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

Today we address how to use RKC to ask partner about kings. After partner tells you how many keycards he has you may bid 5N to ask for kings. There are two ways to respond to the 5N king ask: (1) Some people play that you tell partner how many kings you have (not including the king of trump, which partner already knows about from your answer to 4N). If you play this way you should use the same steps that you do when answering how many keycards you have - if you play 1430 you bid 6C to say that you have one king, 6D to say that you have no kings, and 6H to say that you have two kings. For what to do if you have three or four kings see below. (2) We think that the better, and more popular, way to play is specific kings - that is, over 5N you bid the cheapest king you have.

Asking partner about kings is a try for a grand. The reason is obvious - when you bid 5N we’re committed to a slam, and just about the only reason to look further is because you’re thinking of a grand. Thus, if partner has any reason to think that a grand will make he bids it - the reason can be that he has three or four kings or that he has a long and solid side suit, in which case he jumps to seven of that suit if it’s below our trump suit to show the solid suit and suggest that we may be able to play 7N. For example, if you hold S Qxxx H KQJTx D Ax C Ax, we agree spades are trump, and partner bids RKC and then bids 5N asking for kings you should jump to 7H to show your solid side suit. If partner has something like S AKJx H Ax D Kxxx C Kxx he can confidently bid 7N and not have to worry about a ruff on opening lead or a bad spade split. But note that your hearts must be as good as those shown.

Let’s say that our suit is spades, partner bids 6C over 5N (showing the king of clubs), and you need the king of diamonds to bid a grand. You can now bid 6D and hope that partner understands what you need (the next article about RKC will discuss how to ask partner what he has in a specific suit). Conversely, suppose partner had bid 6D over 5N and you need the king of clubs for a grand. That’s easy - partner doesn’t have it! How do you know? Because he bid 6D and he wouldn’t have bid that if he had the king of clubs.

Assuming that you choose to play that you show specific kings over 5N, what do you do if you have two kings? Simple, you must show them both, even if that means bidding above our trump suit and forcing partner to sign off in 6N. (Yes, there are complexities here, but we’re ignoring them for now). As we said above, if you have three or four you just bid the grand.

One final thought. Sometimes you have the queen of a suit that partner has shown length in but that isn’t trump - perhaps he opened a major, supported your suit, bid RKC in your suit, and now bids 5N. If you have no kings but do have the queen of partner’s major you may choose to show it as a king. The logic is simple: partner has at least five cards in his major and is looking for a grand; if his suit is no better than AJ10xx how can he be thinking of a grand? If you do have a king you should show it first, but then bid six of partner’s major to show that queen if partner signs off. Caveat: if you’ve shown that you are short in partner’s major and have the stiff queen do not show it as the king - now partner could be as bad as Axxxx in his suit.

Up next: Specific suit asks.

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