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

Today we address how to use an important advantage RKC has over regular Blackwood, asking partner for the queen of trump. (Before we begin, however, thanks are due to Greg Mackey of Albuquerque, who pointed out to us that RKC is not the only convention to have its own book.)

First a brief review: A keycard is any ace or the king of trump. There are two ways to play the first two steps after 4N. We play that 5C shows one or four keycards and 5D shows three or zero. This is known colloquially as 1430, which makes it easy to remember as it is the score for making a vulnerable major suit slam. Others reverse the first two steps, playing that 5C shows zero or three keycards and 5D shows one or four; this is  known colloquially as 3014. Everyone agrees that 5H shows two keycards without the queen of trump and 5S shows two keycards with the queen of trump.

If partner responds 5H or 5S you know whether he has the queen or not. But what if he bids 5C or 5D? You bid the next step that isn’t our suit to ask about the queen. For example, if our suit is hearts and partner responds to RKC by bidding 5C you bid 5D to ask for the queen, perhaps intending to play 5H if he doesn’t have it. But if partner bids 5D you would have to bid 5S to ask for the queen and therefore you must be looking for a grand since whatever his answer you will have to bid at least 6H.

Which leads us to the obvious question of what partner does when you ask for the queen. If partner doesn’t have the queen it’s easy, he signs off in our suit at the cheapest level. If partner does have the queen he bids the cheapest king he has; if he has no kings he jumps in our trump suit. For example, assuming that our suit is hearts, partner responds 5C to your bid of 4N, RKC, and you ask for the queen of hearts by bidding 5D, partner bids 5S to show the queen plus the king of spades or 6C to show the queen plus the king of clubs and deny having the king of spades. Left to the interested reader is what partner’s bid of 6D would be. If partner has the queen but no kings he bids 6H.

A minor complexity: If partner bids 5C or 5D and you don’t want to be in slam unless he has the higher number of keycards you simply bid five of our suit; if partner has the higher number he treats this as the queen ask.

And finally, how do you as the RKC responder know if you have the queen? Well, duh, you look at your hand! But sometimes you say you have the queen even if you don’t. If you know that our side has at least ten cards in our suit - if, playing five card majors, you have five or more cards in our major - it’s as good as having the queen, so go ahead and show it. (And please don’t write to us saying how you bid a grand on this reasoning only to find queen third of trump opposite a void and went down).

Up next: Asking for kings.

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