I had an unlucky experience at rubber bridge recently when an opponent missed an elegant safety play that would have ensured his contract. "How could that possibly be regarded as unlucky?" you may well ask.

North-South had a part score of 40 when West dealt at game all. After two passes, I opened One Diamond with the East cards, South doubled, and West raised to Two Diamonds. When this came round to South, he bid Two Hearts, rather than double again, as most players would.

My partner led the five of diamonds against Two Hearts and the defence was off to the best start when we continued the suit. South ruffed the third round (he would have done better to discard a spade) and played two top trumps, dropping West's jack. Abandoning trumps, declarer next tried his three top clubs. I was able to ruff the third and lead my lst trump to hold South to only seven tricks.

What had South missed? After cashing just two top clubs, he should lead a low one! What can happen? If I discard and West leads a spade, South can win and ruff his queen of clubs with dummy's ten of hearts. And if I ruff my partner's winner and return a trump, South enjoys a trick with the queen of clubs.

Why was it unlucky to collect 100 points instead of losing a small rubber? On the very next deal, our opponents bid and made a slam to win a large rubber!