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Asking for Kings Without All the Keycards

According to bridge wisdom that has prevailed since the Chicago Cubs won a World Series (well, maybe not that long ago), using Blackwood to ask for kings promises all the aces or, if using Roman Keycard Blackwood [RKCB], promises all the keycards and the trump queen. The advantage of playing this way is that it allows Teller to bid a grand slam when he can count thirteen tricks.

However, if Asker is allowed to inquire about kings even when a keycard or the trump queen is missing, there is an opportunity to reach 6NT when it is superior to playing six of the agreed suit. Teller may still announce that he expects to make a grand slam if all the keycards and the trump queen are present but he does so by bidding 6NT rather than seven of the agreed suit. Asker will pass if a critical card is missing and will otherwise bid a grand slam.

To illustrate, you open 1C on Axxx A Kx AQJxxx. Partner responds 1H and raises your 1S rebid to 4S. Your methods are 4NT is RKCB and a subsequent 5NT asks for specific kings. You bid 4NT and partner shows two keycards without the queen of spades. If partner has Kxxx KQxxx Axx x, you will make 6S about 55% of the time. However, if you ask for specific kings and find that partner has the king of clubs, you have eleven tricks opposite just Kxxx xxxx Axx Kx; the heart king or heart queen-jack or diamond queen would be the twelfth trick; or, with none of these and a non-heart lead, you have a twelfth trick in spades if spades are 3-2 or even with a heart lead if partner has the heart queen and the opponent with long spades has the heart king and you read the discards correctly. Everything considered, 6NT will likely make close to 90% of the time whereas 6S, which requires 3-2 spades, will make only 68% of the time. Without this agreement you could not risk asking for kings because that would empower partner to jump to a grand slam over 5NT with Kxxx KQJTx Axx x.

The disadvantage of playing this is that the players must remember that they are playing it. Also, 6NT must be a playable contract when Teller thinks we have all the tricks and we are instead missing a critical card.

The advantage of playing this is that 6NT can be reached when it is a safer contract than six of the agreed suit and when it is justified by playing matchpoints or BAM.

Maybe this will become standard by the time the Cubs win another World Series but probably not because the Cubbies are getting close.

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