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IN THE old days an England win in the Camrose trophy (the home internationals, now sponsored by Macallan) was a foregone conclusion as most of the top players were London-based.

Now the talent is more evenly distributed and this year's result - a narrow win for England when in the last round they scraped home against Wales while bottom of the table Northern Ireland convincingly beat the erstwhile Scottish leaders - could hardly be described as a crushing victory. I remember a deal from my very first Camrose:

As South I ended in an inelegant Two No-trumps and West led the three of clubs. East took his two winners and switched to the jack of spades which went to the queen, king and ace. The only chance seemed to be to find the queen of diamonds doubleton but the ace and king saw West discard a club.

There remained just a glimmer of hope - East might hold only two hearts, in which case he might be end- played in spades and diamonds. So I cashed my two top hearts and led the nine of diamonds to dummy's ten.

East won with his queen and did his best by exiting with a diamond but on the last diamond he had to discard from S10872. If he parted with the two, a low spade from the table would force him to win with the seven and concede the last trick to the nine. So he discarded the seven, playing his partner for the six.

I had the perfect counter. I led the nine from dummy, pinning West's six. East took his ten and eight but had to give dummy's four the last trick.

This tour de force was greeted by the audience with complete silence, but the next deal, where we reached a grand slam with about 10 top winners, was met with tumultuous applause . . .

England 156, Scotland 147, Wales 137, N Ireland 93