Basic Discard Systems

Discard systems allow you to communicate more information about your hand to partner when playing defence. They can make all the difference between a successful defence strategy and a failing one.

Discard systems are so called because they make use of the cards which you are throwing away. For example if partner leads the top card in a suit then you can use the cards you play to tell them if you like that suit or not.  If they lead a suit that you are out of then you can even tell them which of the other suits you prefer!

Discard signals should be sent the first time you play a card in a suit, or the first time you discard a different suit.


Attitude is the most basic defence system. Basically if you like a suit then you play a high card. If you don’t like a suit then you play a low card. High for aye, low for no.

Liking a suit usually involves having some top honours, but if you are defending against a trump contract it may also indicate a shortage with a chance to trump.

Let’s look at some examples to make this clearer.

On this hand South is playing in 4 hearts. West leads the Ace of diamonds. This signals that they also have the king (see the guide on opening leads).

East has a doubleton diamond. With partner showing the king they know that they have a chance to trump on the 3rd round. They should therefor encourage partner in diamonds. Playing the 9 says ‘carry on playing this suit partner’.

This allows partner to cash the king of diamonds….

…and lead a small diamond for trumping.

On this hand South is again playing in 4 hearts. West leads the king of diamonds, indicating the queen also. This time East has has no interest in diamonds and should play the 2 to show this.

This time North is playing in 3NT. East has a nice diamond run and so should lead the ace as the top of the sequence. West plays small to discourage.

East continues to cash their king of diamonds.

Now when East leads the queen of diamonds, West can indicate that they would like a club lead by discarding a large club.

Reverse Attitude

Reverse attitude is very similar, but you use a low card to show that you like a suit and a high one to say that you don’t. Low for like, High for hate. 

The advantage of this is that you do not need to use up big cards in a suit you like, something which may lead to a loss of tricks, especially in a NT contract.