I'm sitting East, defending a two heart contract with the following hand: (s) QJ (H) J642 (d) K743 (c) T72. Partner, West, leads the king of Spades, from what is likely an AK sequence. With two random small cards, say 82, I would "echo" by playing the 8 followed by the 2. I did the same here, playing the Q, followed by the J on lead of the A. (With say, Qx, I would have made a judgment call.) But here, my playing of the Q was meant to encourage by showing that I had either a singleton Q or QJ doubleton.

Partner protested, saying that I should followed with the J, then Q. Then today, I read a Larry Cohen column https://www.larryco.com/bridge-articles/actual/real-deal-23 that said, "when playing third to a trick on defense, play the cheapest of touching honors."

Are these people right, and if so, why does what they say go against what I was taught about echoes?

Note: I do not believe that my question is context dependent. Even so, for the record, with neither side vulnerable, the bidding was North 1C, East (me) Pass, South 1H, West, pass, North 2H all pass. Lead, king of spades.

1 Answer 1


Larry's advice is for when the card you play is winning the trick. When you're playing an honor that is lower than some other honor already played to the trick, play the top of touching honors.

This isn't an attitude signal (ie echo). This is communicating the honor layout of the suit.

Never* play an honor under a high honor unless you have the touching honor below it or it is a singleton. This signal allows partner to underlead to get to your hand if necessary.

*Never say never in bridge, but this is closer to true than "third hand high" and "eight ever, nine never."

  • Nice answer. It's a shame that Cohen is so careless in that article to not distinguish too important but common and quite different contexts. Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 0:04
  • An echo is not an "attitude" signal,as I remember. It's not an "i.e." Instead, "hi-lo" is a count signal, showing an even number of cards, usually two, sometimes four, but in any event, not three. An echo of 3-2 is not necessarily discouraging, nor an echo fo QJ necessarily encouraging. The point is to inform partner about the layout of the suit.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 16:03
  • 1
    When partner leads a high honor, it is standard to signal attitude. Holding Q82, all else being equal, you would play the 8. If you held Q32 instead, you'd have to play the 3. Playing the 3 and then 2 is a high-low echo and is encouraging, despite the 3 being a low card overall, since it is the highest card you can afford to play.
    – ruds
    Commented Nov 9, 2019 at 20:19
  • @TomAu: The Bridge Encyclopedia entry for Echo is to see High-Low Signal. For the latter it states that a a defender expecting to play small cards to the first two rounds of a suit plays them in the order high then low to signal positive attitude in a suit initially lead by partner, and to signal an even (initial) count (typically starting with 2 or 4) in a suit initially lead by Declarer or Dummy. Experts will also play count in 3rd seat on opening lead when Dummy's holding makes one's attitude obvious. I.E. If the is King lead and Dummy comes down with Qxx. Commented Nov 10, 2019 at 9:36

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