N-S vulnerable

NORTH

{spade} K Q J 4

{heart} A 4

{diam} 7 4 3 2

{club} 9 4 3

WEST (D)

{spade} 8 6

{heart} Q J 10 7 6 3 2

{diam} 8

{club} 8 7 5

EAST

{spade} A 10 9 7

{heart} 9 8

{diam} J 10 9 6

{club} J 6 2

SOUTH

{spade} 5 3 2

{heart} K 5

{diam} A K Q 5

{club} A K Q 10

The bidding: WestNorthEastSouth3 {heart} PassPassDblPass 4 {spade} Pass 4 NTPass 5 {diam} Pass 6 NTAll Pass Opening lead: {heart} Q

Areader's e-mail asks about a term that sounds as if it should come with a technical manual: "rectifying the count."

In a "squeeze," a player (usually a defender) must discard and will give up at least one trick whatever he does. To execute most squeezes, declarer must be one trick short of his goal. If the contract is 3NT, he must have eight winners and must have lost four tricks. (Some complex squeezes operate before declarer has lost his losers; others may gain two or three tricks.)

So a successful squeeze may require declarer to lose tricks on purpose. We say he "rectifies the count." To thwart an impending squeeze, a defender may refuse a trick he could win.

North-South overcome West's preempt to reach 6NT. South wins the first heart with the king and leads a spade to dummy's king.

Suppose East takes the ace, knowing he controls the fourth round of spades, and returns a heart. South wins and takes the A-K of diamonds. When West discards, South cashes four club tricks, pitching a diamond from dummy. East is squeezed: Whether he throws a diamond or a spade, South gets his 12th trick.

Now let East refuse the first spade. South will return to his hand and lead a second spade to the queen, and East ducks again -- and ruins the squeeze. If South cashes his clubs next, East safely throws his last heart. If South then leads a heart to the ace, East can throw a spade. Either way, East is sure of two tricks.

(c)2004, Tribune Media Services