Put yourself in the South seat for a moment. East comes in over partner’s 1opening with 3at unfavourable vulnerability so he will surely have a good suit. With two aces and a club fit you’d like to take some action, but is there a call that makes sense?

If you were playing negative doubles at this lofty level, you might look no further, but without this gadget you would have to choose among a gentle pass, a somewhat misdirected 4(you are not very interested in 5), an aggressive penalty double, and a bold 3NT.

Dealer South E/W Vul

9 6
Q 8 3
A 9
A K Q J 4 2
A 8 3
A J 9 6
10 2
10 9 7 3
West North East South
1 3 3NT
Pass 4NT Pass Pass
Pass

Opening lead: K

When this deal was played (back in the sixties) Toronto’s Eric Murray was South, Sami Kehela, North. South, true to his character, took a shot at 3NT. Just right! It would have been a bad idea to double 3for penalty because it would have made in comfort and 3NT was quite cold. Unfortunately for South, North had a good hand and invited slam with a natural raise to 4NT.

West led the K against 4NT and the contract seemed to turn on the heart finesse. If someone had told South that his 3NT bid would produce an even money chance for game, he would have been delighted, but perhaps there was an even better chance.

Although East had advertised a hand with little defensive strength, it was possible that he held the K. West figured to hold more hearts than his partner, however, and so was more likely to hold the K. Declarer based his play on that assumption.

He won the A immediately and ran six clubs. West had to make four discards and threw three hearts and one diamond. Declarer cashed the A to extract West’s exit card and led the 10. West could take his three diamond tricks but then, at trick twelve, had to lead a heart away from the king, giving declarer his tenth trick.

Murray explained that it had taken great restraint for him to pass 4NT, but no one was listening, least of all his partner, who was quite enjoying a Monte Christo. Ah, those were the days.

The four hands were:

9 6
Q 8 3
A 9
A K Q J 4 2
2
K 7 5 4 2
K Q J 8 7
6 5
K Q J 10 7 5 4
10
6 5 4 3
8
A 8 3
A J 9 6
10 2
10 9 7 3