We present here the second in an occasional series on Roman Keycard Blackwood (RKC).

In our previous article we discussed what a keycard is and how to show that you have one or four, three or none, or two with or without the queen. Here we address what at first glance may seem like a non-issue: What Suit Is Trump?

First of all, why does it matter? In regular Blackwood you don’t have to know what suit partner thinks is trump - you count the number of Aces you have and make the bid that discloses that number to partner. But remember that one of the key advantages of RKC is that you use it tell partner about the King and Queen of trump. And, obviously, to do that you need to know what trump is. Consider this simple auction: 1S-2H-4N. Let’s assume that 4N clearly asks for keycards. If you have two aces and the king of spades do you have two keycards or three? If spades are trump you have three; if hearts are trump you have two. And similarly if you have the king of hearts but not the king of spades with your two aces - if hearts are trump you have three, but if spades are trump you have two. And if you have two aces and the queen of hearts  do you bid 5H, the step that shows two keycards without the queen of trump, or 5S, the step that shows two keycards with the queen? The answer again depends on what trump is. It can be downright embarrassing if you think spades are trump and show the king of spades as a keycard when partner thinks hearts are trump and bids a slam (or, worse, a grand) off a cashing ace (when we do it’s usually the ace of trump that’s missing; our teammates are always very understanding).

Unfortunately, there’s no simple rule we can give you to answer this key (no pun intended) question. The best we can do is give you some of the rules that we use and that we think are probably standard expert practice. As always, you and your partner need to decide what you want to play; it’s critical that the two of you agree on what your bids mean:

First, if partner just raised a suit that suit is trump for purposes of RKC - e.g., 1S-2D-3D-4N is RKC with diamonds trump; 1S-2H-2S-3S-4N is RKC with spades trump. This means that even if we’ve bid and raised two suits the second one is trump - e.g. 1S-2S-3C-4C-4N is RKC with clubs trump.

Second, if there is one suit that partner can raise below game and another that he can’t the former is trump. For example, 1H-2D-3H-4N is RKC with hearts trump - if responder wanted to bid RKC with diamonds trump he could have bid 4D and then bid 4N. Many players simplify this rule and just play that if no suit has been raised then the last suit bid is trump.

Third, after a strong jump shift or 2C opening 4N by the jump shifter/2C opener is RKC in his own suit unless he raised partner’s suit - e.g., 1H-2S (strong)-3C-4N is RKC with spades trump; 2C-2D-2H-3C-4N is RKC with hearts trump.

These three rules are just a start (you don’t think it’s all that easy to bid a grand off the ace of trump, do you). But they are a decent start. As you play RKC more you will find other auctions where you need to clarify with your partner which suit is trump.

Up next: The Queen Ask.




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