"Yes, yes!" I know that I could have made that," fumed South after going down in his slam on this deal, "but surely a finesse, at 50 per cent, is better than relying on a 3-3 break at 36 per cent?" No one disputed his arithmetic, but there may have been better ways of tackling the hand.

South, opened 1! and North responded 2NT (in their methods, forcing to game and agreeing hearts) and South's rebid of 3! showed slam interest but no shortages. Cue-bids followed, and the final contract was a perfectly sensible 6! against which West led #Q.

Declarer won in hand, drew trumps in two rounds, and followed with a finesse of 2J. His idea was to test the clubs for an even break and then, if necessary, fall back on the spade finesse. The 2J, however, lost to the king and East returned 42, putting South to the test, for there was now no time to test out the clubs first before deciding whether or not to finesse in spades. Applying the arguments in his alibi, South finessed and it was all over.

Two points struck me. First, although apparently slightly against the odds, South should have won with 4A. After cashing #A and ruffing a diamond, he can play off his last two trumps and there will be a variety of positions where, even if the clubs do not break, someone is squeezed.

Second, to avoid the necessity of any delicate squeeze play, it would have been better (and more successful) to draw trumps and follow with 2A and a low club. If East takes his king, it is all over; if West happens to win with the king, he cannot profitably attack spades, and there will be time to test the clubs for an even break before falling back, if necessary, on the spade finesse.