Minus Two Squeeze
Things are going well in the regional Swiss. We blitzed our first match and my lovely kibitzer's bare interest
in bridge seems to be peaking (she is paying attention!) when I pick up a challenging hand. No one is vulnerable and I
hold Qx Jxx KQ AKQJxx and am fourth to speak. There are two passes and RHO opens 2, weak. I don't recognize our
opponents, but they are under 40. I don't trust them. Still, I have a problemI lack a true spade stopper for 2NT, which
is an underbid anyway, and 3 is an even bigger underbid. I could double, although with this spade holding, I am not bullish
on a suit contract and the prospect of a mediocre 4-3 or 5-2 fit doesn't thrill me so much. There is another option worth
considering, 3. This asks partner to bid 3NT if he can stop spades. One advantage is that if partner has Ax,
we will get there from the right side of the table. A big disadvantage is that even with a spade stopper I don't have 9 tricks
my stuff on the outside is too slow.
Eventually I decide on the aggressive 3 call. LHO doubles, and this is passed back to me. Fortunately, we have an agreement about
this auction (isn't it nice to play with a regular partner with whom you have a lot of agreements?). Partner's pass shows half
a stopper 10xxx, Jxx or Qx. I have half a stopper too, so between us, we have a whole one. Now I have options. I can redouble
and let partner declare or I can bid 3NT myself. I have a clue as to the right approach partner has already made a game on a
spectacular play earlier in the session, so it must be my turn. So I bid 3NT.
LHO leads the spade king and I buy
Prospects don't look so good. Even if they set up a spade for me,
I will have only eight tricks and if they shift to a heart curtains! RHO discourages at trick one, but LHO continues with
the ace (RHO had 9xxxx?!?) and another spade, clearing the suit as RHO signals for a diamond shift. It is time to take stock.
Here is the situation when they lead the third spade:
LHO, A passed hand, has turned up with the AKx. With AK,A he would surely have opened, so I can reliably place the A
with RHO. I'm pretty sure he has the K as well, as with that card LHO would probably have bid 4 depending on his distribution.
One thing I've learned is that if you are playing 3NT with a source of tricks and you aren't really sure how you are going to get
nine tricks, just run your long suit. I win the J, discarding a heart and play off six rounds of clubs. RHO started with a
singleton. RHO never discards a spade, but discards two diamonds, a small heart, and the 10.
When I lead my last club, the hand looks like:
On the club, RHO pitches the K. I lead a small heart from hand and LHO follows with one smaller than the 8.
What is going on here? RHO is known to hold two winning spades and the A. Surely he didn't keep a small diamond in favor
of a heart honor. He must have been well and truly squeezed. I hop up with the A dropping the Q and claim 9 tricks.
RHO held 9xxxx KQ10x Axx x and in the five card end position had to discard from 9x KQ A . If he pitched a spade, I could safely knock out the diamond ace for my ninth trick. It is rare to see a squeeze
where two tricks are lost after the squeeze has operated and I am pleased to have found it. The tried and true strategy of running
winners seems to have worked well.
I am all in favor of agressive preempts, but RHO's was just bad bridge. He doesn't want a spade lead, he is in danger of a large set
and he has defense against our possible games. I could understand 2 at least that has something to gain. Had RHO passed,
we would not have reached game and even if we did, his partner would have made his normal heart lead and down we would go.
On the drive home, my kibitzer comments to me that she really liked that hand. She has good taste.
Copyright © 2005 Mike Shuster