June 13th, 2005

Weekly bridge column


				       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.