Richard Butrovich asks via email, “Do you go past the agreed trump suit to show your cheapest king when responding to the specific king ask in RKC?”

Coopers: Good question! The simple answer is that you go past six of our trump suit only if it’s clear that 6NT is playable or if you are sure that this is the king partner needs for a grand.

How do you know if 6NT is safe? First, if someone has previously suggested notrump as a contract. For example, notrump is safe when partner has opened 1NT or 2NT and then has gotten enthusiastic enough over your slam try to bid keycard, or when one of us offered 3NT as a contract and the other continued to the four level in a minor as a slam try. Another time 6NT should be safe is when our suit is clubs and partner bids 5N as the specific king ask; since all of the outside kings are above 6C partner must know that 6NT is safe or he would not ask.

When can you be sure that your king above the trump suit is the right king? If it’s the king of partner’s or your known long side suit, thus a source of tricks. For example, when partner opens a major and a minor is trump, the king of the major will clearly provide the extra tricks needed for a grand.

Here is something else you might want to play. When your suit is a minor and partner’s response to RKC is above five of that minor, use 5S to force partner to bid 5NT (this is known as a puppet). It is usually used when partner’s response to RKC was a disappointment. It allows us to play 5NT rather than bid a slam when we’re missing two keycards. You can use this puppet for other purposes as well. One good use is to puppet and then bid six of our minor to tell partner that we have all the keycards but you don’t know if showing a king above our suit is safe. Thus you can invite a grand without hearing about a king that gets us past six of our suit. If you play this and ask for specific kings when you could have puppeted, you definitely want your partner to show a king above six of our minor.

Finally, notice that showing a king above our suit is not a problem when you are playing kickback - you can show every king by using notrump to stand for the king of the kickback suit. For example, if our suit is hearts and partner bids 4S, kickback, and then bids 5S, the specific king ask, you can show both minor suit kings by bidding six of that minor, and bid 5NT to show the king of spades.

We received a number of emails asking us to continue this column and we will by happy to do so as long as we keep getting questions. Anything you find puzzling is worth sending to - if it wasn’t clear to you then others are likely to find it interesting as well.

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