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The Squeeze Is On

  by Richard Pavlicek

The squeeze play in baseball is a desperate attempt to get a needed run — sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Its namesake in bridge is quite similar. Declarer’s contract is almost home (like the runner on third base); and he desperately tries for that needed trick by cashing all of his winners, forcing the opponents to make discards. Nonetheless, the squeeze play is frequently overlooked by the average player. Witness today’s deal.

6 S South
Both Vul
S K Q 7 2
H A K Q 5
D 6 5 3
C K 5

1 NT
4 S
5 D
3 S
4 NT
6 S
S 6 5 4
H 10 2
D 8 7 4
C J 9 8 6 3
TableS 3
H J 9 7 6
D A Q J 10
C 10 7 4 2

Lead: D 8
S A J 10 9 8
H 8 4 3
D K 9 2

After North’s spade raise, South checked for aces with the Blackwood convention and bid the small slam — not the most beautiful auction but certainly practical.

West led the diamond eight (as requested by East’s double of five diamonds) to East’s ace, and the diamond queen was returned to South’s king. The outstanding trumps were drawn in three rounds, then declarer vainly cashed dummy’s top hearts, hoping for a three-three break. When this did not materialize, the contract was doomed.

Our declarer was too anxious. He failed to put any pressure on his opponents. Before cashing the hearts, declarer should lead all of his sure tricks — yes, that includes leading all of his trumps!

One fact is undeniable: If the hearts are three-three, they will always be three-three and nothing will ever change it. The advantage in playing the other suits first is to retain the heart entry to dummy for as long as possible; then if one player (East, in this case) protects both hearts and diamonds, he will be squeezed.

As declarer cashes his tricks, the pressure increases on East. Finally, on the last black-suit winner, East must give up his stopper in one of the red suits. If he discards a heart, dummy’s fourth heart is good; if a diamond, South’s nine is good. Either way, South squeezes home the winning run in the bottom of ninth inning.

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© 1984 Richard Pavlicek