Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Saturday, September 9th, 2017

They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care, They pursued it with forks and hope.

Lewis Carroll

E North
N-S ♠ K 3
 Q 6 3 2
 K Q 6 5
♣ J 7 4
West East
♠ Q J 9 7 5
 9 8 5
 10 8 3
♣ K 5
♠ 10 8 6 4 2
 A 9 7 2
♣ 9 6 3 2
♠ A
 A K J 10 7 4
 J 4
♣ A Q 10 8
South West North East
1 Pass 3 Pass
3 ♠ Pass 4 Pass
6 All pass    


In today’s deal you win the opening spade lead in six hearts, to test trumps. The 3-0 break should not present a problem; the real issue is how to avoid the loss of a trick in each minor.

Life is easy if the club finesse succeeds. You can discard a club on the spade king and another on the third round of diamonds. How might you succeed with the club finesse wrong?

If you can sneak a diamond past the ace, you can discard your other diamond on the spade king. Indeed, if you lead a low diamond and the ace goes up, you will have two discards coming on the diamonds and one on the spade king. So you can discard all three potential club losers.

Which defender should be the intended victim of this maneuver, known as a Morton’s Fork? The lack of opposing bidding provides a clue. Assume the worst: West has the club king as well as a spade suit headed by the queen-jack. The opponents’ silence is entirely consistent with 5-5 spades.

If West had the diamond ace, club king and five spades he would surely have overcalled one spade. So draw trump ending in dummy (ensuring you leave the six as an entry) and lead a low diamond towards the jack. If East plays low, you win with the jack, cross to dummy with the heart six and throw your last diamond on the spade king.

If East takes his ace and switches to a club, take the ace, unblock the diamond jack and pitch your clubs on dummy’s three winners.

You may have a weak hand, but that doesn’t mean you have to roll over without a fight. Since your partner rates to be relatively short in spades, you might take a surprising number of tricks in clubs, especially if he has a five-card suit, while the opponents can also come close to making a partscore. So bid three clubs.


♠ 10 8 6 4 2
 A 9 7 2
♣ 9 6 3 2
South West North East
    1 Pass
1 ♠ 1 NT 2 ♣ 2 NT

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog.
Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2017. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Mircea1September 23rd, 2017 at 8:47 pm

Another excellent problem for us non-expert players. Very well laid out and explained, especially the ever important thought process that the expert goes through. From a technical point of view, at least to me, this is the hardest thing to do – come up with the logic necessary to solve the problem.

I remember quite a few years ago, Fred Gitleman (the owner of the online bridge site BBO) did live sessions where he would play with fellow experts and explain in chat all the thoughts that went through his mind as the play progressed. (the opponents knew about this and showed the necessary patience). It was a very big eye opener into how one should approach serious bridge. I wish more like this would be done.

Thanks again Bobby for sharing this gem with us.

Mircea1September 23rd, 2017 at 8:54 pm

Hi Bobby,

An unlucky declarer (not me) would find West with this hand:

9 8 7 5 2
9 8 5
A 8 3
K 2

The bidding and line of play would be the same, but the end result quite different 🙂

jim2September 23rd, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Well, the opening lead was the QS.

bobby wolffSeptember 24th, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Hi Mircea1,

First, thank you for loving the game as much as you do. Apparently, at least in the USA, that love is lost and unless we do something about it and soon, it may become only history.

There is a supposedly true story about how today’s hand above got its name. In England, under King Henry VII, Cardinal Morton was Chancellor and traditionally extracted money from wealthy English merchants for the
Royal treasury.

His logic was that if the merchants lived ostentatiously they obviously had sufficient income to spare some for the king. Alternatively, if they lived frugally, they must be saving substantially and could afford to contribute to the king’s coffers.

Thus, they were impaled on Morton’s Fork and, as in bridge whether the defense, in this case East, won the ace of diamonds (on air) or not, they lost.

At least to me, a special name for it and only a small part of the great tradition which goes back countless years, and worldwide, in discussing bridge lore. “Bridge For Peace”!

Also, and, of course Jim2, with his chronic TOCM, knows better than anyone. When one goes set in a reasonable contract, but could never make it (with the defensive layout and the opponents defending well) he or she should suffer no regret since he was only victimized by the law of averages, an immutable force, not bad play.

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