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A Merrimac coup occurs when a defender plays an unusually high card to disrupt declarer's communications. Specifically, the high card forces out an entry in declarer's hand or dummy.

The Merrimac coup is named for the U.S. ship Merrimac, which Americans deliberately sank in the Spanish-American War. The ship was sunk in the harbor of Santiago de Cuba to block Spanish ships from entering. (Unlike in bridge, the actual blockade failed.)



East opens 1D, but South reaches an ambitious 6 contract. West dutifully leads the DJ (a spade would be better), won by East's ace.

If East makes a passive return like a diamond, declarer can win, draw trumps, and take a ruffing finesse in clubs against East. Whenever East covers the CQ, South will ruff, cross to the SA, and use dummy's good clubs to discard spade losers from hand. Making 6.

East has a more interesting alternative at trick 2, which is to lead the SK. This Merrimac coup yields an extra spade trick to declarer, but eliminates the vital entry to use dummy's clubs. After South wins dummy's SA, no good lines present themselves. If South tries ruffing spades in dummy, East overruffs. And if South sets up clubs via a ruffing finesse, there is no way to reenter dummy to use them.

See also

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

  • Deschapelles Coup
    The lead of an unsupported honor by one defender to create an entry into the other's hand.

  • Emperor's Coup
    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.

  • Grosvenor Gambit
    A purposeful defensive misplay, intended to bother declarer psychologically.