The concept of the Smith Signals is sometimes attributed to Mr. T. R. H. Lyons of England, a Flight Lieutenant of the Royal Air Force, but the concept was mainly devised and developed by Mr. I. G. Smith of England. It was he who published the elements of this defense concept in the British Bridge World magazine in the issue of December 1963, titled A New Signal for Defenders and it he, for whom the concept is designated.

Additional Information

Note: This concept is also known as Reverse Smith Echo as Reverse Smith Signal, as the Smith Peter, and also as Peter Smith Signals.

Note: Mr. I. G. Smith may be the British Officer Ian Grant Smith, who was the Officer Commanding B-Company 7th/9th Battalion of The Royal Scots. Source. The supposition is that both military men were acquaintances. Mrs. Dorothy Hayden Truscott mentions that she modified a suggestion by Mr. T. R. H. Lyons of England owing, in her opinion, to a serious gap in signalling methods available to the defenders. Source. Any additional information about these two bridge players would be greatly appreciated.

Note: See also: The Second Supplement to The London Gazette, Friday, 24th September 1965. See also: Supplement To The London Gazette, 26th June 1984, in which it states that The undermentioned Squadron Leader is designated Specialist Aircrew from the date stated: T. R. H. Lyons (4232601J), 1st May, 1984.

Note: The designations Reverse Smith Echo and Reverse Smith Signal, both meaning the same thing, may refer to either the original version as developed or, indeed, to the actual reversal of the high-low carding as described in the original version to low-high carding to indicate attitude.

Note: The designations Peter Smith Signals or Smith Peter Signals have also been used for this carding method. Although these two designations are not completely inaccurate, they are presently either regional or colloquial. The definition of the word peter is a (colloquial) term used mainly in England to describe a high-low made in discarding, when unable to follow suit. In the game of Whist, the forerunner of the game of bridge, the term referred only to a high-low discard only in the trump suit. It is, more accurately, a humorous term for a high-low signal invented in 1834 by Lord Henry Bentinck. This was probably the first defensive signal in any game of the Whist family. This particular signal was employed in a side suit to indicate to the partner that the trump suit should be led as soon as the possibility presented itself. The name is nautical in origin, referring to a signal hoisted in harbor to denote that a ship is ready to sail.

Note: Any photographic material of either Mr. I. G. Smith or Flight Lieutenant T. R. H. Lyons would be greatly appreciated.

As there was an explosion of new and innovative ideas, approaches, concepts introduced during the developing years of the game of bridge there was also at the same time an unwritten element, which endowed the originator of such to claim authorship although such was not always evident. Such was also the case between Dorothy Hayden Truscott, Mr. Albert Dormer, and Flight Lieutenant Mr. T. R. H. Lyons. In an issue of the International Bridge Press Association Bulletin the Managing Editor Mr. Alfred Dormer acknowledged that Hayden Truscott's suggestion was prompted by an article written by Flt. Lt. Lyons.

The reader must not assume that Dorothy Hayden Truscott attempted to claim authorship of this signaling system, as this is most definitely not the instance in this case.

Managing Editor Mr. Alfred Dormer pointed out that the idea was not new, because under the title, A New Signal for Defenders, I. G. Smith had put forward a virtually identical scheme of signalling with detailed examples in the December 1963 issue of the British Bridge World.

Note: The BOLS competitions, founded by the Dutch Distillers, began in the year 1974 and were discontinued at the end of the year 1976. They reinstated the competition again in the year 1987 and continued until the year 1994. The submissions by many bridge personalities were perused by their peers for publication, and each year a panel of eminent IBPA (International Bridge Press Association) members voted on the very best of these tips. A submission by Dorothy Hayden Truscott was selected in the year 1976. This article can be found in diverse locations on the Internet. For the convenience of the visitor the article by Dorothy Hayden Truscott is only preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.

Explanation of the Concept

After the opponents have reached a No Trump contract, the defense has many options in communicating suit preference and the preference of a suit continuation to each other. Using Smith Signals, the opponents can exchange information, which is helpful, and which may lead to the defeat of the No Trump contract.

Smith Signals are attitude signals given at the very first available opportunity by the leading partner or the partner of the opening leader against a No Trump contract - generally not a suit contract - and indicates strongly the degree of desired preference for the lead of the suit of the opening leader.

The Smith Echo attitude signals are recognized when the player plays either a high spot card or a low spot card indicating attitude and a possible discontinuation of the suit and/or led suit.

Note: The player holding K432, if wishing to play a high spot card, must play the 4. The partner may or may not deduce that this is an actual attitude signal. If there is actually no high spot card above the 6, then the player must continue to attempt to signal. The reverse is also true for a low spot card when holding, for example, K987. The player wishing to indicate attitude must play the 7.

Opening Leader

After the opening leader has chosen the lead against a No Trump contract, then the partner must play third hand high. If the partner of the opening leader is unable to win the trick, then the partner can show via a normal attitude signal whether or not to continue the suit.

Note: Some partnerships view this first card of the partner also to be a Smith Signal, but neither Mr. T. R. H. Lyons nor Mr. I. G. Smith did not include this in the original version.

Note: The Smith Signal, however, can be employed by the opening leader, who can also give an attitude signal when playing the first card to the first trick. (See Example 1 below.)

A low spot card shows discouragement and a high spot card shows encouragement. The partner, via the guidelines of the Smith Signal understanding, is unable to signal any other information on the first trick.

If the partner of the opening leader is able to win the first trick, then the partner, unable to see any advantage to switching suits, returns the suit of the opening leader. If the opening leader is unable to win the return, then the opening leader can employ the Smith Signal to cease the continuation of this suit by playing a high spot card. The play of a low spot card would request a continuation of the suit once partner regains control.

If the partner of the opening leader, after the first trick and especially when the declarer has won the trick, recognizes that a change of suit is more desirable, then the opening leader will play a high spot card to encourage a switch in suits. The partner should analyze the situation and deduce the expected return, generally into a tenace held by the opening leader.

Note: When the leading partner realizes that the declarer, for example, intends to finesse in a suit, then the opening partner will employ the Smith Signal by playing a high spot card when the leading partner realizes that the finessed card is held by partner.

Partner of the Opening Leader

If the partner plays a low spot card on any trick following the first trick, then this shows a negative attitude and a discontinuation of the lead of that suit and the strong desire for a change of suit.

On the other hand, if the partner, during the play of the hand, plays a card that will win the trick, then the partner plays a high spot card in the suit led. This high spot card shows a positive attitude towards the continuation of that suit originally led by his partner.

Reverse Smith Echo - Reverse Smith Signal

Note: There is also the concept known as the Reverse Smith Echo or Reverse Smith Signal, whereby the two situations described above are simply reversed. A high-low discard indicates that the partner does not like the lead and a low-high discard indicates that the partner does like the lead.

Note: It must be remembered that Smith Echo signals by the partner are not valid on the opening lead.

An example from the publication Bridge Lessons by Mr. Andrew Robson. The following is an excerpt from that publication quoted verbatim. The publication of Mr. Andrew Robson can be purchased from amazon.com.

Deal 34

Back in 1963, Britain's I. G. Smith suggested the following ingenious signal, now almost universally played at top level (but rarely at club or social level).

The Smith Peter

In notrumps (only), on the first suit led by declarer, both defenders show whether they like the suit they led (within the context of what happened at Trick One). The standard approach, along familiar high-aye, low-no principles, is that an unnecessarily high spot card says, I like the suit we led. A low card says, I do not like the lead, and suggests a switch.

spades AK3
spades 964
spades 872
spades QJ105

Dealer South - Vulnerability Neither

South   West   North   East
1   Pass   2   Pass
2 NT   Pass   3 (1)   Pass
3 NT (2)   Pass   Pass   Pass

(1) Showing delayed (i.e. three-card support, and offering a choice of 3 NT and 4 .

(2) With just four spades, South prefers 3 NT (and scarcely gives thought to the dreaded 11 trick game of 5).

Contract: 3 NT.
Opening Lead: 4

You as West lead the four of hearts to East's jack and declarer's king. At Trick Two declarer crosses to the king of spades, in order to run the queen of clubs. You win the king and must decide on the next move. There are two viable alternatives:

1. Play partner for the queen of hearts (perfectly possible - he would play the jack - cheaper - from queen-jack at Trick One). Lead a second (low) heart (although note that partner should unblock the queen if you lead the ace). Partner will win the hoped for queen, and return a third heart to your winners.
2. Play declarer for the queen of hearts (perfectly possible - declarer can choose which heart he wins with at Trick One). Switch to the jack of diamonds in the hope that partner holds the ace, and can win with the card to fire a second heart through declarer's remaining Qs.

Both defences are entirely plausible, and the guess as to which course to pursue can only be resolved by using the Smith Peter.

If East holds his actual hand, he likes the heart lead (having the queen). He plays the eight of spades at Trick Two. West now knows to follow Line (1), continuing with hearts.

If, on the other hand, East holds, say,

spades J72

he follows with the two of spades at Trick Two: "I don't like your heart lead". West now knows to switch to diamonds (to East's ace), and receive a second heart, crucially through declarer's queen. Clever!

The advantage to the Smith Signal is that the opening leader can also give an attitude signal when playing the first card to the first trick. If the opening leader plays a high card spot, this indicates the strong desire that the partner should continue this suit, if the partner should gain the lead. Conversely, if the opening leader plays a low spot card, this signal strongly suggests that the partner should re-examine the dummy, remember what has been played, disregard the led suit of his partner, and make an educated guess as to which suit his partner would like returned.

Example 1

spades 97
spades A10842
spades QJ5
spades K63
In the above example, offered by Mr. I. G. Smith in his published article, South is the declarer. The contract is 3 No Trump.

West, who is employing the Smith Signals, chooses the lead of the 4 of Spades.

Since this is a lead of a low spot card, West is strongly suggesting that his partner, East select another suit to lead once he gains the lead. Once the dummy is tabled, East will immediately recognize that his partner, West, would not prefer a Club return. Using the Smith Signal, West has already communicated information to his partner about the return lead.

West leads the 4 of Spades, dummy plays the 7, East plays the Jack, and South wins with the King of Spades. South plays a Club to the dummy.

* South plays the 4 of Clubs, West plays the 3 of Clubs, dummy plays the Ace of Clubs, and now comes the crucial card by East, conveying attitude. East must play the 10, a high spot card showing attitude preference for the first suit led by his partner, which is Spades. East has just successfully signaled his partner as to his attitude about Spades.

On his first play to the first trick, West showed attitude about Spades and his preference for a suit change. East is forced to play high on this trick and is unable to show any kind of preference and/or signal. Once the Clubs were attacked by South, East has the opportunity to express his desire for a continuation of Spades, once West gains the lead.

This information is vital. If West gains the lead, then West should lead a Spade. If East gains the lead, East will first play a Diamond, suspecting that West holds the King of Diamonds. This educated guess is based upon the elimination of Clubs as a possibility, the elimination of the Heart suit, since East holds the King of Hearts, and the negative suit preference of Spades by West with the opening lead of a low ranking spot card. Then the strategy is that West, knowing of the Spade preference by East, will return the Spade suit to East.

If South decides to attack the Heart suit by leading the Queen of Hearts from the dummy, East covers with the King, thereby giving East at least one guard in Hearts. This strategy by South does not change the outcome of the play.

Once East has gained the lead, East leads a Diamond, West wins eventually with the King of Diamonds, leads a Spade to East, who returns the Spade to West. Using the Smith Signals, East and West have been able to communicate to each other attitude and suit preference, which, when followed, results in the defeat of the No Trump contract.

Example 2

With a slight alteration in the configuration of the cards held by East and South, Mr. I. G. Smith proves the effectiveness of the Smith Signals after it becomes apparent that only a suit change will provide a chance to defeat the contract.

spades 97
spades A10842
spades J65
spades KQ3
West chooses the same lead of the 4 of Spades, a discouraging signal. South, the declarer in a 3 No Trump contract, wins with the Queen of Spades, and decides to attack the Clubs as in the example above. However, this time, East does not play the 10 to signal his partner to continue Spades, but rather plays the 2 of Clubs to discourage his partner, West, to disregard the Spade suit upon gaining the lead.

As soon as West gains the lead with the King of Diamonds, West, knowing that there is no advantage in leading Clubs or Diamonds, and that his partner has informed him not to lead Spades, leads the 9. East wins with the Ace of Hearts, returns a Spade, which traps the King of Spades held by the declarer. The contract is defeated through the exchange of vital information using the Smith Signals.

Example 3

spades 832
spades AQ104
spades J965
spades K7

The contract is 3 No Trump with South as the declarer. This example illustrates an exception to the generally and almost universally adopted rule of returning partner's suit. The player should analyze first whether or not this is the preferred action. With the agreement of playing Smith Signals the decision is assisted with additional information.

West leads fourth down from the Heart suit, the 3. Leading from a tenace in Spades is the least preferred action since a Spade lead would offer the declarer one trick as opposed to two possible tricks won by the defense if East can lead through the declarer.

The lead is covered by East with Jack and the declarer wins with the King. The declarer then plays the Queen for the finesse. West recognizes that the declarer must have four tricks in Clubs since the King must be held by partner East.

West recognizes also that the only possible hope in setting the contract is if East returns a Spade to the held tenace. Therefore, West follows by playing the 9, which is the Smith Signal informing East not to return Hearts, the originally led suit. As per agreement of playing Smith Signal East recognizes that a Heart return is not desired, that a Diamond return would provide declarer with a possible free finesse, and that a Club return would force the opponents is discarding possible winners.

The only possible return remaining is for East to return a Spade on the third trick. The defense wins 4 Spade tricks and 1 Club trick to defeat the contract of 3 No Trump.

Note: It is undeniably desirable that a partnership wishing to play Smith Signals must be aware of such signals at all times and also when such signals may or may not be made. The partnership should be an experienced and solid partnership.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.