Squeeze play: Make 5 diamonds with 20 points

I couldn’t play on my usual Thursday night team in the Delaware Bridge Studio’s Thursday night Swiss competition this week because I was otherwise occupied, taking my granddaughter to Brown University in Providence, RI, on a college-scouting trip.

Christine Matus filled in for me on our team, playing East-West with John Walston while Eileen Bickel-Thomas played North with Jane Beck, who filled in for the absent Ed Maser. Our team didn’t do too well, finishing in last place with only one win, but I’m not sure if I could have done better if I’d been there. The hands were really crazy, and in the top bracket, the Taylors and the Filandros won, while Clyde Hess and J. Lehr, playing with Jan Malloy and John Lutz, swept the lower bracket.

One of the most intriguing hands played in the competition was a board that my team didn’t even get to play. It is not known who got the most out of the board, but North-South can make a Game in 5 Diamonds on it with only 20 high-card points between the two partners. It’s a board that’s difficult to bid – and even more difficult to make because it involves a classic squeeze play that’s hard to foresee and plan from the beginning.

Since my column is fiction anyway, I’ll have my column’s anti-hero, Flustered Flo, play the hand and fail to bid or make that Game contract, while her nemesis, Smug Sam, somehow does bid and make that seemingly impossible Game to steal yet another contract away from her.

The hand

North Dealer; North-South vulnerable

Q 2
A 9 8 3
J 7 5 4 3 2
West East
K 10 9 8 4 3 J 5
J 7 Q 5 4 2
A 6 5 10 9
10 9 A K Q 8 6
A 7 6
K 10 6
K Q 8 7 4 3 2

The bidding

North East South West
Pass 1 1 1
Double* 2 3 All pass

* North’s “negative” double indicated a four-card Heart holding.

Opening lead: 10

How Flustered Flo played it

If you don’t see any other way of making your contract, you might as well try the squeeze play.

Only the most expert players may be able to foresee exactly what will happen on the last three tricks when they begin play, but even average club players can work toward the squeeze just to see what will happen – good things could actually fall out of the sky like manna from heaven.

Flustered Flo liked her South hand, and she liked it even more when her East-West opponents started seriously bidding Clubs, the suit she was void in. She felt her hand was big enough for a second-round jump to 3 Diamonds, but she couldn’t get her North partner, Loyal Larry, to go any higher, so she was left playing a partial.

In a pairs game, Flo knows that overtricks can make the difference between a top and an average board, so she resolved to make as many tricks as she could.

She ruffed the first Club, went to the dummy with the trump Jack, ruffed another Club in her hand, drove out the trump Ace and won the return trump lead.

Surveying the situation, Flo decided she had to lose at least two more tricks, one each in the majors, if she was lucky and found the Spade King on the right side. So she led a small Spade from her hand was glad to see West put up the King. She then gave up a Heart trick and claimed her contract with one overtrick.

“Should be flat board,” Flo pronounced. We had only 20 high-card points and we were lucky to make 10 tricks. If the Spade King is on the other side, we barely make our 3 Diamonds. I know I invited you to Game, partner, but I don’t blame you for passing.”

Flo’s prediction turned out to be very wrong. Her jaw dropped when she found out at the end of the night that her nemesis, Smug Sam, who had also sat South, had not only won the game – as he so often did – but had bid and made 5 Diamonds on the board.

“Two questions,” Flo asked Sam when she found him among the crowd looking at the results at the end of the game. “How on earth did you think you could bid 5 Diamonds on that board, and how did you make it?’

“Bidding it was the easy part,” said Sam, smug as always, “instead of jumping to 3 Diamonds on the second round, I jumped straight to 4 Diamonds. I was hoping my partner would take the bid for what it was – ‘if you have anything at all for me, take me to Game, and I have no interest in playing No-Trump.’ He got it – and he raised me to Game.”

“I didn’t think of that double-jump,” Flo admitted. “But how did you get around losing a Spade and a Heart?”

“I will give it to you that was the hard part,” Sam said. “It was a squeeze play but I got a surprise along the way. At first I thought I’d have to squeeze West on Spades and Hearts, but in the end I wound up squeezing East on Hearts and Clubs.”

“Explain that one to me,” asked Flo.

“I ruffed the first Club when everyone ducked and led a small trump to dummy’s Jack, then ruffed another Club in my hand. I forced out the trump Ace with my King, pitching a Heart from dummy, and pitched another Heart on the trump return to my 7. East parted with one Heart on that trick, but then had to start sloughing Clubs after that.

“I next led a small Spade to West’s King, and won the return Spade lead in dummy with the Queen,” Sam continued. “I got to my hand ruffing another Club and then led the Spade Ace with both dummy and East discarding Clubs.

“With everyone having four cards left, I executed the squeeze play by leading my last trump and East was cooked. If he pitched the Club Ace dummy’s Jack would be good. And if he pitched a Heart, I’d take the last three Heart tricks because my 10 would be good.”

“That’s squeezing like a boa constrictor,” said Flo, shaking her head. “You’re a mean man, Sam, but did you really see that coming right from the start?”

“Let’s put it this way,” said Sam. “I knew a squeeze play would be the only way, and with every trick, I learned a little more about my opponents’ cards. That’s the way to execute a squeeze play.”

“You’re not only a boa constrictor,” said Flo. “Now you’re an executioner, too.”


  1. Jon Quest says:

    “* North’s “negative” double indicated a four-card Heart holding.”
    NEGATIVE Double? By Advancer?

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