Playing in the first round of the national Grand National Teams, vulnerable, I pick up
 S:Q63 H:Q964 D:AK7 C:KQ3
RHO deals and opens 1C:, which I overcall with 1NT, showing a good 15 to a bad 19 points. The opponents are silent thereafter, but partner is not. He transfers to hearts and rebids 2NT, which invites me to choose between 2NT, 3NT, 3H:, and 4H:. The normal bid is 3H:; I have a minimum. I like the fit so much, though, that I go for the game. My honors rate to be placed well, and a nine-card fit tends to supply game with less than normal high-card values. Add in that we are vulnerable, so I get pretty good odds in my favor, and I am going for it. I buy the following dummy, which fits surprisingly poorly:
S: K4
H: A8752
D: J942
C: 98
S: Q63
H: Q964
D: AK7
C: KQ3
Pass4H:All Pass
1NT = 15+-19
2D: = transfer to H:
I get the lead of a small club and my prospects do not look good. I have two Aces to lose, a sure trump loser, and possible further losers in diamonds and trumps. This will need some luck, I think. I play low from dummy to the first trick and East plays his Ace. He continues with a second club, which I win with the King.

It seems as if the first problem must be to take care of trumps. I lead a small trump to the Ace and a small one back, East showing up with KJ alone. I may need a fast entry to dummy, so I unblock the H:9 under the King. East returns a diamond and I win the Ace and take stock.

I need two discards for the diamonds in dummy, or the Queen coming down doubleton. Is there a way to get two discards? The club King will supply one and if East takes his spade Ace on the first round, spades will provide another. I see the way now. I cross to dummy with a trump to the Eight and lead a small spade from dummy. East is pickled on the horns of a dilemma, to mix metaphors. If he rises with the Ace, I have two diamond discards, but if he ducks his Ace, I can pitch the S:K on the C:Q and have no spade loser. As seems likely, if the D:Q is onside, I would only lose one diamond, one club, and one heart. East chooses to rise Ace and continue spades; I win and return to hand by leading the H:5 to the 6 (I could have used the D:K, but this is prettier) and pitch both losing diamonds on black Queens. Making four for a 12 IMP gain.

This dilemma is commonly known as a ``Morton's Fork Coup,'' after the famous tax collector who said, ``if you live well, you must have money to spend, so you can pay your taxes; if you live cheaply, you must be saving your money, so you can pay your taxes.'' Here East was caught between losing the spade Ace or the diamond Queen.

I noted that it ``seemed'' as if the first problem were trumps, but that was short-sighted. If East had continued clubs after winning the first trump, he could have put me on the dilemma first. I would have to discard on the club before leading the small spade from dummy. Better would have been to cross to the heart Ace immediately and then play the small spade, ensuring the contract when it could be made. Fortunately, East did not see the Coup coming and I got my story.

Copyright © 1992 Jeff Goldsmith