Andre Asbury

When Should I Take a Safety Play?

Although I do have a preference for matchpoints and consider my overall style better suited for that type of game, safety plays are among my favorite kind of declarer plays. In today’s hand, there are a couple of subtle options. South is in 4 after an uncontested auction and west leads the Q.


You might be able to make it on some sort of strip and endplay but you don’t know enough about the distribution and that’s not really a possibility to consider. The only real way to make 5 is to draw trumps, play ace of spades and take a spade finesse. This line will make 5 when spades are 3-3 with the Q onside, an 18% chance. It will make only 3 when the suit is 4-2 and the Q is off (24%) or when RHO has 5 or 6 spades with the Q (7%). Combined, this is a 31% chance you’ll go down with this line, and you’ll make 4 51% of the time: 3-3 w/ Q off (18%), 4-2 w/ Q on (24%), 5 or 6 spades w LHO or stiff Q with RHO (9%). That means on average, you’ll make 3.87.

Let us consider another line of play, a line that is only available on a non-club lead, for a club lead would cut out an entry to dummy. What are the percentages of playing the K and A of spades first and then leading low towards the jack? This will never get 4 spade tricks because if the Q falls, the suit cannot split 3-3, so it essentially gives up the chance of an overtrick, but does it fact make the contract more likely to succeed. This line will make 4 77% of the time: any 3-3 split (36%), any other time the Q is onside (32%), Q or QX offside (9%). You will go down 23% of the time: RHO with at least 4 spades including the Q. On average this makes 3.77 tricks, slightly worse then the previous line.

In other words, playing the AK first wins an extra trick (and makes the contract when the other way goes down) when east has Qx of spades (8%), and the finesse wins an overtrick when west has Qxx (16%).

So, how do you decide what line of play to take? In a matchpoint game? In imps? In matchpoints, you should consider how likely the field is to be in the same contract. In this case 4 seems to be an easy and normal contract to reach so you probably should try for the maximum number of tricks. In an average game, the field will take the straight up finesse and the matchpoints to be won by taking the safety play when it wins should be about equal to the matchpoints lost when it loses, relative to the straight finesse. If you decide that a significant portion of the field will be in a partscore or in 3NT making only 3, you would be even more concerned with making the contract for just making would already be a good score.

In imps, it’s a little different. You don’t care so much about the 1 imp you could win by making an overtrick but you care about not losing the 10 or 12 imps (Depending on vulnerability) when you go down and they make at the other table. If the probability of making an overtrick is 10 or 12 times as big as the potential gain from a safety play, then it’s an even chance, but this time the ratio is 2:1. By taking the safety play as opposed to the normal finesse at the other table, you’ll push the board 76% of the time, win 1 imp 16% of the time, and lose 10 or 12 imps 8% of the time, so in this form of scoring, it’s clear to take the safety play.


FrankJune 19th, 2010 at 6:08 am

When you consider that some will play 3nt at matchpoints, and go down one, the safety is preferred at matchpoints too.

MichelleDecember 19th, 2015 at 6:16 pm

we might not buy Dr. Reddy medicines in China but it is very well plsbisoe that your foreign branded pills come from an Indian factory or a factory bought by Indians and produced by one of the OEM generics outfits. The question is how much is that about being brilliant and how much because you have good international financing in place. The Chinese can not do the same takeovers, both managerial and due to currency restrictions financially, that look so easy for Indians. For Indian companies looking to expand globally in certain niche markets this is the beginning of the golden age. Although Indian companies are going global let’s not forget the success of the Chinese companies. Staying with aluminium. Chalco just bought a 13 billion USD stake in Rio Tinto so it is certainly not all Mittal, Jindall and Tata that rules. As a matter of fact I think the Chinese are going to be rather succesful in buying global mineral deposits. Check what is happening in Africa.Just take it as it is. Two large countries, each with their own level of high and low tech industries, each with their own export and internal consumer markets. Each with their own deplorable living and working conditions for the poor. Communist or democratic does not seem to be making a big difference in that respect. If you are poor the only thing to sell after your children and kidney is your vote and unfortunately that has not been of a great help in India and the poor in the inland provinces of China are still having to deal with what they have always been dealing with: staying alive and hoping for a bit of advancement.Each country will be trying to eat away the others market share in the global economy. Government long term vision will certainly play a role in both India and China in which one side might focus on processing more and the other shows great concern of getting the raw meterials as well. The rest is al in the spirit of free enterprise. More brands will make it to the global marketplace and some will be Chinese and some will be Indian. We Indians or We Chinese is not a way to look at it.

Leave a comment

Your comment