Polling You #51: Slam 1430 RKC vs Blackwood, Day 11, March 11, 2011

1430 RKC versus Classic Blackwood: Slams in Contract Bridge

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On Polling You #51, let’s compare the 1430 RKC Blackwood convention to the classic Blackwood bid.  No convention is flawless yet as the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

So while it sounds cool to have a handy tool that discloses extra honor information for the same price, the cost of admission is increased complexity. And in the shadow of complexity lurks the opportunity for confusion.  So what’s an inspiring Bridge player to do?  For 1430 RKC types, it’s all about practice.  And for classic Blackwood bidders, focus on your bidding before launching into a 4 Notrump Ace asking sequence – much can be learned before the auction gets into thin air.   Okay, here’s your chance to share your thoughts on slam bidding and learn some easily overlooked factors to improve your bidding accuracy.

Possible Blackwood Shortcomings:
Trump King – Status unknown at the 5 level of bidding.
Trump Queen – Status always a mystery.
Double Count Quandary: Possible double counting on a side suit, preferable to hold Trump King-Queen.
Classic Blackwood Players Must Carefully Consider Hand Evaluation:
Cuebid Aces/Kings instead of quickly launching into 4 Notrump Ace ask, despite holding 29+ total points.
Avoid Blackwood lacking controls in a side suit.
Consider implications of prior limiting bid: Notrump, limit raise, signoff bids.
Blackwood response point count analysis:
Evaluate response to 4 Notrump Ace ask.
Consider location of trump King and Queen.
1S – 3S;
4N – 5H;   2 Aces, classic Blackwood.
Thus, if opener has 1 Ace, 3 outside Kings, and 4 Queens…
Partner is likely to hold the trump King and/or Queen.
Value Aces and Kings over points associated with Queens and Jacks, especially in slam zone.
Value extra trump, with Ace-King and a 9 card suit the Queen will drop doubleton 40 percent of the time.  With a 10 card 10, the Queen will drop doubleton 78 percent of the time.
Be careful not to overvalue a “working split honor combination” – solid suits are best (for pitching, too).
Secondary trump honors are helpful – finesse opportunity.
Use caution whe holding an unguarded split King – Jack requiring a 50-50 finesse chance (unless you can somehow endplay an opponent).
Shape Matters!  Value length and shortness.
Be wary of doubleton split honor suits (Ace-Queen or King -Jack).  Partner may hold the same!
Mirrored tripletons can also create problems:
Prefer 5-4-3-1 and 5-4-2-2 or even a 4-4-3-2 over a 5-3-3-2 holding.
Worse yet, be wary of the 4-3-3-3 flat hand – no ruffing values.
Classic Blackwood or 1430 RKC?

1430 RKC:
Trump King and Queen – immediate status.
Methods may be use elsewhere (Minor, Gerber Mini-Max).
With sophistication comes complexity.
2C – 2D;
2H – 4N;
5D – ?
Cannot Queen ask here.

Always consider first showing support and cuebidding controls over the 4 Notrump jump:
2C – 2D;
2H – 3H;
4N – 5C;       Responder show 1 Ace in 14-30 style.
5D – 5H…    Now responder can easily respond to an Ace ask (first step denies).
Classic Blackwood:
Trump King and Queen – “Might” be deduced after a player makes a limit raise.
Carefully consider pre-Blackwood hand evaluation.
Less complex – avoids some mis-evaluation issues.
Less confusing – avoids some partnership misunderstandings.

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Happy Bridge Trails and Tales,



  1. W A Wolff says:

    I corresponded with Marty Bergen on this subject. I asked Marty to write a book on decision making
    in regard to choosing between 5 of a minor, 3 NT, and 6 of a minor. His response: “That
    is a very complicated subject”. One local whiz never lets their partner play in 5 of a minor; always
    ups it to 6. Interesting results.

    • BridgeHands says:
      Hello W. A.,
      First off, Marty Bergen did an excellent job on his Slam Bidding book – so much more than the basics, including lots of insights learned by a top tournament professional over the years. His teaching style is clear, crisp and to the point.
      Funny you should mention your local whiz not letting partner play in 5 of a minor, pushing it up to 6. When I first learned social Bridge my teacher more or less said the same thing, albeit somewhat tongue in cheek:
      “If you can make 11 tricks in the minor, you might as well go to 6 since it’s just 1 more…”
      Besides, who was I to debate the subject with my mother?
      Happy Trails, Michael

      • Jeff Holst says:

        With the exception of when I know that I have a suit unstopped, I am much the same way as W.A’s whiz.

        At the Spring NABC partner and I stayed out of 3NT when we learned we had no heart stopper and played in 5D (at IMPs). Alas, our teammates misplayed the defense (taking only 4 heart tricks instead of the 5 they were entitled to), so we picked up only 1 IMP instead of 10. (Yes, we made 6, but it was hard to bid. We were far from certain that we did not have 2 losers on the bidding. At IMPs, safety is the thing.)

  2. n74tg says:

    Could you make the Download MS-Word, Powerpoint… an actual link instead of a normal text sentence?


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