Breaking the squeeze by van Hoof, The Netherlands

Squeeze plays are no longer the exclusive domain of the experts. Nowadays any advanced player is capable of executing a simple or even a double squeeze.  As to the defense against squeezes, however, it's a different story. Not many players are able to envisage an upcoming threat, especially when partner holds all the menaces. Look at this hand from last week's Schiphol tournament:

Game All. Dealer West.

                    S Q9
                    H K
                    D AQ62
                    C AT8743
          S KT4                S J86532
          H Q92                H 853
          D J93                D K85
          C QJ96               C K
                    S A7
                    H AJT764
                    D T74
                    C 52

     West     North     East     South

     Pass      1C        2S       3H
     Pass      3S       Dbl       4H
     Pass     Pass      Pass

In spite of the double on 3S, West led a small spade, expecting his partner to have at least the SQ. Declarer won the first trick with the Queen and started to work on clubs. He played CA and a small one, ruffed by East. East returned a heart to the King and ruffed the next club with H8. South over ruffed, cashed HA and played another heart for the Queen. West exited with a spade to the Ace. Declarer played one more trump, so this ending was reached with South to lead:

                        S --
                        H --
                        D AQ6
                        C T
             S --                 S 8
             H --                 H --
             D J93                D K85
             C Q                  C --
                        S --
                        H 7
                        D T74
                        C --

Without much hope, declarer led a diamond to the Queen. As expected East won the King, but without any thought he returned his last spade. South ruffed and West was squeezed in the minors. He threw D9 and declarer threw CT from dummy. Now a diamond to the Ace brought down the Jack and the 10 provided the tenth trick.  East, an experienced tournament player, was not very pleased with himself: "It was a clear blunder. I played too quickly."

A world champion doesn't make mistakes like that, of course. Wubbo de Boer faced the following problem in the Dutch open team championships:

Love All. Dealer North.

                        S JT6
                        H QT43
                        D 4
                        C AT965
                S ??             S A942
                H ??            
H J652
                D ??             D J765
                C ??            
C 2
                        S ??
                        H ??
                        D ??
                        C ??

            West    North    East    South

                    Pass     Pass     1D
            Pass    1H       Pass     2NT
            Pass    3NT      Pass     Pass
            Pass

Against 3NT West led a small spade. De Boer took the Ace and returned a spade for the Queen and partner's King. A third round cleared the suit, declarer pitching a heart. Declarer now cashed three high diamonds and continued with a diamond to East's Jack. West had shown out on the third round, petering in hearts, and threw a club on the fourth round. De Boer cashed the S9 and had to find the killing switch. Having seen the previous hand, you might be able to find the solution. De Boer visualized this ending:

                          S --
                          H QT
                          D --
                          C AT9
                 S --              S --
                 H K7              H J652
                 D --              D --
                 C KJ8             C 2
                          S --
                          H A
                          D 98
                          C Q4

De Boer foresaw what would happen if he duly switched to a heart: declarer wins the HA and two rounds of diamonds squeeze West in hearts and clubs. To break up the squeeze, East played a club. This was a brilliant move. However, in real life this was the ending:

                          S --
                          H QT
                          D --
                          C AT9
                  S --              S --
                  H A7              H J652
                  D --              D --
                  C QJ8             C 2
                          S -
                          H K
                          D 98
                          C K4

Declarer happily took CK and cashed his diamond winners. West could afford to discard a heart but on the last diamond he had to surrender.

Sometimes it's hard to be a world champion.

 

Breaking the Squeeze for Sure by Ian Crorie (Scotland)

A previous article by Toine van Hoof reported the following defensive problem from the Dutch open team championship:

                          S JT6
                          H QT43
                          D 4
                          C AT965
                   S ??            S A942
                   H ??           
H J652
                   D ??            D J765
                   C ??           
C 2
                          S ??
                          H ??
                          D ??
                          C ??

              WEST      NORTH    EAST     SOUTH
                        Pass     Pass     1D
              Pass      1H       Pass     2NT
              Pass      3NT      Pass     Pass
              Pass

Against 3NT, your partner leads a small spade and the defense clears the suit, with South, having started with Qx, pitching a heart on the third round.
Declarer now plays off the top diamonds and concedes a trick to your Jack, partner discarding a high-ish heart and a club.
When the hand was played, East cashed the spade nine and gave thought to the squeeze possibilities on the hand.  If declarer started with the Kings of hearts and clubs it was essential to cash partner's heart Ace now, otherwise he would be squeezed in the rounded suits.
On the other hand, if partner held the Kings (and the club Jack) a club switch was essential to break up the squeeze.
East played for the latter layout, but sadly partner had HA7 and CQJ8 and the contract made.  Let us go back to the position after trick seven:

                           S --
                           H QT4
                           D --
                           C AT9
                   S x            S 9
                   H Hx           H J652
                   D --           D --
                   C HHx          C 2
                           S --
                           H H
                           D xx
                           C Hxx

The discarding has surely marked partner with an original holding of three to an honor in hearts. The contract will always be defeated, when it is possible to do so, if East, instead of cashing a spade, leads a heart. When partner has the Ace, he will cash out and when he holds HKx and CKJx, he can spare his spade on the last diamond.
Note that declarer should have discarded a club at trick three. Now the heart switch at trick eight will not work if
declarer started with "S Qx  H Ax  D AKQxxx  C Qxx", for he wins the Ace and the last diamond winner will squeeze West,
since declarer can lead a heart up to the Queen when West discards his spade.  After a club discard, East must just
guess which of the two squeezes he has to break up.