Join Bridge Winners
Morton's Fork
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In a semi-final match in the Senior trials, you have to find the right bid over an enemy opening.

Both vul, South deals. As West, you hold:

West
AK3
J
J854
A9432
W
N
E
S
1
?

Your call?

West
AK3
J
J854
A9432
W
N
E
S
1
?

The quick tricks and a singleton in their suit is too good to pass. You must take some action.

A takeout double of 1 will usually have 4 spades, but this isn't etched in stone. Your general distribution is fine for a takeout double, with support for all suits. That has to be better than overcalling on this flimsy club suit.

You double. The auction concludes:

W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

2: Constructive heart raise.

Your lead. From an AK holding, you may lead either the ace or the king. If you lead the ace, partner will give you a standard attitude signal. If you lead the king, partner will give you a suit-prefernce signal.

West
AK3
J
J854
A9432
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

Clearly you are going to lead a high spade. The question is which one.

Normally the ace lead is reserved for situations where there is a good chance partner might be getting a ruff, so he will play a high card if he has a doubleton. From AKx this isn't likely, so usually from this holding getting a suit- preference signal is more valuable. This hand looks like an exception. You have 3 top winners, so you need just one trick from partner. He could have a doubleton spade, and he could have the queen. If he has nothing in spades, you will probably be able to work out for yourself where your fourth trick is coming from by examining the dummy, maybe cashing a second spade if necessary.

You lead the ace of spades.

West
AK3
J
J854
A9432
North
QJ54
7642
Q9
Q86
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

Partner plays the 2, standard attitude signal, and declarer plays the 6. Partner is not showing count here. He could have any number of spades other than a doubleton for his play of the 2.

After trick 1, UDCA.

How do you continue?

West
K3
J
J854
A9432
North
QJ5
7642
Q9
Q86
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

You can assume that your king of spades will cash. If declarer has a singleton spade, that means you will need partner to produce 2 tricks somewhere. If partner has enough to produce 2 tricks along with a 5-card spade suit, he probably would have bid 2 over 2. Where is your fourth trick coming from?

One possibility is in clubs. If partner has a singleton club, you must play ace and a club now, or at least after cashing the king of spades. That is a possible layout. Declarer's shape could be 2-5-2-4. Otherwise, laying down the ace of clubs isn't necessary. You will have a chance to shift to clubs when in with the king of spades, provided your shift doesn't give away anything.

The other possibility is in diamonds. Partner could have a diamond honor. If he has the ace nothing matters, but if he has the king it may be necessary to shift to a diamond now before your king of spades is dislodged. A diamond shift would be great if partner has K10 of diamonds. If he has just the king of diamonds a diamond shift might not be so good if declarer guesses correctly, but declarer might misguess.

Is there any other danger in a diamond shift? Declarer might have AK10x of diamonds and no king of clubs with 2-5-4-2 distribution, in which case the diamond shift is the only way to give declarer the contract.

Will a passive defense work? If declarer's shape is 3-5-3-2, he won't have a discard for his third diamond. Give him something like xxx AKQxx A10x Kx, and it looks like you will get a diamond trick if you shift to the jack of hearts. You could also cash the king of spades and get a suit-preference signal from partner in case partner has the king of clubs, but that signal might not be readable. However, watch out for Morton's fork. Suppose declarer has that hand. He wins the heart shift, and leads a spade. You win, and exit safely with a spade. Declarer wins, draws trumps, and leads a low club towards the queen. You will be caught in a Morton's fork. If you duck, he wins the queen of clubs, discards his other club on the spade, and can ruff a diamond in dummy for his tenth trick. If you go up ace, he will be able to discard both of his diamonds on the good club and spade. He will need a spot smaller than the 7 for this to work, but the odds are he has a smaller spot. Considering your takeout double, this will not be a difficult play for declarer to find.

If you shift to a diamond and declarer does have A10x, will he guess right? Not necessarily. If you had the king of diamonds you could see the Morton's fork coming up, and you might shift to a diamond as your only chance to defeat the contract. Declarer could easily go wrong.

The chances of defeating the contract from the diamond shift (partner having K10 or just the king and declarer misguessing), appear to outweigh the gains from playing ace and a club (partner having a singleton club or declarer having AK10x of diamonds and partner the king of clubs). It looks like the diamond shift is the percentage play.

You shift to a small diamond. It goes 9, 10, king. Declarer leads the 8. You win the king, partner following with the 7. What do you do now?

West
3
J
J85
A9432
North
QJ
7642
Q
Q86
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

Partner's 7 is his lowest spade, so that should be suit-preference for clubs. Even without that, a club shift is the only chance. Partner can't have the ace of diamonds or he would have taken it on your diamond shift, since for all he knows you have the king.

You cash the ace of clubs. Partner plays the 5, and declarer the jack. And now?

West
3
J
J85
9432
North
QJ
7642
Q
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P

Of course you continue clubs. Partner's king lives, and declarer has the rest. The full hand is:

West
AK3
J
J854
A9432
North
QJ54
7642
Q9
Q86
East
10972
953
1076
K75
South
86
AKQ108
AK32
J10
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
4
2
6
0
0
1
4
9
10
K
3
1
1
8
K
5
7
0
1
2
A
6
5
J
0
1
3
9
8
K
5

Could declarer have done better?

West
AK3
J
J854
A9432
North
QJ54
7642
Q9
Q86
East
10972
953
1076
K75
South
86
AKQ108
AK32
J10
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
4
2
6
0
0
1
4
9
10
K
3
1
1
8
K
5
7
0
1
2
A
6
5
J
0
1
3
9
8
K
5

How can declarer persuade West to stay away from clubs? One way is to convince West that East has a diamond honor. Winning with the ace won't work, since West will wonder why declarer didn't put up the queen if declarer is missing KJ10. Winning the king won't work if West has the jack of diamonds, since West will know that East would have won the ace from A10. However, if West doesn't have the jack of diamonds, he may believe that East has AJ10.  Thus, winning the king looks better than winning the ace.

There is an interesting ploy available. Declarer might cash AK of diamonds, draw trumps, and lead a spade. The idea is that if West thinks declarer started with AK doubleton of diamonds, West won't be worried about cashing clubs since he will know that declarer has too many black cards to allow East's king of clubs to run away. Declarer doesn't need the third diamond trick, as he has 2 spade tricks, 6 trump tricks, and 2 diamond tricks. This shouldn't work if West is counting, since West can see that if declarer has the king of clubs he has 10 tricks (5 hearts, 1 club, 2 diamonds, 2 spades), but West could fall for it.

What do you think of the N-S bidding?

West
AK3
J
J854
A9432
North
QJ54
7642
Q9
Q86
East
10972
953
1076
K75
South
86
AKQ108
AK32
J10
W
N
E
S
1
X
2
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
4
2
6
0
0
1
4
9
10
K
3
1
1
8
K
5
7
0
1
2
A
6
5
J
0
1
3
9
8
K
5

Even though North has 7 HCP and 4 trumps, calling that hand a constructive raise is a bad evaluation. There are too many losers. If North just bids 2 and South can't make a move, there are probably 4 losers off the top. The actual hand is a good illustration. In fact, South probably would make a move over 2, and game is still down off the top.

Opposite a constructive raise, South had an easy game drive. However, it couldn't hurt to search for greener pastures. South could bid 3, and if North bids 3NT over that South would be happy to pass. The point is that 4 isn't going to run away from South if South doesn't bid it now.

At the other table, North instead bid a preemptive 3. South understandably wasn't going to quit, since all North needs is one black king. Here West lay down the ace of clubs after the first round of spades for a push.

It is easy for West to be afraid of breaking diamonds, thinking that declarer will certainly get it right and the diamond shift will cost the contract. One must look quite deep to see the Morton's fork danger, which makes the diamond shift much more attractive.

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