Double Squeeze at 1NT?
Squeezes. The tactic that separates the men from the boys (and women from the girls!). New bridge players give blank looks when squeezes come up in discussion, while bridge experts will nod knowingly and offer comments like “there is a squeeze on 1 out of every 6 deals”. Anyone can finesse, but where is the artistry in that?
Even though I frequently find squeezes, I still get excited every time I pull one off. Last Saturday playing with my girlfriend we had an okay set. But who cares? I pulled off a squeeze on the 2nd board in 3NT to make the contract. One thing I haven’t done too often, however, is pull off a double squeeze in a 1 NT contract. I used to think it was because I lacked imagination, I lacked ability, or was only able to find squeezes when they held up neon signs saying “THERE MIGHT BE A SQUEEZE HERE”. A few weeks ago, however, I did pull off a double squeeze in a 1 NT contract and I think its driven home the WHY of why I find so few complex squeezes in low level contracts.
After 1♣ – 1♠ – 1 NT (opps silent) I found myself in 1NT with LHO leading the 8♦ .
I loved the lead! Now I had 7 tricks almost for sure with plenty of chances for 8. RHO played the T and I won with the K and returned the 9. Eat won that with the A and returned a small club. Well, clubs probably aren’t breaking but maybe the A will be onside. West beat my club K with the A and returned a small heart. Usually I love it when opponents switch suits constantly but without any useful spots.. I wasn’t enjoying it this time. I played the Q of hearts which RHO beat with the A to return another small club. I ducked this one to west who won with the T. At this point, I assumed another heart was coming which I wouldn’t like terribly much. However, W switched back to diamonds! Now I found myself on lead as declarer in a very unusual situation for 1NT: I was on lead with control in every suit but no real suit to set up or finesse to take. Here is a picture of the hand at this point:
With no clear drive to set up a long trick somewhere, I decided the best play would be ducking a spade. I did and E won with the 9. Now they exited a club! This was exactly what I was hoping for as it set up a nice squeeze if the layout was as I imagined (with lots of clues that it probably was). I won the K of clubs (west pitching a small heart), and crossed to the A of spades. Now here was the layout:
Aka a pretty standard double squeeze situation. On the play of the K of spades, everyone followed while I pitched a heart. On the J of diamonds, E had to pitch a heart to guard clubs, I pitched a club, and W had to pitch a heart to guard spades. The heart to the K pulled the last hearts, and the 8 of hearts took the last trick for the precious “matchpoint” 8th trick.
The thing is, I don’t think I did anything brilliant on this deal. Instead, I got a LOT of help from opponents who let me set up the end position to make the double squeeze happen. I got: a passive diamond lead from someone afraid to lead from J9xx. I had an LHO exit passively in a diamond again even though I was marked (imo) to not have the T of hearts (maybe playing their partner for 4 diamonds though?). I also had RHO exit with a club near the end which let the squeeze actually manifest. Had they exited with a spade or heart the squeeze doesn’t work. With a spade, the squeeze dies immediately whereas with a heart I lose transportation. So I guess what this deal showed me is that I don’t suck for not finding double squeezes and such at low level contracts all the time, but that opportunity at low levels is rare. There is a reason everyone uses 6NT and 3NT examples for books etc, and that is because they are a LOT easier to set up and a lot more common 😛 Now the WHY of it makes sense on why low level squeezes are harder to pull off – the opponents will usually have a lot more opportunity to mess with your plans. However, actually pulling one off and then examining how much help I had on the way really reinforced that lesson.
p.s. I’m not sure why the hand diagrams are so friggin huge. Will try to reduce that as soon as I figure out how ;P