Basic Squeeze Technique
These examples show straightforward squeeze situations and the basic preparations that are sometimes needed to put the squeeze into effect.
Related Play Problems Play Problem 59
Related Extracts from Past Wednesday Games
East lands in 3NT, and itís easy enough to see 10 tricks for Declarer (two Spades, two Hearts, four Diamonds, two Clubs). Where is the 11th?
Letís say that South leads a Heart. Best play is to lead twice towards Dummyís Spades, hoping that the Ace is doubleton with South or the suit is 3-3. That works well on the actual hand, and the play might go:
Heart to the Ten, Jack, Ace
Spade to Dummyís King
Back to the ♦A
Another low Spade, this time won by Southís Ace
♥Q won by Declarerís King
Unblock the ♠Q
Cross to the ♦J
Cash the ♠J
Cross to ♦K and cash the last Diamond
Declarer has managed to score three Spade tricks and untangle his 11 winners. But thatís not all! When the last Diamond is cashed, poor South finds herself squeezed in Clubs and Hearts. 12 very surprising tricks! That was a most unfortunate opening lead from South as it ďisolated the menaceĒ in Hearts, meaning that only the South hand could protect against Declarerís mighty Heart Eight.
In 3NT it is actually possible to make 11 tricks by cashing three Spades early (aided by Eastís singleton Jack). This squeezes East in Clubs and Hearts and Declarer scores 3 Spades, 2 Hearts, 3 Diamonds and 2 Clubs, plus an extra one coming from whichever suit East unguards. The full line of play might be:
Win the Diamond lead
Club to the King
Finesse Spade Ten
Club to the Jack
Finesse the Diamond
Cash the third Diamond
Cash the ♠A
That third Spade is Eastís undoing and itís 11 tricks for Declarer. But itís somewhat double dummy, and only works because East has both missing Heart honors. Weíd expect most Declarers to play on Hearts earlier and score only 10 tricks.
South leads a Diamond to Northís Ace and Declarer wins the Heart shift. Declarer plays the ♣K and ♣A, hoping that he can claim when the suit is 3-2. But Clubs are 4-1 and now Declarer has only 11 tricks (assuming that the Spades come in). No worries, South can be squeezed in Hearts and Clubs. Hereís the full line of play:
Diamond to Northís Ace
♥A wins the shift
♣K and ♣A are cashed
♠A and ♠Q are cashed (playing for South to have the Spade length)
♦K and ♦Q are cashed
Spade finesse, and cash the last Spade
By now South has been squeezed. There are three cards remaining, and South needs to have kept two Hearts and two Clubs. Not possible! Making 12 tricks!
That was a pretty easy squeeze to pull off, but the opening lead made things easier. Suppose that South had found the devilish ♥Q opening lead instead. Declarer wins that and might make the fatal mistake of playing on Clubs immediately. When they donít break, Declarer can knock out the ♦A and win the Heart return. But now the squeeze does not work, as Declarer does not have the communications. It was necessary to knock out the ♦A at Trick 2, win the Heart return, pick up the Spade suit, return to hand with the ♣K and cash the Diamonds. That line does squeeze South!
With the Diamonds breaking, there are 12 top tricks, and with various chances for a 13th. A Club lead would give away the overtrick immediately, so letís say that North is lucky or smart enough to lead a passive Diamond. Declarer cashes all 5 Diamonds, pitching a Spade and a Club. Then he crosses to the ♠A (noting the fall of Northís Queen), and cashes the ♣A and ♣K. Here are the remaining cards:
♠ KT ♠ 8
♥ Q2 ♥ AKT6
♣ J ♣
The defense has discarded well, both North and South hung on to all their Hearts, offering Declarer the minimum amount of clues. Now Declarer could just cash the Hearts and, when the ♥J does not drop, try to guess the Spade position. But a safer play for 13 tricks is the cash the ♠K Ö maybe North started with doubleton ♠QJ Ö or maybe North will be squeezed in Hearts and Clubs. Itís the latter case which wins the day and scores +1020.
No doubt South, with that huge hand, was tempted to try 7♠. As it happens there are 12 top tricks and whether or not there is a 13th will depend upon Eastís opening lead. Letís say that East guesses to lead a Heart. Hereís how the play goes then:
Heart opening lead is won somewhere
Trumps are drawn in 3 rounds
The ♦A is cashed
The remaining Hearts and Spades are cashed
In the end-game, East is done for! At Trick 10, as Declarer cashes the last winner, East will have ♦K ♣Q86, and is squeezed Ö if he pitches a Diamond then Declarerís ♦Q is good Ö and if he pitches a Club then Dummy scores a third Club trick.
The opening lead that holds Declarer to just 12 tricks is a Club. This breaks up the communications between Declarer and Dummy and the squeeze no longer operates.
Against 3NT South leads the ♠Q which hands Declarer a third Spade trick and 11 altogether when the Clubs break and the Heart finesse works. That Spade lead was most unfortunate but it turns out that Declarer can always make 11 tricks. Suppose that South (somewhat improbably) leads a Diamond. Dummy wins that, the ♣A is knocked out, a Diamond return is ducked, then the next Diamond is won by Declarerís King. The black suits are cashed and this is the position with one Club left:
♠ T ♠
♥ T6 ♥ AQ8
♦ ♦ 7
♣ 6 ♣
At this point, with the aid of the Heart finesse, Declarer has 3 more tricks. But when the last Club is played a squeeze against North produces the extra trick.
Against 6♥, South might well plunk down the ♠A, in which case itís 13 top tricks. A Club lead is no better, so letís say that South somehow finds the lead of the ♦8. Can you make 13 tricks now? Sure you can:
Win the Diamond lead
Cash the other two Diamond winners
Ruff a Spade
By now, you will have a count on the hand, South having presumably started life with 7= 0=2=4. If that is the case, and if South also has the ♠A, then she is about to be squeezed in the black suits when you cash your remaining trumps. This is the position with one trump left to play:
♠ K ♠
♥ ♥ 4
♦ 2 ♦
♣ K9 ♣ AJ4
When the last Heart is played South is done for. Sheíll probably pitch a Club, but now Declarer has three Club tricks. It would not have mattered if the ♣Q was with North, in that case itís coming down doubleton.
Against 3NT, West is likely to lead a Spade, won by Declarer. Now, with the Clubs behaving, Declarer has 12 tricks. Should Declarer try for 13 by guessing the location of the ♥Q and finessing accordingly? That will be fine if she guesses right, but only 11 tricks if she guesses wrong. There is a better way! After rattling off all the Clubs, Declarer crosses to the ♥A, cashes her remaining Spade winners, and hopes that one defender or the other holds the ♥Q and ♦A and is squeezed (or that the ♥Q is doubleton). Bingo, itís 13 tricks! If those two cards had been in different hands (and the ♥Q is not doubleton) then 12 tricks would still be made. There are two advantages to the suggested line of play:
- It makes 12 or 13 tricks, rather than 11 or 13 tricks
- Pulling off a squeeze is so much more fun than a mundane finesse.
East had a choice between responding 1♥ and 2♣. You could make an argument for either bid, and this particular East preferred to bid his good suit. Letís assume that 2♣ is game-forcing, allowing West to make a simple 2♦ rebid. Now, when East rebids 2NT, West can hardly do less than bid the slam.
That was a reasonable auction except for one small detail. 6NT is being played from the wrong side! If West is Declarer, no lead can hurt him, and he gets his 12th trick by playing on Clubs. But, from the East side, an opening Heart lead is problematic. Thereís no problem if Declarer guesses to play low from Dummy, but he may misguess and play the Queen instead. Now Northís King wins the trick and a Club comes back. It will be instant defeat if Declarer finesses, so letís say that he hops up with the Ace and plays for a squeeze. After winning the ♣A, Declarer runs the Diamonds and plays ♠K. This is the end-position:
♠ 93 ♠ A
♥ A2 ♥ T
♣ ♣ KT
A Spade is led to the Ace and South is helpless!
4♠ is a pretty good contract but it wonít make after a Club lead, thanks to the 4-0 trump break and the unfortunate Club situation. But if the defense attacks Diamonds then life is more complicated:
Two Diamonds are cashed by the defense
The third Diamond is ruffed
A Heart is lost to Westís Ace
A Club is won in Dummy
At this point, Declarer feels pretty happy. His plan is to cross to hand with a trump, ruff a Heart, come back to hand and draw the remaining trumps for 10 tricks. But when East shows out on the first round of trumps Declarer must change direction. She cannot ruff a Heart and get back to hand without promoting a trump for West, so she abandons all thoughts of a Heart ruff and rattles off her trump suit. Look what happens! Declarerís ♥9 acts as a threat against East, who must also hold on to ♣Qx. In other words, on the last trump, East is squeezed and Declarer has her 10 tricks.
OK, how does Declarer manage 11 tricks playing in Diamonds? The defense starts with Clubs and Dummy ruffs the second round. Declarer uses that entry to successfully run the ♠Q. Trumps are drawn, and the ♥T is finessed, losing to Northís King. Back comes a Heart won by Declarerís Ace, and now the remaining trumps are run, squeezing North in the majors. Here is the position, with one trump left to play:
♠ J9 ♠ A5
♥ Q6 ♥ 5
♦ ♦ 5
When the last trump is played, Dummy pitches a Spade and North is helpless. Itís Declarerís lowly Spade Five which takes the last trick if North pitches a Spade, and Dummyís Heart Six has that honor if North pitches a Heart. Declarer had to time the play just right to bring about the squeeze:
- It was essential to take a Spade finesse at Trick 3, using that precious Dummy entry to good effect.
- It was necessary not to cash the ♥A before finessing the ♥T, otherwise North breaks up the squeeze by returning a Heart.
Suppose that, on opening lead, North makes the unrecommended choice of the A♣. Does that hold Declarer to 11 tricks? Actually, no! Provided that Declarer can guess the trump suit, heíll be able to rattle off all of his Spade and Diamond winners, and catch poor South in a Heart-Club squeeze for the 12th trick. There are two lines, however, and one of them is somewhat farfetched:
- Un-Farfetched Line: North cashes the A♣, and continues Clubs. Now, Declarer guesses the Spades correctly, and proceeds with the rattling off of winners. Which suit should be rattled off first? The communications are such that the squeeze card must come from Dummy, so the Spades are cashed first, then the Diamonds, and if either defender has the KQ♥ and the Q♣, the squeeze will come to fruition.
- Farfetched Line: North cashes the A♣ and shifts to a Heart. Now, the entry situation has changed, and the squeeze card must come from Declarer Ö this means cashing the Diamonds first, while there is still an enemy trump remaining Ö somewhat dangerous, North might ruff, and they cash a Heart and 11 cold tricks have become 10. But, on the actual hand, this improbable line of play actually works, the long Diamonds are with the long trumps, and eventually the squeeze will materialize.
If West leads a Heart that will be a disaster for the defense, handing Declarer 12 tricks when the Clubs break and the Diamond finesse works. So, letís suppose instead that West starts out with a Diamond. Dummyís Jack wins, the A♣ is knocked out, and now the cashing of the minor suit winners will squeeze West in the majors! Again, making 12 tricks. Hey, North, bid Ďem up, canít you?!
Is 6NT always cold? No, it goes off on the unlikely lead of a Spade. Then when East gets in with the A♣, he must return a Spade, breaking up the communications for the squeeze.
Letís look at the aforementioned squeeze again, there is a trap for the unwary. Suppose that Dummyís J♦ wins the opening lead, the A♣ is knocked out, and West returns a Diamond. You win on the board, cross back on a Diamond, cash all but one of the remaining Clubs, to arrive at this position:
♠ T876 Immaterial
West will be squeezed when that 7♣ hits the table, but it would be poor play not to cash the A♥ first. If Declarer neglects to do this she will have to guess which of the majors West has unguarded, but by cashing the A♥ first there will be no ambiguity.
4♥ was Redwood, and East showed one Key Card (1430 responses).
There is no obvious reason why North should lead a Club, letís assume that he starts with a Heart. Trumps are drawn and the Spade finesse wins. Declarer can now go for the gusto by cashing the Hearts and all the trumps, squeezing South in the black suits. For the squeeze to be operational Declarer must take only one Spade finesse before running those red suit winners, the reason being that the Spades are needed as communications between Dummy and Declarer.
In 4♠, it will be 10 tricks, provided that Declarer arranges for a Diamond ruff on the board. It might even be 11 tricks if the play develops as follows:
Q♦ lead, won in Dummy
Diamond is conceded
Q♠ is returned, won by Declarerís King
Lose a Spade to West
Diamond ruffed by Declarer
Here is the end position:
Declarer has 5 of the remaining 6 tricks on top, but East is squeezed if Declarer takes the trouble to cash her last Spade next. She pitches a Club from the board, and East (who has already pitched one Club) is forced to unguard one of his two suits. This squeeze works whenever either defender started with 4 (or more) Clubs and the QJ♥. Are 11 tricks inevitable? No, but they are quite likely, West must shift to Hearts when in with the Diamond, and continue Hearts when in with the trump. It takes both those Heart leads to disrupt Declarerís communications and break up the squeeze.
Adventurous bidding by West, but not unreasonable, and 7♠ is cold when East puts down a suitable hand. Anyone for the matchpoint-inspired contract of 7NT? There are 12 top tricks and the only hope for a 13th is through a squeeze. There are actually 6 possible squeezes. Care to identify them? Here goes:
A. North is squeezed in Hearts and Diamonds
B. South is squeezed in Hearts and Diamonds
C. North is squeezed in the minors
D. South is squeezed in the minors
E. South is squeezed in Hearts and Clubs
F. Double squeeze (North in Hearts+Diamonds and South in Hearts+Clubs)
Itís also possible that North or South are squeezed in all three suits, if one of them holds 5+ Clubs, 4+ Diamonds and the KQ♥, but weíll ignore those as they eventually reduce to one of the above. And one squeeze that is not listed above is a Heart-Club squeeze against North, that wonít work because she would have both the menaces sitting over Declarerís holdings and would be discarding after Declarer.
Letís say that North leads the K♥ against 7NT. That marks North with the Q♥ and we can say goodbye to Squeezes B, E, and F. All that is required to pull off the squeeze is to win the opening lead, cash one high Diamond (in case a singleton Jack is out there), unblock the Q♣, then run the Spades and cash the two remaining Club winners. These will be Declarerís and Dummyís last three cards:
♥ J ♥
♦ T ♦ KQ6
♣ 6 ♣
Did the squeeze work? How will you know? Itís pretty simple, all that is required is to watch out for the Q♥, of course, and to count the Clubs played:
- If South has both the minors she will either have pitched her Clubs by now setting up Declarerís Club spot, or else she will have pitched a Diamond, setting up Dummyís suit.
- If North was squeezed in the minors she will have suffered a similar fate, only more so because she also has the Q♥ to conserve.
- If North was squeezed in Diamonds and Hearts, the Q♥ will have appeared by now, or else North will have pitched a Diamond.
So, the keys to making 7NT after the K♥ opening lead were simply to unblock the Q♣, cash the black suit winners, and count the number of Clubs played. Not too difficult, eh?
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