squeeze play

Squeeze play (bridge)

A squeeze play (or simply squeeze) is a play in contract bridge and other trick-taking games in which the play of a card (the squeeze card) forces an opponent to discard a card that gives up a trick (or more). The squeeze card is often, but not always, a winner. The discarded card may be either a winner or a card needed to protect the victim's strategic position. Squeezes most often occur late in the hand.

Although squeezes have been analyzed in greatest depth and variety in contract bridge, they were discovered and first described in whist.

Squeezes operate on the principle that declarer's hand and dummy's hand can together hold more cards with the potential to take extra tricks than a single defender's hand can protect against (or cover). Less frequently, two defenders can cooperate to squeeze declarer or dummy on the same principle.

Most of the common types of squeeze require all the following conditions:

  • Declarer (together with dummy) has enough winners to take all the remaining tricks except for the extra trick(s) that will be gained from the squeeze. In other words, declarer has already lost all the tricks he plans to lose (the count is rectified).
  • In at least two suits, declarer and dummy have threat cards or menaces that are not immediate winners, but threaten to become winners;
  • At least one of the menaces is positioned after a squeezed defender (squeezee).
  • The declarer has sufficient entries (winners serving as communication between his hand and dummy) to cash the menaces if they develop into winners.
  • The squeezed defender(s) must hold only busy cards that are covering a menace, with no idle cards that can safely be discarded.

These concepts are illustrated in the following example of a simple squeeze:

South leads the A, and West is squeezed in hearts and spades. If he discards the A, North's K becomes a winner. If he discards either spade, North's J becomes a winner.

Note the following features of this position:

  • The count is rectified. Three cards remain, and declarer has two immediate winners (the A and A) plus one winner that will be established by the squeeze (either the K or the J).
  • The K and the J are the menaces.
  • Both menaces are positioned after the squeezee (West).
  • The A is an entry to the promoted menace card.
  • West has no idle cards.

This is a positional squeeze, because if West's cards are transferred to East, the squeeze fails. Now 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 (provided West still has a heart higher than South's 6). If the J is discarded, East can safely discard a spade.


Squeezes often require declarer to know the location of specific high cards or the number of cards a defender holds in a particular suit, in order to know what cards the squeezee will be forced to play. The following example illustrates this:

The presence of the diamond loser means that when South cashes the A, West is not squeezed as in the previous example. He can safely discard his idle 7. However, when South next plays the 3, West is squeezed again. East wins the Q, but must lead to dummy's winners.

In this case declarer must know East's club length. If East's 32 are replaced by the 32, then when he wins the Q he will take the rest of the tricks. In that case, the right play is to lose the Q immediately, before taking the A, in order to rectify the count. Now East is forced to lead a club, and West is squeezed as before.

But with East's hand as shown in the diagram, losing the Q first does not work. East can return a spade, and declarer will score only the A. Not only does the squeeze position disappear, but there is no entry to cash the A.


Classification

There are several ways to classify squeezes:

  • According to which opponent can be squeezed:
    • In a positional squeeze, only one opponent can be squeezed.
    • In an automatic squeeze, either opponent can be squeezed.
  • According to number of opponents squeezed:
    • In a single squeeze, only one opponent is squeezed.
    • In a double squeeze, both opponents are squeezed.
  • According to number of suits involved:
    • In a two-suit squeeze, there are menaces in two suits.
    • In a three-suit squeeze, there are menaces in three suits.
    • The peculiar and rare single-suit squeeze is actually a type of endplay rather than a real squeeze.
  • According to what is gained:
    • In a material squeeze, the opponents are forced to give up a trick directly.
    • In a non-material squeeze, the opponents are forced to give up strategic position. For example, an opponent can be squeezed out of an exit card or a card that disturbs declarer's entries. An extra trick, however, may materialize later.
  • According to the count rectification:
    • In a squeezes with the count, the count is rectified before the squeeze card is played, and declarer will lose no more tricks. These are typically material squeezes.
    • In a squeeze without the count, the count is not yet rectified. These are typically non-material squeezes, often with a throw-in in the end position.

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

Type of Squeeze Positional/Automatic Opponents Suits 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 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 No No
Strip squeeze Positional Single 1 Yes No
Backwash squeeze Positional Single 2 Yes Yes
Cannibal 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
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

Further reading

  • Clyde E. Love, Bridge Squeezes Complete
  • Terence Reese, Master Play in Contract Bridge
  • Hugh Kelsey and Geza Ottlik, Adventures in Card Play
  • David Bird, Bridge Squeezes for Everyone
  • Peter Thoma, The Art of Bridge Squeezes
  • Hugh Kelsey, Kelsey on Squeeze Play (Master Bridge)
  • Fook H. Eng, Bridge Squeezes Illustrated
  • Norman Squire, Contract Bridge, Squeeze Play Simplified
  • Frank Schuld, The Simple Squeeze in Bridge - New and Revised
  • Chien-Hwa Wang, The Squeeze at Bridge
  • George Coffin, Endplays in Bridge: Eliminations, Squeezes and Coups

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