Polling You #50:Slam 1430 Roman Keycard Blackwood, Day 10, March 9, 2011

1430 Roman Keycard Blackwood Slam Bidding – Duplicate Bridge

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1430 Roman Keycard Blackwood Slam Bidding – Duplicate BridgeThe 1430 Roman Keycard Blackwood convention is designed to improve the accuracy of slam bidding.  Like regular Blackwood, the roots of the convention was based on the 4 Notrump Blackwood.  Yet with all its improvements, some Duplicate Bridge players have adopted the convention to “Minorwood” and other areas of slam bidding.

Before we begin, we should caution everyone that the 1430 RKC convention is not for everyone.   With a wide range of bids, responses, and rebids in addition to the subtleties of knowing when to use a given query, this lesson is primarily targeted for advanced Bridge players and partners yearning for more gadgets in their tool chest – you know who you are!   And if you and your partner are comfortable with your existing Blackwood methods, fine – you may wish to glance over this lesson, perhaps revisiting the advanced convention sometime in the future or at least have an inkling of what’s going on with opponents who play this convention.

Let’s begin with a review of when not to bid any form of Blackwood:

Generally the player initiating the 4 Notrump ask should have a control in each suit.  Otherwise the opponents might quickly win a side-suit Ace and King to set the contract.  Controls include Aces, voids, King-Queen suit combinations, singletons, and King+ suit extras.

Avoid initiating the 4 Notrump Blackwood bid when you have a void.  The responder’s Aces (or keycards in 1430 RKC) will leave ambiguity as to which Ace/keycard is shown.  The control might be in a useful side suit (good) but could be an Ace in a suit where the initiator has a void (bad).   This could lead to a double counting disaster.

So holding either a void or a side suit without a control, we prefer to bid controls “up the line” (by suit rank) to show partner our controls.  Provided we are careful not to bid a control which cannot be interpreted as a signoff bid, cuebidding controls allow our partner the opportunity to initiate the 4 Notrump Ace/keycard asking sequence.

Occasional Shortcomings of Standard Blackwood:

Trump King – Status unknown at the 5 level

Trump Queen – Status always a mystery at any level

Double Count Quandary – Possible double counting on side suit, where it’s preferable to hold the trump King-Queen

Review of Blackwood Basics:

No worthless doubleton or void

Suit agreement – not a Notrump contract

Suit dominance – one player with a self-sustaining suit (jump, etc.)

Small slam – 12 tricks (3-4 Aces / controls), 33+ distribution points

Grandslam – 13 tricks ( Aces / controls), 3-4 Kings, 37+ distribution points

1430 Roman Keycard Blackwood – Introduction:

Revised Technique: 4 Notrump asks for 5 keycards (controls)

4 Noturmp response shows Aces plus Trump King

Aces = 1 control each (keycard)Trump King = 1 control (keycard)

Status of Trump Queen also determined at the 5 level

Important Guidelines:
Do not bid 6 Hearts/Spades when off 2 keycards  


Do not bid 6 Hearts/Spades when off 1 keycards and the Trump Queen

Do not explore grandslam when off 1 keycard

Two Possible Methods to Play: 14-30 or 30-14 (RKC) Style of Initial Response:

Partnership     14 – 30 Style             30 – 14 Style (RKC)
5 Clubs                1 or 4 keycards         3 or 0 keycards
5 Diamonds      3 or 0 keycards         1 or 4 keycards
5 Hearts               2 w/o Queen               2 w/o Queen
5 Spades              2 with Queen              2 with Queen


The 4 Notrump initiator should always be aware of the correct number of keycards giving by the responder based on prior bidding.  Since the responses are separated by 3 steps, the variance in keycard response is 11-12 points (2-3 Aces/King).

Incidentally, when responding to keycards with a void, we use a similar approach to traditional Blackwood:

With 2 or 4 keycards and a useful void (suit not bid by partner), we bid 5 Notrump.  Memory aid – with an even number of keys, bid evenly (5 Notrump).   With 1 or 3 keycards and a useful void beneath the rank of our trump suit, bid the void suit at the 6 level.  Memory aid – with an odd number of keys, bid oddly (6C, 6D, 6H if trump is Spades).

1430 Blackwood – Examples After 4 Notrump Response:

1S – 4N; 5D – 5S;    Signoff bid

1H – 4N; 5C – 5D    1st step after response asks, “Do you have the Trump Queen?”

 Rebid responses:   5 Hearts = No (1st step), 5 Spades = Yes (2nd step)

1S – 4N; 5S – 5N;    Promises all 5 keycards possessed by partnership, now bid Kings “up the line” to explore grandslam

1S = 4N; 5S -5N; 6C / 6D …

1S – 4N; 5S – 5N; 6S small slam signoff, denying Kings (4N was questionable – why ask missing 2 keycards + 4 Kings?)

1430 RKC Blackwood Bidding Tips:
Relax, take a breath, enjoy the moment
evaluate, Evaluate, EVALUATE !!!
“The one who knows, goes !” (Blackwood, slam, Queen ask, grandslam ask)
Don’t ask unless you want/need to know!

With 4 keycards and the Trump Queen, bid a small slam

With 5 keycards, the Trump Queen and Kings/length, bid grandslam


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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,




  1. BridgeHands says:
    Hello BridgeHands Pollsters,
    Okay, after the first day of our latest poll, here’s the trend for your votes:
    Which of the following are true about 1430 Roman Keycard Blackwood?
    3 Percent: 4N responses describe 5 Keycards (Aces and trump King)?
    19 Percent: With 2 Keys and the trump Queen, bid 5 Spades
    16 Percent: Both of the above
    5 Percent: 1H – 4N; 5C – 5D; Next bid 5H without the trump Queen, 5S with trump Queen
    58 Percent: All of the above
    So while than slightly more than half of us are comfortable with some of the primary concepts associated with 1430 Roman Keycard Blackwood, a fair number prefer to only play part of the system or would prefer to stick to the original classic Blackwood treatment. To be sure, 1430 RKC Blackwood does take a fair amount to time to effectively learn and considerably more time to master with all the subtleties associated with the comprehensive system.
    Until next time, happy Bridging,
  2. Charles says:

    “1H – 4N; 5C – 5D; Next bid 5H without the trump Queen, 5S with trump Queen”

    The standard (if there is such a thing) responses to a queen ask is to bid 5 of the trump suit without the queen; bid 5NT with the queen but no outside king; and bid 5/6 of the lowest ranking suit with an outside king and the trump queen. So to say that you would bid 5S with the trump queen would only apply if you also held the king of spades. If you did not have the king of spades, but held the king of diamonds, your bid would be 6 diamonds. The six diamond bid would also deny having the king of spades or the king of clubs.

    So “All the Above” would not be the correct answer except in the one case where you also hold the spade king if using the standard treatment for RKC 1430.

    Of course, all things are subject to partnership agreement, which is the most important part of any convention.

  3. Jeff says:

    Responding very late to this:
    I always understood that 1M-4NT was Standard Blackwood, not RKC. To use RKC, first you agree on a trump suit, perhaps with Jacoby 2NT or a splinter.

    I saw a blog just this morning where the blogger had a problem after partner opened 1H, and he held:
    S x
    H x
    D AKQJT98
    C AKQJ

    All he cares about is Aces. 1H-4NT is perfect if he that is standard Blackwood, His partnership was playing it as RKC, and he was not able to easily set diamonds as trump for RKC. Partner had both missing Aces, so 7NT is a lay down.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hi Jeff,
      For those who play RKC (1430), 1M – 4N is “systems on” (i.e., RKC/1430 responses). Often times responders hand does not permit a Jacoby 2NT or splinter bid, so we go by the poignant Bridge cliche, “The one who knows, goes!”
      Yes, while we can always find peculiar hands to justify a special treatment, professionals and the test of time have proved 1M – 4N RKC/1430 to be most effective. Certainly when partner has opened, the odds are astronomically low that responder will have 11 tricks in hand! In the case of your hand and scenario, let’s assume the bidding went back and forth with responder continuing to make forcing bids with opener eventually trying to signoff in 3 Notrump. Now responder can use a tool like playing 5 Club as “Super Gerber” to ask for aces.
      Happy Bridge trails,
  4. be_ivars says:

    In free members example #3:
    A K Q J 2 – 6 5 4 3
    K Q 2 – A 10 9 3
    A K – 2
    Q 3 2 – A K J 4

    where bidding goes like this:

    Why not go to 7NT? 2 club opener knows. He should go 🙂 No difference playing IMP scoring, but all the difference at matchpoints.

    • be_ivars says:

      the same for Premium user deal #1

      • BridgeHands says:
        Hello be_ivars,
        Very good point for our duplicate players out there, where as few as 10 points in scoring can make a huge difference in Matchpoint ranking results. In other words, if 10 pairs at their table make a slam or grandslam in a suit contract while one pair make a slam or grandslam in a Notrump contract, their score will put them in first place for that hand while everyone else will have slightly less than a 50 percent average score. Of course, it’s critical to ensure that the opponents do not win a trick when the cards split badly in a long suit or you need to depend on a finesse, etc. Here, with the trump suit values having 100 top honors (Ace, King, Queen , Jack, fifth) and partner holding another four trump, we don’t have to worry about opponents holding an honor to eventually score a trick in our long trump suit (5+4=9,so opponents could only hold four trump to the 10 spot).
        Happy Bridge Trails, Michael

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