Polling You #45: Slam Bidding – Blackwood, Day 5, February 25, 2011

Slam Bidding with Blackwood in Contract Bridge

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Having a bright and shiny tool is great.  And knowing when to use it is even better or as the saying goes, “Always use the right tool for the right job.”   So how do you feel about the Blackwood conventional widget?  To be sure, the 4 Notrump incantation is unparalleled to instantly discover partner’s Aces, just as the follow-up 5 Notrump bid reveals partner’s Kings.

In our second installment of Blackwood bidding we will consider not only how to use our special tool, but WHEN to use the 4 Notrump conventional call.

Review of typical Blackwood Bids – The Cool Ace-Asking Tool

1S – 4N;

1H – 3H;

1C – 1H;
1S – 4S;

2C – 2D;
2S – 3S;

Non-Typical Blackwood Bidding Sequences – Normally Not Recommended

4N       Ace-asking 27+ points, instead consider

2C – 2H;    Responder just might have a good suit to show

1D – (1H) – 4N    Instead consider

1D – (1H) – 2H    Cuebid, bid slowly to get more information

(1H) – 1S – (P) – 4N    Instead consider
Partner may overcall with as few as 8 HCP
Opening opponent has 12+ points
Slam requires 33+ distributional points

(1H) – 1S – (P) – 2H   Cuebid, bid slowly

1C – 4N   Instead consider
Opener’s response may be too high (above 5 Clubs)
Consider leaning “Minorwood” convention – like Blackwood except,
response of same or other minor suit at 4 level initiates Ace-Ace:

1C – 4C     or 1C – 4D

2S – 4N     Instead consider

2S – 2N     Forcing, asking for Ace/King “feature” at 3 level

1S – 2S;
4N         Instead consider
Begin with Help Suit Game Try (opener cuebids at 3 level)

Avoid initiating Blackwood unless your hand is strong – slow shows, fast denies

1H – 1S:

2C – 2D;

1D – 1S;

In summary, use Blackwood wisely as:

1S – 2H;
3H – 4N

1S – 3S;

2C – 2D;
2H – 3H;

2C – 2S;

1N – 2H;
2S – 4N      (unless also playing Texas Transfer bids)

4S – 4N;

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Warm Regards,




  1. Charles Lawson says:

    I believe there are two answers not true regarding Blackwood – both the third & fourth choices. On the third choice you would not be using Blackwood with a void and then bid 5 NT asking for kings. The fourth choice is a quantitative raise in inviting 7 NT.

    The problem with the third choice having a void is that after the 5 NT king ask partner could jump to 7 NT assuming the partnership has all four aces.

    • Jerrold Miller says:

      One should not use Blackwood with a void, as there is no way to know which ace you are missing if you are missing one or even two. Cue bidding is the way to go with a void.

  2. Frankly speaking I rate BW convention a middleage tool.
    Asking for controls a) you safe a bundle of bidding space and can therefore confortably stop in game in case response is discouraging b) you get info about # of A and # of K without being forced to level 6.

  3. Steve Klein says:

    If using RKC, I like an opening bid of 4NT to be straight Blackwood. You’d use it on a hand like:

    Barring a debacle in spades, your only possible losers are the minor aces. If you open 2C planning to use Blackwood later, you might find yourself in an auction where your 4NT asks for key cards in hearts, and you don’t know if partner’s 5D response shows an ace, or the useless KH.

  4. BridgeHands says:
    Hi all,
    Great points everyone. It goes to show how as seductively easy one would like to think slam bidding seems, the devil frequently lurks in the details.
    Yes Charles and Jerold, you are both correct on your point that on Poll answer #3, the statement technically is not correct with the parenthetical statement “or a void.” Sorry for the poorly worded gratuitous remark – the intention was to illustrate that King asking bids show controls in all four suits. And while a void qualifies, using Blackwood when holding a void is a big no-no.
    G.A., yes cuebidding controls often can save significant bidding space, especially in an auction like:
    1H – 3H;
    Those on the other side of discussion one might say that Blackwood avoids confusion at times, especially over when and how high to cuebid Kings – the Italian cuebid conundrum. In fact, this issue came up in one of our recent videos where the strong hand cuebid a Diamond Ace at the four level and the other hand necessarily had to cubid the Diamond King at the 5 level. This works great in our convenient example yet there can be a dark side when it turns out the initial bid was with a SINGLETON, not the Ace. In that situation, showing the King at the 5 level can create a misconception possibly leading to double counting. Of course bidders with “good judgment” know when to cuebid a singleton and when not do so. And those with so called “good judgment” have likely been bitten by these types of gotcha’s, right?
    Steve, that’s a good hand example to illustrate a possible 4 Notrump opener – good for you. When the article was prepared, I was envisioning opener was looking for a grandslam with something like:
    … where opener will play with 7 Notrump if responder has the Spade Ace, otherwise signs off in 6 Clubs.
    Warm Regards,
    • W A Wolff says:

      In a not too distant pass, I was in a Pairs session holding the following (very late at night). Thought I was having a stroke when trying to decipher my had with all those computer marks:

      S A K H — D A K C K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5

      Partner opens 1 H in second seat. I am not typically a slow bidder; BUT this one caused anguish. I decided I would just take it slowly in deference to just bidding 6 C. His rebid was 2 D. Could my partner have opened light with:
      S Q H K Q J x x x D Q J 10 x x x C — or maybe S — H K Q J x x x D Q J 10 x x x C A
      Decided that I could find no clever way to locate the A of Clubs; so I embarked upon Plain BW. As you might
      suspect, he showed only one ace. LoL. After going over the sensible scenarios, I settled on 6 NT, forgoing
      7 C or & 7 NT. Partner was void in clubs. Top score!

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