Erma Bombeck said, “When my kids become wild and unruly, I use a nice, safe playpen. When they’re finished, I climb out.”

Last month, my wife and I were playing bridge with friends. The husband told me that he did not understand safety plays and asked if I would explain them to him.

In isolation, it is not such a tough subject. You find a line of play in a single suit that assures a certain number of tricks regardless of how the missing cards are distributed. I showed my friend the club suit in today’s diagram.

How would you play in six no-trump after West leads the spade 10? Would your line change if you were in seven no-trump?

South has 11 top tricks: three spades, three hearts, three diamonds and two clubs. In six no-trump, he must get a third club trick -- and there is a safety play that guarantees that regardless of the opposing distribution.

Declarer leads low from the board and puts up his king. (Yes, here, he could finesse the jack, but not if West had a singleton queen.) Then South leads low back toward the board and covers West’s card as cheaply as possible. If East can take the trick, the suit is splitting 3-2. Here, though, dummy’s nine wins. Finally, if West discards on the second round, declarer puts up dummy’s ace and leads back toward his jack.

In seven no-trump, you should play low to the jack on the first round. Do not start with dummy’s ace, because that costs when East has a singleton queen; and you cannot win if West has a stiff queen.

— Phillip Alder,

NEA Bridge

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