Most common safety plays are well known and within the arsenal of the majority of good players. Occasions arrive, however, when a modicum of originality is required. That is, the goal of the safety play may be not simply to maximize trick-taking potential, but more critically, to limit exposure to an attack from the wrong defender.
Consider this deal:
' 8 7 3
'* K J 9 2
'¶ 7 5 4
'£ Q J 4
'* A 7 6 5 4
'¶ K 6 2
'£ A K 8 6
South arrives at a contract of four hearts with no adverse bidding. West leads with the queen of spades.
When the deal arose in a tournament, declarer perceived immediately where the danger lurked and knew the right way to play trumps. A two-two break was possible, of course (which would lead to an overtrick since a diamond loser could be discarded in due course on dummy's fourth-round club winner). And, naturally, it could not be right to finesse trumps into East, who would then undoubtedly shift to diamonds, endangering the success of the contract. If West held the guarded queen of hearts he was welcome to score a trick with it since East would then never gain the lead to push through a diamond, so South cashed the ace of hearts at trick two and continued with a heart to the king.
After following suit with the 10 of hearts, however, West showed out on the second round, marking East with a trump winner. South then fell back on the secondary option of taking the club suit winners.
It turned out that West held:
' Q J 10 5
'¶ A Q 9 3
'£ 10 7 5 3
East ruffed the third round of clubs, and on the obvious switch to the jack of diamonds, the defenders captured three tricks in that suit to defeat the contract.
South was unlucky, but he failed to offer himself the extra chance for safety. Once he had decided not to finesse into the East hand there was no reason to start trumps by cashing the ace. If he begins with a low heart from his hand at trick two, the appearance of the 10 from West permits a perfect safety play. South wins in dummy with the king and runs the jack!
As the cards lie, that brings in an overtrick, but even if West holds the queen, the defenders can only score three tricks at most. A triumph for improvisation.