To endplay a defender in one suit, you usually need to eliminate exit cards and winners in the other suits. Two of these you know: (1) Lead the suit enough times to eliminate it from the defender's hand (example), and (2) squeeze the excess winners and exit cards from the defender's hand (example).
There is a third way. It doesn't receive much mention, though it occurs in bridge problems and at the table. (Discussion of frequency of occurrence) Suppose you are worried about the defender keeping an exit card (or winner) in clubs. You do not have enough winners to eliminate the suit by leading it. The defender has a control in the endplay suit, so you cannot squeeze out all of the defender's clubs.
However, you have the ace of clubs. If you don't play your ace of clubs, you can squeeze out all of the clubs except one from the defender's hand. Then you can play your ace, eliminating the last club. I say that you "trim" the last club from the defender's hand.
I call this the squeeze-trim-endplay.
There are two basic types of squeeze-trim-endplay. For whatever reason, the most frequent examples are when the throw-in suit and the endplay suit are the same. So I will start with that.
You are in the contract of 6NT. Lefty has opened the bidding with a weak two in hearts, warning you that heart honors are probably offside. How do you play this hand?
Ideally, you would like to cash all of your winners, except for hearts, so that the last three cards in your hand and dummy are hearts.
If Lefty has only hearts left, your contract is now assured. This is a standard endplay situation (explanation).
However, if Lefty has Kx of hearts and a small spade at the end, your contract is set. The small spade might be a winner, or it might even be an exit card to Righty's hand. Either way, it is your doom.
You can of course hope that Lefty started with only one spade. But there is more you can do. Suppose you cash all of your diamonds and clubs, coming down to:
What can Lefty save? If Lefty has two spades remaining, Lefty only has two hearts. Then you can directly attack hearts, playing ace and out a heart, to set up your long heart. If Lefty saved three hearts, then Lefty is down to only one spade. You play your A of spades, eliminating this spade from Lefty's hand. Then you are in just the position you want for your endplay -- Lefty has only 3 hearts remaining.
Note that if Lefty started with two (or more) spades, you could not squeeze them all out. But as long as you had control of spades, you had the threat of directly attacking hearts. That forced Lefty to hold onto the same number of hearts as you. And that meant you could squeeze out all of the excess spades from Lefty's hand.
There are several requirements for the squeeze-trim-endplay.
First, you have to have control in the suit you want to eliminate. In the above example, you had the A of spades.
Second, you need this play only when the defender has an unavoidable winner in the suit you want to run your endplay in. In the above example, it was unavoidable that Lefty would win one heart. That prevents you from simply squeezing out all of the exit cards.
Third, the defender gives up a trick in the threat suit if the defender does not save enough cards. For example, if Lefty saved only two hearts in the hand above, you could set up your heart trick just by leading the suit. As far as I know, this third requirement is always met -- if you have an endplay situation, your opponent gives up a trick by discarding too many cards in this suit.
Finally, there is the issue of the count. In the above example, when the squeeze-trim-endplay worked, you still lost one trick. So your loser count is two. As for all endplays, if your loser count is larger than this, you can squeeze out winners but not exit cards. (As discussed elsewhere, the loser count could be three if you were conceding two tricks in the throw-in suit.)
The squeeze-strip-endplay is like the standard strip squeeze in that you have to read your opponent's remaining distribution in order to know what to do.
However, in the standard strip squeeze, the defenders usually understand the value of their cards well enough that they will save their critical pitch for the last, and then they will save their minor tenace and bare their winner. So you just have to worry about a very clever defender trying to trick you.
In the squeeze-trim-endplay, the opponents are unlikely to understand the value of their cards well enough to save the cards of value until the end. Instead, they might make the key pitch earlier. And I do not know what they will save.
Of course, you also have to place the honors. In this sense it is again like the standard strip squeeze. I suspect there are many hands that could be played as squeeze-trim-endplays. However, with no warning that honors are offside, the hands are more easily played as simple finesses.
Perhaps the easiest way to spot the need for a squeeze-trim is if you see that you would be in good shape if an opponent had the same distribution as you at the end of the hand, and in trouble if that opponent saved a winner in a side suit.
By Any Other Name...
Don Kersey wrote about this type of play in the December, 1990 issue of Bridge World. He called it a "one-threat" squeeze. Notice how in the above example, declarer is threatening to win a trick in only one suit, hearts. In the squeeze portion of the squeeze-trim-endplay, the threat is the long card in the heart suit; then the heart suit honors gain a trick in the endplay.
However, the squeeze-trim method of eliminating side suits also works when there are two threat suits. (This is discussed elsewhere.) Also, Kersey called the one-suit squeeze the "quintessential" example of a one-threat squeeze, even though it has no trimming (and you are not squeezing cards from an exit suit).
Michael Courtney, in his book Play Cards with Tim Seres, called it a one-suit squeeze. This name typically refers to a very different type of squeeze.
Barry Rigal suggested the name "shave and a haircut". First you shave the defender down to your distribution, then cut out the exit cards by leading the suit. (To complete the rhyme, the defender finally pays two bits in the endplay).
Nigel Guthrie suggested the most pratical name -- a cosmetic squeeze. You are shaping defender's hand into the shape you want. Alas, the simple strip-squeeze also fits that description.
People can call this what they want. "Squeeze-trim-endplay" is an awkward name, but it is also very descriptive, so I will use it.
More to Come
The second essay discusses using trump as control in the squeeze-trim-endplay. The third essay discusses the two-threat squeeze-trim-endplay, and the final essay discusses other variations in the squeeze-trim-endplay.
Part 2: Trump as Control