A Bath coup is a type of holdup play that most commonly occurs at trick one. It's named for the city of Bath, England, where it possibly originated from the game of Whist in the 19th century.

Dummy
9
WestEast
KQT83 754
South
SAJ62


West leads the SK and East discourages with the S4. South may attempt a Bath coup by holding up the SA. Should West continue the suit, South will earn two tricks in the suit.

A Bath coup may also work if the A-J are split:

Dummy
J54
WestEast
KQT83 97
South
SA62


West leads the SK and East plays the S7. Again South can duck to control the suit. This may cost a trick (South could instead win the ace immediately and later lead toward the jack), but a Bath coup may be strategically necessary to keep West on lead.

Certain conditions must be met for a successful Bath coup:

  • The A or A-J should be in the closed hand, so that West doesn't know the true layout.
  • Declarer can afford to lose the trick.
  • Declarer does not fear a switch to another suit.

Additionally, declarer may have a falsecarding opportunity to entice a continuation. In both of the above layouts, South can play the S6 to hide the S2 from West. This may cause West to think that East's signal is actually encouraging.


Example

North
8
743
WestQT954East
KJ973KT86QT654
KQT9865
72SouthA63
73SA252
HAJ2
DKJ8
CAQJ94


This deal was reported by Oswald Jacoby in his long-running newpaper column "Jacoby on Bridge". 1 South declares 5C, and West leads the HK. When South ducks, West has no rejoinder. A heart continuation gives South two tricks in the suit. Leading any other suit allows South to draw trumps and establish dummy's diamonds, which can be used to shed heart losers from the closed hand.

If South wins the first trick, he can still draw trumps and knock out the DA. However, East can then return a heart to set the contract.


References

1 Jacoby, O. and Jacoby, J. (1966, October 10). Win at Bridge. The Tuscaloosa News, p. 9.

See also

  • Anti-Bath Coup
    A paradoxic twist on a normal Bath coup.

  • Coup En Passant
    A trump trick scored by ruffing a card "behind" a defender who holds a higher trump.

  • Devil's Coup
    A trump play that causes a defender's trump trick to seemingly disappear.

  • Morton's Fork Coup
    A play that presents a defender with two losing options.

  • Scissors Coup
    The strategic concession of a loser that cuts communications between the defenders.

  • Vienna Coup
    An unblocking play in preparation for a squeeze.

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