Ross Taylor

The battle continues

Board 60, five boards to play, estimating they were still down 20 or more imps, he picked up AKJ109532  9  K42 6, in first chair, no one vulnerable. The Old Master opened the bidding one spade. His protégé overcalled two clubs, and partner bid three clubs – announcing a limit raise or better in spades.

East bid four clubs, and the Old Master placed a pass card on the baize!

Smelling an opportunity, his protégé bid five clubs, passed by north and the protégé’s partner. As the bidding tray came back to the Old Master, he felt the other players behind the screen rummage around as they prepared for his final pass and to play and defend five clubs. Not so fast boys!

The Old Master now bid a surprise five spades, and his protégé doubled – perhaps on principle, since his hand did not warrant this action. North passed as did east.

The wind up was almost complete. The Old Master pulled out his blue redouble card and toyed with it clearly for the benefit of his screen mate, his younger protégé.

At that moment, his protégé knew he was the victim of a bidding coup, and flushed perceptibly. The Old Master finally decided against the redouble – but the point had been made – big time!

The heart ace was led, and the contract was quickly made; the diamond suit being child’s play as the count on the hand was revealed on the run of the spades. The full layout was : 


West East
8 4
AK83 76542
5 Q876
AQJ8732 K104


Plus 650 – could be a five imp pick up. The Old Master was content. Had he indeed redoubled, plus 1000 would have yielded as many as 11 imps. But if his protégé had run to 6 clubs, the price would have been only 300. So a redouble rated to roughly break even. He felt the psychological benefits of his theatrics with the blue card had been sufficient.


Dave Memphis MOJOMay 22nd, 2010 at 6:18 pm

Because I’m old, too, I’m identifying with Tom (TOM, The Old Master).

PatrickMay 23rd, 2010 at 1:25 am

I’m enjoying the series very much.

Ross TaylorMay 23rd, 2010 at 8:29 am

Patrick also weighed in with a spot-on comment noting a flaw in the analysis of the original blog entry. I thank him very much for that, and took the liberty of modifying the text – these things last forever in cyberspace!

It’s every bridge writer’s nightmare to make a technical error in the analysis, and I would hate to leave it out there.

Bobby WolffMay 28th, 2010 at 11:49 am

Hi Ross,

First, I am wishing you very good luck in the upcoming CNTC. It must be an exciting and quick developing event to play in, wherein results and changing positions are rapid indeed.

My reason for this blog is to ask your opinion on whether you think that Smith Echo and/or its derivatives can be played ethically enough by all ranks of players, thereby making good use of its important advantages, but at the same time not transmitting any, or should we say, too much UI to partner.

You talk eloquently about the horror stories that Smith Echo practitioners have and, I know, because of your own conscientious practice of Active Ethics, it may not occur to you that some may get around those difficult decisions by using more off limits evidence than you.

I, myself, gleaned much experience playing complete odd and even signals while playing as partners with members of the Omar Sharif Circus bridge team in various match point events, and to my recollection I have never played better before or since. Since, as you know, an even card played or discarded, in addition to denying interest in that suit, also carries suit preference implications which in turn usually results in pause for thought when one has a choice of cards to play. This break in tempo, even if brief, can be used to break ties as to what partner is trying to tell you.

Does Smith Echo lean in that direction also or is it different and can be played ethically without having to jump through hoops?

To my knowledge this question and others like it are seldom asked, at least in public, but, especially from a player like you, your answer may be eagerly anticipated.

Keep up writing about the tales of the Old Master. Your readers will get a big kick out of your stories since all of us, especially the long toothed ones like me, have a special Old Master in our past (usually a mentor), that we can associate with.

Ross TaylorJune 1st, 2010 at 7:48 am

Thanks for the well wishes Bobby – much appreciated – through the round robin format of 23 ten board matches, parity is quite evident – but generally the better teams find a way to make it through to the round of eight – with one or two upsets quite possible though. Our own team is in such a situation -placed 11th with time running out.

Your question about Smith Echo and the necessary ethics required to use such methods is an intriguing one – and I will give it my attention in the future.

Off the top of my head, it would seem there is no reason to single Smith Echo out (vis a vis other carding practises). Any methodology – including standard momma papa signals, can cause ethical issues at the table.

But I do feel there is far more to Smith Echo than most practitioners have really thought about – many subtle situations where it is not clear what the message should be or how it can be delivered in the context of a particular hand or situation.

And then there is the whole realm of psyching Smith Echo (analagous to falsecarding) when you know that a true Smith signal will help declarer more than it will help partner.

But if that is part of your game, should that be explained somewhere on the convention card – or is that just good bridge?

Anyway, as I said, your simple question could beget a complex answer Bobby.

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