Keycard Blackwood and Beyond by Matthew Granovetter


I took a walk down the street yesterday with one of the bridge world's favorite writers, Eddie Kantar, and he told me he was currently working on the third edition of Roman Keycard Blackwood. My publishing firm  published the first edition of this book and, having proofread the thing a number of times,  I thought I had seen the last of this subject -- but this convention seems to be evolving. The board below is a good example.


West dealer

Both vulnerable

                            S  J

                            H  Q J 9 7 6 5 3

                            D  J 7 6 5

                            C  T

           S  J 4 2                        S  A K Q T 8

           H  2                            H  A 8

           D  K 9 8                        D  A T 4

           C  K Q 9 7 6 5                  C  A 4 2

                            S  9 6 5 3

                            H  K T 4

                            D  Q 3 2

                            C  J 8 3


         WEST         NORTH         EAST         SOUTH

         Pass         Pass          2C           Pass

         3C           Pass          3S           Pass

         4NT          Pass           ?


At many tables, the auction began with two passes and a 2C opening by East. West has a 3C positive (especially if his partnership uses 3C as a double negative on the next round) and now East has a chance to use the Grand Slam Force, jumping to 5NT over 3C. If partner has two of the top three club honors, 7C is likely to be a fine contract. The board was played in matchpoint events, however, where there's a premium for playing in a major or notrump. So East, at matchpoints, should probably bid 3S to get more information.

Upon hearing 3S, West has a perfect Blackwood hand. His partner has shown a strong two-bid in spades and he has controls in every suit. Many in this situation play the jump to 4NT as Roman Keycard Blackwood for spades, the last bid suit.

Finally, we get to East's problem (we should all have such problems!). East has all the keycards and the queen of trump, yet his partner is asking for keycards! One player told me that her partner (East) bid 5S over 4NT, showing 2 or 5 keycards plus the queen of trumps. But she (West) had never heard of this nuance. So I checked with the authority. What would Eddie bid over 4NT with the East cards?


Eddie: "Yes, 5S does show 2 or 5 with the trump queen, but I would bid 7NT. If partner is asking for aces and I have this hand, he must have all the rest."


So common sense takes precedence over science. But then Eddie pointed out that the trouble on this deal occurred when North opened 3H in front of East. In these cases the bidding usually went:


         WEST         NORTH         EAST         SOUTH

         Pass         3H            Dbl          4H



Now if West bid 5C, East might try 5NT. But is this the Grand Slam Force? And even if it is, will he convert 7C to 7NT? Preempts definitely hurt. Another thought is that West might preempt first.


         WEST         NORTH         EAST         SOUTH

         3C           Pass          3S           Pass

         4H           Pass          ?


West's 3C opener preempts a preempt. East forces with 3S and West cuebids 4H. West might cuebid 4D, but some play that the singleton is bid first in this type of auction, since an outside king or ace is rare. Now what does East bid? According to the book, he bids 4NT, Keycard for spades, despite owning all the keycards. Then he rebids 5NT to SHOW partnership possession of all the keycards plus the queen of trump and this allows West to jump to seven "with a source of tricks." This auction works splendidly here, and East can convert 7S to 7NT, knowing partner's source of tricks is in clubs. By the  way, East should lay down the ace of clubs first in case South holds four clubs to the jack-ten.


A final thought: I once discussed the idea of playing "zoom" in Roman Keycard Auctions.  "Zoom" applies when you want to show your keycards instead of asking partner for them; you do this by bidding at the five level over 4H, pretending that your partner has bid 4NT. For example, in our last auction, over West's 4H cuebid, East wishes that partner would use keycard, so that he could show five keycards and the queen of trumps. To get his wish, he "zooms" to 5S over 4H to say  "This is what I would have bid, if you had bid 4NT."


I mentioned this idea to Eddie to see if he would like to include it in the third edition of the book. Eddie turned to me and said, "Matthew, that's for the twentieth edition."