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The Un-Basic Menace II
(Page of 2)

I posted this deal as a double dummy problem a couple of days ago.

West
J
KJ9
KQ10
J109876
North
K984
AQ87
9843
2
East
1065
106543
J765
5
South
AQ732
2
A2
AKQ43
W
N
E
S
1
P
3NT
P
4NT
P
5
P
7
P
P
P
D
7 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
2
5
A
3
1
0
1

Lead:  J

Before I get to the solution, some background is required to explain what I was trying to illustrate with the construction.  Skip to page 2 if this seems overly familiar and/or uninteresting.

Every primary squeeze (i.e. which don't involve losing any tricks, in contrast to "secondary" squeezes such as strip squeezes), requires a basic menace.  This is true even for so-called hexagon squeezes.  This is a great principle to internalize when trying to navigate a tricky ending at the table, or in a puzzle.

The term "basic menace" comes originally from Clyde Love's treatment of compound squeezes.  In it he says "declarer must hold one threat guarded by one defender only, with the threat lying over the stopper".  If you're familiar with BLUE for simple squeezes, the U for upper is describing the same principle. 

When more complicated menaces such as clash or guard menaces are introduced, the principle still applies with only a slight tweak:  there must be a menace where a defender under the menace must maintain equal length to avoid establishing an extra trick.  Even if their partner is also collaborating to stop the menace.

To help clarify (I hope), this is a typical hexagon guard squeeze ending:

West
4
A
A
Q9
North
2
2
2
K2
East
K
K
J87
South
AK
A103
W
N
E
S
P
5NT
P
P
P
D
5NT East
NS: 0 EW: 0
A
4
2
K
3
1
0
K
A
2
2

South cashes 2 spades.  West can't pitch a club (the guard menace suit) or K will draw his remaining club and we can finesse through East.  East can't pitch a club, or we have 3 clubs on power.  So, East will pitch a red king on the first spade, let's say K.  On the 2nd, West will pitch A.  We can pitch 2 from dummy now and East now has sole responsibility for hearts and clubs and is squeezed again (this time a simple).

Where is the basic menace here?

It's in clubs:  East can unilaterally blow up the suit for the defense by becoming shorter than South's "upper" holding over East.  If West had the 4 instead of the 4, there would be no basic menace, and the defense would prevail.  Just follow standard squeeze defense advice:  abandon your stoppers in threats over you, and keep the stoppers in threats under you.  West can stop clubs, and East the red suits.  If you've encountered the distinction between "accompanied" and "unaccompanied" guard (or clash) stoppers, this is usually the reason.  Positions with no other basic menace require an unaccompanied guard stopper so the guard suit itself can be basic.

(A topic for a future article:  if we give West a third club, but deprive East of a red stopper, say the K, then now diamonds becomes the basic menace and declarer prevails.)

 

Almost 3 years ago I wrote this article:  https://bridgewinners.com/article/view/the-un-basic-menace/ about an ending where it seemed there was no basic menace.   The defense had not yet crumbled and a squeeze was still required despite all of the length stoppers being over their menaces.  My resolution was that the definition of basic menace needed to be refined a bit further.  The point is not so much that a defender needs to maintain equal length with a threat over them, but rather that there must be a menace where they have to be longer than the hand under them (so that hand has room to play or follow to the squeeze card while retaining all its threats).  This is almost always the same thing, but isn't with a recessed ruffing guard menace (see the old article for more).

 

Anyway, back to the deal at the top...

The squeeze required on this deal shares that property (all menaces have length over them, yet the squeeze still works), though it achieves it in a new way, one that I believe is novel (though I would be delighted to be corrected on that score). 

As a full deal it is not just an illustration of the ending with seemingly no basic menace; I also added some extra bells and whistles to try to make a nicer double-dummy problem.  To reach the critical ending, we need to do some maneuvering in the trump suit to create an entry-shifting matrix.  Win trick 1, cash the A (not Q!) and A, and take the heart hook.  Pitch a diamond on A, run 9 (East can't cover or you can arrange 2 club ruffs safely), and ruff a diamond.  Draw the last trump by leading Q and watch West's discard.  All of these plays to reach the key ending can be seen by clicking NEXT repeatedly in the diagram below:

 

West
J
KJ9
KQ10
J109876
North
K984
AQ87
9843
2
East
1065
106543
J765
5
South
AQ732
2
A2
AKQ43
W
N
E
S
1
P
3NT
P
4NT
P
5
P
7
P
P
P
D
7 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
J
2
5
A
3
1
0
A
J
4
5
3
2
0
A
Q
3
5
3
3
0
2
J
Q
3
1
4
0
A
4
2
9
1
5
0
9
6
2
6
1
6
0
4
6
3
10
3
7
0
Q
8

 

In the 6 card ending (be sure to click next to reach it), our 3 menaces are:

1.  KQ43 with a trump to ruff one and establish the other if West doesn't retain 4 clubs.

2.  87 in dummy with 7 in hand to take a ruffing finesse through East's T6 if West pitches K.

3.  98 in dummy very similar.  (These are called ruffing guard menaces.)

Notice that our 3 menaces all have length over them, and yet West is stuck on this trick.  On a club pitch, we follow with 8 and ruff a club good.  On the pitch of a red king, we overtake with K and take a ruffing finesse through East, with a club ruff reentry to enjoy the established trick.

For West to get squeezed here, they must be busier than South to make room for South's squeeze card (the Q).  This very nearly always requires a ("basic") menace in North that West has to maintain equal length with (and where South can afford to be shorter).  We don't have that here, though.  Both players need 4 clubs.  The K prevents a ruffing finesse with the 98.  But while South doesn't need any diamonds to give that force, they do need the 7.  Similarly, with the 87 threat against the K, South needs a trump to give it force.  Each menace, looked at on its own, requires the same length in South as with West.  However, the 7 is doing double duty.  It's part of both the heart menace and the diamond menace, so that in combination they require 2 cards of West to stop them (the red kings), but only one card from South.  

I don't think I've seen another position (other than variations on this one) where 2 menaces work so closely together in such an essential way. I think I'd call it a triple see-saw tandem ruffing guard squeeze. 

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