Attitude signals are used by a defender to show interest in a suit. When partner leads a suit, the third hand play of a high card is encouraging, whereas a low card is discouraging. For example, if partner leads an ace and you hold KQ932, then the 9 is the proper encouraging signal. Conversely, if your holding is 742, then you’d discourage with the 2.Attitude signals can also be used when discarding. If you’re void in a suit that partner (or declarer) leads, then a high discard is encouraging, and a low discard is discouraging.
This is the standard method of attitude signals.
Now here’s the “upside down” method: a high card is discouraging, and a low card is encouraging.
What’s the point? Well, a big reason for upside-down attitude signals is to preserve a valuable high card.
If we revisit the first example of KQ932:
West leads the ace, dummy plays low, and East squanders the 9. Suddenly dummy has a potential 4th round winner in the suit.
There’s another reason that I like upside-down attitude. My belief is that encouragement is more important than discouragement – not just in bridge, but in communication in general. If you asked my 5-year-old niece what she wants for dinner, which response would you rather hear?
Answer #1: “I don’t want chicken, but I don’t necessarily not want pizza.”
Answer #2: “I want pizza.”
Which response just cost you a couple extra gray cells to process? This is a lot like attitude signals in bridge. Answer #1 is like discouraging spades and hoping partner figures out a heart switch. Answer #2 is akin to simply encouraging partner in hearts.
If you’re willing entertain this philosophy, then a follow-up question is: Do high or low cards make better signals?Personally, I believe that low cards are better. Consider the deuce for a moment. As the lowest ranking card of a suit, it cannot be falsecarded by declarer, and any signal assigned to it is unmistakeable. Deuces are the clearest signposts to flash at partner on defense. In contrast, the above layout needs partner to count five cards (AKQJT) before determining whether the 9 is the highest possible card that you could have played.
So, to summarize my two cents:
1. Encouraging signals are easier for partner to understand than discouraging signals.
2. Low cards are easier for partner to recognize than high cards.
The natural combination of these ideas, then, is upside-down attitude signals. Use the clearest available cards (low ones) for the most important kind of signalling (encouragement). Make defense as easy as possible for the big galoot across the table. He needs all the help he can get.