A Devil's Coup is a way to make an apparently
sure trump trick vanish. The position is fairly
well-known, but there are some variations on it.
Playing in a knockout match, one of my opponents
has QJ-fifth of trumps and the only trick he scores
with those trumps is the opportunity to ruff his
partner's winner! It's not strictly a Devil's Coup,
but it feels like one.
I have no idea why partner bid at all, but if
he was going to balance, at least he could get
hearts into the picture. 3 doesn't look
like much of a contract, off three top tricks,
at least one heart, and at least one trump trick.
2 doesn't look like it has a chance, either.
The opening lead is the K. RHO encourages,
wins the second trick with the A, and continues
with the 9. LHO ruffs my J low, and
I overruff. The trumps look right for the standard
Devil's Coup matrix, but I don't know who has the
long trump yet, so I must embark on some investigation.
I start by leading the K from dummy. RHO grabs
it, and after a fair bit of thought, shifts to a small
heart. That runs to my Q, so one obstacle has
been overcome. I now have only four losers outside
the trump suit. It looks like RHO has six spades and
three hearts. If he has two clubs and two diamonds,
there's nothing I can do, but if he has three clubs
and a singleton diamond, I think I have a chance now.
I cash the A, getting the J from RHO,
confirming that hearts are 2-3. The Q and J
hold as I pitch a heart. Good. Hmmm...does LHO have
2-2-5-4 or 2-2-6-3? He didn't seem to give any thought
to doubling 3. Even with spots that bad, six
trumps ought to give someone pause to upping the ante,
so I'm pretty sure that the last club is on my left.
I lead dummy's last club and RHO pitches a spade. I
ruff, of course.
Now I have them. I exit with my last heart. LHO has
to ruff his partner's heart trick. With an innocent
air, he continues with the J, but that doesn't
fool me at all; RHO is counted out for a singleton
trump. I win in hand and take the marked trump finesse
to make 3.
The defense has lost their way a number of times. Even
right at the end, RHO could pitch his heart on the last
club, and if he has a diamond other than the 3,
he can overruff his partner and avoid the endplay. Discarding
a winner in order to generate a defensive overruffing
grand coup is one heck of a play.
Despite the suboptimal defense, I'm still pretty pleased.
I don't think I have ever seen a defender with QJxxx in
trumps make no tricks other than ruffing his partner's
Copyright © 2004 Jeff Goldsmith