To any player with even the smallest sadistic streak, squeezing your opponents is hugely satisfying. But there’s something even more enjoyable: pseudo-squeezing them. With a genuine squeeze, you make them squirm, but they can console themselves afterwards that there was nothing they could have done. That’s no fun. With a pseudo-squeeze, you get to see them squirm and kick themselves when they realise they’ve been duped. On this recent deal, the UK star Gopal Venkatesh was hoodwinked by Bulgaria’s Valio Kovachev:
[*2♠ was a game try; 2NT a relay; 3♣ asked for help in clubs] Venkatesh (West) led the ♥9. Even with the ♥K onside, Kovachev had only nine tricks: two spades, five hearts, a diamond and a club. He could lead a diamond, hoping to find East with ♦Ax, but he had a hunch West held the ♦K, based on his failure to lead the suit. Kovachev decided his best hope was to paint a false picture of his hand. He put up dummy’s ♥Q, which held. Trying to create the impression he needed a club ruff, he played a club to the ten. West won and played a second heart, to declarer’s ten. The ♣9 went to dummy’s ♣J, and East won and returned the ♥K to declarer’s ♥A, West discarding a club.
On the next trump, West parted with the ♦5, declarer pitched the ♦2 from dummy, and East the ♣6. On the last trump, West, imagining declarer held ♠Ax, discarded the ♦10. Now declarer could knock out the ♦A and score three diamonds tricks to bring home the contract.
Kovachev had stranded his winning ♣K in dummy, but gained two extra tricks in the process.