A Deschapelles Coup is a defender's lead of an unsupported honor to create an entry in his partner's hand. The following deal illustrates the play.

You
K876
JT98
K2
KQ2


Partner

Pass

North

2NT

You

All Pass

South
1NT (14-16)


North-South, playing modified Precision, open the bidding with a 14-16 HCP 1NT but stop in 2NT. Partner leads the DQ. The dummy hits the table:

Dummy
A5
72
6543You
AJT98K876
JT98
K2
KQ2


You cover with the DK as declarer drops the D9. Your diamond return is won by South's DA (partner playing the DJ). Declarer now proceeds with a low club to dummy's jack. Upon winning your CQ, what do you return?

A count of the hand may help here:

  • You hold 12 HCP.
  • Dummy has 9 HCP.
  • Partner has advertised 3 HCP (the DQ-J).
  • South has 14-15 HCP. (With 16, he would have bid 3NT.)
That adds up to 38-39 points. So partner has at 1-2 additional HCP. If he only has the HJ, then the contract should always make. Things get interesting, though, if West has either major-suit queen.

If this is the full deal, then you should return a passive heart:

North
A5
72
West6543East
942AJT98K876
Q54JT98
QJT87SouthK2
54SQJT3KQ2
HAK63
DA9
C763


Declarer wins your HJ return and takes another losing club finesse into you. Now you return a second heart, sit back, and wait for declarer to take the losing spade finesse. Down one.

However, if West holds the SQ, then you should return the K. This would be a Deschapelles coup:

North
A5
72
West6543East
Q92AJT98K876
654JT98
QJT87SouthK2
54SJT43KQ2
HAKQ3
DA9
C763


Declarer is forced to win with dummy's ace (ducking would only cause you to lead another spade). South must then return to hand via a heart and try another club finesse. Now that West's SQ is an entry, you simply return another spade to allow him to run diamonds to set the contract two tricks.

A low spade instead of the SK would not work; South would insert the ST, forcing West to cover with the SQ and lose his potential entry in the process.

The subtle clue to this hand occurred at trick two. West knew all his remaining diamonds were good, so he could signal with any of them. With dummy's club suit being a clear threat, a high diamond at trick two would ask for a spade return, while a low diamond would suggest a heart return.

Note that a Deschapelles Coup is very similar to a Merrimac Coup. Both plays involve the lead of an unsupported honor by the defense. However, the Merrimac Coup is used to destroy one of declarer's entries, whereas the Deschapelles Coup is used to create an entry in partner's hand.


Origins

The Deschapelles Coup is named for a 19th century chess whist player, Alexandre Louis Honoré Lebreton Deschapelles of France. Deschapelles was one of the strongest chess players of his time; he lived between 1780 and 1847. Against fellow experts, he commonly gave a pawn's advantage and one or two moves. Most colorfully (or perhaps sadly), he lost one hand while fighting in Napoleon's army and also sported a sabre scar from eyebrow to chin.

See also

  • Crocodile Coup
    A defensive play that prevents one's partner from being endplayed.

  • Merrimac Coup
    The defensive sacrifice of a high card that eliminates a critical entry for declarer.

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