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Squeeze and hold-up play, your new friends

 

Find out here the english version of the new article of Adrien Rahier (French version available here)

PREAMBLE

In the January article, I explained to you how to “count a hand” to shine in society. Today I am back with two new manoeuvres: squeeze and hold-up play. But let’s start with basic rules if you are new to the game:

  • Bridge is played with four players sitting at a table. The players across from each other form two partnerships.
  • A bridge game consists of several units called “deals”. On each deal, you play a contract. The contract means that one pair has contracted to make a certain number of tricks. If you take more tricks, then good for you, you will get extra points. If you are not able to take the number of tricks agreed, the contract “fails”.
  • In bridge, each player has a hand consisting of 13 cards. The card order is Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10, 9, etc. However, unlike other games such as belote or coinche, what matters here is only the number of tricks taken, not the number of total points. Following this reasoning, you understand that taking a trick with an Ace or a 4 means the same result.
  • Once there is a final contract, the game starts and one of your opponents leads. Then your partner places his hand face up on the table. During the rest of the game, the other three players will see his hand and he remains inactive. And you as his partner will tell him which card to play on each round.
  • The players play in turn in clockwise rotation. The one who takes the trick starts the next trick.

 

THE DEAL

As in the previous article, the contract you play here is 6NT. So you must take at least 12 tricks out of 13. In other words, you can lose only 1 trick.

Your LHO leads a small diamond. How do you intend to make this contract?

Let’s try to anticipate what comes next and count our sure tricks:

  • 4 in spades.
  • 3 in hearts.
  • 2 in diamonds.
  • 2 in clubs.

4+3+2+2 make 11, so you now have to find a trick somewhere.

THEORY

Let’s have a look at the clubs (7 together with your partner). As there are 13 tricks in total, if they split 3-3 in opponents’ hands, you will take the fourth trick with the 4.

Before rushing to play in that suit, let’s take a few moments to think. Indeed, it is tempting to play the club Ace and King followed by a small club. It works very well if they split 3-3. But, if they split 4-2, you will quickly become disillusioned.

 

Here you notice that the LHO will quietly play the 5 and 7 on the first two rounds and will establish the Jack and Queen on the third one. In other words, your contract is “dead”. Game over.

So to be ready for every eventuality, you will use a manoeuvre that is a bit special: hold-up play.

 

Instead of shooting with a real bullet (i.e. playing a high card ensuring the trick), you shoot with a blank bullet (i.e. a small card that will be taken). The aim is to force the opponents to discard slightly stronger cards.

Play the club Ace first. Then play a small card from your hand. Instead of playing the King from your partner’s hand, play small! One of the opponents will take the trick. No panic, though. It will remain possible to take the third club trick once you get back to hand.

 

PRACTICE

As agreed, you thus play the club Ace followed by a small club taken by RHO’s 10 who then plays diamonds. After taking the trick with the diamond King, you take a third trick in clubs… And here comes the drama. The RHO discards on the third round. Indeed, these damn clubs split 4-2 (well, I had kind of spoiled the surprise when mentioning hold-up play).

Current position:

I do not hide from you the fact that I smell trouble. At first sight, it is hard to see how not to lose a heart.

Since it seems that it is no longer possible to take club and diamond tricks, although it pains you to do this, you will run your spade and heart suits. However, keep an eye on the LHO, the one who holds the last club. He produces two spade cards, then he discards a diamond and a heart.

 

Position after running the spade suit:

 

Now you play all your hearts… And by some miracle the heart 3 is a master card on the last round! What the hell happened?

 

KING-SIZE SQUEEZE

To understand the situation, let’s go back a few moments ago when you played the last spade. The full hand is:

 

Your LHO is then in a very uncomfortable situation! Either he discards the club Queen and you hasten to take the last trick in that suit with the 9 or he discards a heart. In doing so, he allows you to take four heart tricks! Here is a perfect illustration of what a squeeze is: one or two opponents are in a situation where they can’t keep two suits without giving a trick away. The full deal is:

 

CONCLUSION

The squeeze is probably one of the most impressive coups in bridge. It requires a good sense of anticipation, an excellent sense of observation and a healthy dose of luck too (the squeeze above works only because the LHO has indeed 4 hearts and 4 clubs).

Squeeze preparation, allegory

To write this article, I took my inspiration from a deal that I have played on Funbridge. The only difference is in diamonds: to simplify things, I have replaced the Queen by a King in my partner’s hand. Here is the full deal with the famous hold-up play and squeeze.

 

COMMENTARY ON THE DEAL FROM FUNBRIDGE:

You will notice that the diamond lead helps me a lot. Without it, it would have indeed been hard for me to take two tricks in that suit. Then when the opponents regain the lead after the hold-up play in clubs, the RHO underplays his King. Rather than playing the Ace, I could have also tried to win with the Queen.