Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

What you don't know would make a great book.

Sydney Smith

South North
Neither ♠ Q 7
 A K Q 6 5
 8 7
♣ J 10 8 7
West East
♠ 9 6 5 2
 8 2
 A K 10 2
♣ 6 4 2
♠ A 10 4 3
 J 10 9 4 3
 5 4 3
♣ A
♠ K J 8
 Q J 9 6
♣ K Q 9 5 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1 Pass
2♣ Pass 2♠ Pass
2 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


I believe that one can survive pretty well without most of the gadgets that adorn the convention card of today's expert. But I'll grudgingly make an exception for the Smith Echo, an idea that has been around for 50 years. The idea is that at no-trump after the opening trick is won by declarer, the defenders' first signal (in a suit where giving count is irrelevant) signals attitude with regard to the initial suit. The most effective approach is to use the echo by the opening leader as a positive request for third hand to shift, but by third hand it indicates extras in the led suit.

In this deal from a national Board-a-Match Teams, three no-trump made 90 percent of the time it was attempted by South. Declarer’s best practical play on the spade-six lead is to hop up with dummy’s queen. Then the defense is likely to continue attacking spades when they get in. But declarer made what in practice, if not in theory, was a slight slip, when he played low from dummy at trick one and East put in the spade 10 to force the jack.

Now declarer led a club to the ace, and West signaled with the club six — Reverse Smith — asking for the shift that in context had to be to diamonds. East obediently led the diamond five to the queen and king, and West went back to spades. East took the spade ace and reverted to diamonds — hey, presto, down one!

There are some people who would encourage you to rebid one no-trump, using that call to show a minimum balanced hand, (A call of two clubs would promise extra shape or high cards, or both.) Do not listen to them; the natural and correct way to develop this hand is to bid two clubs, showing your shape, but not guaranteeing any extras.


♠ Q 7
 A K Q 6 5
 8 7
♣ J 10 8 7
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠ Pass

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2013. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuJune 11th, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Hi Bobby, the 6S lead could be from J986 or the actual 9652,is there any way of knowing,as the rule of 11 is of no help here ,it seems..If east knows the lead is from 9652,hopping up with ace of spades and diamond switch is immediate,with the ace of clubs to come.Guess with 2 aces there is no hurry here,therefore 10spades on trick1 and let Smith Echo work.But if declarer plays QS on T1,is there a case on the bidding to switch to diamonds n not second spade?Regards-Patrick.

Bobby WolffJune 12th, 2013 at 1:24 am

Hi Patrick,

As usual, your analysis is on target.

Often, in constructing our daily column, we will edit hands to suit the subject, and since Smith echo is the main feature, we needed to make sure the defense had a chance to warn partner off spades and on to diamonds.

No, I cannot in good conscience, encourage East to switch to diamonds once he wins the queen of spades with the ace. However, sometimes declarer doesn’t foresee the consequences of what are to him meaningless break even plays (the queen of spades on this hand).

The really great players do it as naturally as waking up in the morning and that ability is one of the ingredients of being thought of as “world class”, a compliment which is often overused. All I can tell you about it, is that experience is the most important ingredient and that is the principle reason there are very few bridge players ever who achieve that status, before reaching their forties and usually beyond.