Milton Work maneuver in international competition

Margaux Kurek Beaulieu aka MKB Funbridge

On 27 July was the first day of the U26 Open Pairs in Veldhoven, the Netherlands. Qualifications are run over two days followed by the final where the top 18 pairs face each other on 51 deals. After a disappointing first day with average results, Andreas and I made a good comeback during the last session and finished 7th.

Here is a deal played in the afternoon:

Dealer North. Game all.

GF 2C. 3S shows a very solid and at least mid-range suit (the seventh spade is reassessed here).
4D is a control bid denying a club control. In this kind of situation, we know that we are not going to play in slam if we don’t have the club control, but we are embarrassed when we have it without the heart one. It is therefore more or less usual to play 4H, showing the club control without the heart one a priori. Andreas having it, he can bid Blackwood and I respond 5NT (2 key cards and a void). He ends the auction by bidding 6S.

Lead: Queen of Diamonds. We have 10 tricks and an 11th will be easily established in Clubs. The finesse in Hearts could bring us the 12th but the lead gives us more chances. Indeed, if we start by discarding a club on the Ace of Diamonds, when we will play a club to one of the honours, the opponent will not be able to play the Ace, otherwise the contract will immediately be ours (I will play the two hearts of my hand to the King of Diamonds and the other club honour).

If we take the first trick in Clubs, we can throw the remaining club on the King of Diamonds and ruff a heart in dummy. We can allow ourselves to give one away if the finesse fails. If we lose the first trick in Clubs, we will be able to test if they are 3-3 (discarding both hearts, one on the King of Diamonds and the other on the fourth club) and of course, if the Clubs break badly and I don’t play them in the right direction, I will still be able to finesse in Hearts.

How should I play in Clubs now? Following my logic, I want to be able to test the Clubs 3-3 if I opt for the wrong direction without them affecting the Hearts. Indeed, if I play low from dummy to my King of Clubs taken by the Ace and a heart is returned, I will be obliged to decide whether I take the finesse or I hang everything on the Clubs breaking. It is better to cross back with the Ace of Spades and play a low club away from my King to dummy’s Queen (if the Ace is behind the Queen, they won’t be able to play a heart).

Margaux Kurek-Beaulieu and Andreas Abragi

So, I play the Ace of Diamonds for my discard in Clubs, two rounds of trumps and a club from my hand. As expected, dummy’s Queen holds! Then I play the King of Diamonds to discard the club, cross back to hand by ruffing and take the finesse in Hearts just in case, not unhappy that it fails.

The heart lead would have taken the contract down by preventing us from this Milton Work (or Morton’s Fork) according to Prof.

What do you think of this article by Margaux Kurek-Beaulieu ?

Share your opinion in the Comments section of this article.


  1. Great article but Milton Work is credited with the standard AKQJ 4321 point count.
    Morton’s Fork is the correct name for the excellent play in this article.

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