By Prof Tony Campbell

WHEN holding the ace and jack in a suit as declarer, facing an opening lead of the king, do you take it with the ace or play low?

The latter is known as a Bath coup. Here is a good example of this in a hand played online in the last week’s Penarth-Sully Bridge Base online session.

The Auction

West opened the bidding with one club. With a void in hearts, he cannot open one no trump. His partner, East, responded with one heart. With thirteen points East is looking for game in three no trumps if West has a spade stop. And that is what happened. West responded with one spade. East was now happy to bid three no trumps, knowing they must have at least the magic 25 points between them, and stops in all four suits.

The play

So, what should South lead? A heart could be fraught with danger as he would be leading into a heart suit bid by East. So, in fact, he chose to lead the king of diamonds. At this point, East as declarer can count only eight tricks for certain: five clubs and three aces. Where can he find one more? East correctly played low, hoping for a Bath coup. And this is exactly what happened. Feeling that the only chance of getting the contract off, South continued with the queen, which East won with his ace, setting up two more diamond tricks. Instead, South would have been better off playing a small spade, as it was highly likely his partner, North had at least the king, and maybe even the king and queen, as here. The Bath coup is presumed to be named after the city of Bath, where it was used when playing whist, the predecessor of bridge.

After winning the second trick with the ace of diamonds, East has to be careful here, as dummy had no heart to return to hand with the ace or a finesse. So, East cashed the ace of hearts, the jack of diamonds, followed by his fourth small diamond, the three, which was won by dummy’s eight. He then played a small club, winning it in hand with the queen, and cashed a further four club tricks in dummy. East then played the ace of spades and gave up the last two spades to North’s king and queen. East made ten tricks for a score of 430 – one spade, one heart, three diamonds and five clubs. Well bid and well played.

What have we learnt?

1. When your opponent leads a king in a no-trump contract, and you have the ace and jack, it is worthwhile holding back the ace, in an attempt to execute a Bath coup.

2. If, when you have led the king of suit, you suspect declarer is attempting a Bath coup, take care. Here a switch to a spade holds the contract to nine tricks, as declarer has to hold up dummy’s ace for two tricks to prevent South being able to return a spade when he wins a trick with the queen of diamonds. East has to play the ace and a small diamond allowing South to make his queen, as well as the initial king.

3. The lead of the king of diamonds is questionable. In fact, at all other tables South led a small heart because several East’s bid one diamond after West had opened with one club, and not one heart as here. This gives declarer two heart tricks, but he has to give up two diamonds and two spades in order to make nine tricks. Sometimes it can be a good idea to cash a complete suit. Here cashing five clubs gave the opposition difficult decisions about discards.

Penarth club news

Our membership secretary, Meryl Skipper, with the help of Sarah Amos at Cardiff, has setup a way of playing duplicate sessions using Bridge Base online (BBO) at 2pm on Wednesdays and 7pm on Fridays. Here are the results of the second week, details and the hands are available on the Penarth Bridge Club web site. Just click on Results and then the appropriate date. Wed. 24th February; 1. Avril Collins and Ann Hirst (68.5%); 2. Joy Seculer and John Pikoulis (58.3%); 3. Jane Greatrex and Jennifer Wardell (57.9%). Fri. 26th February; 1. Tony Campbell and Simon Brindle (70.6%); 2. Mike Downey and Joy Seculer (58.4%); 3. Judy Collins and Janet Cunnington (54.6%).

Please contact me or Meryl if you want to join. The current positions in Peter Sampson’s ladder are: 1. Angela Hudson and Rod Hudson; 2. Mike Downey and Roy Holloway; 3. Peter Millar and Mick Green. Our weekly Zoom bridge classes continue. Let me know if you would like to join us.

Further information

If you have any views, hands, and information you would like to share, please email me, My articles are available online. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance.