Opening lead: queen of spades
There is considerable ambiguity attached to the term “safety play”. At times it might refer to a play by which declarer can avoid a potential loser in a suit simply by playing his cards in the correct order.
For example, if he has A-Q-9-3-2 and dummy has K-10-5-4, he can prevent the potential loss of a trick by cashing the ace first. If either defender turns up with J-8-7-6, declarer is then able to take the marked finesse against the jack. Observe that if declarer plays the king first, he loses a trick if his left-hand opponent started with four to the jack.
More often, though, a safety play is employed when declarer is willing to lose one trick in a suit, but not two. Thus, with A-10-9-3-2 facing K-8-5-4, he can lead the two and, if the next player follows low, play the eight. This guards against losing two tricks if his left-hand opponent started with Q-J-7-6, and also limits the loss to one trick if the player to his right started with Q-J-7-6.
Today’s hand illustrates the latter type of play. Declarer wins the spade lead, cashes the king of clubs and continues with a club. When West produces the eight, declarer finesses the nine.
He doesn’t expect the nine to win, but he takes the deep finesse because by doing so he guarantees the contract. If East produces the 10 or queen, South is sure of four club tricks, which is all he needs. As it happens, the safety play of the nine yields an unexpected overtrick. Without it, South goes down.
Ordinarily, with this combination declarer would finesse the jack — the most lucrative play in the long run — but here he opts for the safety play because the deep finesse guarantees making three notrump.
For details about local bridge events, go to the HK Contract Bridge Association website www.hkcba.org