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Week 11, 25th & 29th May: Slam Bidding Part 1

During closed periods, we will try to make two weekly feature hands available for at least 48 hours each, giving us time to prepare and upload each summary.  The first hand from 9:00 am Mon. to 9:00 am Weds. and the second from 9:00 am Fri. to 9:00 am Sunday.  This should improve learning of linked topics, including weekend consolidation (use the print icon top left if you want a copy).  We hope you enjoy.  Comments to Paul and Pat welcome .

This week's two hands have looked at the the two most popular versions of Blackwood:  Standard (see Monday's hand) and Roman Key Card (today's RKCB hand).  On Monday/Tuesday in Standard Blackwood, the 5D reply showed 1 ace (5C is 0, 5H is 2, 5S is 3 and 5NT is 4).  Sometimes, that information is good enough, but at other times, even if all 4 aces are identified, the quality of the trump suit will determine slam success.  The beauty of RKCB is that it both checks aces AND trump quality by locating the trump king as though it were another ace or 5th "key card". If needed, the trump queen can also be found, by using the following responses:

5C: I hold 0 or 3 of the five key cards;  5D: 1 or 4 of the five key cards;  5H: 2 of the five, but not the trump queen;  5S: 2 of the five, and the trump queen.

After a 5C or 5D reply, the 4NT enquirer can usually tell from his own holding how many key cards have been located for the partnership. If all 5 are found, the enquirer can locate the trump queen simply by bidding the cheapest suit outside trumps.  Responder will deny the queen by bidding the next cheapest suit (including trumps), or jump to 6 of the trump suit to confirm the queen.  Note that, using RKCB, requires the trump suit to have been agreed before 4NT is bid.  That is also usually the case with standard Blackwood, but not always.  Occasionally, 4NT will simply ask for aces when no trump suit is yet agreed, so both partners will then revert to Standard from RKCB for that auction.  Sequences where NT was the last bid, followed by 4NT, that is simply a quantitative raise and nothing to do with Blackwood!  Today's hand is a spectacular example of the power of RKCB.  West has 9 playing tricks, but is not quite strong enough for a 2D game-force.  East breaks the 2D relay response with the only exception allowed:  ie, holding 8+ HCPs AND a 5+ major.  As a 4-loser hand missing only one ace, west rightly uses a jump to 4NT (RKCB) to agree trumps and finds east with both missing key cards and the trump queen. That makes 7H a good contract and 7NT even better!  Had east responded 5C (0 or 3), west would know immediately from his own holding that east had no key cards:  facing a diamond loser or two through his K5 and a dodgy trump suit, he would close it down in 5H. Even a 5D (1 key card) response could be the trump king, so again two possible fast losers in diamonds and possibly finessing for the heart queen.

Finally, and here's the real power of RKCB, a 4NT enquiry playing only Standard B'wood would find only the diamond ace and leave west guessing about east's trumps.  If you swap the heart and club holdings here between south and east, even 6H becomes a questionable contract missing the trump KQ!  Next week we will use cue-bidding as well as RKCB:  you need both these to bid good slams.

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Last updated : 28th May 2020 16:13 BST