Coup of the Month
The Bishop Auckland Coup
By Phil Smith

This simple, entirely unethical, coup hails from one of the weakest clubs in the North East of England — The Bishop Auckland Bridge Club. No doubt less scrupulous players all over the world already know about this coup; and perhaps they have their own name for this particular piece of dark-siding. Imagine you hold the following hand as South, playing in 3NT:

SA 6 2
HQ J 10 9 7 3
C5 4 2
S8 5 4
HA 2
DA K 9 5
CA Q J 10

Ok, so this isn't the world's best contract, but it's the sort of situation that we all get into now and then. Let us just assume that partner is a weak player and therefore 4H is not as good as it looks. Anyway, the thing that really annoys is the fact that the opening lead is a spade. On any other lead you could set up and then cash the hearts, but now you're an entry short and are just about resigned to making either 7 or 8 tricks, depending on the position of the HK.

Or are you? If you know about the Bishop Auckland Coup you would realise that you have some extra chances. After winning the SA (at your convenience), make the heart play that drive out the HK. That is, play a big heart to the ace and a heart back. If the King is singleton, or your right hand opponent is really dumb, you'll pick up the suit by a legitimate play. If, on the other hand, you now don't have a set up and cashable suit then the best play after regaining the lead is to win the return and then um and ah about what to do for a while. Play with some of the cards in dummy — perhaps re-arrange them or have a close look at the spots — and then just play a high heart anyway. If your right hand opponent is totally off the ball he might just follow suit and your contract will roll in.

Will it work? Well, probably not, and certainly you'll have to practice that innocent "Oh, I was in hand, wasn't I" look; you know, the one which you pull as you look at the card you played to the last trick - like you didn't know! - and say "yes, the DA won the last trick." And it's certainly true that on the above layout it would take an amazingly dopey opponent to fall for this piece of gamesmanship. But really, what do you have to lose?

So why is it called the Bishop Auckland Coup? Well, that's a simple enough question to answer. You see, that particular bridge club is patronised by more than its fair share of very old forgetful players. So with a bit of a pause, and some all important fingering of the cards in dummy, it is at The Bishop Auckland Bridge Club where your chances of pulling off this particular coup are at their very best...