A GRANDMASTER bridge player from Darlington and his partner have beaten off strong competition to win England's premier pairs competition.

The victory was sealed after a remarkable reunion that led the two friends to enter the competition after losing touch with each other for 20 years.

Mr Clive Owen, senior partner at Clive Owen & Co chartered accountants, met up with his old friend, Mr Brian Senior of Nottingham, after they lost touch in the 70s.

They played together with the same success when they both lived in Yorkshire, and when they met again at a bridge congress in Scotland in December, they decided to enter the Grandmaster pairs championship together.

When they lost touch, they both pursued their interest in bridge to the point that they have both achieved grand master status.

Mr Senior has become a professional bridge player and tours the world giving lessons and taking part in competitions.

The Harrison Gray salver is a pairs competition which is open only to grand masters.

Mr Owen, said: "I was thrilled we won this important title, particularly as we have had very little time taking part in competitive bridge together.

"I now have reason for a double celebration; victory in the championship and the renewal of an old friendship."