Ross Taylor

The case for upside down signals (not to be taken seriously)

Many of you will know that John Gowdy tells great stories, and when the story involves his most recent game with the great Eric Murray, you sit back to enjoy. Last week John excitedly came up to me to tell me that after more than twenty years he has finally defended a hand where it was important to be playing upside down signals. I took this to mean John and Eric play standard signals of course.

He did not give me the whole hand, nor is it necessary. The opponents bid up to 3NT, after Eric’s RHO opened a strong 2C; heard a 2D response, and a raise of his 2NT rebid to 3NT.

Eric led the ten of hearts from K109832. Dummy had a weak 5431 shape with the stiff 7 of hearts. John, sitting over the dummy, held the 64 doubleton of hearts, leaving declarer with AQJ5 of the suit.

John naturally followed suit with the heart six, as declarer won the jack. Declarer next ran off a bunch of winners, stripping all but hearts from Eric’s hand. Declarer’s hearts were down to AQ5. He exited with the heart five.

At this point, Gowdy had nothing but winners in his hand – but the six of hearts (his entry to these winners) had of course been released at trick one – when he gave his partner standard count!

Murray was down to nothing but hearts – he was forced to win the heart and return one into declarer’s AQ for trick nine and the contract!

Being the veterans they are, not a word was spoken at the time. Next day, Gowdy called Murray to apologize for squandering the heart 6 at trick one!

Murray said – “oh that’s ok, but why in god’s name did you pitch the heart 4 later?? If declarer had begun with AQJ3 or AQJ2, the heart four would have sufficed to win the second round of hearts and prevent the end play ! ” (He was right of course)

The last word went to Gowdy who said – “aha! – I only pitched the heart 4 AFTER you pitched the heart 3 Eric – I knew it was no longer possible for me to get in with the four of hearts.”

I doubt it happens very often that Eric’s partners get in the last word – perhaps there is more to the story than I have been told :0)


Ross TaylorMarch 14th, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I may have a couple of the minor heart spots misplaced – the story was told hurriedly between rounds at a local game – but the gist of the story is intact.

John DuquetteMarch 14th, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Signalling? Years ago, I had the pleasure of playing the last four swiss matches with John Gowdy. We agreed to play one of my simple convention cards. Things went quite well until the fourth match where the defensive problems seemed very difficult. We still managed to win but it turned out that I’d been using upside down while John was using standard. He summed it up by saying “I thought something was strange but maybe you were just playing a deep game”.

Dave Memphis MOJOMarch 14th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Great story!

John GowdyMarch 14th, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Eric held 10xxx k109832 Ax x and as to the last word He forgave my heavy hand on this one….. BUT we were on to 6H making 7 in a nanosecond and that last word was not mine !

Chuck ArthurMarch 14th, 2010 at 10:56 pm

There is a proviso to whatever kind of signalling you are using. “The signal itself must never cost a trick.” This extends to playing the 6 from 64 doubleton. 🙂

Great story Ross, and to John as a resource.

GustavoDecember 17th, 2015 at 4:12 am

Newbills are kin to the St. John Family of Essex County, VirginiaOne of the daughters mriared into the Newbill family.This particular St. John linage, is from the Ancient and Aristrocratic England St. John Famlies, that began with the sons of Adam DePort. His maternal grandmother was a St. John and to keep the land and titles, they were passed to Adam DePort, and his sons changed their surname to St. John.

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