The Morton's Fork Coup is a play that presents a defender with two losing options. It's named after the Archbishop of Canterbury John Morton (1420 - 1500). The late expert Alan Truscott is credited with inventing the bridge term in the 1960s.

As the tax collector for King Henry VII, the Archbishop's rule on taxes went something like this. If the King's subjects were living lavishly, then they must be able to afford higher taxes. If they were living modestly, then they must have the savings to afford higher taxes. Either way... higher taxes.


Examples

The following deal was covered by Phillip Alder in his syndicated column:1

North
A984
AKJ8
West92East
J63K432
T65297
K6SouthJT7543
JT76SKQT75A985
HQ43
DAQ8
CQ2



South
1
3NT
4
5
Pass

North
2NT
4
4NT
6

"Cover the East-West cards in the diagram and plan the play in six spades. West leads a trump from jack-third.

"The hand was played during the 1991 Gold Flake Asia and Middle East Bridge Championships in New Delhi. Tahir Masood, who was helping Pakistan win the Open event, was the only player to make six spades on this deal.

"North used the Jacoby forcing raise. South's rebid showed a balanced hand with extra values. Two cue-bids were followed by Roman Key Card Blackwood, South showing the trump queen and two key cards (two aces, or one ace and the trump king).

"If the diamond finesse was working, the contract would be easy. So Masood assumed it was wrong. He drew trumps ending in the dummy and then led the club three, impaling East on Morton's Fork. If East went in with the ace, declarer could discard his two diamond losers on the fourth heart and the club king. But when East played low, Masood won with the club queen, discarded his second club on the long heart and took the diamond finesse in an unsuccessful quest for an overtrick."

Another example written by Charles Goren and Omar Sharif:2

North
QT6
A74
WestJ65East
7KQ6443
KQJ983T652
KT3South987
AT5SAKJ98529873
H-
DAQ42
CJ2


West
1
2
Pass
North
Pass
3
6
East
Pass
Pass
All Pass
South
Dbl
4S


Opening lead: HK          

"North bid aggressively to force the partnership to slam despite West's opening bid. South correctly decided to reopen the auction with a double, for he was too strong for even a jump to two spades. He confirmed the strength of his hand with a jump to four spades over his partner's cue-bid, and North simply took the bit by the teeth and leaped to slam.

"West led the king of hearts, and declarer could play the hand virtually double-dummy. West's bid and rebid and East's pass marked West for every missing card, and there was obviously a danger that declarer would lose a trick in each minor suit. However, declarer found an elegant solution to his problem.

"He played low from dummy to the first trick and ruffed in his hand. After drawing two rounds of trumps, declarer led his deuce of clubs toward the king-queen and West was impaled on the tines of Morton's Fork. If he played low, dummy's queen of clubs would win the trick. Declarer would then cash the ace of hearts, discarding his remaining club, and the only trick for the defense would be the king of diamonds.

"Unfortunately for the defenders, West would be no better off if he elected to with the ace of clubs. When declarer regained the lead, he would cash the jack of clubs, enter dummy with a trump and discard his three losing diamonds on the ace of hearts and the king-queen of clubs. This time, the ace of clubs would be the defenders' solitary trick."

References

1 Alder, P. (1992, March 17). The Catch-22 of the Tax Collector. Portsmouth Daily Times.

2 Goren, C. and Omar Sharif (1976, September 15). Goren on Bridge. Wilmington Morning Star.

See also

  • Anti-Bath Coup
    A paradoxic twist on a normal Bath coup.

  • Bath Coup
    A holdup play at trick one with the A-J of the suit.

  • Coup En Passant
    A trump trick scored by ruffing a card "behind" a defender who holds a higher trump.

  • Devil's Coup
    A trump play that causes a defender's trump trick to seemingly disappear.

  • Scissors Coup
    The strategic concession of a loser that cuts communications between the defenders.

  • Vienna Coup
    An unblocking play in preparation for a squeeze.

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