The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part LXXX: Poor Frank’s Fork Coup

The Adventures of Poor Frank, Part LXXX:  Poor Frank’s Fork Coup


By Ray Adams

Many years ago in medieval England, a man named Morton collected taxes for the king.  Morton’s reasoning seemed to work out well for the royal coffers.  If a family was thrifty and saved money, then they could afford to pay a generous amount of taxes.  On the other hand, if a family spent a lot of money, then they also should be able to pay a significant sum in taxes.  Either way, the average English family was caught on the tines of what taxpayers called “Morton’s Fork.”

Morton never played bridge, but his method was so famous that a bridge play – Morton’s Fork Coup – was named after him.  Poor Frank was recently able to follow in Morton’s footsteps when the following hand came up:



In the auction, 5♣ showed one ace, the king of hearts being counted as one of the aces.  North reasoned that this either had to be the ace of clubs or the king of hearts.  Either way, he thought Poor Frank should have a good shot at the small slam and bid it.  When Poor Frank saw the dummy, he realized that his rival undoubtedly doubled because he held two aces.  Poor Frank soon put his convictions into action.

He won the opening queen of spades lead in dummy and immediately led a small diamond.  He could not help but notice that Lucky Archie grabbed his side, most likely feeling the sensation of being pinned by the big tines of Morton’s Fork.   Like the taxpayers of old, Lucky Archie had two choices, either one of which would add to Poor Frank’s bridge coffers.  If he played his ace of diamonds, Poor Frank could sluff two clubs on the king of diamonds and the king of spades, subsequently ruffing three clubs in dummy.

On the other hand, if Lucky Archie ducked, Poor Frank’s queen would win and he could throw his other diamond  on the king of spades.  He would then force out Archie’s ace of clubs with his king, cash two high clubs and ruff the other two in dummy.  There was nothing Archie could do to keep Frank from making his doubled slam.

Surely Lucky Archie did not appreciate the historical significance of what had just happened, but he did say, “I felt like I was caught in some kind of trap.”

Indeed he had been.  Mr. Morton has not been around for a long time, but his diabolical fork is still with us.

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