Bridge By The Lake – November 2020

Bridge By The Lake

By Ken Masson

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Many duplicate bridge players have adopted Roman Key Card Blackwood (RKCB) as their weapon of choice when investigating slams, and with good reason: it is a vast improvement on the gadget created by Easley Blackwood many decades ago.

The original Blackwood convention used a bid of 4 no trump to ask for aces and, if the partnership held all four, 5 no trump to ask for kings. This was certainly a help in preventing a pair from bidding a small slam off 2 cashing aces, but was found wanting in locating other cards which could be equally important to actually making a high-level contract.

Thus was born RKCB, which adds the king of the agreed trump suit to the 4 aces to make 5 “key cards.” It also allows the partnership to investigate if they also hold the queen of trumps and, in some cases, specific kings. It would take up too much space to describe the entire convention here, but if you would like to add this great tool to your arsenal, I would suggest that you visit and learn why it has become so popular around the world. We favor the “1430” version.

The diagrammed hand was played at the Lake Chapala Duplicate Bridge Club where one pair used RKCB to the max in arriving at an unbeatable grand slam.  North dealt and opened 1 diamond to which South responded 1 heart. Although South held 21 high card points she did not feel the need to make a jump shift bid as a new suit by responder at the lowest level is 100 percent forcing by an unpassed hand and there was no need to crowd the bidding. However, when North’s rebid was 2 hearts, South knew that at least a small slam was highly likely so she launched into 4 no trump right away.

North’s response of 5 clubs showed one or four keycards, and since South herself held four it wasn’t rocket science to figure out that North held the diamond ace.  But there was still work to do. South’s next bid of 5 diamonds was an extension of RKCB that all users may not be aware of: it asked specifically if North held the queen of the agreed trump suit, hearts.

North’s next bid carried two crucial messages: 6 clubs not only confirmed he held her majesty, but also the king of clubs (and by inference, likely shortness in spades). This was all the information South needed to land in the excellent contract of 7 hearts.

There was very little to the play. Declarer won the opening lead in dummy with the club king, drew trumps in three rounds, played ace, king of spades and ruffed one spade in dummy and pitched a spade on the diamond king. This was the only pair of 13 who played that hand to bid and make 7 hearts that day.

Once again it was shown that high card points alone do not guarantee success in the game of bridge. A good fit between the two hands was the essential feature in ensuring a triumph here. The judicious use of RKCB certainly helped this pair to a great score.

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