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The Independent Culture
THE best bridge event of the year for spectators is the Macallan Invitation Pairs. The 16 partnerships include present and ex-World Champions and - a surprise and exciting pairing - Omar Sharif with Zia Mahmood. This was a deal from the 1967 even t.

North opened One Diamond, East passed and South responded One Spade. West now pre-emp-ted with Four Hearts to leave North with a problem. Those players who pushed on by showing their clubs seemed to have landed on their feet but, alas, sometimes South bid "one for the road" and Six Clubs had to fail.

A double of Four Hearts yielded a safe plus score but at two tables North played an even safer game by passing. When it came round to South, he contested with Four Spades and all passed - East judging that he had sufficient defence against this. He wouldhave done if, after West had led his singleton club, he had gone in with the ace on the first round of trumps and given his partner a ruff.

East played low on the trump lead and it was up to South to judge matters well. He went up with the king of spades and exited with the jack! This did not mean that he avoided the loss of three trump tricks but, by leading the jack instead of a low card, he kept West from gaining the lead with his ten after which the marked diamond switch would have killed declarer's chances.

8The Macallan Invitation Pairs, White House Hotel (opposite Great Portland Street Tube Station), London. Wed 25 Jan, 5.30pm (36 boards); Thurs 26, 12 noon (27 boards) and 5.30pm (36 boards); Fri 27, 12 noon (36 boards).