Definition: A maneuver giving a defender two options, both of which are doomed to failure

Reproduced from The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge

The Morton's Fork Coup is a maneuver by which declarer presents a defender with a choice of taking a trick cheaply, or ducking to preserve an honor combination, either decision costing the defense a trick.  If the defender wins the trick, he sets up an extra high card in the suit, while if he ducks, his winner disappears because declarer has a discard possibility.  The name is derived from an episode in English history.   Cardinal Morton, Chancellor under King Henry VII, habitually extracted taxes from wealthy London merchants for the royal treasury.  His approach was that if the merchants lived ostentatiously, they obviously had sufficient income to spare for the king.  Alternatively, if they lived frugally, they must have substantial savings and could therefore afford to contribute to the king's coffers.  In either case they were impaled on "Morton's Fork".  Here is an example:

Dlr: West
Vul: All
Scr: Pairs

s A Q 8 7
h 5 4
d Q 3 2
c A 9 7 3
s 2
h K 10 9 8 3
d A J 8
c K Q 10 2
s ---
h Q 7 6
d 10 9 6 5 4
c J 8 6 5 4
s K J 10 9 6 5 4 3
h A J 2
d K 7
c ---

South plays in 6S after West has opened the bidding with 1H and receives the lead of the club king.  Since South cannot profitably discard on the ace of clubs, he ruffs the first round, draws the outstanding trump and leads a low diamond towards the queen.  

If West goes up with the ace, declarer subsequently discards two hearts on the diamond queen and club ace, while if West ducks, declarer discards his remaining diamond on the club ace and loses only one heart trick. 

Alternatively, if declarer judges that East holds the diamond ace, he can coup that defender by leading towards the diamond king instead of the queen.

For another example, try this site.

More articles: Grosvenor Gambit Morton's Fork Coup Rusinow Leads Schroeder Squeeze Deschappelles Coup Chinese Finesse Merrimac Coup Vienna Coup Lavinthal Devil's Coup

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