Main   Study 6C81 by Richard Pavlicek  

Squeeze Plays Are Easy

The squeeze play in bridge is one of the most fascinating plays. It comes in a variety of forms, from the basic two-suit squeeze to complex endings that almost defy analysis. Most players are aware of squeeze plays but are uncomfortable with the thought of planning and executing them. This is probably due to a lack of understanding of a few principles.

The most important concept is the recognition of threats. A threat is any card that is not a winner or necessary to follow suit to a winner. In order to squeeze someone you must have at least two different suits that contain a threat. The following are examples of threat suits.

1. Q 9 2
TableAny card is a threat, though you should plan to use your highest card, the queen.
3

2. A 10
TableEither the 10 or the jack is a threat.
J 4

3. A 10
TableThe six is a threat. Note that the 10 is necessary to follow to the king.
K 6 2

Another basic concept is the need for an entry in at least one of your threat suits. All squeeze plays rely on the ability to cross from one hand to the other after the squeeze occurs. In other words, you cannot execute a squeeze if you will be stranded in one hand after you cash your solid suits. I frequently see players destroy their chances for a squeeze by wasting entries early in the play. Cherish your entries!

A third concept is the number of tricks you can win in relation to the number of tricks that remain. Most squeeze plays will work only when declarer is able to win all but one of the remaining tricks. Another way of stating this is that you should have only one loser left.

Now that I’ve explained the basic principles, just how do you execute a squeeze? That’s the easy part! All you have to do is lead your solid suits — the suits which do not contain threats. This means leading all your trumps* at a suit contract.

*It is amazing how many players there are who would never lead out their last trump because they think of it is a security blanket. Just remember: If you can win all of the tricks but one, the worst thing that can happen is that you lose the last trick. Is that so terrible?

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Let’s see how a squeeze works with an example deal. As South assume you are declarer in 6 S.

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

After winning the D A you try the spade finesse which loses to the king. Back comes a diamond to your king and you draw the outstanding trumps. At this point you can win all of the tricks but one, so the trick count is correct for a squeeze.

What about threats? The D 10 is a threat and so is the H 7 in dummy. The C J is not a threat because it will drop under the A-K. Note that, because the D A-K are gone, the only threat suit with an entry is hearts; you must save that entry to dummy.

All you need to do now is to lead all your trumps and cash the C A-K — it makes no difference in which order. In the ending North will be left with H A-K-7-3, and in your hand will be H Q-2 and D 10-2. West also must come down to four cards so it is impossible for him to keep H J-10-8-4 and the D J — he is squeezed.

You were lucky that West held both the diamond and heart stoppers, but it was the only chance and it cost nothing to try.

The next example is a little harder because you must choose which of your threats to use. Assume you are declarer in 4 S and West leads the H K, followed by a heart to the ace and a third heart which you ruff.

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

You can count nine top tricks and notice an easy 10th trick by ruffing a club in dummy; so this time you are playing for an overtrick. Toward that goal you notice two threats, the H 9 and the D J. Perhaps a squeeze will work if one player must stop both of these suits. No! You will have no entry after the squeeze. You must end up in your hand after ruffing a club and leading your trumps, so the dummy will be dead. An opponent would discard high heart since the H 9 would be stranded.

Look further. Another way to make 10 sure tricks is to ruff dummy’s last heart — this yields four spade tricks in dummy, two heart ruffs in hand, two diamonds and two clubs. The difference is that the C 10 can now be used as a threat together with the D J. This allows you to retain the C A-K, so you will have plenty of entries after you lead your trumps.

After ruffing the third heart, cash your S K and lead a spade to dummy’s nine. Ruff the last heart, then overtake your last spade in dummy to lead all of dummy’s trumps. North will remain with D J-4-3 and C A-3, and you will have D A-K and C K-10-2. Note that you still have both threats (D J and C 10) intact. East also must come down to just five cards, so it is impossible for him to protect both suits.

To improve your game, keep an eye out for threats, watch your entries, and lead out your solid suits. The squeeze play is easy, and it can work for you!

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© 2012 Richard Pavlicek