Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 21st, 2015

Stick a fork in him. He’s done.

Leo Durocher

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


History buffs will be familiar with John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury to King Henry VII. His role included collecting taxes from London merchants.

Should the merchant follow a luxurious lifestyle, Morton would argue that he could well afford to pay up. But if he lived frugally, Morton would infer that his thrift indicated he had plenty of money saved up. This trap is known as Morton’s Fork, and one can also encounter this maneuver at the bridge table.

South’s rebid of one no-trump showed extras, in the context of a weak no-trump base. North could have checked back for a fit in the majors, but South’s second call denied four hearts or four spades, allowing North to close up shop with a call of three no-trump.

When West led a spade, South won in hand, played a diamond to dummy’s ace then another diamond toward his hand. Had East had gone in with his king, declarer would eventually have made his game. But East held off, and now South set about clubs. When West came on lead with the queen, he shifted to hearts. The defenders were able to cash three hearts and the diamond king for one down.

See the difference if, declarer crosses to the club and leads a low diamond away from the ace. Now East is impaled on Morton’s Fork. If he flies up with the king, declarer has his nine tricks. And if the king is withheld, declarer can set up a club for his ninth trick, with the diamond king not yet established as a defensive winner.

I do not see any reason to get aggressive here. Dummy rates to put down some length in a minor but that suit may or may not breaking for him. The most passive lead is a small trump – that can hardly do anything too terrible to partner’s holding and may, for example, make a ruff in dummy more awkward.


♠ Q 9 3
 A 7 2
 J 9 6 4
♣ 10 7 4
South West North East
    Pass 1
Pass 1 NT Pass 2
Pass 3 Pass 4
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 2015. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Patrick CheuJanuary 4th, 2016 at 7:50 pm

Hi Bobby,If South’s QD was won by West’s hypothetical KD..and a second spade follows,presumably South will just have to play hearts and guess whether to play the 9H or 7H on the third heart..(and West does not switch to a second club).cannot see any squeeze on East by playing spades. All said,would it be wrong to duck a club immediately,and fall back on diamond finesse for the contract,Morton’s Folk notwithstanding? regards~Patrick.

Bobby WolffJanuary 4th, 2016 at 9:51 pm

Hi Patrick,

No it would definitely not be wrong to basically fall back on a straight diamond finesse for the contract (after the clubs have produced 3 tricks). However, by doing so, the story about Morton’s Fork will, instead of becoming too hot not to cool down, be forever lost in bridge lore or perhaps, at the very least, not discussed in the Aces bridge column.

What we seem to need is one of our special bridge statisticians to step forward and figure out the probabilities. I would volunteer, but then again I have nothing really special to offer for that difficult task, not to mention being lazy in taking it on (there is an overwhelming issue in considering the combination of factors).

If one merely wonders what there is to learn from these complications, it is likely enough to just be able to understand the many different factors present and to then take a stab at what appears reasonable (including playing hearts, hoping for either a magic holding. the 10 with shortness or probably more likely, a defensive mistake.

Sorry for my non-answer, but better that, than a pretended confident, but much too phony, guessed response.

Patrick CheuJanuary 4th, 2016 at 9:59 pm

Hi Bobby,The question is at the table be it teams or pairs which line would you rather adopt?

Bobby WolffJanuary 4th, 2016 at 10:53 pm

Hi Patrick,

Whether it is teams or pairs, my choice would be to win the spade in hand and lead the queen of hearts or, depending on who was West and East, win the spade in dummy and lead a heart toward my hand, and, although the play from my hand (queen or the jack) may be critical, the greater experience that EW pair have, would entice me to play the jack.

The information available from my switching to leading hearts, especially from dummy, may get a relatively inexperienced West to switch to diamonds, but even maybe to clubs (since the spades in dummy are more likely to influence lesser traveled defenders to switch).

However, whether that is the best play or not will never be known, but perhaps the thinking involved will benefit some.

Playing clubs first is just too revealing to a very good defender so the mysterious con job I am attempting would, I think, be my choice. The one common theme is to never trust an experienced declarer, but please do not tell anyone else.

Patrick CheuJanuary 5th, 2016 at 7:13 am

Hi Bobby,Thanks 🙂