Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Thursday, October 8th, 2020


MirceaOctober 22nd, 2020 at 3:11 pm

Hi Bobby,

I find this week’s columns very educational, at least for my level of playing. The insights and reasoning provided is very useful in learning how the experts think.

As you say in the column, if West inserts the C9 at trick 3 declarer struggles. This depends on how many clubs declarer started with. How is West supposed to know that? Even if they’re playing Smith Echo, I don’t see any way of getting it right.

Speaking of Smith, do you find it worthwhile?

bobbywolffOctober 22nd, 2020 at 4:25 pm

Hi Mircea,

You, thinking you are not an expert, is simply not true, especially when you consider bridge on a worldwide
scale, and its many players, who may love to play, but when confronted with both the memory necessary, plus the amazing number of ways, simple arithmetic and the constant use of numbers is involved, are not up to the task, but rather embrace the elegance and the social advantages, but soon sadly, find those side issues not material factors, by themselves, of helping that player become a consistent winner.

Yes, you are 100% right with West, after starting out with the club ten to rise with the club nine
when declarer next leads the three of clubs toward dummy.

First, he, having not seen South’s hand would, almost 100% not have any idea of declarer’s game plan and his specific problem of enough entries to dummy and next, if his partner was dealt the queen of clubs, playing the nine could be fatal to EW’s chances of limiting the number of club tricks for his opponents.

Smith Echo is a good convention, with the only serious drawback, being difficult to play it ethically, since there might be a serious ethical problem, when it comes time for the Smith player (3rd in line) to signal, then the length of time it takes him to follow suit, may become unauthorized information to partner with exchanging information. It is a controversial area, with some shady players, especially when playing against inexperienced ones (who are not up to understanding the ethics of the moment) taking big time advantage without their opponents even or ever knowing it, before, during and after they do.

Same thing with odd and even signals (odd being positive and even therefore negative but also, when applicable, including suit preference.

An age old problem with our beloved game and not to be taken lightly since when that advantage (if taken) becomes enormous in scope, making that type of advantage often momentous and worse, not usually detected unless it happens against experienced opponents and even then, the excuses given for slowness, are too often believed by young TD’s or worse, by intimidated committees.

No doubt, way back, almost 100 years ago, when contract bridge was first discovered (1927), it was thought to be a game for ladies and gentlemen, but in too many cases that description turned into or should have, into “petty bridge crooks”.

Also, I agree that Smith Echo (discarding immediately from a side suit, trying to describe whether the defender doing it, to instead try to legally indicate, instead of the suit discarded, rather his holding, good or bad, in the previous suit partner had led). Yes, certainly informative, but also sometimes difficult to play it in tempo and thus consistently ethical.

MirceaOctober 22nd, 2020 at 4:39 pm


Thank you for your kind words, but I respectfully disagree with you about my skill level, unless we change the meaning of the word ‘expert’.

Anyway, I was thinking more along the ways of East having started with 84 or 74 in clubs, not necessarily Q4 as you said. With Q4 and perhaps even with 84 Smith Echo will prove to be helpful (assuming that West’s opening 10 promises the 9), but what about a holding of 74 for East? Playing Smith, I find it very difficult for East to consider that to be a “good” holding, basically telling partner to play low if declarer plays a small club from the closed hand.

bobbywolffOctober 22nd, 2020 at 5:14 pm

Hi Mircea,

Although my response to you would be considered long by many, there is an important fact left out, perhaps by design, simply because it may become difficult to judge the back and forth.

Both Smith Echo and odd and even (with too often the telltale huddles) are open season for a thorough and competent declarer who is totally within his rights to judge one’s slow decision and take valid inference, although with his own risk for whatever reason.

In an honest bridge game, and it was certainly meant to be so, any information those pesky defensive opponents try to impart to their partner is also viewed (and felt) by declarer, sometimes printing a blueprint of how to declare for him.

That fact alone, although sometimes not worth anything to declarer, needs to be considered, often not figured in the strategy, but once said, always needs to be considered.

Rich indianaOctober 22nd, 2020 at 5:54 pm

I’m wondering, if I am east, holding 8,4….. What’s the correct play at trick 1? 8 for even?

If so, it might be possible for West to work out that my 4 was singleton, in which case playing the 9 is necessary,

Or, that my 4 was 3rd highest, in which case playing the 9 costs a trick, but declarer is playing a strange line in hearts.

Given those two choices, the first send much more likely.

Rich IndOctober 22nd, 2020 at 6:33 pm

If, as easy, I held, in clubs… 8 4
What would be the proper play at trick 1?

bobbywolffOctober 23rd, 2020 at 10:25 pm

Hi Rich,

The type signals used by different good partnerships vary, according to taste: High is often, positive and even, low is the opposite negative and odd, but different methods, approved by that partnership, is very common.

The difference in opinion was great 90 years ago, and still controversial all those years later.

The one commonality between all good players, is never signal with a high card, if that card may have utility to take a trick (example a nine instead of a four, when the nine may, on perhaps rare occasions, be high enough to take a trick).

Simply put, taking more tricks is the essence of the game, while signalling partner what to do merely is an advantage, to which a good partner will often figure out why his partner did not want to lose a trick because of that signal, so, in turn, partner knew what to do in spite of what his partner’s card suggested.

IOW, bridge logic is held in much higher esteem than is help from partner as to what to do.

Good luck! Playing good bridge consistently is the goal and, while learning, it is not the easiest game to play well, but great satisfaction results from improving.