Lesson 6C   Main

Squeeze Plays

  by Richard Pavlicek

The usual ways to develop tricks are to promote honor cards, establish long cards, and to ruff in the hand with fewer trumps. When these opportunities are exhausted or destined to fail, another resource is the squeeze play — forcing the opponents to discard by leading your winners.

Solid Suits

Many squeeze plays are easy. All declarer has to do is lead his solid suits — the suits which contain no losing cards. Forcing the opponents to discard has another advantage: Sometimes they will throw away the wrong card.

If you cannot develop another trick, lead your solid suits which includes all of your trumps.

1. S K 10 4 2
H J 6 3
D A K Q 4
C 8 6
S 7 5
H A K 10 8 5
D J 8
C 10 7 4 3
Table S 9 3
H 9 2
D 10 9 6 5
C K Q 9 5 2
4 S South
Lead: H K
S A Q J 8 6
H Q 7 4
D 7 3 2

The opponents win the first three tricks with a heart ruff, then East leads the C K to your ace. A weak player would draw the enemy trumps and lead diamonds, hoping for a 3-3 break. Sorry, down one.

If the diamonds are 3-3, they will always be 3-3 and there is no hurry to test them. Declarer should first lead all of his trumps (the only solid suit). Poor East would not be able to keep both a club and a diamond stopper, and declarer wins the rest.

It is pleasing to note that declarer does not need to count the diamonds or any other suit. All he has to do is watch for the C Q to be discarded. If not, there is nothing left to do but run the diamonds.

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Threat Suits

Suits that are not solid are called “threat suits” because they contain at least one card that is not a winner but threatens to become a winner if a defender gives up his stopper in that suit.

Declarer must have at least two threat suits, and one opponent must protect both of these suits for a squeeze play to work.

This is your spade threat.

And this is your local club threat.

2. S 4 3
H 7 5 4
D K 3
C A K Q 7 5 2
S Q J 10 6
H 3 2
D J 8 2
C J 9 8 4
Table S 8 7 5
H A 9 8 6
D 10 9 7 6 4
C 10
6 NT South
Lead: S Q
S A K 9 2
H K Q J 10
D A Q 5
C 6 3

You win the S A, lead the H K to East’s ace, then win the spade return with your king. At this point you need to win the rest of the tricks. There is no problem if the clubs break 3-2, so your only concern is a bad club break.

Your solid suits are hearts and diamonds, and your threat suits are spades and clubs. Your individual threats are the S 9 and the C 7. You must first lead your solid suits (hearts and diamonds) and the last winner will force West to part with his high spade or his club stopper. West is squeezed.

As in Example 1, declarer does not have to count any suit. All he has to do is watch for the S J-10 so he would know if the S 9 were good; else the only chance is to lead the clubs and hope they run.

It is important to see that you would fail if you led two rounds of clubs early. This would remove an entry to dummy which is vital to the squeeze.

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The subject of entries is inherent to all aspects of play, not just the subject of squeeze plays. A skillful player learns not to waste entries early in the play.

A necessity for any squeeze play is the ability for declarer to cross to the opposite hand after running his solid suits. If this were not possible declarer would be stranded in one hand, and a defender would be able to keep the appropriate stopper.

After cashing your solid suits, you must have an entry to the opposite hand in a threat suit.

3. S A 3
H J 4 3 2
D A Q J 4
C 7 4 3
S 10 8 7
H K 9 6 5
D 10 8 2
C Q 10 8
Table S J 9 6 5 2
H A 8 7
D 9 7 6
C J 6
3 NT South
Lead: H 5
S K Q 4
H Q 10
D K 5 3
C A K 9 5 2

East wins the H A and returns a heart to West’s king. West leads a third heart to dummy’s jack as you discard a club. Your contract, of course, is a claim for 10 tricks so you would like to win 11.

The threat suits are hearts and clubs, and the only threat-suit entry (C A or K) lies in your hand. This means you must end up in the dummy (the opposite hand) after you lead your solid suits.

Therefore, you must be careful to cash the spades first, then the diamonds. This will place the lead in dummy, and West will be squeezed. All you have to do is watch for a heart discard. If West keeps the high heart, you will lead a club to your hand and the C 9 will be good.

Note that you would fail if you ran the diamonds before the spades. With the lead in your hand, dummy would be dead and West would discard his high heart to hold on to his club stopper.

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Isolating a Threat

In order for a squeeze to work it is necessary for one defender to protect both of your threat suits. If that defender’s partner is able to protect one of the suits, the squeeze will fail with accurate defense.

In some cases you can “isolate” a threat so that only one defender can protect it. This usually occurs at a suit contract when you have an adequate trump suit. The technique is actually quite simple.

If a threat suit contains an extra card, ruffing it may isolate the threat against one opponent.

4. S J 8 5 4
H 8 3 2
D A 4 2
C A Q 5
S K Q 10 7 6
H 9 7
D 10 9 8
C K 10 7
Table S A 9 3
H J 10 5
D 7 6 5
C 9 8 4 3
4 H South
Lead: S K
S 2
H A K Q 6 4
D K Q J 3
C J 6 2

At trick two West shifts to the D 10 and you win the king. You draw trumps in three rounds, then lead the C 2 and finesse the queen. You now have 11 sure tricks, and you would like to win 12 — especially at matchpoints where winning only 11 tricks would be average at best.

Your solid suits are hearts and diamonds; your threat suits are clubs and spades. If you just ran your solid suits now, a squeeze would not work because your spade threat (the S J) could be protected by either defender. West would protect clubs, and East would protect spades.

What you should do is ruff the excess spades. This costs nothing and it might eliminate East’s stopper in the suit. After winning the C Q, you should ruff a spade; cross to the D A; ruff another spade, then lead your last two diamonds. West will be squeezed in clubs and spades; whichever suit he discards, you will throw the other from dummy and win the rest.

Lesson 6C   MainTop   Squeeze Plays

Correcting the Count

Most squeeze plays require that declarer be able to win all but one of the remaining tricks; or in other words, declarer has only one loser remaining. Observe in the previous examples how this was true.

If you cannot win all but one trick, a defender will usually be able to discard comfortably. One way to overcome this is to lose a trick or two early; then you may “correct the count” for the squeeze.

If you have two losers and can give up one trick without losing another, do it early.

5. S 6 3 2
H A Q 6 2
D 6 5 4
C 6 5 2
S J 10 7
H 9 7 4
D A K J 9 8
C K 10
Table S 9
H J 10 8 3
D Q 10 7 3
C Q J 8 7
4 S South
Lead: D K
S A K Q 8 5 4
H K 5
D 2
C A 9 4 3

You ruff the second diamond lead and draw trumps in three rounds. Your contract is secure for 10 tricks, and you would like to win 11 with a squeeze play. The trouble is that you cannot win all but one of the remaining tricks; you have two losers instead of one. If you ran all your trumps now the defenders could survive.

The solution is to give up one trick early. Just lead the C 3 and let them win it. This is completely safe because the opponents cannot cash another trick or do any harm. Assume West wins and then leads another diamond which you ruff. You now lead your last trump, discarding a club from dummy, and East is squeezed. If he lets go a club, the C 9 will be good; if he lets go a heart, the H 6 will be good.

Notice that ducking a club also served a second purpose: It isolated your club threat (the C 9) so that only East could protect it. If West could protect clubs, your squeeze would not work.

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When in Doubt

You don’t need to be an expert to take advantage of squeeze plays. It is amazing how many times a trick can be gained, either legitimately or by error — they all count the same — if declarer just leads a long suit to make the opponents discard.

Even if you have no idea what is going to happen, get in the habit of applying the pressure. This usually involves no risk, and you’ll be surprised how often it works.

If it is dangerous to give up the lead, cash your solid suit at the earliest opportunity.

6. S K Q 7 4
H 4 3
D Q 7 3
C Q 4 3 2
S J 9 8 6
H K J 9 6 5
D A 5
C 6 5
Table S 10 5 3
H Q 10 7
D J 10 8 2
C 10 9 7
3 NT South
Lead: H 6
S A 2
H A 8 2
D K 9 6 4
C A K J 8

You hold up your H A until the third round. There are eight easy tricks. It appears that your only chance for a ninth trick is to lead a diamond and hope that East holds the ace or the hearts split 4-4. Note that this would fail as the cards lie.

Since it is dangerous to give up the lead, you should run your solid club suit. Let’s see what happens: West is able to discard a diamond on the third club, but the last club is embarrassing. If he throws a spade, dummy’s S 7 would be good; obviously he must keep the D A, so his only safe discard is a heart. Once he does that you can lead a diamond to force out the ace, and West can no longer set you.

This was not a typical squeeze because declarer could not win all but one of the remaining tricks; in fact he had three losers when he gained the lead. The point to realize is that declarer just followed sound technique in leading his long suit — and this time something good happened.

Lesson 6C   MainTop   Squeeze Plays

© 1990 Richard Pavlicek