Times Daily – 11 Sep 1999

A safety play is an effort by declarer to combat a potentially unfavorable distribution of the defenders’ cards, there are so many different kinds of safety plays that it is better to try to understand the theory behind them than to rely exclusively on memory or past experience.

East dealer. Neither side vulnerable.

Opening lead – queen of clubs.

Take this case where West leads the queen of clubs against three notrump, and East plays the king. South has no choice but to take this trick with the ace because he cannot run the risk of East shifting to a heart. This brings him to the critical play at trick two.

If declarer makes the mistake of playing the long of diamonds at this point expecting to score five diamond tricks, he goes down. As it happens, East has all four missing diamonds and now has a stopper in the suit. South still has a chance to make the contract if East has the ace of hearts, but, as the cards lie, the best he can do is to finish with eight tricks.

Before doing anything at trick two, declarer should first ask himself: ‘What can defeat me?» It shouldn’t take him long to realize that only a 4-0 diamond division can stop him from making the contract. His next step is to look for a way to combat the potential 4-0 division if it exists. Declarer notes that he cannot cope with for diamonds in the West hand regardless of how he broaches the suit, but that he can overcome four diamonds in East’s hand.

Accordingly, South leads the three of diamonds to the ace at trick two, exposing the 4-0 division. He then returns a diamond towards his hand. No matter how East chooses to thefend, his J1085 of diamonds are neutralized, and South easily makes the contract.