Welcome to the first ever Coup of the Month, a series of articles skimming, and often burrowing beneath, the filthy undergrowth of bridge ethics. Not recommended for the impressionable youths or the militant club directors out there, we're going to aim to present to you one coup every month — at least until we run out of ideas.
What do we mean by a coup? Well, you certainly won't find the beloved Bath Coup here. There won't be any brilliant Scissors Coup or Deschapelles Coup, no example of the Vienna Coup or Crocodile Coup. The coups we're interested in are the ones you won't find in any of the textbooks and fall broadly into two categories: the ones your opponents would be ashamed of, and the ones your grandmother would be ashamed of! Some are strictly illegal, others legitimately prey on your opponents' weaknesses and there is plenty of grey area in between. Call it cheating if you like, we think these plays deserve their own place in the bridge literature. So without any more ado, let's get on with article number one, a play that certainly shouldn't be performed at the director's table!
How would you play the following hand as South:
You're in 4
and West leads out the
A. You chuck a losing club and hope for the best, but they don't oblige you with another round of diamonds, instead switching to a trump. The
5 doesn't hold (damn these opponents are good!), so you draw trumps. You might think there's no chance now other than a ludicrously unlikely squeeze if one person holds about eight specific cards, but you haven't reckoned on the powerful Myles Coup
which should see you home.
The timing is important. After drawing trumps, immediately start running off the spades. After about the fourth or fifth you should have some momentum going and your opponents, with all those high cards between them, should start to grimace as they search for discards. They probably haven't counted your trumps, or watched their partner's discards, so it's time to execute the coup. See those quitted tricks in a neat line on the table in front of you? Nobody's looking so pick one up
, preferably not the most recent one, and play it to the next trick
! The position will then look something like this:
You've won six tricks already so continue with your last two trumps. At this point, it might be a nice touch to tut like a man whose cunning play hasn't materialised. Resignedly cross to the
A, then cash the
A and give up, throwing your last two
cards into the pile and stating that the last one
is theirs. Contract made!
There are some important points of technique here. First of all, as with most advanced play techniques, it's best to run that long suit early. If the oppo do want to look at your last cards, it rather gives the game away for there to be two plain-suit cards sitting at the end of the row when there should be just one — it's much less noticeable if there are four when there should be three. It also makes it harder for them to discard if you don't show them all the key cards at the beginning, and the more they concentrate on discarding, the less likely they'll be able to notice your marvellous coup. The second point is to execute the coup in the middle of a run of trumps, not at the end. When the eighth trump is played it will smooth over the coup if it's a new card and the last thing you want to do is fumble over one of the quitted tricks at the point where the opponents might be dimly aware that they don't have to make any more discards — produce the eighth trump confidently and in tempo and they'll sooner think they miscounted.
The play at the end is important. The recommended technique is to quickly win the last trick while stating that you're giving up the rest. Preferably throw the last cards into the bunch and prematurely gather them together to put back in the board — this will appear to be poor form but once you've reached this stage you're virtually untouchable. If there's a detailed query of your number of tricks now then it's easy to claim that you were mistaken and accept one off; live to fight another day. And never forget to cash your tricks before conceding. It would be a gross error in the diagrammed position above for you to claim four tricks — the opponents might then see a discrepancy in the number of cards you hold.
This coup probably works best in the above scenario, where declarer has a long suit and just reels it off. Statistics show that only 9% of defenders count your hand and plan their discards in advance — the rest just sit there and pray that each card will be the last. But the coup can obviously have other applications:
Next time you're in one of those tight 1NT contracts, switch suits a lot so that the defence lose track of your distribution and execute the coup for that impossible 7th trick! This is a Master Play, though and shouldn't be attempted lightly.Squeeze play theory goes completely out the window when you bring the Myles Coup into the equation. Not only can you now rectify the count without losing the lead, but the coup will give you an extra space in your hand to prevent you from squeezing yourself on some layouts.Entry problems? Don't you wish you had kept another club? No hassle — just use the Myles Coup and get over to dummy without a sweat.
The coup isn't limited to declarer. Say you're defending this 3NT contract as South:
You lead a spade and declarer wins the second round. When you come in with your
A you can see the contract is cold. But declarer doesn't know that spades are 4-4 yet and this is where you need partner to be on the ball. Cash the third, then the fourth spade and if partner is thinking clearly he'll revoke
on this trick! Now it's time to execute the Myles Coup, simulating for declarer that spades have actually broken 5-3 and he was plain unlucky. Now that's what I call partnership cooperation! Note that declarer will be intently watching partner's play to the fourth spade trick, hoping that he'll follow suit, so this is a great time to lean forward and pick up a previous spade from the table.
The Myles Coup was first invented at the Universities' Bridge Festival in Leeds in Spring 2004 by Scotland's Myles Ellison. Myles was in a hopeless contract with a long suit and successfully pulled off the coup, but was too honest to take the good score and immediately admitted his villainy. Coup Connoisseurs of the world should be thankful, for otherwise we would never have learned of this stunningly effective piece of devilry — truly a worthy entree to this platter of articles.