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Squeeze play - bridge

A squeeze play (or squeeze) is a tactic, often occurring late in the hand, used in contract bridge and other trick-taking games in which the play of a card (the squeeze card) forces an opponent to discard a winner or the guard of a potential winner. Although numerous types of squeezes have been analyzed and catalogued in contract bridge, they were first discovered and described in whist.

Most squeezes operate on the principle that declarer's and dummy's hands can, between them, hold more cards with the potential to take extra tricks than a single defender's hand can protect or guard. Infrequently, due to of the difficulty of coordinating their holdings, two defenders can cooperate to squeeze declarer or dummy on the same principle.

Context

Complexity

Squeeze plays are considered by many "to be the domain of the experts but many of the positions are straightforward once the basic principles are understood." And according to Terence Reese, the squeeze play "in its practical aspects is not particularly difficult. It takes time, admittedly...and has...to be learned - it cannot be 'picked up'".

Significance and prevalence

Squeeze plays are important in difficult-to-make high-level contracts and in matchpoint play where the taking of one more trick than generally achieved by the field is a real difference-maker likely to result in a top board. The opportunity to employ a squeeze play arises sufficiently frequently that it essential to learn if aspiring to become an advancing player.,

Terminology

Conditions

The most basic forms of squeeze require all the following conditions to be in place before the squeeze can operate:

Examples

Example 1 A J
K
-
-
K Q

N
W               E
S

A Q J 10
-
- -
South to lead 4
2
-
A

South needs all three remaining tricks in a notrump contract. South leads the squeeze card, the A, and West is squeezed in hearts and spades. If West discards the A, North's K becomes a winner. If West discards either spade, North's J becomes a winner.

Note the following features of this position:

  1. One defender, West, holds the defense's only guards in declarer's two threat suits, spades and hearts.
  2. The count is rectified. Three cards remain, and declarer has two immediate winners (the A and A). Another winner will be established by the squeeze (either the K or the J).
  3. The K and the J are the threat cards. At least one threat card (in this case, both the K and the J) lies opposite the squeeze card (the A).
  4. At least one threat card (in this case, both the K and the J) is in the hand that plays after the squeezed defender.
  5. The A is an entry to either threat card.

This is an example of a positional squeeze, because both threat cards are in the same hand, North's. No threat card lies over East and therefore the squeeze can take effect only if West is to be squeezed.

If West's cards are transferred to East, as shown in Example 2, the squeeze fails because the fourth condition above is not satisfied. In that case, one of the menaces must be discarded before it is East's turn to play. If the K is discarded, East can safely discard the A. If the J is discarded, East can safely discard a spade.

Example 2 A J
K
-
-

N
W               E
S

K Q
Q J 10 A
-
- -
South to lead 4
2
-
A

Classification

There are several ways to classify squeezes:

Most of the common types of squeezes (and some of the rare ones) have names:

Type of Squeeze Positional or
Automatic
Opponents Suits Material or
Non-material
Count
Rectified
Simple squeeze Either Single 2 Yes Yes
Criss-cross squeeze Automatic Single 2 Yes Yes
Trump squeeze Either Single 2 Yes Yes
Progressive squeeze
(aka Triple squeeze)
Positional Single 3 Yes Yes
Double squeeze
(also: Simultaneous double squeeze
Non-simultaneous double squeeze)
Either Double 3 Yes Yes
Compound squeeze Positional Double 3 Yes Yes
Entry-shifting squeeze Positional Single 2 Yes Yes
Single-suit squeeze Positional Single 1 Yes No
Strip squeeze Positional Single 2-3 Yes No
Backwash squeeze Positional Single 2 Yes Yes
Cannibal squeeze
(aka Suicide squeeze)
Positional Single 2 Yes Yes*
Stepping-stone squeeze Positional Either 2 No No
Guard squeeze Positional Either 2-3 Yes Yes
Vice squeeze Positional Single 2-3 Yes No
Winkle squeeze Positional Single 3 No No
Clash squeeze Positional Either 3 Yes Yes
Saturated squeeze Positional Double 4 Yes Yes
Pseudo-squeeze N/A N/A N/A No N/A
Entry squeeze Either Either 3 No No
Knockout squeeze Either Single 3 No No

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Further reading

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