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.
West leads the K and East discourages with the 4. South may attempt a Bath coup by holding up the A. 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:
West leads the K and East plays the 7. 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 6 to hide the 2 from West. This may cause West to think that East's signal is actually encouraging.
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This deal was reported by Oswald Jacoby in his long-running newpaper column "Jacoby on Bridge". 1 South declares 5, and West leads the K. 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 A. However, East can then return a heart to set the contract.
1 Jacoby, O. and Jacoby, J. (1966, October 10). Win at Bridge. The Tuscaloosa News, p. 9.