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My understanding is that squeezes are most likely to occur when one defender holds all the key cards in say, two different suits. And in most cases, they are what I call "secondary" cards (e.g. Kx, Qxx, or Qx, after the ace or king has been played), meaning that you need to keep both the key card, and a guard. And the one defender holds both "sets" for a "crowded" or "busy" hand.

(In theory, one defender could protect one suit, the other defender a second suit, with both having to protect a common suit, but those situations are rarer, and harder to defend.)

If, say West, holds two or three of these "secondary" combinations, does it make sense to lead one of them out early, so that you're not "caught" with more than one at the end? If the spot card is low, might it be possible to discard it at some point in play and hope declarer doesn't "scoop" your king with the ace?

Perhaps it's best to try to transfer "control" to your partner in one suit (leading out a K or Q, let it be captured by declarer, and hope that East controls the suit with say, JTx, while you protect the other?

Another aspect of a squeeze is that declarer needs to get to and from dummy. Would moves like the "Merrimac coup" to try to disrupt communications make sense?

Are there bidding, playing, or cardholding sequences that should put a defender on particular guard against a squeeze?

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What is the question? The one in the title or the one in the last paragraph? –  Aryabhata Aug 22 '11 at 22:48
    
The last line is meant to be an "adjunct" to the main question. Perhaps I should move it, or even delete it altogether to make the question clearer. –  Tom Au Aug 22 '11 at 22:53
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Clyde E Love made an analysis, and in most cases decided that for a squeeze to be present (from declarer's point of view), we must have a condition called "BLUE". Of course there are other types of squeezes (see: Adventures in Cardplay by Ottlik and Kelsey) which might not fall under this, but most of them do.

BLUE is:

  • B : All cards in victim's hand are Busy.
  • L : Loser count is correct (Rectifying the count, typical one loser for most squeezes)
  • U : At least one threat is in the Upper hand (lies in the hand that plays after the victim)
  • E : The hand threat in the hand opposite the squeeze card has an Entry with it.

Defense can foil declarer by trying to disrupt any combination of the above.

Usually the defense depends on the hand, but to quote a few examples.

1) Defending by attacking "B".

Here defenders can play a threat suit repeatedly in order to nullify the threat.

Example:

        AKxx
        AK9
        AKx
        Txx

x                xxx
QJT              xxxx
xxx              xxxx
KQJxxx           Ax 

        QJTxx
        xxx
        QJx
        xx

(Suit order is spades, hearts, diamonds, club from top to bottom).

South is declarer in 5 spades.

West leads the Club K which east overtakes and plays back a club. Which west wins with the J.

Now the only defense is for west to play a third club, making declarer play the T, which East can ruff. This removed the threat card: CT.

Suppose West returned a heart instead of a club.

Then declarer could win the A, draw trumps, cash the diamonds and some trumps and come to this ending:

        -
        K9
        -
        T

-                -
QJ               xx
-                x
Q                -

        x
        xx
        -
        -

Now when declarer plays the last trump from hand, West is squeezed. If he throws a club, the CT becomes good, otherwise the heart 9 becomes good.

If West returns a club a trick three, he can hold onto his hearts and throw clubs, as there are no threats there.

2) Defending by attacking "L".

Here the defenders can hold up their trick to prevent declarer from rectifying the count.

A common example which is cited for this is the following:

South is playing 6NT.

        KQJ
        AKJ
        AKQx
        Qxx
xxx           Axxx
xx            xxxxx
JT98          xx
JT98          xx
        xxx
        Qxx
        xxx
        AKxx

Say West leads a spade and East should hold up. Declarer wins and play a spade. East should hold up again. Now if declarer plays another spade, East can cash two tricks. If declarer abandons spades, no matter what he does he cannot avoid losing two tricks.

If east takes either the first or second spade, declarer's count is rectified and West gets squeezed in the minors.

3) Defending against "U".

When both defenders can protect against a suit, they could potentially discard so that "U" is destroyed.

The below example is not exactly breaking "U", but shows how correct discarding can be important in making sure the right stopper lie over declarers threats, ensuring there is no victim!

       xxx
       Axx
       Kx
       9xxxx

xxx              x
87x              QJT9x
87xx             QJ9x
QJx              Txx

      AKQJxx
      Kx
      ATx
      AK

Playing Matchpoints, South the declarer chooses to bid 7NT (grand slam in NT), instead of the cold grand slam of 7S.

West leads the Diamond 8. Declarer wins the K in dummy and plays another D to hand, East playing the J, showing the Q, but denying the T.

Now South cashes the club AK and starts playing spades. On the second and third round of spades, East throws the HQ and the H9, showing that he has the JT.

West knows that if he throws a heart on the spade, then East will come under pressure, as he will then have to protect both diamonds and hearts.

So West holds onto the hearts (throwing 2 diamonds on the 4th and 5th spade, and the club Q on the last spade).

East throws away all those hearts, and holds onto the DQ and the CT.

So West protects hearts, and East protects Diamonds and clubs.

(Note: there might be a better play for declarer, but this hand is there only as an example of how the right discarding can prevent squeezes on the defense).

4) Defending againt "E".

This is considered the most difficult squeeze defense. Trying to attack declarer's timing, sometimes by knocking out the entries required.

Here is an example:

         AQxxxx
         x
         xxx
         xxx

KJT9x               x
xx                  xxxx
QJx                 xxxx
QJx                 ATxx
         x
         AKQJT9
         AKT
         Kxx

You are East. Declarer overbids to a small slam in hearts, after partner overcalled 1S. Partner leads the CQ.

You play too quickly without thinking to trick one and win the A of clubs (if you duck, you might be effecting a defense against "L"). But all is not lost.

You can still beat the contract, if you return a spade! right into dummy's AQ.

If you return anything else, partner will be squeezed in spades and diamonds.

Declarer can reach this end position:

         AQx
         -

         x

KJT                x
-                  -
Q                  xx
-                  x
         x
         9
         T
         x

Now when declarers plays the H9 (and will throw a club from dummy), west is squeezed. If he throws a spade, dummy becomes good. If not, the DT becomes good.

Playing a spade knocks out the entry to dummy and breaks up the squeeze, letting partner throw spades, and hold onto the diamond.

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I believe I knew about most of the individual elements of "blue," but never saw them as a unified whole. That's a very good, easy to remember acronym. And your point about attacking any given individual element is a good one also. –  Tom Au Aug 22 '11 at 23:06
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I started looking at this problem from a DECLARER's point of view, and will therefore start by addressing the last part of the question, about which sequences lead to squeezes.

My ears prick up when I hear someone make an overcall, particularly with a suit headed by broken honors, such as KJ or AQ (because I have the others). Then the overcaller probably has several other honors for the bid, and is a squeeze candidate.

The other squeeze sequence is when someone plays AK of a suit WITHOUT overcalling. This person's PARTNER likely has the remaining outstanding honors, because with AKxxx and a side honor, the AK holder. (probably) would have overcalled.

I will have a long suit, often in dummy (which has fewer high cards, so I'm headed back toward the hand). When dummy leads out the last card, someone often has a problem. (Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes not.)

I asked the question because having benefited from squeezes as declarer, I figure I'll be on the other side as defender some day. As to how to beat squeezes, I refer you to the excellent answer above, which I have accepted.

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The best defense against being squeezed by declarer is for your partnership, you AND your partner, to be as knowledgeable in advanced card-play techniques (not just squeezes proper) as possible; and to have a complete count of the hand before declarer does.. Only by understanding which technique declarer is attempting, and the requirements declarer needs for it to work, can you and your partner defend against it. But if declarer has already made the key decision before you knew it existed, you are too late to the party.

Will winning the trick now help declarer's plan, or hinder it? That depends entirely on what declarer's plan is. Does declarer have a choice between two conflicting double squeezes? Try to con him into making the wrong choice. Do you prevent rectifying the count by holding up, or hand declarer his overtrick? Only by being aware of declarer's choices, and having a complete count of the hand, can one defend strongly agsint these techniques.

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