stevesgames (stevesgames) wrote,

Bridge Column


                    by Stephen Rzewski

          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

     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.

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