CLARIFYING NEGATIVE DOUBLES & DOUBLE SQUEEZE WITHOUT THE COUNT

Maritha Pottenger

Hi Everyone,

I'll be in Costa Mesa tomorrow and Sunday so you won't get any posts those two days. If squeezes scare you, skip Hand #6 and go to good Declarer play on Hand #2.

I've learned that when one of my partners is confused about bidding, often more than one is. So, let's clarify negative doubles versus free bids. When you make a negative double and then (after partner has bid something), bid one of the suits that you promised with your negative double, you are promising five or more cards in the suit. You are also showing a WEAKER hand than if you had simply bid your suit “freely” over whatever the opponent bid.

Examples: 1 by partner, 1 by RHO; X (double) by you, Pass; 1NT by partner, Pass, 2 by you. You have a weak hand—fewer than 10 HCP—because you did not bid 2 “freely” over 1. Your 2 bid is non-forcing and NOT encouraging. Similarly, 1 by partner, 2 by RHO, X; Pass; 2NT by partner; 3 by you is weak and non-forcing!

Hand #6

South: K52 A5 AK764 A42

North: KJ109873 862 KJ5

Partner (South) opens 1. RHO bids 2. You bid 4. In modern bidding, the principle of “fast arrival” applies, so 4 by you is weaker than bidding 3 (freely) and then bidding 4, but not as weak as making a negative double and bidding hearts over partner's rebid. 4 basically says, “I am hoping to make game opposite your opening hand. I have a long suit, but not much else.” Partner with his fabulous controls (even with the wasted the K), bid 6.

The lead was the Q.

This is not a wonderful slam. You need to find hearts 2-2 or a singleton Q. And you must also hope that diamonds divide 3-2; otherwise you'll be relying on the club finesse or a squeeze. You don't have enough entries to ruff out the diamonds and set up the fifth diamond on Dummy if diamonds are 4-1. So, after ruffing the spade lead, you play the J (fishing expedition) from your hand, which is covered by the Q (big sigh of relief!). You win the A and low heart to K. Both opponents follow, so hearts were 2-2 and LHO covered the Q from Qx—a no-no in the opponent's trump suit—defender has nothing to promote. Now you try two top diamonds, but the spade preemptor shows out on the second round, discarding a spade. You give up a diamond to LHO who returns another spade which you ruff.

Finessaholics will now try the club finesse, but that is wrong! Dummy's K is a threat against RHO, Dummy's fourth and fifth diamonds are threats against LHO. In the technical language of squeezes these threats are termed menaces; against the defensive guards. You have all the makings of a “squeeze without the count.” LHO will have to keep her high diamond or a diamond on Dummy will be good. RHO will have to keep his A or the K on Dummy will be good. Neither will be able to keep three clubs. So, reel off the last three trump from your hand. On the first two, you will discard ONE diamond and a low club from dummy, reaching this position with the lead in hand.

On the final trump, LHO must keep her diamond guard and come down to two clubs. Discard Dummy's last diamond which has served its purpose. On your right, the preemptor must keep his spade guard, so he must also come down to two clubs. Your J will be your twelfth trick.

This called a squeeze without the count because you didn't have to count the clubs—just keep track of whether either opponent releases the high diamond or high spade.

Technical note: “squeeze without the count” actually has two meanings. One is the meaning above. The other refers to how many tricks you lose before pulling off the squeeze. Normally you lose some trick(s)—here the third round of diamonds—in order to tighten up the position for the squeeze to operate properly, a process called rectifying the count. Sometimes this is rectification impossible without going down but an advanced squeeze can still operate. Such a case is also called a “squeeze without the count”.

Finally, this is not a true double squeeze because only one opponent can guard the J even though you do not know which one it is. So this is actually a simple squeeze against one opponent. Omar Sharif has a similar hand in his book Omar Sharif Talks Bridge and says the technical name for the play is “single squeeze played as a double squeeze.” If the J is replaced by a smaller card, it will be a true double squeeze, barring the case where one defenders has all the higher clubs.

Hand #2

North: 52 KQ1095 Q962 32

South: A104 AJ7 A3 K8764

Ray Sachs played this hands well in 2 to make maximum tricks. A heart was led. He took it in his hand (South) and recognized that he needed to ruff at least one diamond in the short trump hand (his hand in a transfer sequence) before pulling trumps. He led the A and a low diamond. LHO rose with the K and returned a diamond. Ray played Dummy's 9 (covered by J) and ruffed in hand with his A. This unblocking play allowed him to overtake the J on Dummy and pull the last trump. A low club toward his K fetched the A. He still had one spade to lose, but made 10 tricks for a good board. (You don't want to bid a game that requires BOTH key cards—A and the K—to be in the right spot. That's only a 25% shot. However, you do want to play for the maximum at matchpoints.