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Expert Defense Breaks Up Squeeze

  by Richard Pavlicek

Today’s deal, from an expert practice match, illustrates a fine defensive play which probably would be missed by the average player.

4 H South
None Vul
S A Q 10 4
H 10 5 4
D 9 6 5
C J 8 6

1 S

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

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

After South’s “five-card major” opening bid and West’s overcall, North had ample values to raise hearts; and East… well, it was his turn to bid. South jumped to game and West did not get carried away by the tempo of the bidding — he wisely passed, reasoning that he had a better chance to defeat four hearts than to make four spades.

The diamond king was led, then the ace and another diamond as East signaled high-low. Declarer ruffed and led the heart king, which held, then the heart queen to East’s ace (West discarded a spade).

The moment of truth had arrived. It looks routine to lead a club around to dummy’s weakness; but East had a complete count of the hand. South was known to hold six hearts and two diamonds, and the bidding marked him for at most one spade; so South held at least four clubs. Therefore, if West had a potential club trick, it would not disappear — unless he allowed him to be squeezed on the run of the hearts. This was possible as long as dummy held an entry, so East returned a spade into the jaws of dummy. The free finesse gave declarer nothing he couldn’t do himself and avoided further embarrassment by ruining communication. West eventually won his club queen to defeat the contract.

To appreciate this defense, suppose East mistakenly returns a club. Declarer wins the king and leads all but one trump to reach a five-card ending. West holds K-J-8 in spades and Q-7 in clubs; dummy holds A-Q-10 in spades and J-8 in clubs. The club ace is cashed (just in case the queen drops), then the last trump is led. West, who must discard before dummy, is hopelessly squeezed, and declarer wins the rest.

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© 1987 Richard Pavlicek