Join Bridge Winners
Compound Squeeze
(Page of 8)

In a round-robin match in the Senior trials, you get the opportunity to employ a specialized sequence of asking bids.

Both vul, North deals. As South, you hold:

South
73
AKJ1052
AQ
AK8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
?

1: 16+ artificial

1: Artificial, 8-10 balanced. Would be 9-14 except for the passed hand status.

Available to you consistent with your hand are:

1NT: Asks about partner's shape and strength. You can probably get both exactly. After you get this information, you can place the contract, make a slam try in a strain of your choice, or bid RKC in a strain of your choice.

2: Natural, and asks about controls and support. Support is defined as any 4-card holding or Qxx or better. If partner doesn't have support he shows controls (0-2 or 3+), and natural bidding follows. If partner does have support he shows controls (0 or 1, 1 ace, 2 kings, 3 controls, or 4 controls) and after that you can ask about his trump holding or any side suit.

3: Sets hearts trumps, and looks for a Q-bid of a control.

Your call?

South
73
AKJ1052
AQ
AK8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
?

2 looks clear. You would love to find out if partner has support or not. If he has support, you won't have a trump loser and can find out about other things. If he doesn't have support, there probably isn't a slam.

You bid 2. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
?

2: Asking

3: Support (at least xxxx or Qxx), 1 ace, no kings.

At this point, you may ask about his exact trump holding or ask about any of the other side suits. The trump ask would be the next step, 3. The following 3 steps (3, 3NT, and 4) would ask about clubs, diamonds, or spades respectively. These asks can determine partner's holding in the suit regarding first, second, and third round controls or combinations of these (e.g. second- and third-round control).  After finding about one of the side suits, you may ask about a second side suit and then even the third side suit as long as you don't run out of room.

Your call?

South
73
AKJ1052
AQ
AK8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
?

Your hearts are so strong that you don't need to ask about partner's trump holding. He has at least Qxx or xxxx, so you can assume no heart losers. That is nice that you can bypass this step, since the responses to the trump ask can gobble up a lot of precious space.

The key suit to ask in is clubs. You know partner has the ace of spades and no kings. If he has third round control in clubs, you can confidently bid the slam. You could count 11 top tricks. 3 club tricks (maybe with the queen, maybe with a ruff), 6 heart tricks, 1 spade trick, and 1 diamond trick. Slam will be at worst on the diamond finesse, and may have other chances such as Qxxx of clubs in partner's hand, queen of spades, or jack of diamonds and no spade lead. If partner doesn't have third-round club control, prospects won't be nearly as rosy.

3 would be the trump ask, making 3 the ask in the lowest side suit (clubs).

You bid 3. The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
?

3: Asks about clubs

3NT: No control, not even third-round control.

If you wish to make more asks, 4 would ask about diamonds and 4 would ask about spades.

Your call?

 

South
73
AKJ1052
AQ
AK8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
?

This isn't so good. In addition to being off both pointed kings you have a third round club loser to deal with. Partner will probably produce some help. He has to have his 8-10 points somewhere. He presumably has ace of spades, queen of hearts, no kings, and no queen of clubs. He likely has the queen of spades and/or a jack or two. Still, slam isn't likely to be any better than a finesse, and if he doesn't have the right jacks it could be considerably worse. You should content yourself with game.

You aren't required to play in hearts. The auction came up in such a way that you could drop partner in 3NT if that is the safer contract. This possibility is worth examining.

You know partner has the ace of spades. If you have 6 heart winners you have ten top tricks, so it won't matter which contract you play. The only relevant scenario is when partner has xxxx in hearts and you have a heart loser.

Can 4 go down? Almost impossible. If partner doesn't have the queen of hearts, he has at least 4 points in queens and jacks in the side suits. One of these is almost certain to produce the tenth trick.

Can 3NT go down? Yes, it could. Partner might have Ax in spades. Or partner might have xx in diamonds and you get a diamond lead through your AQ (partner would be declarer in 3NT). 4 is clearly safer.

You forget that partner is a passed hand and think that he has shown support with 3 controls, which is what his 3 call would have shown if he weren't a passed hand. It looks like slam can't be worse than a finesse, so you jump to 6 ending the auction.

W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
6
P
P
P

West leads the 2. Standard leads and carding.

North
AQ54
Q43
1043
1097
South
73
AKJ1052
AQ
AK8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
6
P
P
P

You play small from dummy. East plays the king without appearing to give the play much thought, and you win the ace. How do you proceed?

 

North
AQ54
Q43
104
1097
South
73
AKJ1052
Q
AK8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
6
P
P
P

The king of diamonds onside turned a poor contract into a quite reasonable one. You have 11 top tricks, and at worst the spade finesse is #12. There is other potential such as a double club finesse, an end-play, or perhaps some kind of squeeze. How can you maximize these chances?

One possibility is to strip the hand. Cash queen of diamonds, and two rounds of hearts ending in dummy. If the hearts split 2-2, you can then ruff a diamond and play ace, king, and a club. This will succeed if East has QJ of clubs, any 5 clubs, or fails to unblock with Qxx. The latter won't happen if you delay cashing the top clubs, and even if you do that immediately a good defender will see what is going on. This approach pretty much gives up on anything else other than the spade finesse.

East's quick play of the king of diamonds is interesting. It is pretty normal for East to play the jack from KJ in this situation in order to locate the queen of diamonds at virtually no risk. Even if East doesn't find the play, he might have thought about it. It is quite likely that West has the jack of diamonds.

If your read of the diamond jack is correct, there are some interesting squeeze possibilities. The 10 of diamonds is a single threat over a single stopper, which is the key to double squeeze and compound squeeze positions. Even though both opponents may have guards in the other suits, if the entries are adequate the matrix for a compound squeeze will exist.

For the compound squeeze to have a chance, the count will have to be corrected. This can be done by taking the spade finesse immediately. Suppose it loses and East makes the natural return of a diamond. Let's look at the end position after you have cashed your last trump.

North
A5
10
10
South
7
AK8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
6
P
P
P

Both defenders are down to 4 cards, so neither can guard both black suits. One must guard spades, and one must guard clubs. All you have to do is squeeze West in the suit he is guarding.

If West guards spades, you cash the AK of clubs. On the second high club, West will be squeezed in spades and diamonds. Dummy discards after West, so dummy keeps the suit West unguards.

If West guards clubs, you lead a spade to dummy's ace. West will be squeezed in clubs and diamonds.

In some compound squeezes it may be difficult to read who is guarding what. This particular squeeze should be pretty easy since West has to make an extra discard. West has to guard the diamond, so he must come down to either 2 spades and 1 club or 0 spades and 3 clubs since if he comes down to 1 spade and 2 clubs he isn't guarding either suit. With this great a differential you should have no difficulty reading which suit is being guarded by which opponent.

The big danger is that East returns a spade. This totally destroys your communication for any squeeze. You will be reduced to taking the double club finesse. However, it will not be easy for East to return a spade. If East has the jack of spades, he will be afraid that you have 10x left. If East does not have the jack of spades, he will be worried that you started with jack-doubleton and his partner has the queen of diamonds. It is very likely that East will not see the danger and return a diamond.

A club return can damage the matrix for the compound squeeze. The entries are such that the club suit can no longer be the middle suit for the eventual double squeeze, so if both opponents have a club guard the squeeze fails. To see this, examine the end position as you are about to lead your last trump.

North
A5
10
10
South
7
2
K8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
6
P
P
P

West has already unguarded the spades, since if he unguards the clubs your last trump will produce a classic double squeeze. Now what? You can cash your last heart, but West discards his last spade and dummy is squeezed. If you pitch a club, East pitches a club guarding the spades, and West is sitting with guards the two non-communication suits. If you pitch a diamond West is no longer under pressure, so he can guard the clubs and East the spades. And if you pitch a spade, the spade threat is gone so East can guard clubs and West guards diamonds.

However, if only one opponent can guard the clubs there will be a squeeze, although you will have to read it. If that opponent is East, the straightforward double squeeze with spades the middle suit will work. If that opponent is West, you can get him in a club-diamond squeeze by running the hearts discarding spades from dummy and then crossing to the ace of spades to squeeze him.

There is one other very cute possibility. You can try to slip the 7 by West. Even the sharpest of defenders aren't likely to see this coming, so if West has one of the two spades lower than the 7 he will probably play it and you can let the 7 ride. This will prevent the spade return. If East returns a diamond, you have your compound squeeze. A club return breaks that up, but you still have the spade finesse or a squeeze if only one opponent guards clubs, although you will have to read the position from the discards.

You choose to lead the 3 to the queen. It holds. How do you continue?

North
A54
Q43
104
1097
South
7
AKJ1052
Q
AK8
W
N
E
S
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3NT
P
6
P
P
P

Your luck is in. With both finesses working you have twelve tricks for sure, and you still have your compound squeeze for the thirteenth. You can just cash your diamond and run all of your hearts, discarding two clubs and a spade, and see what they do.

You cash your diamond and run your trumps. West unloads all of his spades, and East keeps a spade guard. You lead a spade to dummy and West is squeezed in the minors, so you take all the tricks. The full hand is:

West
KJ109
8
J982
J542
North
AQ54
Q43
1043
1097
East
862
976
K765
Q63
South
73
AKJ1052
AQ
AK8
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
3
K
A
3
1
0
3
9
Q
2
1
2
0
Q
6
2
8
1
3
0
3
7
A
8
3
4
0
K
10
4
9
3
5
0
J
J
4
5
3
6
0
10
K
7
6
3
7
0
5
2
9
7
3
8
0
Q
9
4
3
3
9
0
7
10

Do you agree with West's opening lead?

 

West
KJ109
8
J982
J542
North
AQ54
Q43
1043
1097
East
862
976
K765
Q63
South
73
AKJ1052
AQ
AK8
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
3
K
A
3
1
0
3
9
Q
2
1
2
0
Q
6
2
8
1
3
0
3
7
A
8
3
4
0
K
10
4
9
3
5
0
J
J
4
5
3
6
0
10
K
7
6
3
7
0
5
2
9
7
3
8
0
Q
9
4
3
3
9
0
7
10

West has an interesting lead problem. A club lead can't blow a trick in the club suit itself, since dummy is known to not have a club honor. However, if partner has the queen or king of clubs leading a club could isolate the club guard. Considering that West has potential guards in all the side suits, that could be disastrous.

Both the diamond and spade leads are from potentially dangerous holdings. What about a trump lead? Normally a singleton trump would be quite dangerous. Here, however, it figures to be safe. The reason is that South bypassed the trump ask. That indicates that South isn't concerned about a possible trump loser, so he doesn't figure to be missing anything important in trumps.

Suppose North's sequence had, in fact, shown 3 controls. How do you think South should have continued after finding out that North has no third-round club control?

West
KJ109
8
J982
J542
North
AQ54
Q43
1043
1097
East
862
976
K765
Q63
South
73
AKJ1052
AQ
AK8
W
N
E
S
 
P
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
3
P
3
P
3N
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
2
3
K
A
3
1
0
3
9
Q
2
1
2
0
Q
6
2
8
1
3
0
3
7
A
8
3
4
0
K
10
4
9
3
5
0
J
J
4
5
3
6
0
10
K
7
6
3
7
0
5
2
9
7
3
8
0
Q
9
4
3
3
9
0
7
10

It appears that bidding 6 is fine. If North's king is in diamonds South can count 12 tricks. If it is in spades, the contract will be at worst on a diamond finesse and will probably have other chances such as a third spade or club trick.

There is one possibility to worry about. If North has king-doubleton of diamonds, those 3 diamond tricks collapse into 2 tricks. If that is the case North probably won't have much else. The slam doesn't figure to be better than a finesse, and it could have no play at all if North has something like Axxx Qxxx Kx xxx. South can use his asking bids to find out. South asks in diamonds. If North shows second and third round control of diamonds it must be the dreaded king doubleton, and South can stop short of slam. If North shows any other diamond holding, South can bid the slam comfortably.

The above analysis is an illustration of a principle which I have often stated. It is: Leaping to slam is always wrong. There is usually some route which will allow you to determine that an alternative contract might be superior. Often it takes a bit of imagination to find that route, which is why many experts just make the lazy leap to slam. Slams are quite a bit different from games. You don't mind blasting to a marginal game. Partner might have the right cards, you may get a favorable lead or defense, or the card might lie well. In addition, you usually can't find out exactly what you need to know. With slams you have room to find out and most good pairs have the necessary tools. One little change in partner's hand can be the difference between slam being excellent or hopeless. With as much as 26 IMPs at stake, it is worth going the extra mile to get it right.

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