised this discard signal system. This information was contributed by her brother-in-law by Mr. Alan Finch and is presented in a .pdf file format, which will be opened by your browser automatically in a new window.

Journalist Leads - Journalist Lead
The term Journalist seems to stem from a series of articles in the respected Bridge Journal in the United States. While these leads were popularized by the Bridge Journal in the 1960s, they were described earlier by Mr. Helge Vinje of the Oslo Academic Bridge Club.

Kelly Solid Suit Signal
The origin is unknown. This conventional method of signaling partner is the play of the second highest or highest card of a suit, which was originally led, to the second trick of the suit to show that the balance of the suit (five cards originally or longer at No Trump) is now established and will run. A variation for the original leader is the selection of which of touching honors shall be led against a No Trump contract. From KQJ4, the lead of the King followed by the Queen shows a 4-card suit. If the holding is KQJ105, the lead of the Jack would show a 5-card suit. If the holding is KQJ1032, then the Ten would be chosen as the second lead based on the principle that the lower the second lead, the longer the suit.

Lavinthal Signals
These suit preference signals were devised and developed by Mr. Hy Lavinthal, who was born in the year 1894 and died in the year 1972. The concept and the principle of such suit preference signals began to be employed as early as 1933.

Obvious Shift Principle
A carding method from A Switch in Time by Pamela and Matthew Granovetter. At Trick 1, partner of opening leader compares the led suit and obvious shift suit. Encouragement, upside-down or standard, denies tolerance for the obvious shift suit. Discouragement actively confirms tolerance for the obvious shift suit. This applies whether opening leader will maintain the lead or not.

Rolling Discards
The concept of the rolling discarding method is based on the rank of the suit and a particular card of that suit. The history of the evolution of this concept is unknown, but many partnerships have this particular agreement to communicate information to partner. The designation refers to the rank first, as in:

... or if the partnership wishes, from top to bottom:

Thus, once the Spades suit is reached the order of the suits rolls over to Clubs.

As an example of rolling discards the contract is Hearts and partner's first discard is a high Spade pip, which means that the discard is communicating a desired switch roll up and over or roll down to Clubs, or the next suit which is either Clubs or Diamonds based upon the play of the declarer.

Conversely, if the trump suit is again Hearts, and if the discard is a low pip, then the partner wishes a switch, or roll down to the next lowest suit, either Diamonds or Clubs, which is again based upon the play of the declarer.

Whatever the trump suit is, then the discarded pip of any suit asks partner to switch to the desired suit, which is either rolled up or rolled down. The concept is nothing more and nothing less than a method of communicating a suit preference in order to gain an advantage in winning a possible trick.

Roman MUD or Roman Middle-Up-Down
A method of leading from four small cards. The opening leader leads the second highest from his four small cards, then follows with the highest, then with the third highest and finally plays the lowest. An example would be: S: 8642. The lead is the 6, followed by the 8, followed by the 4, followed by the 2. This principle of leading is normally confined to the opening lead only.

Note: Mr. Mel Colchamiro authored an extensive article about the advantages and disadvantages of MUD leads, which was published in the Bridge Bulletin as published by the ACBL for September 2013. His article dissects the concept, which was of the hugely successful Italian Blue Team that won 13 world championships between the years 1961 and 1975, when they disbanded. This article has also only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference and for the convenience of the reader.

Rotary Discard
The first known publication of this particular discarding method was published in an article published in the January 1895 issue of Whist - A Monthly Journal Devoted to the Interests of the Game by author Mr. P. J. Tormey. The description of this particular concept of carding was detailed also in the same journal in February 1899 by Mr. John C. Meredith. This article, without change, has also only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.

Note: It is not known whether this discard method continues to be either employed or permitted by sponsoring bridge organizations.

A colloquial designation for discard. The term is defined in the world of games a to lead, thus establishing the trump suit, or to discard (a card other than a trump and different in suit from the card led).

Rusinow Leads - Rusinow Lead
The principle behind Rusinow Leads is simply the leading of the second-ranking of touching honors. Rusinow Leads are used only on the first trick against a suit contract in a suit, which the partner has not bid during the auction, if at all. It is uncommon to employ the Rusinow Leads also against a No Trump contract since the purpose of the lead against a No Trump contract is entirely different in nature, but it is not illegal.

Sequence Discards
This designation is otherwise known as Informative Discard From a Sequence. The origin of this discarding method is unknown, although there is a strong argument that the method has been adopted from developments practiced in the early days of the game of Whist and integrated into the game of bridge at an early stage of the evolution of duplicate bridge.

Simple Prism Signals
Normal defensive methods commonly give partner your parity (count) in the suit being played, as this is often more use to him in defence than it is to declarer. Rather than just show the parity in one suit, prism signals show the parity in all suits in one go, and this can be of great help when a new suit is opened up before you have a normal count of that suit. This information has also only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.

Smith Signals - Smith Echo
The Smith Signal is sometimes attributed to Mr. T .R. H. Lyons of England, but the concept was mainly devised and developed by Mr. I. G. Smith of England, who published the elements of this defense concept in the British Bridge World magazine in 1963, and for whom the concept is designated.

Summary of Defensive Signaling
There are many ways to indicate, show, promise and inform a partner by the lead of a certain card or via a discard of a specific card the expectation of the ensuing play. These defense signals have a definite meaning and belong in every partnership agreement.

Third and Fifth Leads
This is a conventional lead method, by which a bridge partnership can exchange communication. It is an opening lead method in which the third highest card is led from a three-card suit or a 4-card suit, and the fifth highest card from a 5-card or longer suit.

Transfer For Lead
The idea behind the concept of Transfer Bid For Lead occurs in specific situations and bidding auctions, in which the opposing side competes. In order to defend against an opposing bid in a competitive auction it becomes necessary in several situations to decide and/or to indicate early in the auction that the lead should be determined in advance in the event that the opposing side declares.

Upside Down Count
This designation applies to a carding and/or discarding method, which communicates certain information to a bridge partner. The origin is unknown, but this particular method has gained popularity with the bridge community. The name of this carding method is also referred to sometimes as reverse signals.

Vinje Signals
In his book, New Ideas in Defensive Play in Bridge, Mr. Helge Vinje of the Oslo Academic Bridge Club devised a series of defensive signals, which pinpoint distributions and situations that are somewhat ambiguous in standard signaling.

Upside-Down Signals
This method of signaling the partner is credited to Mr. Karl Schneider, but was apparently first published by Mr. E. K. O'Brien in a The Bridge World magazine article published in 1937. Regarding defensive card play, playing upside-down reverses the traditional meaning. Therefore, playing an upside-down attitude means that a low card encourages the continuation, and/or per partnership agreement a shift to an indicated suit, whereas a high card discourages such action. An upside-down count means that a low card shows an even number of cards, whereas a high card shows an odd number of cards.

The main theoretical advantage of this method is that a player may not have the opportunity to discard a high card from a strong holding, which could eventually also become a trick-taking winner. A second, possible advantage to this method is that it is more difficult for the declarer to falsecard effectively, and that a single discard signal during the defense may be clearer than with other methods of signaling.

Note: Mr. Alan Truscott, in his bridge column for The New York Times, dated and published September 18, 1966, writes that this concept dates back to the days of Whist, and its prototype was originated by Lord Henry Bentinck in 1834. This bridge column has only been preserved and archived in .pdf file format on this site for future reference.

Note: The family portrait of Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, born in the year 1774 and died in the year 1839, is presented below as he stood in his royal uniform of a britisher General and Statesman.

Wenseslas - Wenceslas
The origin of this particular defense signalling method is unknown. The only source presently can be found in the write-up titled Symmetric Relay, authored in the year 1986 by Mr. Hugh Grosvenor and Mr. Ian Robinson, both from Australia.The article was presented online.

Note: The foundation of the concept is that if a singleton is tabled by the dummy in the suit led by the player leading to the first trick, then an odd card of the same suit by partner is encouraging. However, if the partner plays an even card, then this is defined as suit preference.

Note: The designation of Wenseslas, also spelled Wenceslas, and generally spelled in the English language as Wenceslas is not defined nearer. Since there are various historical personalities, who carry this name, it is impossible to narrow the options without additional information.

Note: If any visitor can contribute additional information about this carding method and/or or about the person, for whom it is named, or about the originator of the concept, then this information will be greatly appreciated.


Oddities in Lead Directing

The bridge player can form an agreement with his partner concerning unusual bidding auctions, during which certain circumstances are put in place, which allow the partnership to end with a more positive score if the lead were traditional. Such cases are presented below for the edification of the bridge player. These examples serve only the purpose to show what is possible. These actions have no name, no designation, no classification, and no specification. Several possible agreements can be formed and information can be exchanged regarding a certain action even during the bidding phase.

Note: in time the Bridge Guys hope to add similar examples of requested leads. Any contribution will be greatly appreciated, which meets the purpose of this section.

Example 1

K5 KJ875 A97 854
West   North   East   South
        1   1
1   Pass   1 NT   Pass
2 NT   Pass   3 NT   Pass
Pass   Double   Pass  




1. East is declarer and South is on lead.
2. North did not support his partner's Hearts on the first round of bidding.
3. North, who is not on lead, doubled the final contract of 3 No Trump. This is the most important information.
Things to Consider
1. In many of the regular partnership agreements, and even those of more experienced players, the double following the final contract can be interpreted in various ways. For example, the double could be for penalty. This is a valid interpretation for any partnership agreement.
2. However, in various publications such as Opening Leads to Better Bridge, authored by Mr. Ben Cohen and Rhoda Barrow, the meaning of the double is interpreted to mean that North is requesting a Heart lead by doubling, namely the first bid suit by partner.
3. An alternative agreement is that North, by doubling, is not asking for a Heart lead as North did not support partner's Hearts on the first round, but rather the first bid suit of the dummy, namely a Spade lead.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.