Bridge: Connect with friend and sharpen your grey cells.

In a Board-A-Match event, almost all defenders found the problem unsolvable at the table, as there was no clear indication to the right continuation. See whether you have an answer to it.

Defence so far: You lead the H3 to the five, king, and the ace. Declarer plays the DK from hand and overtakes it with the ace in dummy, and calls for the club jack and passes it to your king. How do you continue?

Analysis: The moment of truth has arrived. You need to decide whether you should try for tricks in hearts or in spades. Which one should it be? Declarer could well be:

S Q-x-x H A-J-x D K-x C A-Q-10-x-x, in which case you must switch to spades.

S K-Q-x H A-x-x D K-x C A-Q-10-x-x, in which case you must continue hearts.

Do you think the problem defies solution?

No. There is a definite way out, provided you use a convention in these situations that has become popular over the years...but used only by experts. In fact, one expert EW pair demonstrated how to overcome the problem.

Solution: When declarer crossed to dummy in a diamond, east petered in the suit with the eight. In with the king of clubs, west continued hearts to defeat the contract. The full deal is:

Discussion: The expert EW pair who defeated the contract was using a carding method called ‘Smith Echo'.This is nothing but an attitude signal given at the first oppotunity by the partner of the opening leader against a no-trump contract to indicate the degree of enthusiasm for the opening leader's suit.If , the first spot card is low, this indicates he cannot stand a continuation in the opening leader's suit should opening leader regain the lead. Conversely, following with a high spot card indicates a desire of a second lead of the original suit led.In rare instances, this convention can be used in suit contracts too! A truly great idea, don't you think? By playing the D8, east indicated that he possessed the heart jack and desired a continuation of the suit. Suppose east has S K-J-9-4 H K-9-4 D 8-7-3-2 C 9-2, and the play proceeds as before. He should now follow with the two, to discourage a heart continuation. It is now easy for west to switch to a spade.

Some players in the west seat got off to the fourthbest spade lead. Declarer won the trick with the king when east followed with the jack. When declarer lost the club finesse, west returned a spade, hoping for the queen in his partner's hand. It was not to be and declarer made 12 tricks. Here again, an opportunity arose for the defence to use Smith Echo. Partner's play of D2 when declarer crossed to dummy in diamonds, suggests declarer has the spade queen. West should try a heart now. South will be held to 11 tricks.

Please note that there is a lone exception to the use of Smith Echo. Supposing declarer attacks a strong suit in dummy which has no side entry. Count signal takes precedence over Smith, here. It is far more important to shut out a long suit than to encourage or discourage a continuation of the original suit led!

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Keywords: Bridge