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THERE IS an excellent opportunity to watch some first-class bridge this week when many of the world's top pairs will be competing in the Macallan Pairs Championship. This was a deal from an earlier, similar event.

Three No-trumps would have proved the most comfortable resting-place, but several pairs ended in Four Hearts instead. Against any other lead but a trump, declarer would have had an easy run for 10 tricks (via a diamond ruff), but West chose the queen of hearts for his opening, scotching this plan.

It was natural enough to start with three rounds of trumps, hoping for an even break, but East showed out on the third round, discarding a spade, and West switched to the three of clubs.

This left declarer at the crossroads. Should he stake everything on the club finesse, or go up with dummy's ace and rely on the diamond finesse? There was no reason why one finesse should be more likely to succeed than the other, but the shrewder declarers followed the second plan.

Can you see why? If the club finesse had lost, it would have ended South's chances, but if the diamond finesse lost there were still distinct possibilities: West might have started with Q 10 8 of diamonds or, as the cards lay, East with the ten, eight and another. Although the finesse of the jack lost, declarer's seven of diamonds became his 10th trick.

The Macallan Pairs, the White House Hotel, Albany St, London NW1; Wed 26 Jan 7.30pm, Thur 11.30am and 6pm, Fri 2pm. Admission pounds 7.50 per session, pounds 20 season.

Love all; dealer South


J 9 6 3


9 6

A Q 8 6 4 2


8 4

Q J 10 9

Q 5 4 3

J 9 3


Q 10 7 5 2

5 4

10 8 2

K 10 7



A K 8 7 6 3

A K J 7