Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 5th, 2011

There is no such thing as justice — in or out of court.

Clarence Darrow

West North
Both ♠ K 6 2
 K 6 3
 K J 8 5
♣ 10 8 4
West East
♠ A 9 5
 7 5
 10 3 2
♣ K Q 7 6 5
♠ J 10 8 7 4
 A 10 9 4
 9 7
♣ 9 3
♠ Q 3
 Q J 8 2
 A Q 6 4
♣ A J 2
South West North East
Pass Pass Pass
1 NT Pass 3 NT All pass


Today's deal, played by Jeff Aker, comes from the American trials of 2011. The lesson of the day is that when one defender is the danger hand, we frequently have a choice of actions. Either we must try to keep that player off lead for the duration of the deal, or we can let him obtain the lead only for a price he is not prepared to pay. Let's see how that works in practice.

Declaring three no-trump on a low-club lead, Aker won the club jack in hand and saw that he had six winners in the minors. What is the best way to develop three tricks in the majors?

Assuming West has both top clubs, East must have one of the major-suit aces, or West would have opened. You must keep East off lead, unless he is prepared to sacrifice a trick to play a second club. The best route is to play a diamond to dummy’s jack at trick two, then lead a heart to your queen, a diamond to dummy’s king and a second heart to your jack. If this passes off peacefully, play a spade to set up your ninth trick. Should East hop up with the heart ace to play a club through you, you will have a third heart trick easily enough.

Note that if you play a heart to dummy’s king East’s ace at trick two, you will be defeated if hearts don’t break and the spade ace is with West.

When the opponents are in a contract for which they have no surplus values, you should avoid giving away a trick. I would be unenthusiastic about leading from a broken four-card suit, for example, but I cannot resist leading from a five-card suit (the clubs). There are simply too many good things that happen when we lead from length and too many bad ones when we lead from shortage.


♠ Q 8 6 4
 K 5
 10 6
♣ J 9 7 3 2
South West North East
1 NT
Pass 2 NT All pass  

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 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Howard Bigot-JohnsonDecember 19th, 2011 at 2:08 pm

HBJ : Yes it is a curious situation that on the line of play adopted it matters not a jot who has the Ace of hearts. If West turns up with it then that his one entry has gone prematurely, denying him the chance to enjoy setting up the 4th/5th club. With East in possession of it, any early rise with it simply sets up 3 heart winners, or by ducking twice declarer is now in a position to set up a spade winner to seal the contract.
My question is : surely there must be a name given to this sort of coup….and if not why not? I know of The Morton Fork…..but what about naming this The Aker Fork ?

Bobby WolffDecember 19th, 2011 at 3:52 pm


Avoidance coups are common and sometimes come in disguised packages. For example, merely holding Kxx(x) opposite Qxx(x) might qualify as long as the bidding, lack of it, or some other indication suggested which defender held the ace or at the very least how the hand should be attacked.

A Morton’s Fork Coup is derived from an episode in English history, Cardinal Morton, Chancellor under King Henry VII, involved the taxing of citizens by suggesting that if the citizen or merchant has enough money to live ostentatiously he had sufficient money to spare some for the king, and alternatively if they lived frugally, they must be saving well enough to contribute to the king’s coffers. In either case they were impaled on Morton’s Fork.

Jeff Aker is a fine player and a great guy, but collecting money for our country, he is not.

Forked again!