When you cannot follow suit you either trump or discard. The discard can provide valuable information to partner. It will be a card from one of the other two suits.

Discarding – informative moves

1) High-low discard to promise a void. With an 8-2, for example, discard the 8 first, then the 2 on a subsequent round. If partner sees your signal, as he should do, he will know to lead the suit again, expecting a profitable ruff from you.

2) High-low discard to encourage a suit. You can also play high-low in a suit to tell partner you are interested in that suit. For example, with A Q 9 6 2, discard the 9 first, and the 2 next time. Again, partner will respond by leading spades to you when he gets the chance. Indeed, the 9 alone may be enough to encourage him.

3) Discard low to discourage a suit. When you want partner to avoid a worthless suit discourage him by playing the smallest card in that suit, say, 3 or 2.

So, when you are unable to follow suit, what should you discard:

Suit holdingNotes on your discard
A Q 8 6 2To encourage your partner to lead s back to you discard the 8
♠ Q J 4 2With these lower-ranked cards, the only way you can encourage partner is to discard high-low. Discard the ♠4 on the first round then the ♠2 on the next. Distribution may be favourable enough (that is, the other players have three each) for you to get one trick with the queen. Its value in NT is clear in the fact that you will take two tricks if partner leads to that suit
K J 9 2Similar set up. Encourage with the 9 first, then the 2 if necessary
♠ K J 7Play the middle of three: an “unnecessary high card” to encourage a suit. Here, discard the ♠J
♣ 9 7 2Of course, here you should discourage with the ♣2. This is just as important because it will ask partner to look elsewhere
7 6 3Again, discard 3 to tell partner you don’t like hearts

4) Revolving Discards. The revolving discard is a very effective system of signalling between partners with “worthless” cards to request a lead back in a preferred suit. Holding a void partner will have a choice of discarding from two side suits to signal interest in the third suit.

An example best describes the system at work. Basically think of the four suits as “revolving”, that is, you imagine the suits as forming a circle: and so on. It is used by a player when he cannot follow suit.

Supposing a is lead, and partner has a void in that suit. He can encourage, say a lead by discarding either a high or a low . You choose. Take the 10s down to the 7s as the high cards; and the 5s to the 2s as the low cards. In each case you will always have a choice of two discards to impart the same message.  For example, if you want a lead back to you, signal this by discarding either a or a when hearts are lead and you cannot follow suit. In the revolving system the club is above the spade, so you discard anything from 2 up to a 5. You have the alternative to discard a high to give the same message, 7 up to a 10.

A low ( 5 or below) discard indicates interest in the suit directly below, which is why a low club signals spades. A high discard (7 or above) signals preference for the suit directly above the preferred suit (a high diamond discard signals spades). In a suit contract, the trump suit is omitted in the signal.

Choice of revolving discard
Choice of revolving discard
Suit leadSuit encouragedChoice of discardRevolving
Low 2-5High 7-10
♣ ♠
♣ ♠
♣ ♠
♣ ♠

Remember that in each case the revolving cards operate when partner has a void in the suit led. He discards left or right of his preferred suit: a low 2 to 5 card indicates suit preference for the next-lower available suit, while a high 7 to 10 card indicates suit preference for the next-higher available suit.


Discard. When you are unable to follow suit and you do not wish to play a trump you will play a discard, a card from one of the other suits.

Finesse. A finesse is a means of winning a trick with a card that is lower than a card held by the opponents.

Master. A master is the highest card left in a given suit yet to be played.

Squeeze. Is a tactic to lead in a suit where an opponent has a void and is forced to discard a winner or the guard of a potential winner.

Cardinal Rules

Rule No 26 – In defence it will probably be correct for two-thirds of the time for declarer to draw trumps.

Rule No 27 – Never underlead from an ace in a long suit. So with a five- or six-carder, headed by the ace, lead it.

By Nigel Benetton – based on the UK Acol Bridge Bidding System

Last updated: Sunday, 4th July 2021