When we decided to write about the Colour Coup we didn't know a whole lot about it, so we naturally researched it fully. One thing we found out was that it's really not very popular. Did you know that "some observers' reaction to the coup was that it was a demonstration of Fijians' resentment at being governed by an 'Indian-dominated' Coalition"?. The politicians have commented on it, too: "It's a veritable chromatic coup d'etat," said Green Party president Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio. And it may be true that "the colour coup has yet to topple silver's crown" but, despite that, "Dniester leader Igor Smirnov accused Moldovan authorities of designs to stage a colour coup in the Dniester region.".

A controversial subject indeed, so therefore we decided to turn over this political hot-potato to Belgium's Frederick Staelens (Free on BBO), who has no fears of Moldovan reprisals or Fijian demonstrations.

The Colour Coup, by "Free"

Sometimes suits just split badly and there's no way to avoid losing tricks unless you have the possibility of a Colour Coup. It's not cheating, but it might be considered as unethical. Beginners will hate you for the rest of your (or their) life, friends will love it. Here's an example:

SQ J 6 5
H8 5
D8 4
CA J 9 5 3


SA K 10 7
HJ 9 4 2
D10 6 2
C8 4
S9 8 4 3 2
D9 7 5 3
CQ 10 7 2
HA K Q 10 7 6 3
CK 6

South opened 2C, North waits with 2D, some natural bids, some cues, and when North showed the CA South decided to play 7H. There's only one position where the slam should fail, and this is shown above (great bidding gets punished). There is however a possibility to make the grand, even with the bad split, and even if opponents don't lead hearts: the Colour Coup.

West led SA. Declarer obviously saw the only danger for his contract, and he noticed that LHO had a slightly blissful look when he saw dummy appear. So he ruffed the opening lead and played in tempo: HA (quickly confirming that RHO shows out), HK and DQ. LHO takes up the pace, and ruffs the diamond trick. Even if he now realises this, the heart he used will become a penalty card, for the contract.

Other Colour Coup positions

There are two types of Colour Coup: the Black Colour Coup (S-C) and the Red Colour Coup (H-D). They both should work equally well, unless your opponents have problems with colours. There are however also some other suit positions which may help, and it's not always necessary to be in slam:

Sx x x x x
SQ x x
SA K J x x
CA K x

To play spades for no losers: SA followed by CK.

The higher the honour, the more cards you need in that suit:

  • Missing Qxx — 10 card fit
  • Jxxx — 9
  • Txxxx — 8 (not a 4-4 fit)
  • 9xxxxx — 7 (6-1 or 7-0 fit)
  • The more cards you need in the main suit, the less high cards you need in the other suit.

    Qxx will probably be the most difficult one to catch, since you don't have much time to make your opponent follow your rhythm. When you have to play too many cards however, the other defender might break tempo to think about his discards.

    Note also that the highest card of your opponent must be isolated. For example, you can't pick up JTxx.

    When you're pushed in the wrong contract:

    S7 5 2
    HA 3
    DQ J 10 7
    C7 6 5 4
    S10 8 6 4 3
    HJ 9 5
    CA K 10 9
    HQ 10 8 7 6 4 2
    D9 8 5 4 2
    SA K Q J 9
    DK 6 3
    CQ J 8 2

    Obviously 3NT is laydown, but NS bid 4S when opponents competed to 4H. LHO starts with DA, CAK and another club which you take with the CQ. Usually you don't hope for a 5-0 trump split, but this time you do. Luckily East didn't ruff (otherwise you go down at least two), but now you know that West has five spades to the 10, and your contract is still in danger. So you pull up your shoulders and use a Black Colour Coup: SA (you see RHO showing out), SK, SQ, CJ. Note that it's important to take the third club with the CQ, otherwise you'll have to use a shorter Colour Coup (SA, SK, CQ).

    With the above example, you can actually choose between a long or a short Colour Coup. Depending on the auction and play level from opponents you might decide the shorter Colour Coup will probably work out better, since the discarding opponent will have to think less. In the above example it's not difficult for East to discard, but if it's a weak player he might see more than there is and break our tempo.

    What can you do when opponents use a Colour Coup against you?

  • Nothing! The method is full proof, you're screwed! (kidding)
  • From the moment you notice such a situation as defender, you should break declarer's tempo by playing very slow. Don't take up the pace.
  • Call the TD when the last card of the coup is played, and ask him if this is ethical. Perhaps your opponents will get a warning or a penalty and they won't try to use it against you anymore.
  • Smile at declarer, congratulate him for knowing funny tricks, and follow the right suit.
  • Have a great laugh afterwards at the bar, and buy declarer a beer.