Ted's Bridge World Dante's Infernal

A Couple of Rare Coups

The defense on this hand, from the August 16 evening pairs, exemplifies the time-honored principle, "Do What You Need to Do."  It also enabled my partner, the declarer, to finish out the deal in a manner that he will not likely have an opportunity to duplicate.

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West led the 9.  East cashed the AK as west discarded the 7.  Being unaware of the danger — that is, having not listened to the bidding — east continued with a low heart for partner to ruff, and it was all over.

West trumped declarer's J with the 4, but was overruffed by dummy's 6.  Declarer played a diamond to the ace, then ruffed his remaining heart with the 3.  Now he was able to claim his contract by placing the eight highest trumps upon the table — a rare coup indeed!

Yes, declarer's diamond play was a technical error, as east might have been able to ruff the first round; clubs could safely have been trumped instead.  The potential end-position, however, was too good to pass up, and the risk was slight.  And that's what club games are for.

On the other hand, had east done any thinking, he might have deduced that shifting to the 5 at trick three would guarantee the defeat of the contract.  Declarer would have had no way of disposing of both his heart losers, irrespective of the actual layout.  But no — east wasn't content with a mere plus score; he was hoping for a big set against the best bidder at the club.

Ah, greed is a wonderful thing.

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A trump coup is an uncommon and elegant play, which enables the enemy trumps to be drawn without actually leading them.  The play is even more uncommon — and perhaps even more rewarding — when executed by the defenders.  This opportunity from last Sunday's pairs featured a trump coup on the dummy — something rarely seen.

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South's bidding, although insane, always works out well — for someone.  For all he knew, partner might have held three or four clubs.  In any case, declarer ruffed the opening lead of the K.  He cashed the AK, pitching a club as west dumped the heart queen, then A and a club ruff as west once again underplayed with his queen on the second round.

That would prove to be declarer's last trick!  A diamond from dummy was ruffed with the 8 and overruffed by the J.  West returned a spade to east's queen, extracting declarer's last trump and leaving this position:

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Knowing that partner still had the deuce of trumps (declarer would neither have bid nor played that way holding four spades), east could simply have cashed her high diamonds, then let partner ruff the last one, setting up the trump coup against the dummy.  However she opted for the more elegant ending of returning a low diamond immediately!  That play would fail unless west had three cashable winners, but his prior carding had shown that those winners were available.

It remained only for west to lead out his high cards in any order until dummy trumped, whereupon east overruffed and claimed, for down four.

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