Squeeze play (bridge)

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A squeeze play (or simply squeeze) is a play in contract bridge and other trick-taking games in which the play of a card (the squeeze card) forces an opponent to discard a card that gives up a trick (or more). The squeeze card is often, but not always, a winner. The discarded card may be either a winner or a card needed to protect the victim's strategic position. Squeezes most often occur late in the hand.

Although squeezes have been analyzed in greatest depth and variety in contract bridge, they were discovered and first described in whist.

Squeezes operate on the principle that declarer's hand and dummy's hand can together hold more cards with the potential to take extra tricks than a single defender's hand can protect against (or cover). Less frequently, two defenders can cooperate to squeeze declarer or dummy on the same principle.

Most of the common types of squeeze require all the following conditions:

  • Declarer (together with dummy) has enough winners to take all the remaining tricks except for the extra trick(s) that will be gained from the squeeze. In other words, declarer has already lost all the tricks he plans to lose (the count is rectified).
  • In at least two suits, declarer and dummy have threat cards or menaces that are not immediate winners, but threaten to become winners;
  • At least one of the menaces is positioned after a squeezed defender (squeezee).
  • The declarer has sufficient entries (winners serving as communication between his hand and dummy) to cash the menaces if they develop into winners.
  • The squeezed defender(s) must hold only busy cards that are covering a menace, with no idle cards that can safely be discarded.

These concepts are illustrated in the following example of a simple squeeze:

N

  W

S


South leads the ♣A, and West is squeezed in hearts and spades. If he discards the A, North's K becomes a winner. If he discards either spade, North's ♠J becomes a winner.

Note the following features of this position:

  • The count is rectified. Three cards remain, and declarer has two immediate winners (the ♣A and ♠A) plus one winner that will be established by the squeeze (either the K or the ♠J).
  • The K and the ♠J are the menaces.
  • Both menaces are positioned after the squeezee (West).
  • The ♠A is an entry to the promoted menace card.
  • West has no idle cards.

This is a positional squeeze, because if West's cards are transferred to East, the squeeze fails. Now one of the menaces must be discarded before it is East's turn to play. If the K is discarded, East can safely discard the A (provided West still has a heart higher than South's 6). If the ♠J is discarded, East can safely discard a spade.

Squeezes often require declarer to know the location of specific high cards or the number of cards a defender holds in a particular suit, in order to know what cards the squeezee will be forced to play. The following example illustrates this:

N

W         E

S


The presence of the diamond loser means that when South cashes the ♣A, West is not squeezed as in the previous example. He can safely discard his idle 7. However, when South next plays the 3, West is squeezed again. East wins the Q, but must lead to dummy's winners.

In this case declarer must know East's club length. If East's ♠32 are replaced by the ♣32, then when he wins the Q he will take the rest of the tricks. In that case, the right play is to lose the Q immediately, before taking the ♣A, in order to rectify the count. Now East is forced to lead a club, and West is squeezed as before.

But with East's hand as shown in the diagram, losing the Q first does not work. East can return a spade, and declarer will score only the ♠A. Not only does the squeeze position disappear, but there is no entry to cash the ♣A.

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