A safety play is usually one which caters for a bad break, perhaps by taking a deep finesse in the trump suit. Sometimes the safety play gives up an unnecessary trick, and is an attempt to ensure the contract while reducing the chances of an overtrick. Such plays are more suited to a team game, but occasionally we see a worthwhile safety play at matchpoints also.
Related Play Problems Play Problem 86
Related Extracts from Past Wednesday Games
It seems likely that most pairs will get to 6♠ one way or another. In the auction above, 3♦ was ostensibly a game try, which South rightly rejected, but when that was followed up with 4♣ it was clear that North was trying for slam. South still had the same rotten hand, of course, but felt obliged to show her ♥A and that was enough for North to bid 6♠.
This slam would be better played from the South side, protecting the Heart holding. With North as Declarer, if East finds an opening Heart lead, the contract requires the onside ♥K plus only one trump loser. Yes, indeed, itís the trump situation which is the key to the hand. Declarer could just play the two top Spades and hope for a 3-2 break, but itís a better percentage to play one high Spade and then to finesse on the second round if second-hand plays low, a safety play against a 4-1 break with QJxx. This safety play costs nothing if the trumps were 3-2 all the time.
But itís a complete guess which way to take the safety play, thereís no obvious reason why one particular defender is more likely to have the QJxx holding. Anyway, well done those Declarers who took the trump safety play, and really well done if you guessed to take it the right way!
Once South has passed in first seat it seems unlikely that N-S will reach the good 6♠ contract. In the auction above, South used Drury, and North could not visualize slam opposite a passed hand and simply went to game. But should South pass that hand in first seat? Maybe not! Itís only 19 on the Rule of 20 scale, but the hand has some plusses, namely those two lovely Aces and a singleton. This is a better collection than many hands which do pass the Rule of 20, and in our opinion it is worth an opening bid. (hopefully that opinion is not colored by the knowledge that slam makes). If South does open then North will no doubt charge into 6♠.
Against 6♠, letís say that East finds a Heart lead. Dummyís Ace wins the trick, the Diamonds are cashed (Dummy pitching Hearts, of course), and now Declarer must play trumps for one loser. Two ways not to play the suit:
- Run the ♠Q around, losing only one trick when West has KJx (but losing two if East has KJx)
- Cash the ♠A first, protecting against East having KJx (but losing two if West has KJx)
But the right way to play the suit, holding the losers to one in both cases, is to lead low from Dummy, planning to insert the Ten if West plays low. True, this blows an overtrick when East has the singleton King, but that is a reasonable price to pay for safety, considering that many (maybe most) N-S pairs will not get to slam.
Against 3♥ North leads the J♠ which is ducked around to Declarerís King. Declarer leads to the K♥ which holds, then comes back to the A♦ and leads Hearts again. This time North jumps up with the Ace and leads another Spade, won by South. Spades are continued, Declarer ruffs high, and draws the last trump. Later, heíll play on Diamonds by leading towards the Dummy and inserting the Ten if North fails to split her honors. This safety play guarantees just one Diamond loser. The end result will be 9 tricks, Declarer losing one in each suit.
The auction is straightforward enough, and against 4♥ North will lead a minor suit:
- If North leads a Club, Dummyís Ace wins the trick and now the A♥ is cashed. When both defenders follow low, Declarer can afford the safety play in Hearts, ducking the second round in case South started QJxx. This is a safety play which can save a trick but cannot cost. Later in the play, Declarer loses the Spade finesse, but the Spades provide two pitches for the Diamonds, and 11 tricks are made without the need for the Diamond finesse.
- If North leads a Diamond, things are more complicated. Suppose that Dummy plays low and the Ten forces the Ace. Now the trump safety play is less attractive, the danger being that North wins the trick and continues Diamonds Ö if South has the Q♦ it wonít be possible to get rid of Declarerís Diamond losers in time. With that in mind, Declarer might skip the safety play altogether, or might try taking the Spade finesse at Trick Two, losing a trick to South at a time that she cannot attack Diamonds.
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