(Updated 8/04: When my teammates told us this story after the game I misunderstood who was sitting where. The version below is correct.)
Both red, playing in the final round of the national swiss against Fantoni/Nunes, with a range of final placings from about 10th to 40th still possible, you hold Qx A AT9xx AQJxx, and RHO deals and opens 1H. Probably you are thinking you would bid 2NT...do you have a second choice? My teammate Hailong Ao had a different first choice -- he bid 1NT! I won't debate the merits of that, but it did get his high-card points off his chest :-). Now lefty bids 3H, explained as "weak but not crazy," partner passes and righty bids 4H. If you had to sit in at this point, would you act again? Consider for a moment before reading on...
Having shown his hcp but not his shape (to say the least) Hailong continued with 4NT! Although it looks very odd on the face of things to commit to the 5-level on your own, I actually think this is definitely the right action here. RHO must have a distributional hand to justify 4H, and his most likely shortness is in clubs, because if he had club length it would be weak length with the K badly positioned. Hailong's partner, JJ Wang, must have been very surprised to hear 4NT, but quite pleasantly so, for he held xxx Jxx x Kxxxxx, and as you can see 5C rolls. Furthermore, the opponents couldn't resist doubling, so that was +750.
But wait! Over 3H, which the opponents alerted (not alertable for a few years now, but most people seem not to know that,) JJ had inquired and been told the meaning. He then passed in tempo, but nonetheless the Italians felt that UI had been conveyed and this had influenced Hailong's 4NT bid. What do you think about their case?
I don't think they had a case. Some people will always inquire about an alert in a competitive auction -- it is certainly more common to ask only sometimes, but this is clearly an inferior practice and conveys more UI. JJ's hand, which couldn't possibly act over 3H, suggests that he was just asking reflexively and it meant nothing. Maybe he was surprised to hear an alert because he knows 3H is not alertable! He also might have been surprised to hold 3 hearts on the auction and thereby been more curious about the 3H bid, but if his question only conveyed that, it would hardly be an impetus for Hailong to bid. Well anyway, the director ruled that the result was rolled back to 4H making (it is down on optimal defense, but in these cases you don't assume that.) But late at night, the hardworking commitee restored the table result, +750 for our teammates. I look forward to the write-up in the appeals casebook.
At my table, I held opener's hand, KJx KQTxx KQJxx ----, and the auction was a pedestrian 1H-2NT-3H-5C-AP, so we scored -600. We missed a decent save in 5H (down 2, probably), but I really don't feel I should be bidding it on my hand -- partner hasn't even promised 4 trumps. So the appeal swung 19 imps, from -15 to +4...it also swung the match from -10 to +9, and our final ranking from 29th to 14th. The final match, which was the only one we played with computer-generated hands, was plenty interesting -- the final score was 30-21. Half of our imps came when we got pushed to 6C doubled, red/white, with about half the deck and a 12-card fit...it turned out to be on a hook, which won, for 1540. They got to 6C at the other table also, but our teammates took the save in their 11-card heart fit for -300.