In my article in ESRAmagazine #195, I described how my late brother-in-law, Bill Shutts, my personal bridge guru, brought home a Diamond game through an end-play. Unfortunately, Bill's hand as declarer in the South seat was incorrectly printed in the layout given. It should have shown his holding as ♠ 8, ♥ K 8, ♦ A Q 8 4, ♣ A K J 9 8 2. Apologies, but I hope the ensuing discussion of the play was sufficiently clear to get the message across.
In the article, I expressed the opinion that few things at the bridge table give as much satisfaction as bringing home a contract or making the extra trick through the execution of an end-play. Well, in fact, doing so through the exercise of a squeeze play is perhaps even more satisfying. In the broadest terms, a squeeze play is one in which one or both the opponents are forced into
making discards which result in their relinquishing tricks to which they would otherwise have been entitled. The pressure on the opponents may come at any stage during the play of the hand but the squeeze position more usually manifests itself in the last 3 tricks. Let me illustrate this with a hand in which I was subjected to a painful squeeze by a savvy declarer:
As dealer in the West seat, I opened the bidding with 1H. North doubled, East passed and South bid 1NT. The opponents then somehow managed to bungle their way to 6NT and, to my surprise, I found myself on lead against an unlikely slam contract. After some thought I led the ♥10, the top card of an internal sequence.
At first, when dummy came down, the declarer looked somewhat perturbed but his crossed brows quickly disappeared. He knew precisely from my opening bid, that all the missing 13 points, the ♣A and 3 Kings, were held by me. So, with a knowing smile, he played a low card from dummy, won the first trick in his hand with the ♥Q and successfully finessed the diamonds.
After 4 rounds of diamonds he led dummy's ♣K which I won with my ♣A and returned my remaining small club – any other card would have been fatal. Declarer then cashed 3 rounds of clubs and the ♠A, at which point he had scored 9 tricks, ending up in his hand in the following 3-card position:
When declarer now led his last club, I was fixed: If I discarded the ♠K, he would simply discard dummy's ♥6, get onto the table with the ♥A cash the now high ♠Q for his twelfth trick and the contract.
As it transpired, I played my ♥9 and declarer jettisoned the spade lady. A small heart to ♥A put paid to my ♥K and dummy's remaining card, the ♥6, gave declarer a way back the winning ♥J in the closed hand for the final trick.
Returning to the 3-card ending, it is important to note the existence of the three essential elements that constitute a squeeze position: South was on lead through the hand under pressure, West, to the "upper" hand, dummy, so West had to discard before dummy; the upper hand contained a clear threat, the ♠Q ; and, very importantly, the ♥A in the upper hand provided an entry for declarer to cash the threat card, if West's discard made it high.
The importance of the entry in the upper hand cannot be understated. As it turns out, my choice of a heart lead was a poor one. Not because it gave declarer a free finesse – he could always have established two heart tricks himself – but, in doing so, would have had to cannibalize dummy's ♥A, thereby depriving that hand of the vital entry and thereby breaking up the squeeze position. No, I should have made the "safe" lead of the §A, or even a diamond, but had I done so, I wouldn't have had this tale to tell.
The hand above is the simplest of all squeeze situations and can be described as an "automatic" squeeze in that all declarer had to do was cash out his minor suit winners and observe my discards. It's generally a good idea to run long suits to see how the hand pans out even if a squeeze or end-play is not immediately apparent. In the next edition of Esramagazine, I will describe how another canny declarer did exactly that, to first squeeze then end-play me.
Until then, have fun but as the song goes "Pleeze donna squeeze da bananas", especially if dat banana isa me!