Cheap Blackwood

Mr. Easley Blackwood conceived the concept of the Blackwood Convention to inquire about the number of Aces and Kings held by the partner in order to ascertain the possibility of a slam contract. Ever since this concept was made public to the bridge players around the world, the concept has been modified and varied by many bridge partnerships. One of these variations is called Cheap Blackwood.

The origin of this conventional method is unknown. The concept of Cheap Blackwood is to retain as much bidding space as possible for the partnership to exchange information about the length and strength, distributional singletons and/or voids, and about the number of Aces and Kings held by the partnership. This concept of Cheap Blackwood also incorporates the King of trump into the number of possible Key Cards, which are the four Aces and the King of trump.

It is essential to understand that Cheap Blackwood can only then be initiated after a suit has been established, and then only with the cheapest, meaningless bid. This is the most important factor in the partnership understanding when using Cheap Blackwood. Each partner must be conscious of the fact that a bid by the other is definitely meaningless, has no significance, and holds no conventional or systemic information.

Example 1:

Opener   Responder   Meaning
1   3   Forcing Jump Raise
3 NT       Cheap Blackwood - cheapest, meaningless bid

Example 2:

Opener   Responder   Meaning
1   3   Forcing Jump Raise
3 NT       This is NOT the cheapest bid and therefore is not the Cheap Blackwood conventional method. The bid is to play a game contract in 3 No Trump or a game contract in Hearts.

Example 3:

Opener   Responder   Meaning
1   3   Forcing Jump Raise
3       Cheap Blackwood - cheapest, meaningless bid

Example 4:

Opener   Responder   Meaning
1   2   Forcing Jump Shift
3   3   Cheap Blackwood - cheapest, meaningless bid

Example 5:

Opener   Responder   Meaning
1   2 NT   Jacoby 2 No Trump and a limit raise - forcing for one round
3       This rebid is systemic to limit raises and therefore is NOT the cheapest, meaningless bid

Again, the most important factor in using Cheap Blackwood is the fact that the partner must recognize the bid by his partner as having no meaning.

 

After the trump suit has been established and Cheap Blackwood has been initiated, then the responses regarding the number of Key Cards held are described in a series of steps, or relay bids, which correspond to the order of Roman Key Card Blackwood.

First Step: 0 or 3 Key Cards
Second Step: 1 or 4 Key Cards
Third Step: 2 or 5 Key Cards, without the Queen of Trump
Fourth Step: 2 or 5 Key Cards, with the Queen of Trump

Therefore, in the following bidding sequence, the bidding would proceed as explained:

Opener   Responder   Meaning
1   3   Forcing Jump Raise
3 NT       Cheap Blackwood - cheapest, meaningless bid
    4   First Step = 0 or 3 Key Cards
    4   Second Step = 1 or 4 Key Cards
    4   Third Step = 2 or 5 Key Cards, without the Queen of Trump
    4   Fourth Step = 2 or 5 Key Cards, with the Queen of Trump

 

Queen Showing

In the case that the opener hears a response of 4 Clubs or 4 Diamonds and does not have the Queen of trump, and would like to know if his partner has this card, then the opener will again use the relay bid, the cheapest possible bid, to discover this information. For example:

Opener   Responder   Meaning
1   3   Forcing Jump Raise
3 NT       Cheap Blackwood - cheapest, meaningless bid
    4   First Step = 0 or 3 Key Cards
4       Relay bid asking responder for the Queen of trump
    4   Responder has the Queen of trump
    4   Responder does not have the Queen of trump

 

During certain bidding sequences, the initiator of Cheap Blackwood may not feel secure as to whether the responder means 0 or 3 Key Cards, or 1 or 4 Key Cards. If this becomes the case, then the initiator of Cheap Blackwood will inform his partner, by partnership understanding, by bidding four of the trump suit as a sign-off.

In the case that the partner has the lesser number of Key Cards, then the partner will allow the bid to stand. In the case that the partner has the greater number of Key Cards, then the partner will bid again.

This may cause some confusion when the trump suit is Spades since the partner will have to bid 4 No Trump or higher. This signifies that the captaincy of the partnership has suddenly changed positions. It also means that the partnership may not be able to implement the natural 4 No Trump bid in order to ask for Kings, which would follow the similar systemic conventional bids used in Roman Key Card Blackwood.

 

 

If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.




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