For your convenience, you may write the layouts of the following two examples on a sheet of paper and then return to the notes.
South has only two top winners, but when he plays the Ace of clubs, he forces West to unguard either hearts or spades, establishing a third winner in dummy.
Note that the position is important: if you switch the East’s and West’s cards, there is no squeeze, because North has to discard before East.
This simple deal contains other elements that need to be identified.
First, West has two suits to control.
The cards that threaten him are the Jack of spades and the King of hearts.
These cards are called THREAT CARDS. Essentially, in every squeeze you must look for two cards threatening against the same opponent.
In squeeze terms, the King of hearts (might be a small card as well) is called a “One-card threat” and the Jack of spades is called “Two-card threat”.
A two-card threat is a threat card that in the end position accompanied by an entry.
Most squeezes require a two-card threat.
It is to allow declarer reach the threat card if the defenders give up their guard in the suit.
Second, West is squeezed by a card on which he is unable to follow suit, in this case the Ace of clubs. The Ace of clubs is, therefore, called a SQUEEZE CARD.
Third, there must be communication between declarer and dummy. In the present example, the link is in spades. If South had no spade to lead to dummy’s A-J, then dummy’s cards would be useless.
Generally speaking, there must be an ENTRY to the two-card threat, represented here by A-J of spades.
Fourth, the position must be “tight”. For the squeeze card to do its job effectively, it must be played at a moment when it exerts real pressure.
The victim must not possess any spare card which can be thrown without discomfort. The usual term is no IDLE CARD; all his cards must be BUSY.
To show what it means, see what happens if we add a superfluous card to the original example.
An extra diamond has been given to South, West and North, and a club to East.
Again, there is a squeeze card and the necessary threat cards, but the squeeze blows up, because West is not embarrassed by the lead of the Ace of clubs.
The majority of squeezes occurs when declarer is in a position to win all the remaining tricks but one.
Here he has only two winners and there are four cards left. The single word to describe this critical element in squeeze play is TIMING.
Note that if you remove a diamond from each hand, then the squeeze does gain a trick.
In other words, removing a diamond from each hand, makes the Timing “right”.
Look at the quizzes that follow and in each case, address your mind to the following questions in turn:
- Is the TIMING right? You must count the winners and note whether you are able to win “all the remaining tricks but one”.
- Is the threat cards situation satisfactory? You must have a one-card threat and a two-card threat, both threatening the same opponent?
- Is the ENTRY position satisfactory? You must be able to reach the card you try to establish?
- Is there a SQUEEZE CARD? You must be able to lead a card to which the opponent controlling two threat cards is unable to follow.
For your convenience, you may write the following four questions on a sheet of paper and then try to apply them on every single quiz.
- Is the timing right?
- Is the threat cards situation satisfactory?
- Is the entry position satisfactory?
- Is there a squeeze card?
Quiz seven: South opened a strong 1NT, West overcalled Two Spades, and North bid 6 NT. Opening lead: King of spades.
- Analyze the deal according to the four questions.
- Play the hand by following your analysis.
Timing is right, you can win two of the last three tricks with top cards.
Entries: you have communication with dummy.
Squeeze card is right, West, the player whom you hope to squeeze, cannot follow to the Ace of clubs.
Threat cards: you do not have two threat cards lying against West. When the Ace of clubs is led, West can discard a spade, since East also guards this suit. Because the threat card position is unsatisfactory, the squeeze will not work. But make East’s spades 9-4 instead of J-4, and all is perfect.
Timing is right, you have two tricks on top out of three.
Threat cards: West is threatened in both spades and hearts, with East out of the game.
There is a squeeze card in clubs, but the entry situation is not right. When you lead the King of clubs, West will throw the Ace of hearts. Now your King of hearts will be a winner, but you cannot reach it.
For the present, you may accept this as a basic principle: the squeeze card must be in the hand opposite the two-card threat. Here the Ace of clubs was the squeeze card and it was in the same hand as A-J.
The squeeze works if you give North a low club instead of the Ace, so that South remains on lead after the play of the squeeze card.
You may wonder why we are looking at endings where the squeeze will not work.
One reason is that, as we go along, you will become familiar with the basic conditions for a squeeze and will realize their importance.
The other reason is that it is often possible to remedy the deficiencies by taking special measures.
The timing is right, you have a squeeze card in clubs, West has controlling cards in two suits.
What is wrong? You have no entry to dummy’s spade threat card, so when you lead your squeeze card, the Ace of clubs, West can cheerfully throw a spade.
In the remaining examples, the squeeze will work, but you have to play your cards in the right order.
Remember: the squeeze card must come from the hand opposite the two-card threat card.
The timing is right, there are five cards left and you have four top winners.
West has exclusive control of two suits, spades and hearts.
Either a diamond or a club must be the squeeze card. Which? It must be a club, from the hand opposite the two-card threat card in spades.
The diamond Ace must be played off early, since otherwise, when the squeeze card is led, West will not be under pressure.
You must begin with a diamond to the Ace; then back to hand with a club and the second club will defeat West.
Again, the timing is right: you can take four out of the five remaining tricks.
West controls both spades and hearts, and there is a squeeze card in clubs.
But do you play Queen of clubs to the King and back to the Ace, or the other way around?
Apparently, you have a two-card threat in spades and a two-card threat in hearts, but look again: there is no entry to the A-J of hearts, so you must treat spades as your two-card threat.
The sequence is the Ace of clubs followed by the Queen to the King, squeezing West.
For the sake of completeness, this is a position where the timing needs correction.
There are four cards left and you have only two top winners. Remember that you want to be in a position where you can win all the remaining tricks but one.
If you play off your squeeze card, the Ace of diamonds, you will achieve nothing, because West has an idle card, his low heart.
On most occasions, a defender can be squeezed only when all his idle cards have been played.
It means that you can develop an extra trick by beginning with a low diamond. East wins and must return a diamond, embarrassing his partner.
This maneuver is known as “rectifying the count”, though, as we are going to see soon, it is usually made at an early stage of the game, and very often on the opening lead.
We may, therefore, assume that on the present deal, South didn’t have the opportunity to lose a trick earlier.
Now, look at the following deal:
South can count eleven tricks in top cards. A 3-3 break in diamonds would produce a twelfth. Failing that, it may be possible to squeeze East in the minor suits, because obviously West has six or seven spades.
If South captures the spade lead with the Ace he loses the chance for a squeeze. He will reach this type of end position.
The squeeze card, the 7 of hearts, turns out to be useless: East can discard a club and South has no play for an extra trick.
If, instead, South rectifies the count by ducking at trick one, East cannot withstand the pressure. This will be the end position.