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Safety Squeeze
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For the past year I've been working on learning squeezes. I have to say that for some reason this really seems to be something I have struggled with. But the pennies are slowly starting to drop.

I was playing in the NAP Flight A final recently with a relatively new partner, Paul Cornelius, very pleased to have made it to the final day in what was one of the strongest fields outside of NABC+ events I've ever played in.  District 21 sports a number of very fine pairs, and is arguably one of the strongest districts in the country. (Go on, argue!)  We had two solid sessions on the first day, to qualify in 8th place for the final day session (with 20 pairs advancing).  Our first session was slightly below average, but we still had high hopes for the evening.

In third seat vulnerable, I picked up:

South
2
AQJ64
AKJ4
Q42

Partner opened 1 and I gave him a 2-over-1 2 response.  He now bid 2, promising at least six spades.  Having a singleton spade and extra values, I chose to bid 3.  Partner now bid 4.  I didn't expect that.

Now what?

 

I figured he was probably 6-4, but where were we going? He seemed worried about hearts. I bid 4NT, hoping it might offer a place to play.  He now bid 5

Was he patterning out and offering another place to play? We had never discussed this auction! Now what?

I wrinkled my brow and thought for what seemed like an eternity. What was partner trying to tell me? I reasoned through keycard responses, knowing full well that partner would have never taken my 4NT for keycard. Something had to make sense.

Eventually, I gave up and bid 6NT. I figured since the auction suggested strongly that he had extras, we were probably okay in 6. It was just one board after all.

On the lead of the 7, dummy came down:

North
AKQ973
Q52
AJ98
South
2
AQJ64
AKJ4
Q42
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P

Plan the play from here.

North
AKQ973
Q52
AJ98
South
2
AQJ64
AKJ4
Q42
W
N
E
S
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4NT
P
5
P
6NT
P
P
P

I could count 3 clubs (assuming from the lead that the K was offside), 4 diamonds, 1 heart, and 3 spades, with a possibility for more, depending on what happened in the suit.  My heart values were wasted opposite a void. But I did determine that I almost certainly needed those club tricks to make my contract, so I played low from dummy, and it lost to the K.  A club came back, which I won in my hand.
 
I started to reconsider the possibilities of how I was going to make this hand. I briefly thought about a heart-spade squeeze, in case something bad happened in the spade suit, but I didn't really give it enough thought, distracted instead by the transportation difficulties I faced, given that I had limited transportation to get to my winning heart trick.  Eventually I gave up trying to figure it out, and after running clubs, played on spades. Alas, they didn't split 3-3, and the J10 didn't fall doubleton. I had no way to get back to the board having played on both clubs and spades, and only a miracle would allow me to make this hand now.  That miracle didn't occur, and I was down 1. I had some company. But this was an excellent field, as I mentioned. Not everyone was in slam, but half the field made six, and I'm pretty sure they didn't get a heart lead!
 
Where I went wrong was this. I failed to consider the things that could go wrong at trick one and figure out how I would sort them out. IF spades split 4-2, then, the only way this would make is if the person who held four spades also held Kx.  
 

West
xx
xxx
x
North
AKQ973
East
Jxxx
K10
South
2
AQJ6
A
D

 
Visualizing this end position meant that I had to play the A, and then all the clubs and all the diamonds, before touching spades. In other words, I had to play the hand for a squeeze in the very beginning, as a safety play against a bad split. Then, if the cards were laid out that way, the play of the last diamond A would squeeze my opponent.  Maybe the K would come tumbling down to give me my 12th trick. If I didn't see the K, only then would I cross to the board and play on spades, hoping that the 4th spade was good.  If the spades were 3-3 all along, I would still make it, but this line offered an extra chance.
 
The full deal is below:

West
54
853
9876
7653
North
AKQ973
Q52
AJ98
East
J1086
K10972
103
K10
South
2
AQJ64
AKJ4
Q42
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
2
P
2
P
3
P
4
P
4N
P
5
P
6N
P
P
P
D
6NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

This one deal taught me a great lesson... many of the squeezes I've executed have developed during the play of the hand, and those hands were flexible enough that the squeeze could still be executed at the point where I figured out a squeeze was necessary. But this one had to be visualized and planned at trick 1, as a safety play against a bad split, and the cardplay had to be perfectly choreographed, since transportation was a problem.
 
Hopefully I can internalize this lesson at my next outing, and think of the squeeze positions at trick 1!
 
 
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