ONE GOOD COUP DESERVES ANOTHER by Stephen Rzewski IMPs vul: N-S ♠ A7 ♥ 653 ♦ 842 ♣ KQJ104 ♠ K1095 ♠ 863 ♥ KQ1094 ♥ 82 ♦ 93 ♦ QJ1076 ♣ 83 ♣ A92 ♠ QJ42 ♥ AJ7 ♦ AK5 ♣ 765 bidding: S W N E 1NT 2♦* 2♠ P 2NT P 3NT (all pass) opening lead: ♥Q In today's deal, both defense and declarer engaged in a series of thrusts and parries before one side could ultimately prevail. The bidding and opening lead may warrant some explanation: West's somewhat aggressive 2♦ overcall conven- tionally promised both majors. North's 2♠ call was a cue-bid showing game interest with a stop in that suit. The lead of the queen from the combination of KQ109 asks partner to play the jack if he has it; failing that, to give count. Accordingly, East signaled with the 8. South saw the need to hold up the ace of hearts at trick #1. In order to make his contract, he has to establish club tricks. Assuming that West holds all the missing major-suit honors, there is no danger on the hand if he also holds the ace of clubs. But if declarer wins the first trick and it turns out that East holds the ace, that defender will lead a heart through declarer's J-x, and the defense will run four more heart tricks. The hold-up with AJx when both missing honors can be placed on the left is called a "Bath Coup", named from the long-ago days of whist and having some connection with the place of that name in England. It is actually a simple maneuver which comes up frequently in both notrump and suited play. Its effect is to prevent the defense from continuing the suit without giving up a 2nd winner for declarer. Since it typically forces the defense to play on other suits, declarer may not want to make this play if he fears a shift to something else. West contemplated what to do next. It seemed to him that if declarer held the ace of clubs, he was likely to fulfill his contract, so he hypothetically placed that card in his partner's hand. It might be possible for the defense to duck early club leads and isolate the long cards in the dummy, but the ace of spades would still be there for a late entry. West therefore decided that it might be advisable to play on spades. It would do no good to lead a low spade if declarer held the queen, so West played the king (!) of spades at trick #2. This sacrifice of an unsupported honor, the intent of which is to kill an entry to dummy, is known as a "Merrimac Coup". In this particular case, it resulted in giving declarer three spade tricks instead of two, but the investment may come back by possibly depriving declarer of at least two of the long clubs. South won with the ace (it would do no good to duck, since West would just lead a 2nd spade) and then played the king and queen of clubs. As one would expect with good defenders, West played high-low in clubs, indicating a doubleton, and East recognized the need to hold up his ace of clubs for two rounds, leaving the following cards: ♠ 7 ♥ 65 ♦ 842 ♣ J104 ♠ 1095 ♠ 86 ♥ K1094 ♥ 2 ♦ 93 ♦ QJ1076 ♣ ---- ♣ A ♠ QJ4 ♥ AJ ♦ AK5 ♣ 7 South has scored the ace of spades and two clubs, and he has five more top winners. It now looks as though he is headed for down one. But declarer had one more trick up his sleeve: he knew that West would not have made his two-suited overcall without at least nine cards in the major suits, and since he had followed to both club leads, he could not have more than two diamonds. So South executed a play known as the "Dentist Coup" by playing the ace and king of diamonds, thereby extracting West's potential exit cards in that suit. He then cashed the queen and jack of spades and exited with his last spade. West was in with the 10, and with nothing left in his hand but hearts, he was endplayed and forced to lead into South's ace-jack tenace, enabling declarer to score the game-going trick with the jack of hearts after all.