Join Bridge Winners
Simple Squeeze
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The other day at the club in our weekly Wednesday night game, the toughest game of the week, I picked up the following hand in third seat, both vulnerable, and the auction proceeded as shown below.

South
K98542
7
J854
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P

My bid of 3 was intended to establish a game force (we play Wolff signoff), but it was completely unnecessary and wrong, since 3 was also game forcing and showed my sixth spade.  Partner didn't remember whether we played Wolff signoff, but as 3 was forcing no matter what, we ended up in the correct spot.

With the opening lead of the A, my partner put down an excellent dummy, as one might anticipate from the bidding:

North
AJ
AQ632
Q6
A1072
South
K98542
7
J854
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P

We were definitely in the right strain.  But would others be in game?  This was less likely.  Partner had upgraded his 17 count to an 18 count worth a 2NT rebid, an evaluation which I agreed with. I thought my hand was good enough in context to force to game, however, I suspected that not everyone would do so.  Regardless, I was certainly going to have to try and make it, since it was likely most people would be in a part-score.

I played low from dummy, and my RHO encouraged.  LHO continued with the K, everyone following.  LHO now continued with a middle diamond spot. What's your plan from here?

North
AJ
AQ632
Q6
A1072
South
K98542
7
J854
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P

It was pretty obvious the diamond was going to get ruffed.  Making my hand the master hand, it looked like I had one spade loser on a reasonable split, no heart losers, three diamond losers and possibly a club loser.  Would it be better to let the diamond return get ruffed by my RHO, or to ruff with the J?  I certainly had no useful pitches from dummy.  If I let my RHO win the trick and he returned a club, I would need to guess the club situation right away, which was one vote for ruffing and hoping that LHO had the Q.  As long as spades were 3-2, I'd still pick up the suit for at most one loser.
 
Arguing against ruffing was that I had a challenging transportation problem if I ruffed in.  I had few ways to get back to my hand to pull two more rounds of trump.  (Perhaps I could ruff with the A, and concede a spade trick, using the J to get back to my hand... but that didn't really occur to me until I was writing this up.)  Playing a club to the Q was going to cost me the contract, regardless of where the K was.  So the only practical way I would have to get back to my hand were I to ruff was by ruffing a heart and giving up on taking the heart finesse.
 
I decided to ruff with the J, since I had planned to take the spade finesse anyway, left to my own devices.  The J held the trick, RHO pitching an indeterminate club.  The next order of business was getting back to my hand.  I played the A, the A, and ruffed a heart to hand, both opponents following to all three tricks.  Playing the K felled the Q on my left, RHO following.  So far, so good.  I played another spade, pitching a heart from dummy.  RHO won with the 10.  
 

North
Q6
A1076
South
985
J
Q8

RHO now returned the J.  Given that my RHO hadn't shown any concern about leading a heart, I felt LHO had the K.  In a way, this was unfortunate, as it meant that had I declined to ruff the third diamond, I would have been able to pick up the spade suit for no losers.  Since the heart finesse was on, I'd have a pitch for my little club.  Too bad we don't have hand records when we start playing the boards!
 
There was still a chance, though.  If LHO held both the K and K, then he would be squeezed.  I played all my spades, pitching clubs and then my last low heart in dummy, leaving me with this end position: 

North
Q
A10
South
J
Q8

On the play of the J, LHO pitched a club.  I pitched the Q from dummy. I held my breath and played a low club towards the A, and the K popped up from LHO.  The Q was good, and I made my contract for +620 and a top.  The full deal is shown below:

West
Q7
K1054
AK972
K5
North
AJ
AQ632
Q6
A1072
East
1063
J98
103
J9643
South
K98542
7
J854
Q8
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
P
2NT
P
3
P
3NT
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

Several pairs played the contract in 3, down 2, having received a 2 overcall from East.  Others played the game in a spade part-score, where they didn't have the pressure to make 4, with only one of those making 4.  It's possible that they too had interference in their auction that prevented them from getting to game.  It's equally possible that the North hand decided not to upgrade the hand and bid 2 as a rebid.
 
I have been trying to become better at identifying, planning, and executing squeezes, so I was pleased that I was able to figure out the squeeze possibilities during the play (even if not at the beginning).  This simple squeeze was every bit as gratifying for me as the submarine triple squeeze was for  my regular partner Kevin Schoenfeld. Baby steps, baby steps!
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