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Holding A-J-x of a suit, a normal Bath coup calls for declarer to play low when LHO leads the king. The "Anti-Bath coup", on the other hand, was first mentioned by Alfred Sheinwold in a 1960 edition of The Bridge World Magazine. It may alternately refer to:

  • An effective continuation of the suit by the defense
  • The play of the jack (!) from AJx by declarer

Let's look at how each of these situations may arise...

The Defense's Anti-Bath Coup

The following deal is a writeup by Sheinwold. 1 South declared 3NT, against which West led the HK.


"East signalled discouragement with the deuce of hearts at the first trick, and South offered his seven, setting a familiar trap known as the Bath Coup.

"West knew that South still had the A-J of hearts and that a heart continuation would cost a trick, but accurately continued with the ten of hearts. South eyed this card with distaste - communication with his hand had just been cut.

"South took the jack of hearts and attacked clubs, but West held off once, then took the ace of clubs and shifted to a low spade.

"Declarer won in dummy and played a diamond to the queen, but West won with the king and returned the jack of spades. Now South could take, in all, only four diamonds, two spades, one heart and a club. East won the last two tricks with high spades.

"No other line of play would work for poor South. If he conceded an early diamond, West could afford to clear the hearts. South just had to take a bath, thanks to West's fine play - the Anti-Bath Coup!"

Declarer's Anti-Bath Coup

In the following deal, declarer Lou Levy managed to drop the jack at trick one for great effect.


The following excerpt is from Alan Truscott's writeup for The New York Times: 2

"[Levy] arrived in three no-trump after all the suits had been bid: clubs by his partner, hearts by West and the pointed suits by East.

"The final three no-trump contract would have been made easily with a black-suit lead. It would have been defeated automatically with a diamond lead and was in the balance when West produced the heart king.

"Levy could count eight tricks, and needed one from the spade suit to make his contract. He saw that either of the obvious first-trick plays was likely to be fatal. West was likely to have exactly five hearts, since with six he would have begun with a weak two-bid. So winning with the ace would permit East to play a second heart when he gained the lead in spades, giving the defense five tricks.

"Alternatively, it was likely that the play of the heart four, a normal Bath Coup, would cause West to shift to diamonds with decisive effect. East's diamond bid at the level of three suggested a very strong suit that he wished to have led.

"So Levy used the Anti-Bath Coup: he dropped the heart jack under the king. West did not hesitate for a moment. He continued with the heart queen in the belief that South had begun with A-J doubleton.

"South won with the ace and led a spade to the queen. East won with the ace but had no more hearts, so Levy made his contract.

"West would have solved the problem, perhaps, if he had looked carefully at the spots in hearts. East would not have played the seven from 8-7-4, so it followed that South was being tricky. But in the heat of battle players do not always pay attention to such details."


1 Sheinwold, A. (1987, May 19). South Takes a Bath. The Dispatch.

2 Truscott, A. (2002, April 8). Anti-Bath Coup. The New York Times.

See also

  • Bath Coup
    A holdup play at trick one with the A-J of the suit.

  • 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.

  • Grand Coup
    A trump coup in which declarer ruffs one or more winners to intentionally shorten his trump length.

  • 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.