Opening lead: jack of clubs
A safety play is a measure employed by declarer to guard against unfavourable distribution. The safety play sometimes costs declarer a trick he might not have had to lose, but if losing that trick ensures the contract, the player should do so willingly.
Take this deal where South wound up in six notrump after the auction shown. Declarer won West’s club lead with the ace, cashed the ace of spades and led a diamond to the queen. He then discarded his club loser on dummy’s king of spades and played a diamond to the ace.
If the diamonds had divided 3-2, South would have finished with all 13 tricks. But when West showed out on the second diamond lead, South had to go down one. He could do no better than continue diamonds, and East scored a diamond and a spade to set the slam.
Declarer’s line of play was clearly wrong. He should have realised that only a bad diamond division could defeat him, and should have sought a way to guard against that possibility.
Cashing the ace of spades at trick two was certainly correct, but when South next led a diamond and West followed low, he should have played dummy’s eight. True, the eight would have lost to the 10, but South would then have had 12 ironclad tricks.
More often than not, this safety play would cost declarer a trick. But the 30-point loss would have been a drop in the bucket compared with the loss of a slam. Playing the eight from dummy ensures the slam against either opponent holding four diamonds. The failure to exercise this elementary precaution cost South 1,540 points.
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