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The Independent Online
"It seemed right to make the safety-play in trumps," muttered an embarrassed declarer after going down in 4! on this deal. "Safety-play? What safety play?" queried his incredulous partner.

Playing five-card majors, South opened 1! and went on to game after his partner's raise to 3!. With sight of all four hands, you can see that 3NT would also have been a peaceful spot, but surely nothing can go wrong with Four Hearts?

West led the 2Q and declarer took stock. He was bound to lose a spade and a diamond. It all depended on restricting his heart losers to one. He needed a 3-2 break and a successful finesse, but he saw a way to improve his chances. After winning the first trick, he started trumps by cashing the ace.

You can follow the argument: if the trumps were 3-2 with the king right, nothing would have been lost when a second trump was led from dummy, and this way he catered for the possibility of West's holding the singleton king.

All would have been well if East had not introduced a neat diversion. On the lead of the !A, he dropped the jack, which introduced a new possibility: if the jack was singleton, dummy's eight would have to be finessed to cater for West's remaining holding of K94. Equally, the finesse of the eight would cost nothing if East had started with KJ alone. In practice, the finesse led to two trump losers and an irate partner.

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