June 21st, 2005

Weekly bridge column

				      TRUMP COUP

				  by Stephen  Rzewski

		dlr:  South		North
				       ♠ KJ
				       ♥ KJ10762
				       ♦ QJ4
				       ♣ J10
	                West		 	     East

	               ♠ 842			    ♠ A763
	               ♥ Q983			    ♥ 4
                       ♦ 1062			    ♦ 975
	               ♣ AK8			    ♣ 97632

				       ♠ Q1095
				       ♥ A5
				       ♦ AK83
				       ♣ Q54

		   bidding:      S        W          N         E

			         1NT       P         2♦         P
				 2♥        P         4♥  (all pass)

		                  opening lead:  ♣A

	One of the qualities unique to the trump suit in bridge is that under certain 
circumstances it is possible to take a finesse without actually leading a trump 
card.  This somewhat infrequent play, called a “trump coup”, requires imagination, 
careful planning, entries, favorable distribution, and timing.

	In today’s hand, taken from a Swiss team event in a Sectional tournament, N-S 
were playing Jacoby transfer bids.  North’s 2♦ call promised five or more hearts and 
requested South to bid the suit.  This treatment offers greater bidding flexibility 
than natural methods and sometimes creates an advantage in having the strong hand be 
declarer, although not in this particular case.

	West started with the ace and king of clubs, East playing low-high to suggest 
a switch.  At trick #3, West played a spade to dummy’s king and East’s ace, giving 
the defense their “book”.  East exited with a spade.

	South had to avoid the loss of a trump trick in order to make his contract. 
With five trumps out including the queen, the odds favor taking a finesse as opposed 
to simply playing off the two top honors and hoping for the queen to drop.  South 
could play either opponent for Qxx, but he decided that the percentages favored 
taking the finesse through West, for two reasons:  (1) finessing East would mean 
leading the jack from dummy and passing it on the first lead of the suit, which might 
lose to a possible singleton queen in the West hand, and (2) it might be additionally 
possible to pick up Qxxx in the West hand via a trump coup, as long as West was not 
short in diamonds.  

	So thinking, South won the queen of spades in his hand at trick #4, then used 
the entry to lead the good queen of clubs and ruff that card in dummy.  He then led a 
heart to the ace, followed by a low heart, putting in dummy’s 10.  When East showed 
out, South’s foresight was about to be rewarded.  He next led a diamond to the ace, 
then a third spade, again ruffing a good card in dummy and reducing dummy’s trumps to 
K-J, the same length as West’s Q-x.  Then a diamond was played to the king.  As long 
as West had to follow to this trick, South was home, in the following position:

			        	♠ ---
				        ♥ KJ
				        ♦ Q
				        ♣ ---
		       ♠ ---
		       ♥ Q9
		       ♦ 10
		       ♣ ---
		 		       ♠ 10
				       ♥ ---
				       ♦ 83
				       ♣ ---

	South did not have a trump card to lead from his hand, but it did not 
matter.  He led the good 10 of spades.  If West ruffed, dummy would overruff and draw 
his last trump; so West discarded his diamond.  South countered by also discarding 
dummy’s queen of diamonds.   With the lead still in the South hand at trick #12, West
had to play a trump before dummy, and the K-J took the last two tricks.

	To execute this play, one has to reduce the trumps in the long hand until the 
length matches that of the defender.  This requires sufficient entries to the 
opposite hand, and sometimes cards that would normally win tricks themselves have to 
be ruffed.  Finally, the sequence of plays requires that the lead come through the 
defender’s trump holding at the right moment, when that hand has been reduced to 
nothing but trumps.  In this case, the lead must come from the South hand at the 
penultimate trick.