Nobody Knows

Dlr: South ♠ A K J 6 4
Vul: N-S 8 5 2
J 9 4
♣ Q 10
♠ 9 8 3 ♠ Q 10 7 5
K J 9 6
K 6 5 2 A 8 7
♣ J 9 7 5 2 ♣ K 6 4
♠ 2
A Q 10 7 4 3
Q 10 3
♣ A 8 3
South West North East
1 Pass 1♠ Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 All Pass

Opening lead — ♣5

If you asked a dozen experts what South’s 3NT promised, half of them might say, “Who knows?” It’s one of those bids that defy precise definition. South might be gambling with as few as 15 points, hoping North had his share of the missing strength. South might hold a powerful balanced hand with which he was reluctant to double or bid higher. He might have a hand with a
spade stopper, a solid minor and little else.

North wasn’t sure, but he raised to 4NT (not ace-asking but simply a raise of notrump), and South shrugged mentally and went on to slam.

North-South having groped their way to 6NT, West led the ♠10. South won in dummy and led the ♣ 10-9 for winning finesses. He then had 11 tricks, but when he took the A K next, West threw a spade, and South had to lose a heart and a diamond.

After South’s club finesses win, he must address the possibility of a 4-1 diamond break. At trick four, South plays a low heart from both hands, intending to get a count of the defenders’ distribution.

Suppose West wins and leads another spade, and South next takes the A K. When West follows, South has a count: He can assume West had seven spades for his preempt, and he had three hearts and two clubs, hence one diamond.

South cashes the A and leads a second diamond. If East plays low, South confidently plays his nine. If instead East plays an honor, South wins, takes the ♣A and returns to dummy with the queen for another diamond lead.