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Defense Against a Trump Coup
(Page of 4)

North
Q109863
AQ5
83
74
East
7
J972
AQ65
AKQ3
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

Suppose this hand comes up in a long KO match.  You are sitting East, defending for Italy.

Partner leads the 3, third-and-fifth.  You have three obvious tricks and partner has at most a jack, so the only chance of a fourth trick is if he holds J542.

What will happen if you take the obvious line of playing three top clubs?

North
Q109863
AQ5
83
74
East
7
J972
AQ65
AKQ3
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

Declarer will ruff in dummy, cash the AK, cross to a heart, take a winning diamond finesse, duck a diamond, win the return, ruff the last club, then play hearts and end up with a coup position against partner.

A neutral lead isn't good enough either.  Suppose you play a trump.  Declarer plays a second round, then ducks a club and eventually transposes into the line above.

How about playing two top clubs and a low club?  If declarer wins that in hand instead of ruffing, does that break up the coup?  First of all, if declarer lacks the T, he will guess to play the 9 and end up having to ruff anyhow.  But even if he wins the third club and, guileless, pitches a diamond, he might still make it.  We'll see why on the next page.

There's no sure beat at double-dummy, but I believe the best shot is to give him a losing option by winning the AK in that order, then playing Ax.  Declarer can still make if he immediately ruffs a club, but he might be concerned about an overruff--you'd play the same way with Jxx 9872 AQ65 AK.

Okay, so declarer wins the K and cashes the top spades.  Time to relax and write +100 in your scorecard?

North
Q109863
AQ5
83
74
East
7
J972
AQ65
AKQ3
W
N
E
S
1NT
P
4
P
4
P
P
P

Not so fast!  Declarer ruffs a club and plays a small heart off the board.  If you play low, he can finesse his ten to get an extra hand entry, ruff the last club, play two hearts (overtaking the second) and again reach the coup position.  In order to preserve the defense, you need to stay alert and play the jack, denying declarer the final entry to complete the coup.

Now we can see why the low club won't work above.  After declarer draws two trump and ruffs his last club, he plays a diamond to your ace and you're endplayed.  A diamond allows him to ruff that suit, then run hearts ending in hand to reach the coup position.  And a heart--whether high or low--allows him to win in hand, ruff a diamond, and still have a heart entry.  You can avoid the endplay by cashing a diamond before playing the third club, but now declarer has no reason to pitch the last diamond and should be suspicious enough to find the grand coup.

At the other table, the auction started with a 13-15 notrump.  North hand no game interest and bid a natural and weak 2.  Hoping to find partner with five trump, East went for the force with three top clubs and declarer was easily able to pull off the coup for the second overtrick.  The combined total of 270 was just enough for the Blue Team to clinch victory.

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