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The Discard

The discard which in Whist has been the subject of so many
controversies, and which, even in Bridge, has created some discussion,
does not assume nearly so great importance in Auction. The strength of
the various suits having been clearly indicated by the bid, there is
not as great opportunity to furnish new information by the discard.

It must not, however, be assumed, merely because the Auction discard is
comparatively unimportant, that it is not worthy of consideration. True
it is that there is no need to worry over any such complicated systems
as strength or rotary discards. They are apt to confuse and produce
misunderstandings far more damaging than any possible benefit which
results when they work perfectly. The strength discard may compel the
playing of a card which, if its suit be established, will win a trick,
and the rotary is not always reliable, as the discarder may be void of
the "next suit," or unable to discard from it because it is composed of
high cards only or of necessary guards for single honors. The
"odd-and-even" discard, that is, 3, 5, 7, 9, showing strength, 2, 4, 6,
8, weakness, is very satisfactory when the hands are made to order, but
a certain proportion of hands fail to contain an odd card when the
discarder desires to announce strength, or an even one when he has
extreme weakness. The awkwardness, when using this system, of such a
holding as 3, 5, 7, is self-apparent.

All these plans or fads had their innings in Whist, where important
information had to be conveyed by the discard, but in Auction, they are
about as necessary as pitching a curve to a blind batsman.

The plain, simple, old-fashioned discard from weakness is all that is
used or required, provided it be understood that a signal in the
discard means a reversal of its ordinary inference. A signal by discard
(that is, for example, discarding first a 5, followed by a 2) is
generally a showing of strength in that suit, and a most pronounced
suggestion, if not an imperative command, that it be led at the first
opportunity. The only case in which it is not an evidence of strength
is when it shows a desire to ruff. The signal in the discard is most
serviceable when the Declarer is playing a long suit, and the partner
is in doubt which of the two remaining suits to keep guarded. In this
case it may not be a command to lead, but merely a wireless message
saying, "I have this suit stopped; you take care of the other."

A signal in a discard to show strength is only necessary when it is not
advisable to discard once from each of the other suits, which by
inference gives the same information, yet does not shorten the strong

Strength information can often be transmitted by the weakness discard,
just as quickly and more simply than by the now generally abandoned
strength discard. For example, the discard of the lowest card shows
weakness and negatives all possibility of a strength signal, but if the
first discard be as high as a 7 or 8, and the partner can read, from
the general composition of his hand and the Dummy, that the discarder
must hold a lower card in that suit, he gets the information at once.

Regardless of showing his partner strength or weakness, the player has
ample opportunity to give evidence of skill in discarding. Too much
information should never be given to the Declarer when he is in the
lead and controls the situation. There are many hands in which it
becomes obvious that all the adversaries of the Declarer can hope to
accomplish is the saving of a slam, or the taking of one more trick.
The question is not what to tell the partner to lead when he gets in,
but how to win a single trick. In such a case, a bluff discard, i.e.,
showing strength where it does not exist, is sometimes effective,
although a keen Declarer is not apt to be easily deceived by any ruse
so transparent. One thing to remember under such circumstances,
however, is not to help the Declarer by showing weakness, so that he
will know which way to finesse. In No-trumps or with the Trumps
exhausted, never discard a singleton, or too many cards of a weak suit.

When a suit has been declared, it is unnecessary, by informatory
discarding, to repeat the announcement of strength. This principle,
just as is the case with other systems of play, is predicated upon the
ability of the partner to remember the bids. If, however, he be unable
to do so, information by discard will obviously be sowing seed on
barren ground, and should be withheld, as the Declarer is the only one
who will reap any benefit.

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Previous: The Signal

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