This hand tempted many into an unwise opening bid of 3NT. While South does hold a solid minor, it is longer than the seven cards expected for a gambling 3NT. Being not vulnerable, a preempt of 5D promises eight tricks which is what this hand has. Those who opened 3NT generally played there and missed the good slam. When South opened 5D, North can see three top tricks and two possible finesses. Any one of them might offer the twelfth trick and, if there is no immediate loser, both can be tried for a 75 per cent chance of making the slam. North, then, has an easy raise to 6D. West has no difficulty pulling out the king of hearts as the opening lead. Declarer can see exactly what North saw in that there are eight trump tricks and three aces plus three finesses all of which can be taken. Declarer won the ace of hearts and drew two rounds of trumps and proceeded to take the deep finesse of the ten of spades. This lost and East returned a heart which was ruffed by declarer.
Declarer could then choose to finesse either black suit queen but was doomed because of the unlucky lie of the black honours. Or was he unlucky? What do you think?
If any two of the three finesses work, declarer makes the contract and that is a 50 per cent chance. However, if declarer had won the AH and ruffed a heart high and crossed to the 8D and ruffed another heart high then East no longer has any exit cards in hearts when he wins the JS. So, having stripped East of hearts, declarer can take either spade finesse. If it loses, East has nothing but black cards and must lead into one of the black ten aces on table giving declarer his slam! Trying this heart elimination is cost free and is the difference between making the contract and not.
If the hearts are 4-4, declarer has to fall back on the two-of-three finesses line but that is acceptable. As is normal with elimination plays, there is a surfeit of trumps even if they all happen to be in one hand. It is still an elimination play; just one without the ruff and discard as a component.