An Emperor's Coup is a rare and flashy defensive coup in which a defender discards a high card (often an ace) to create an entry to partner's hand.


Examples

Perhaps the most famous example of an Emperor's Coup occurred in the 1982 World Championships in Biarritz, France. Sitting East was the late Swiss expert Jean Besse, who earned the year's Bols Brilliancy Prize on this deal.

North
J65
AK
WestJ9876Besse
T982T32K74
T9876532
QTSouthA3
A9654SAQ3J7
HQJ4
DK542
CKQ8


West

Pass
All pass
   North

3D

   Besse

Pass

   South
1D
3NT


North-South were playing a weak no-trump, so South opened his strong hand with 1D. Against the eventual 3NT contract, West led the C5.

South called for dummy's CT, hoping that the jack was with West. When Besse covered with the CJ, though, declarer ducked. Besse continued clubs, West winning the CA and returning the C4.

Besse read his partner's low club as a suit preference signal, so he made the spectacular discard of the DA. Now when South tried to establish diamonds, West's DQ became an entry to the long clubs. An amazing result.

Note that South could make the contract by playing a low club from dummy at trick one. That would have established the CT as a second stopper. But it was a tough guess for declarer, and Besse took full advantage.


Additional Examples

The following two examples of the Emperor's Coup are from Guy Levé's book, "The Encyclopedia of Card Play Techniques at Bridge". The first hand is similar to the 1982 Biarritz deal.

North
54
AQ75
West987East
KJ9876KT93Q3
32JT984
J32SouthA
75SAT2QJ864
HK6
DKQT654
CA2


"South plays 3NT; West leads a spade. Declarer ducks East's SQ and not knowing the exact spade layout, ducks again when East continues the suit. West wins and plays the SJ, suit preference for diamonds. East should discard his DA (an Emperor's Coup)! The DJ is promoted to an entry for the good spades."

The second example by Levé:

North
KQT
864
West876East
976A975J853
QT973AJ
T5SouthQJ432
JT3SA42K2
HK52
DAK9
CQ864


"South plays 3NT; West leads the H10. East takes the ace and returns the HJ.

"If declarer ducks without thinking, West overtakes the HQ and plays back the H3 (suit preference for clubs), as East jettisons his CK, promoting an entry for West in clubs."


Origins

The Emperor's Coup is named after the last Vietnamese emperor Bao Dai, who supposedly executed the play many years before Besse. That deal is recounted in Victor Mollo's book, "The Other Side of Bridge".

"Introducing an opponent of impressive weight and strength, meet Jacques Blaizot, one of France's greatest players in the immediate post-war period. The Emperor Bao Dai was still on Indo-China's throne when Blaizot cut him as partner during a rubber at the Dalat Palace. Blaizot, West, dealt, with his side a game up.

North
95
AKQ
BlaizotJ83Bao Dai
J42K8653AT3
--JT865432
Q2SouthAT
AQJT9742SKQ876--
H97
DK97654
C--


Blaizot
3C
Pass
All pass
   North
Double
3H

   Bao Dai
Pass
Pass

   South
3D
3NT


"'I led the CA', said Blaizot, 'and to the stupefaction of the spectators Bao Dai discarded the DA! I continued with the CQ and he threw the SA.'

"The bystanders looked at each other incredulously. Had the emperor lost his senses?

"On the contrary, he had found the only defense to beat the contract. So long as he held those aces, whether declarer played on spades or diamonds, he could hardly fail to come to ten tricks. Finding Blaizot with stoppers in both suits was the only hope."

See also

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

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