Roman Key Card Blackwood


Some one at the club was discussing the use of Roman Key Card Blackwood (RKCB) and asking whether it was preferable to regular Blackwood. It is such a simple concept that it is worth summarising it on the club’s website. The general view is that it is more advantageous than regular Blackwood but as with regular Blackwood it should be used wisely. It has been said that a player’s skill is inversely proportional to the frequency Blackwood is used.


RKCB is a convention to establish how many key cards partner holds after a trump suit has been agreed. Therefore the partnership must have discussed the situations that have to hold for a trump suit to be agreed and these will vary according to the bidding system used.


OK a trump suit is agreed and the asking bid of 4NT is made. In RKCB there are 5 aces, the 4 genuine ones and the king of trumps.


The standard responses are


5 § there are 0 or 3 key cards


5 ¨ there are 1 or 4 key cards


5 © there are 2 key cards without the Q of trumps


5 ª there are 2 key cards plus the Q of trumps


If the reply was 5 § or 5 ¨ there is no mention of the trump Q and so the 4NT asking bid can be followed by making the cheapest available bid other than 5NT or 5 of the trump suit. There are differing ways of replying to that bid but most commonly a bid of the trump suit at the 5 level denies the Q and any other bid shows the Q (some use this to show an additional feature in another suit, bidding 6 of the trump suit to show the Q and no additional feature and any other suit to show an unexpected feature in that suit). Incidentally if you have such unexpected length in the suit then you may wish to say that you have the Q even if you don’t because she will fall.


After the 4 NT asking bid and reply you may wish to ask for Kings in the usual way, namely by bidding 5 NT. Remember that there are only 3 kings left to show. Do not repeat the bid showing the king of trumps.


Intervention In my limited experience it is unusual to encounter intervention at this level but you should have cunning plan to deal with it should it occur. The usual system is DOPI after a bid and ROPI after a double. Double shows the first step (equivalent of 5 §), Pass the second step (equivalent to 5 ¨), next available bid the third step, and so on. ROPI is Redouble for the first step, Pass the second step, etc.


Redwood Using RKCB when the trump suit is a minor suit may get you too high too soon. So you could agree that when you have agreed the suit as clubs you ask for the key cards by bidding 4 ¨ - the steps are taken from that level, i.e. 4 © is the first step and shows 0 or 3 key cards, etc. If diamonds are trumps then 4 © becomes the bid asking for key cards.


Some general points You must agree when 4 NT is natural or RKCB. My own system is that if it is not absolutely obvious that 4NT is natural (as in 1NT – 4 NT) then it is RKCB. The use of Gerber may need restricting to ace asking after a NT bid. And finally many hands will be more suited to cue bidding than to RKCB. Another subject!

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