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The Signal

One of the best and most serviceable methods of giving information is
by using "the signal," which is made by the play of an unnecessarily
high card. For example, the Ace and King of a suit are led. The play of
the 6 before the 5 constitutes a signal, as the 6 is an unnecessarily
high card.

The meaning of this signal is that the maker desires the suit, in which
it is made, continued. Playing in ordinary order, lower before higher,
shows that the continuation of that suit is not requested. It is the
old Trump signal of the game of Whist, which, inasmuch as a demand for
a Trump lead is not needed in Auction, has been borrowed and
transformed into a request to continue the suit. This signal was first
used to mean, "I can ruff the third round," but the absurdity of
limiting it to any such meaning soon became apparent, and, as it is now
played, it means, "Partner, continue this suit. I have some reason for
asking you so to do." The failure to give this signal may mean, "Shift
the suit," but does not of necessity do so. It merely says, "Partner, I
have no reason for asking you to lead this suit a third time."

This signal is a most important part of Auction tactics. It can be
given on either the partner's or the Declarer's lead, should always be
used when a continuation of the suit is desired, and should be watched
for by the partner with the most painstaking care. The first trick
sometimes furnishes this information. For example, the play of the
deuce, or of any card which the partner can read as being of necessity
the lowest, tells him that either the card is a singleton or that the
player is not beginning a signal.

When a player is anxious to place his partner in the lead, the signal
may be of the greatest possible value. Suppose, for example, he has two
suits from which to choose. In one of these suits he is without
strength, but his partner may have the Ace. In the other, he has the
Ace himself, and his partner may have the King. If he guess the wrong
suit, the Declarer will get in and take the rest of the tricks. By
leading his Ace and watching the size of the card his partner plays, he
can generally tell what to do. If the lowest card be played, he should
shift the suit. In such a situation, if the partner wish the suit
continued, and has more than two small cards, he should play the
highest so as to emphasize the signal.

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