The Bridge Column
The Morton’s Fork Coup in bridge is named after Cardinal Morton, Chancellor of the Exchequer for a bygone English king. He was charged with collecting the king’s taxes. He believed that people who lived nicely could obviously afford to pay taxes and those that lived frugally must have substantial savings and could also afford to pay. The people were said to be caught on “Morton’s Fork.”
South’s jump to slam was a reasonable gamble. Should partner have a singleton heart, three spades to the ace and the queen of diamonds would be enough for slam. A doubleton heart with partner would require a bit more than that, but not much.
Not knowing what to discard on the ace of clubs, South played low from dummy on the opening club lead and ruffed in his hand. He led the jack of spades, drawing trump, and immediately led a low diamond away from his king. This caught West on “Morton’s Fork.” Should West play low, dummy’s queen would win the trick and the king of diamonds would be discarded on the ace of clubs. Should West rise with his ace instead, South could discard both of his heart losers, one on the ace of clubs and one on the queen of diamonds. Six spades making six either way.
East was too much of a gentleman to point out that the slam would have been defeated with a heart lead.