Main     Study 6D75 by Richard Pavlicek    

Pure Squeezes

The wide variety of squeeze positions in bridge would require volumes of analysis to be complete, and the practical benefit would be small. This study approaches the subject from a more realistic perspective that is inherent to all squeezes. Warning: This is for experts or “squeeze buffs” only.

I will define a “pure” squeeze as one in which threat cards require no special rank and each enemy stopper is independent; that is, a stopper held by one opponent does not require assistance from his partner. Further, it is assumed that the trump suit (if any) has no special role after the squeeze.

The Basic Threat

It is a fact of card play that every legitimate squeeze position must contain at least one isolated threat located behind the defender who guards it. This is evident because if declarer’s only isolated threat is in front of a defender (or if there is no isolated threat), the defenders can foil any squeeze attempt by retaining their stoppers behind declarer’s threats. Hence, a defender’s stopper can disappear only after the threat has disappeared.

For the sake of discussion I will assume a standard layout in which North has an isolated threat against West. This will be called the basic threat since it is basic to all squeeze positions. It will further be assumed that declarer is able to win all but one of the remaining tricks.

This “basic threat” approach to squeeze analysis is also the most practical. Declarer often considers squeeze possibilities as soon as he discovers that a particular opponent has a stopper in a certain suit. The next thought in declarer’s mind is “What can I do about it?”

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Ambiguous Threats

Besides the basic threat against West, it will be assumed that declarer has two additional threats (in separate suits) that are not isolated. These ambiguous threats can both be in the South hand or they can be split, but they cannot both be in the North hand. If North held both ambiguous threats, East could assume the task to protect them and there could be no squeeze because he would discard after the threats.

The reason for assuming two ambiguous threats is that with just one other threat, only a simple squeeze against West could exist, which is beneath the scope of this study.

The reason for assuming neither ambiguous threat is isolated is to consider the general case. When an ambiguous threat is isolated (or becomes so), the ending is a special case and the play is simplified.

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The Free Suit

The remaining suit, besides the basic threat suit and the ambiguous threat suits, will be called the free suit. This must be the trump suit at a suit contract, and at notrump it is generally a solid suit. It is possible at notrump to have threats in all four suits, but this is rare and of little practical value.

In general it makes no difference, as far as squeeze requirements are concerned, which hand holds the free suit (or whether it is equally divided). Most often it is held in the hand with one threat as this conveniently fills out the missing cards. If the hand with two threats has equal or greater length in the free suit, this must be compensated for by a surplus winner in the opposite hand in its lone threat suit — else declarer could not win all but one trick.

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General Technique

The play of all pure squeezes is basically the same: Run the free suit but not the last card. The next-to-last winner forces the hand guarding the basic threat to unguard one of the ambiguous threats, isolating it to his partner, while the other is guarded by both. Sound familiar?

Yes, we have a double squeeze. The threat suit guarded by both is the common suit; the suit guarded to the left of the common threat is the left suit; and the suit guarded to the right is the right suit. In the great majority of cases the general rule for double squeezes now works:

First cash the right winners* then all the winners in the hand with the common threat except those in the common suit.

*Unless this suit provides the only entry to the hand opposite the common threat.

1. 3 NT South

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

East wins the S A and returns a spade, which you duck to rectify the count, then win the king. The fourth club squeezes West in three suits; suppose he unguards hearts. From dummy you pitch a diamond regardless of West’s choice, since only dummy has a heart threat.

Diamonds is the common suit (D 3 threat) and hearts the right suit, so by the rule you next cash H K and H A before leading the last club. This order of play is crucial.

Had West given up diamonds, hearts is the common suit, and spades the right suit (which has no winner) so cash North’s non-common-suit winner (D A) then all of South’s. The order doesn’t matter.

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Pure Squeeze Types

To master the topic it is necessary to know when a pure squeeze can succeed (assuming best defense) and this requires a study of entry positions. Also, there are times when the entire free suit can be cashed at once, which may bring clarity to a fuzzy ending.

Pure squeezes fall into two main types according to the location of ambiguous threats: (1) South has both or (2) North has one and South has the other. Each type has several forms regarding entry conditions, though a universal requirement is that each ambiguous threat must be accompanied by an entry in its own suit.

Type 1-A

North has two winners in the basic threat suit (with small opposite) or an entry in either ambiguous threat suit.

The entire free suit may be cashed. Next cash South’s winners except those in the ambiguous threat suit kept by West, then North’s winners.

2. NT win 7

S A K 9
H 2
D 2
C K 3
S Q J 10
H K Q
D K Q
C
TableS 4 3
H 9 8 7
D J 10
C
South leadsS 2
H A 3
D A 3
C A 2

The clubs can be cashed ending in either hand. If West keeps his diamond stopper, continue with the H A to squeeze West out of a diamond; then the top spades squeeze East. If West keeps his heart stopper, lead the D A for a mirror image.

The general rule (one club, ace in suit West unguards) also works but requires an earlier committal.

3. NT win 6

S J
H 2
D K 2
C A K
S K
H K Q
D Q J 10
C
TableS 2
H J 10
D 9 8 7
C
South leadsS
H A 3
D A 4 3
C 2

Win the C K and lead the C A. If West has kept hearts and East keeps diamonds, South discards a diamond; then the D A and D K squeeze West. If West instead has kept diamonds and East hearts, South discards a heart; then the H A squeezes West.

Alternately by the general rule, after one top club: If West unguards hearts, win H A, D K, C A; or if West unguards diamonds, win D A, D K, C A. This squeezes both opponents simultaneously, but South must commit a half-trick sooner.

4. 6 C South

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

Duck the S K and ruff the continuation (not the best defense but certainly realistic) in order to keep both of South’s threats intact. Lead all the clubs throwing a heart and a diamond from North. If West gives up diamonds, cash the D A and D K to squeeze West out of his heart stopper; then the S A squeezes East in the red suits. If West instead gives up hearts, cash the H A to squeeze West out of his diamond stopper; then cross to the D K and lead the S A to squeeze East.

The general rule also works, routinely if West gives up hearts. If West gives up diamonds, however, the D K (right winner) is the only entry to dummy, so you must not cash it first (cashing D A is OK) but lead the last club while in your hand.

Type 1-B

North’s only entry is a single winner in the basic threat suit or the last free-suit winner.

No shortcuts! You must follow the general rule: Winners in the suit guarded to the right of the common suit threat must be cashed before the last free-suit winner.

Each end position (6-7 cards) shows the simplest diagram of the squeeze using the standard layout.

5. NT win 6

S A J
H 2
D 2
C A K
S K Q
H K Q
D K Q
C
TableS 4 3
H J 10
D J 10
C
South leadsS 2
H A 3
D A 3
C 2

Win the C K then cash the red ace in whichever suit West abandons. Next cross to the S A and lead the last club to effect a simultaneous double squeeze.

6. NT win 6

S A J
H 2
D 2
C K 3
S K Q
H K Q
D K Q
C
TableS 4 3
H J 10
D J 10
C
South leadsS
H A 3
D A 3
C A 2

Cash the C A then the red ace in whichever suit West abandons. Cross to the C K, squeezing West out of his red-suit stopper, then lead the S A to squeeze East.

Deals 1, 4, 11, 13, 15, 17 use the standard layout (basic threat North). Deals 7 and 9 are flipped (basic threat South).

7. 6 NT South

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

Duck the first trick and win the D J shift with the king. Lead all but one club discarding a spade. If East keeps a heart stopper, win the D A and H A (optional) then cross to the S A to lead the last club. If East instead keeps a diamond stopper, win the H A-K, cross to the S A, etc.

Now let’s look at Type 2 squeezes, where the ambiguous threats are in different hands.

Type 2-A

South’s threat is headed by two winners (with small opposite).

The entire free suit may be cashed, as well as any winners in the basic threat suit, in any order. Next cash the winner(s) in whichever suit West has abandoned.

8. NT win 6

S J
H A 3
D 2
C K 3
S K
H K Q
D Q J 10
C
TableS 3
H J 10
D 9 8 7
C
South leadsS
H 2
D A K 3
C A 2

Cash the top clubs ending in either hand. If West abandons hearts, East must abandon diamonds, then the H A squeezes West in the pointed suits. If West abandons diamonds, East must abandon hearts, then D A-K squeeze West in the majors.

The general rule also works: Suppose you cash the C A first. If West abandons hearts, that suit becomes the “right” suit (diamonds common) so winning the H A then C K does fine. If West abandons diamonds, spades becomes the “right” suit, which has no winners, so just win the C K — or if you want to be esoteric, cash the top diamonds to pitch the C K, then lead the club two to inflict the squeeze.

Note that if you win the C K first and West abandons hearts, you must not cash the H A (right winner) because it is the only entry to the hand opposite the common threat; i.e., the asterisk clause of the rule.

9. 6 C South

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

East wins the S K and returns a trump. Win in hand, ruff a spade, cross to the H K and lead all the trumps throwing three diamonds and two hearts from dummy. If East abandons hearts, win the H A to squeeze East. If East abandons diamonds, win the top diamonds to squeeze East.

Observe how the general rule also works: After the next-to-last club, if East abandons hearts, the common suit is diamonds and the right suit is hearts; you can cash the H A next. If East abandons diamonds, the common suit is hearts and the right suit is spades, which has no winner to cash, so nothing else but to lead the last trump.

Type 2-B

South’s threat is the form A-x-x opposite K-x. South has an entry in one of North’s threat suits.

No shortcuts against best defense, which is for West to give up North’s ambiguous threat, then you must heed the general rule. If West abandons South’s ambiguous threat, you have options, including leading the last free-suit winner immediately.

10. NT win 7

S J 2
H A 3
D K 2
C 4
S K Q
H K Q
D Q J 10
C
TableS 4 3
H J 10
D 9 8 7
C
South leadsS A
H 2
D A 4 3
C A K

On the C K if West discards a heart, the only successful sequence is to win the H A, cross to the S A and lead the last club. If West instead discards a diamond, you can lead the last club right away pitching a diamond, cross to the D K, return to the S A (squeezing East out of heart stopper) and lead the D A to squeeze West.

In the latter case a variety of paths will work, including the general rule to cash the “right” winner, which is now the S A since the common suit is hearts.

11. 6 NT South

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

Duck East’s S K at trick one and win the ace next. Lead four rounds of clubs. If West abandons hearts, win the H K-A, cross to the S Q and lead the last club.

If West instead abandons diamonds, you can lead the last club throwing the D J, win the D A, H K (optional), S Q then lead the D Kor by the general rule, cash the S Q, D A, D K, then the last club.

Type 2-C

South’s threat suit is the form A-x opposite x. North has an entry in the basic threat suit, and South has an entry in either of North’s threat suits.

As with Type 2-B, there are no shortcuts with best defense, which is for West to abandon North’s ambiguous threat, then you are bound strictly to the rule.

If West adopts a weaker defense, giving up South’s ambiguous threat suit, you have options, which include leading the last free-suit winner immediately.

12. NT win 7

S A J
H A 4 3
D 2
C 4
S K Q
H Q J 10
D K Q
C
TableS 4 3
H 9 8 7
D J 10
C
South leadsS 2
H K 2
D A 3
C A K

On the C K if West abandons hearts, you must cash the H A and H K (right winners) in that order followed by the last club. This squeezes West out of a diamond stopper, so pitch the S J from dummy, then cross to the S A to squeeze East in the red suits.

If West instead abandons diamonds, you can lead the last club and discard the D 2, cross to the S A (squeezing East out of a heart), return to the H K, and lead the D A to squeeze West — or follow the general rule: Win the S A (right winner), return to hand in a red suit and finish your winners, which can be cashed in any order.

13. 7 C South

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

Not wishing to duck the opening lead (that’s too easy) you win the queen, draw trumps, cash a second spade, and lead out all but one trump discarding a diamond from dummy. If West abandons hearts, win the H K and H A, and lead the last club to squeeze West out of his diamond stopper; then the top spade squeezes East.

If West instead abandons diamonds, you can win the last club throwing a diamond, win North’s high spade, cross to the H A, and lead the D A to squeeze West — or simply by the rule, win the top spade (right winner), return to hand in a red suit, and lead your last two winners (in any order).

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Alternate Threats

Just when you thought you might have absorbed the topic, I’ll throw in a curve ball. An “alternate” threat is an extra low card held by South* that can assume the role of North’s ambiguous threat if West elects to abandon that suit. This can save the day when a pure squeeze (similar to Type 2-B or 2-C) would fail due to entry conditions.

*An alternate threat in North (for South’s ambiguous threat) offers no practical benefit and is useless.

In order for an alternate threat to exist, North must have a surplus winner (not opposite a low card) in the basic threat suit, else declarer could not win all but one trick.

Alternate threats add two more forms of Type 2 squeezes. They also put a dent in using the general rule for double squeezes. Oh well; any seasoned player has dents.

Type 2-D

South’s threat is the form A-x-x opposite K-x. South holds an alternate threat in North’s ambiguous threat suit.

After the penultimate free-suit winner, if West abandons North’s ambiguous threat, lead the last free-suit winner to discard that threat (South’s alternate will take over), cross to North in the same suit and lead North’s winners.

If West abandons South’s threat suit, the general rule is imperative: North’s basic threat is now the right suit, so its winner must be cashed as soon as possible. Cross in South’s suit, cash the basic threat winner, return in South’s suit, and lead the last free-suit winner.

14. NT win 7

S A J
H A 3
D K 2
C 4
S K Q
H K Q
D Q J 10
C
TableS 4 3
H J 10
D 9 8 7
C
South leadsS
H 4 2
D A 4 3
C A K

On the first club if West abandons hearts, lead the last club throwing the H 3 (South’s H 4 will take over) then win the H A, D K and S A (order doesn’t matter). If West instead abandons diamonds, win the D K, S A, D A, then lead the last club.

Note that when West abandons hearts, the double-squeeze rule goes off-track. Hearts becomes the “right” suit and its winner (H A) is not the only entry to North, yet cashing it next fails because South would be unable to lead the last club without ruining the common-suit entry.

15. 6 NT South

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

Duck the first trick and win the second (and thank West for continuing). Win five clubs discarding two hearts. If West abandons hearts, lead the last club and throw the H J, win the H A and D K, then lead the S A to squeeze East. If West instead abandons diamonds, win the D K, S A throwing a heart, D A, then lead the last club.

It is instructive to note that any red-suit shift by West (except the silly H Q) will defeat the contract. A heart removes the H A entry, and a diamond reduces South’s threat-suit to A-x opposite x, which has stricter requirements (see below).

Type 2-E

South’s threat is the form A-x opposite x. South holds an alternate threat in North’s ambiguous threat suit. North has an additional entry besides the ambiguous threat entry.

This works just like Type 2-D, but North’s required extra entry is not in South’s threat suit but elsewhere.

After the penultimate free-suit winner, if West abandons North’s ambiguous threat, lead the last winner to discard that threat (South’s will take over), cross to North in the same suit and lead North’s winners.

If West abandons South’s threat suit, the general rule is imperative: North’s basic threat is the right suit, so you must cash its winner(s) first, then return in South’s threat suit to lead the last free-suit winner.

16. NT win 7

S A K 9
H A 3
D 2
C 4
S Q J 10
H K Q
D K Q
C
TableS 5 4 3
H J 10
D J 10
C
South leadsS 2
H 4 2
D A 3
C A K

On the first club if West abandons hearts, lead the last club pitching the H 3 (South’s H 4 will take over); then the H A squeezes West out of a diamond, and the top spades squeeze East in the red suits. While the double-squeeze rule is amiss (you cannot cash the H A before the last club) it is pleasing to note that North’s three winners can be cashed in any order.

If West instead abandons diamonds, you must follow the general rule. Hearts becomes the common suit, so spades is the right suit, and its winners (S A-K) must be cashed immediately, then return to South with a diamond to lead the last club for a simultaneous double squeeze.

17. 4 S South

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

West leads his suit after opening a weak two-bid; jack, ace, ruff. You next lead a low spade (to guard against a 3-0 break); king, 10, two. West shifts to the C J to your queen, and you cash the S A (routinely unblocking the jack) to drop East’s queen. Eleven tricks are cold, so your goal is 12 (think matchpoints). Cross to dummy with a trump, ruff a heart (do not cash H K), then lead your next-to-last trump (pitching a club) to squeeze West in three suits.

If West abandons diamonds, lead your last trump and pitch the D 6 (your D 5 will take over) then cash dummy’s winners. The top diamonds will squeeze West out of a club (to keep a heart stopper), and the H K will squeeze East in the minors — and it makes no difference in which order you cash them.

If West abandons clubs, do not lead your last trump. Cross to the D K, cash the H K (pitch a diamond), return to the C A, then the last trump effects a simultaneous double squeeze.

In the latter event, note that the extra diamond entry to dummy was essential, which means that West could have held you to 11 tricks by leading a diamond when he won the S K.

Summary

Once a pure squeeze turns into a double squeeze, the general rule for double squeezes is accurate, unless an alternate threat exists and West elects to abandon that suit. Then you must cash the last free-suit winner immediately.

But if you remember nothing else, memorize the double-squeeze rule. Otherwise, your next pure squeeze may turn into pure cheese.

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© 2013 Richard Pavlicek