I rarely write about a simple squeeze because, to a majority of bridge players, it isn't simple and, to the rest, it can be simply boring. However, because the squeeze is a rather uncommon way of manufacturing an extra trick, the first squeeze any player executes is bound to bestow a milestone thrill.

The first recognized squeeze play probably came about when some hard giver-upper with one "sure" loser reeled off his good tricks and achieved a hoped-for "mistake" from an opponent. Then the defender, accused of being stupid, suggested that his partner show him what he could have discarded that would have saved a trick.

Studying the phenomenon, experts discovered that to operate a squeeze, the squeezer usually had to have all but one of the remaining tricks. In fact, in many hands the technique demands that a player give up one or two tricks early in the play to set up a position where all but one of the remaining tricks can be won. However, the vast majority of squeezes still happen automatically; the declarer accidentally achieves a squeeze position in the course of following some other plan. That is how South achieved his maiden squeeze in this deal.

South's seven-card, solid suit justified opening the bidding on a hand that lacked outside strength. His later jump to five diamonds may appear daring, but South had given careful ear to the auction. A three-club rebid by North at his second turn would have been forcing; since he jumped to four, South read him for a tolerance for diamonds and a shortage in spades. South wanted North to have no worries about the solidity of the trump suit.

East won the spade opening and shifted to a trump. With any other return, South would have had no difficulty in trumping two spade losers in dummy and dumping a spade and a heart on the two top clubs. Unable to ruff more than one spade loser, South had to find another plan for developing a 12th trick. He won the diamond lead with dummy's 10, cashed the top clubs, discarding a spade and a heart, and ruffed a third club lead in his hand. Next he trumped a spade in dummy and led a fourth club. East failed to follow and declarer's hope of setting up the fifth club was blighted. South ruffed the club and ran off all his diamonds.

On the second and third round of trumps, it seemed to West that his safest discards would be spades. On the next trump, he parted with a heart. And on the final trump, he let go another heart to avoid establishing dummy's last club. Declarer then let go dummy's useless club, coming down to the ace-10 of hearts, and now something happened to East. In order to cover dummy's 10 of hearts, he had to let go his last spade. South's 8 of spades was suddenly a trick.

Automatic, did I say? Well, not exactly. First, South had to hold a spade and a heart, rather than two hearts. But, more important, South did not really have a squeeze if the defenders had played correctly. Had West looked ahead before making his early discards, he could have foreseen that he would not be able to guard both the heart and club suits. But he could guard the club and spade suits, freeing his partner to hold onto the hearts. By holding the two black queens as his last two cards, West would have broken the squeeze.


South Dealer





Opening lead: 3 of spades