Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Friday, 23 February, 2024


Iain ClimieFebruary 23rd, 2024 at 5:58 pm

HI Bobby,

A very nice example of Morton’s fork, named (if people don’t know) after Henry Vii of England’s notorious Chancellor of the Exchequer (and also Archbishop of Canterbury) John Morton. Henry was famously tight with money so asked Morton to go round to the houses of nobles to extract money. If he was treated lavishly, the noble clearly had plenty of money; if more frugally, the noble was clearly hoarding his cash so could also afford more tax. Not quite as ingeniously circular as Heller’s Catch-22 but pretty good nonetheless as a lose-lose. Mind you, women accused of witchcraft in England in the middle ages were sometimes tested in a lose-lose way via being thrown into rivers or put in a ducking stool. Witches were assumed to float so, if they drowned, they were innocent although might well be beyond resuscitation. If they didn’t they were often executed.

If you look back to my comments on 21st Feb I mentioned a certain weakness of mine i.e. the tendency to think things through half way. I butchered a hand so badly last night in this way (started thinking, came up with half-witted conclusions) that I’m too embarrassed to quote it. Ouch!



bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2024 at 7:46 pm

Hi Iain,

And, all this time I had thought that in early English and or very young children, learning to eat with silverware would stare ahead and say,”you, fork” and then, as they grew older, reversed those two key words.

And, knowing you, my money bet would certainly result in only ever having what you said happen, be involving a useless overtrick while closing out the last rubber.

As to your version of Morton’s fork regarding women and their natural ability to execute high level bridge, isn’t that a talent, not a death warrant? And finally, whoever heard of a woman being innocent, when accused?

And, if the description in your last paragraph is indeed true, you’ll immediately jump to always being invited to every cut around rubber bridge game, simply because for every rubber you play with the other three as partners they will have the advantage of only playing with you once to playing against you twice, continuing your reputation of being the most popular, a well admired asset for everyone. Always look for the positive.

David SnookFebruary 23rd, 2024 at 8:06 pm

What a wonderfully confusing hand today…

I had to play it out (on paper) 5 or 6 times before I hit on what I believe is a winning line…

And here we go…

After trumping the heart king in my hand, I immediately lead a diamond. Seeing as West opened the bidding with one diamond, I make the assumption West holds the diamond ace.

So if West plays the diamond ace on the second trick, I now have two diamond tricks and if West holds up on the ace, I drop the diamond queen on the trick and next play a club from the dummy.

If East covers my club with the ten I play the jack and if East plays the queen, I cover with the king. Either way, it seems like West will take that trick with the club ace, leaving me with the remaining high club in my hand.

No matter what West plays at this point, including leading a trump, I can take the trick, then a club trick, and am now free to play a club from my hand and trump it in dummy.

it appears the key to the hand is making sure I have a trump in dummy to play on a club from my hand, so I don’t want to pull trump immediately.

Is my reasoning valid?

bobbywolffFebruary 23rd, 2024 at 8:55 pm

Hi David,

Yes, your reasoning is quite valid, to the point, and necessary in order to make your contract. Congratulations for your result by making use of a play called the Morton
Fork to which a defender is faced with an impossible solution, lose the trick by ducking his ace, in this hand a low diamond from hand toward dummy, or if risen, with the ace, allowing an extra diamond trick (both the king and queen become winners).

Through the many years which cover the advancement of Contract Bridge, certain relatively unusual situations exist wherein the defense becomes between a rock and a hard place, defined as a Morton’s Fork (for reasons explained by Iain Climie) which reflect a no win available situation for even the very best players while defending.

Thanks David for your attention to detail, allowing you the thrill of success with the 4 spade contract you were entrusted with, and brought it home.

David SnookFebruary 23rd, 2024 at 10:00 pm

Thank you for your continuing supportive commentary, Bobby.

You’re truly generous with me and i do appreciate it!

Thank you!