By Prof Tony Campbell

When playing teams matches, players sometimes take a risk to try and make a game, which will give a good IMPS score if the opponents fail to bid it. Here is such a hand, where both North and South took a risk with their bidding, but each knew their partner was a good card player! To make this hand South has to use a squeeze. Many players often regard a squeeze as an advanced play, and perhaps beyond them. Yet once you get the hang of this play it can be very rewarding, leaving you feeling chuffed and the opponents frustrated that you found it. But it is crucial to understand what the necessary conditions for a squeeze are if it is to operate. It isn’t simply enough to play out a long suit.

The Auction

South has a good hand, and opened one spade. At all the tables, North with a flat hand and seven points bid one no trump. But then at one table South took a risk and jumped to three spades, having six spades and sixteen points. North hesitated, but decided his partner was such a good card player he must have a chance of game, so bid four spades.

The play

West started with the jack of clubs, which was overtaken by East’s ace. East returned the five of clubs, West overtaking South’s queen with his king. West could see it was safe to lead another club, so led the nine, which was ruffed by South as declarer. South stopped and looked carefully at the hand. He could count nine tricks if he made all six of his spades. But where could he find a tenth. The first decision was whether to take the spade finesse. West had not led a trump at any stage, so might have the queen. If West has three spades to the queen, then he would always make the queen. When you have eight trumps between the two hands a finesse against the queen is a 50% chance, but to drop it only 40%. So the finesse is the correct play. But the odds change when you have nine trumps between the two hands. The golden rule is ‘eight ever nine never’. So declarer played the ace and then the king of spades, dropping the queen in West’s hand. In spite of this, declarer can still only see nine tricks. But hold on a minute. South knew West still held the ten of clubs. If the diamonds were 3/3 then South could discard a losing heart in his hand on the fourth diamond. South had three spades left. So he decided to see what discards East and West played when he played two of his spades. East discarded the two and three of hearts. This signalled to his partner, West, that East held the king of hearts. So West discarded the nine of hearts and then the three of diamonds, knowing that he had to keep three diamonds, otherwise declarer could easily make three of his diamonds for the contract. The fact that only one diamond had been discarded convinced South that they must distributed be 4/2, with West holding four. So what is known as a simple squeeze must be on! But for such a play to operate declarer must only have one trick to lose. At this stage South had two losing tricks, a heart and one diamond. So cleverly he played the ace and then a heart towards his queen that was won by East’s king. Since East only had hearts left, he then played the eight, which was ruffed by South’s last trump. West was now squeezed. If he discarded a diamond, declarer would cash three diamond tricks. But if West threw his ten of clubs, this would leave South able to cross to dummy to make the eight of clubs as a winner. In the event West threw the seven of diamonds. So when South played the ace and then the king of diamonds, this left the ten making on dummy, so he made the contract of four spades, ten tricks – six spades, one heart, and three diamonds, with a score of 620 points . Well played, even though it was a risky game to bid. The other table stayed in three spades and missed the squeeze, making only nine tricks, for a score of 140 points, a swing of ten IMPS.

What have we learnt?

1. At teams it can pay off to bid a risky game, particularly if your partner is a good card player.

2. For a simple squeeze to operate, declarer must only have one trick to lose, and there have to be what is known as two threat cards, as well as an entry to the winning threat card. Here the two treats were the ten of diamonds and the eight of clubs, with the king of diamonds as entry. Playing a squeeze is great fun. I shall be introducing readers to other types such as a double or triple squeeze and a guard squeeze in future articles.

Further information

When the local bridge clubs closed because of COVID a WhatsApp group was formed for players from members of the Penarth and Sully clubs, so that they could arrange games online. The secretary of Penarth Bridge Club, Peter Sampson, thought it a good idea to introduce a little bit of competition. So he has formed a ladder competition. Play is on Bridge Base Online (BBO). The ladder has been a great success, continuing for 17 weeks with 24 competing pairs. Peter sends out the results weekly. If you would like to join, contact Peter at Current leaders are Angela and Rod Hudson, followed by Peter Millar and Mick Green, with Debbie Dawkins and Hilary Morgan third. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep an eye on Email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up.