Mr. Easley Blackwood devised the Blackwood Convention as a means of bidding slam with the built-in feature of not bidding slam when it proved not to be feasible. His convention has undergone many modifications, and many variations have resulted from this one concept. One of these variations is called Roman Keycard Blackwood.

Note: The writing of the word Keycard also appears as Key Card. Either form is acceptable. In this presentation the word will written as one word, as in Keycard, and capitalized. As an abbreviation the designation can be written as RKB or as RKCB, and both abbreviations are acceptable. In written form, if the spelled designation is Roman Keycard Blackwood, then the proper abbreviation is RKB, and if the written form is Roman Key Card Blackwood, then the correct abbreviation is RKCB.

This variation differs from the original concept of Mr. Easley Blackwood in that there are not only four Aces counted in the different responses, but five Keycards which are the four Aces and the King of the agreed, implied, or established trump suit. The King of the trump suit is counted as the fifth Ace, or the fifth Keycard.

Note: In its original version, author and/or developers unnamed, the bids were somewhat different and are shown below with corresponding meanings. Also, the King of trump was designated as the fifth Ace, not as a Keycard.

5 : Shows 0 or 3 Aces.
5 : Shows 1 or 4 Aces.
5 : Shows 2 or 5 Aces.
5 : Shows 2 Aces with additional values.
Source: OEofB, 4th Edition

The reader will immediately recognize that the Queen of trump was in not included in the different original responses. The almost immediate updating of this concept, based loosely on the concept behind Roman Blackwood, was accomplished more or less by the bridge community at large. The concept was adapted to communicate whether or not the Queen of trump was held. This updated version was more or less developed and fully evolved into its present form between the years 1975 and 1985.

Updated Version From the Original Version

By adding this King of the trump suit to the number of Keycards, the No Trump bidder can more precisely determine the location of the missing Keycards needed to bid the slam. This feature adds a certain sense of security to the bidding process, and therefore has become popular among many bridge players.

Note: A definite consensus in the bridge community dictates that the asking partner should be in possession of at least one Keycard before initiating Roman Keycard Blackwood. The belief that partner could hold 4 or even 5 of the necessary Keycards has been determined as illogical.

Note: The definition of a keycard or a key card is literally a special plastic card that one puts in an electronic lock to open a door, etc. In other words it is a device, a mechanism, which allows the communication between one device and a second device by whatever means. In the game of bridge a keycard is a means, a manner, a method to unlock a barrier to accessible information by communicating the desired information from one device to another device.

An additional element of using Roman Keycard Blackwood is that slams can be bid without the traditional 32 or 33 high card points deemed generally necessary to bid a small slam. If both partners can share the descriptive information necessary about the number and/or location of certain Keycards, then a slam can be bid without just counting and adding the high card points.

The advantage of using Roman Keycard Blackwood for bidding slams in the two Major suits is obvious as opposed to a slam attempt in the two Minor suits. Bidding a Minor suit slam results in the natural elimination of several bidding slots available for communicating information. Although this factor is known, there is no reason to discard Roman Keycard Blackwood when deciding to bid slam in any suit.

Note: Several methods, however, have been developed to address better the possible problems and/or limitations of Roman Keycard Blackwood for bidding a Minor suit slam.

Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to have agreed first in the bidding process on the trump suit before initiating Roman Keycard Blackwood. If the trump suit has not been established or implied in the auction, then Roman Keycard Blackwood should not be initiated.

In establishing the trump suit certain elements of the partnership agreement must be agreed upon by the partnership. In the following example, the trump suit is only implied as to actually being established with a supporting and confirming bid. The general guidelines for all partnership agreements can contain the understanding that the agreed trump suit is one of the possibilities shown below:

1. The suit of the opener if the opening bid is a strong forcing action.
2. The suit of the responder if responder first jump shifts and then initiates Roman Keycard Blackwood.
3. The last bid suit by any partner.
North   East   South   West   Meaning
1   Pass   1   Pass   Any new suit is one-round forcing.
1   Pass   4 NT       Roman Keycard Blackwood based on Spades as the last bid suit.

South, in the above auction, has decided that there are sufficient values to explore the possibility of slam, and bids 4 No Trump, asking for the number of the five Keycards held by North. North can communicate to partner the number of held Keycards by bidding according to the following chart.

Bid Meaning
5 : Shows 0 or 3 Keycards.
5 : Shows 1 or 4 Keycards.
5 : Shows 2 or 5 Keycards without the Queen of Trump.
5 : Shows 2 or 5 Keycards with the Queen of Trump.

Note: Any partnerships wishing to exchange the meanings of the two bids of 5 to show 1 or 4 Keycards and 5 to show 0 or 3 Keycards may do so per agreement. This variation of the conventional method is then designated as Roman Keycard Blackwood 1430. A possible advantage of this variation is that the partnership gains one additional bidding spot in the limited bidding space.

Responder Denies the Queen of Trump

Assume the following bidding sequence. No competition.

North   South   Meaning
J1076
KJ
AQ2
AKJ6
 
AK985
A43
K93
85
   
1   1   South has sufficient values to respond.
4       North has sufficient values to raise partner's suit to game. North shows 5-6 losing tricks or about 18-20 points.
    4 NT   South initiates Roman Keycard Blackwood.
5       North promises 2 or 5 Keycards without the Queen of trump.
    6   South establishes the final contract in Spades.

South has decided to attempt slam. North informs his partner that he has 2 or 5 Keycards without the Queen of Trump. South reevaluates his hand, and realizes that the Queen of trump is missing, and bids the small slam as opposed to seeking a possible grand slam. A possible bad split in the trump suit will defeat a grand slam contract, although the partnership may hold all 4 Aces and the King of trump.

Responder Shows the Queen of Trump

Assume the following bidding sequence. No competition.

North   South   Meaning
Q1076
K8
A72
AKQ6
 
AK985
A43
KQ9
85
   
1   1   South has sufficient values to respond.
4       North has sufficient values to raise partner's suit to game. North shows 5 losing tricks or about 18-20 points.
    4 NT   South initiates Roman Keycard Blackwood.
5       North promises 2 or 5 Keycards with the Queen of trump.
    5 NT   South initiates the King Ask feature of Roman Keycard Blackwood.
6       North promises the possession of 2 Kings. (Note: The King of trump is excluded.)
    7   South establishes the final contract in Spades.

South has determined again that slam is a possibility and initiates Roman Keycard Blackwood after establishing the trump suit. North informs his partner that he has 2 or 5 Keycards, and promises also the Queen of the trump suit. South realizes that all the Keycards are in their proper place and knows the location of the Queen of trump. Once South learns through employment of the King-asking bid that North holds also 2 Kings, then South bids the grand slam with the secure knowledge that the contract will be fulfilled.

Note: A grand slam, in this instance, can also be played in 7 No Trump for an additional 10 points. The partnership may decide after confirming that all suits are sufficiently covered and bid a grand slam in No Trump even with an established trump suit.

In most situations, it will not be necessary to determine the number of outside Kings to set the contract. However, in some situations, it will be prove essential to know the number of outside Kings. When it proves prudent to ask for outside Kings, there are two schools of thought governing this additional feature of Roman Key Card Blackwood.

Roman Keycard Blackwood King Asking Bid

Once the partnership has determined that the possession of all five Keycards is definitely established, then the partnership can continue the bidding by asking for the number of held side Kings, excluding the King of trump. The King of trump is included in the five Keycards. This is done according to the following response method:

Bid   Response   Meaning
5 NT       A 5 No Trump continuance bid guarantees that all five Keycards are hold by the partnership.
    6   The partner holds either 0 or 3 side Kings.
    6   The partner holds only 1 side King
    6   The partner holds 2 side Kings.

Note: In the original version of Roman Keycard Blackwood there were no continuances for asking for the number of Kings once it became known that all five Aces were held by the partnership.

Continuance Methods

Once the partnership has confirmed the possession of all 5 Keycards, all 4 Aces and the King of trump, then the partnership can differ in the approach of the 5 No Trump bid. There are two school of thoughts regarding these continuances and both are based on the response of partner, which does not show the possession of the Queen of trump.

Once the responding partner makes a response, which does not include any information about the Queen of trump, such as 5 Clubs or 5 Diamonds, then the motivating force for any partnership agreement for any continuances is based on:

1. whether the responding partner holds the Queen of trump, or
2. whether the asking partner holds the Queen of trump.

First School of Thought - Partnership Agreement

Note: Whether the designation is school of thought or just partnership agreement is rather irrelevant since they are the same in definition. Following the confirmation that all five Keycards are accounted for, then a continuing bid of 5 No Trump asks either for the number or held Kings or whether the bid of 5 No Trump shows the Queen of trump.

The first school of thought uses the bid of 5 No Trump to ask for the number of side-suit Kings. This understanding applies to all continuances following a Keycard asking bid and discovering that all 5 Keycards are held by the two partners. The following auction with corresponding explanations illustrates the possible direction of the continuances:

North   South   Meaning
1   1    
4       North promises game values.
    4 NT   South attempts slam with Roman Keycard Blackwood.
5       Promises 0 or 3 Keycards. (>> Note: No information about the Queen of trump.)
    5 NT   South realizes that the partnership holds combined all 5 Keycards.
    South, per partnership agreement, is asking for the number of side Kings, without including the King of trump.

Second School of Thought - Partnership Agreement

In order to clarify these two school of thoughts both auction examples are presented together to better illustrate and clarify the difference. In the second school of thought is the fact that the asking partner indeed holds the Queen of trump, which becomes then an irrelevant card as a result. The knowledge that the responding partner does not hold the Queen of trump eliminates all attempts at discovering its whereabouts.

This fact results in the partnership agreeing to attach a different meaning to the bid of 5 No Trump. The following two examples with corresponding explanations illustrate how the partnership can locate the position of a held King.

North   South   Meaning
1   1    
4       North promises game values.
    4 NT   South attempts slam with Roman Keycard Blackwood.
5       Promises 0 or 3 Keycards. (>> Note: No information about the Queen of trump.)
    5 NT   South realizes that the partnership holds combined all 5 Keycards.
Per partnership agreement North bids the location of the lowest side-suit King.

The difference in the meaning of the 5 No Trump bid by South, who initiated Roman Keycard Blackwood, is that the partnership agreement is that the Queen of trump is held by South, the asking partner. Otherwise, as per partnership agreement, South would not bid 5 No Trump

Therefore, being accounted for, the Queen of trump holds no relevancy to any continuations. South is only asking North to name the location of any side-suit King other than the King of trump.

Example 1

First School of Thought, or Partnership Agreement

North   South   Meaning
KJ108
AJ7
1087
A74
       
The partnership has established Spades as the trump suit.
    4 NT   South attempts slam with Roman Keycard Blackwood.
5       Promises 0 or 3 Keycards. (>> Note: No information about the Queen of trump.)
    5 NT   South realizes that the partnership holds combined all 5 Keycards. South asks for the number of held Kings.
6       Per Roman Keycard Blackwood North holds 0 or 3 Kings.

Whether or not South, as the asking partner, indeed holds the Queen of trump is irrelevant at this moment in the bidding since the partnership agreement (school of thought) is that the bid is only asking for the number of side-suit Kings. Nothing more and nothing less.

Example 2

Second School of Thought, or Partnership Agreement

The partnership has established Spades as the trump suit.

North   South   Meaning
K1087
AK76
J9
A74
       
    4 NT   South attempts slam with Roman Keycard Blackwood.
5       Promises 0 or 3 Keycards. (>> Note: No information about the Queen of trump.)
    5 NT   South realizes that the partnership holds combined all 5 Keycards. South asks partner to bid the location of the lowest-ranking King. With the bid of 5 No Trump South guarantees the possession of the Queen of trump.
6       Per the second school of thought or partnership agreement North bids the location of the King of Hearts. North has been informed by South via the bid of 5 No Trump that South, the asking partner, holds the Queen of trump.

The above auction shows how the partnership would continue the bidding according to the second school of thought, which means only that the asking partner holds the Queen of trump, and therefore, per partnership agreement, the responder answers accordingly.

Note: It is rather an important element of the bidding sequence that both partners bid in such a manner, that strongly indicates or implies the possession of a King in a side suit. It is because of this expectation that there is no possibility, using this second school of thought, for the asked partner to show the possession of zero Kings in a side suit.

Important Agreement: This bidding sequence is only possible if the responding partner holds one King in a side suit. If the partner holds 2 or 3 Kings, then the partner automatically bids the grand slam. The next example illustrates such a holding and corresponding action.

Example 3

Note: The partnership has established Spades as the trump suit. The partnership agreement is that if the asking partner holds the Queen of trump, then the asking partner will show the possession with a bid of 5 No Trump., which also guarantees the possession of all 5 Keycards in the combined holdings.

North   South   Meaning
K1087
A10
K98
AK98
       
    4 NT   South attempts slam with Roman Keycard Blackwood.
5       Promises 0 or 3 Keycards. (>> Note: No information about the Queen of trump.)
    5 NT   South realizes that the partnership holds combined all 5 Keycards. South asks partner to bid the location of the lowest-ranking King. South guarantees the possession of the Queen of trump.
7       Holding 2 or 3 side Kings the partner simply bids the grand slam.

Variation for Continuances

When the partnership agreement is that a 4 No Trump bid is Roman Keycard Blackwood and is asking for the number of Keycards, and the reply does not show the Queen of trump, then the partnership has an alternative option to find the Queen of trump. The continuances are based on the useful bidding principle as devised by Mr. Jeff Rubens.

The foundation of this agreement is to first establish the number of held Keycards. The next step is to discover the number of side-suit Kings. This is accomplished in the following manner. It must be also noted that this response method keeps the partnership at a safer and lower level of bidding.

North   South   Meaning
K1087
AK76
J9
A74
       
The partnership has established Spades as the trump suit.
    4 NT   South attempts slam with Roman Keycard Blackwood.
5       Promises 0 or 3 Keycards. (>> Note: No information about the Queen of trump.)
    5   South employs, per agreement, the useful bidding principle.
5       Bidding the first step shows zero Kings.
5       Bidding the second step shows 1 King.
5 NT       Bidding the third step shows 2 Kings.
6       Bidding the fourth step shows 3 Kings.

Note: In the case that the first response is 5 Diamonds, then the King asking bid is 5 Hearts and all following responses are one step higher.

Using the useful bidding principle the asking partner can also discover whether or not the responding partner holds the Queen of trump. If the asking partner holds the Queen of trump, then, of course, there is no need to make the inquiry. This is done in the following manner as illustrated by an example. It is important that the partnership is aware of the fact that any response in the trump suit is not considered a sign-off bid.

North   South   Meaning
1   1    
4       North shows game values for the suit of partner.
    4 NT   South initiates Roman Keycard Blackwood.
5       This bid shows either 0 or 3 Keycards. However, since North has made an immediate jump to game the presumption by South is that North holds 3 Keycards.
    5   By employing the useful bidding principle the asking partner, South, asks for the number of Kings by bidding the next possible and cheapest bid. The King of trump is naturally excluded in the responses. This bid also guarantees the combined possession of all 5 Keycards.
5       North shows the possession of 1 side King in addition to 3 Keycards. (Note: second step shows only one King.)
    5 NT   Employing the useful bidding principle this bid, the next cheapest bid, asks for the Queen of trump.
6       North denies the possession of the Queen of trump.
6       North shows the possession of the Queen of trump.

Note: As with many variations in the game of bridge the partnership can agree to reverse the meanings of the Queen deny and Queen show bids.

 

 

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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