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Imaginary squeezes in the EYTC
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At the recent 27th European Youth Team Championships where I captained Sweden U21 I had the good fortune of getting over a copy of the new bridge book Crocs on Squeeze Play by Stephen Kennedy (one of the English juniors, Crocs is his nickname). Being busy with the tournament I only flipped through a few pages of the first chapter, "Imaginary Squeezes". This is the first example:

West
KQx
xx
North
Jxx
x
x
East
109x
KQ
South
Axx
A
A
D

On the play of the A West is squeezed out of a heart (otherwise we have time to set up a spade), even though we have no menace in that suit. But discarding a heart lets us cash the A and endplay West with a low spade. So West got squeezed in a suit where we had no real menace, which is the imaginary part of the squeeze.

The next day I sat down to watch my team play when this board appeared:

North
98
73
AK654
KQ109
South
AQ104
J1096
73
A84
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
1
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P

After a slightly pushy auction you find yourself in 3NT (after all, you're a junior) on the lead of the K and the defence kicks off with four rounds of hearts, West discarding two spades.

How should you play?

One reasonable line is to play for diamonds 3-3 with the queen in the West hand. You can then set up the suit by leading towards your honours and duck when the queen appears, keeping East and his fifth heart out of play. Another possibility is to find a spade honour with East and set up two more tricks there.

A look at the entire layout (which is suggested by the auction) shows that neither of those plans will work:

West
KJ7652
K4
1098
73
North
98
73
AK654
KQ109
East
3
AQ852
QJ2
J652
South
AQ104
J1096
73
A84
W
N
E
S
1
1
X
1
2
P
2NT
P
3NT
P
P
P
D
3NT South
NS: 0 EW: 0

How can you succeed on this layout?

As you probably have guessed it's time to whip out the imaginary squeeze. Our throw-in suit will be spades and we have an imaginary menace in diamonds. All that is left to do is win four club tricks via a finesse over East.

So the play should go:

1. Discard two diamonds on the hearts.

2. Club to king

3. Club finesse

4. Club to ace

5. Diamond to dummy

6. Cash fourth club

7. Watch West squirm in this position

West
KJ7
109
North
98
A6
Q
East
3
8
QJ
J
South
AQ104
7
D

He is imaginary squeezed! A spade discard allows us to set up our ninth trick in that suit, and after a diamond discard we win our last honour and endplay him in spades.

Usually when you read about something it takes ages before it actually comes up in real life, especially when it comes to advanced squeeze plays, so I was pleasantly surprised to see this cute hand the very next day!

Finally, having now read the first volume (out of two, and I've heard rumours a third is being worked on) I can highly recommend the book. It is well written, funny, well paced and the techniques and hands are fantastic.

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