CROCODILE COUP by Stephen Rzewski vul: N-S dlr: S matchpoints North ♠ 73 ♥ 8543 ♦ KJ83 ♣ 982 West East ♠ KJ96 ♠ Q10 ♥ J10 ♥ A972 ♦ Q95 ♦ 7 ♣ AJ103 ♣ KQ7654 South ♠ A8542 ♥ KQ6 ♦ A10642 ♣ ---- bidding: S W N E 1♠ P P 2♣ 2♦ 3♣ 3♦ (all pass) opening lead: ♥J In today’s hand, from a recent session at the Puritan Club in Braintree, E-W missed the optimal boat when they failed to bid on to 4C, which they might have been allowed to play. Only a few pairs did so, however, so they could still recover a reasonable number of matchpoints if they could defeat the N-S contract. The heart lead was taken by East, who switched to a club, declarer ruffing. South was a believer in “getting the kids off the street” quickly, so she drew trump by playing off the ace and king of diamonds. She then led to her ace of spades, followed by a low spade from her hand, in the following position: ♠ 7 ♥ 854 ♦ J8 ♣ 98 ♠ KJ9 ♠ Q ♥10 ♥ 972 ♦ Q ♦ ----- ♣ AJ10 ♣ Q765 ♠ 8542 ♥ KQ ♦ 106 ♣ ----- West had to be on his toes when South led a spade from her hand at this point. If he inattentively follows with the 9, East will win the queen. Whether East returns a heart or a club, South has sufficient entries to her hand to ruff two spades in dummy and establish the 5th spade. West can ruff in at some point with the high trump, but declarer will end up with ten tricks. West, however, was paying attention. He saw his partner play the ten of spades on the first lead of the suit, and figured that South had no reason not to finesse the queen of spades had she held that card. So he opened his jaws wide to play the king and swallow his partner’s queen. This particular play is colorfully referred to as the “crocodile coup”. He was now able to draw some trumps himself with the queen of diamonds, then tap declarer out of trump in her hand with another club. South could take her two high hearts and the last trump in dummy, but that was it. Down one. Of course, South could have made those ten tricks by the simple expedient play of ducking a spade before playing the ace and king of diamonds.