We present here the eighth in an occasional series on Roman Keycard Blackwood (RKC). If you missed any of the earlier ones, they are all published on the district web site at http://d17acbl.org under the heading “columns.”

If you have become comfortable with the idea that there are sometimes five “aces” and a relevant queen to worry about in your Blackwood sequences, that’s good; you’re well on your way to better slam bidding. But this month we’re introducing the idea that sometimes there are six “aces” and two queens to worry about!

Here’s an example: Suppose the bidding starts 1S-2H-3H-3S-4N. What suit is trump? Wouldn’t it be nice if both suits were trump for keycard purposes? Well, it can be so if you play Double RKC (also known as six ace RKC).

The responses are straightforward: Count your aces and add one for the king of hearts (trump) and one for the king of spades. Remember that we told you that the second step response to RKC (5D) shows zero or three keycards? Well that wasn’t exactly complete - it can also show six. Similarly, the steps that shows two can also be five.  In almost all cases you can forget about partner having five or six keycards - if he does, what are you, with none or one, doing bidding RKC?  If you bid one of the first two steps (5C, showing one or four, or 5D, showing zero or three) partner may ask for the queen as always, by bidding the next step that isn’t notrump or five of our suit (or, here, one of our suits).

But, alas, there are four possible holdings of the two relevant queens - you may have no queens, the queen of either one of our suits, or both queens; thus, there are four steps: no queen, the queen of the lower suit (only), the queen of the higher suit (only), and both queens. And you use these steps both when partner asks about the queens and when you have two (or five) keycards and tell partner about your queens in your initial RKC response. For example, you know that if partner bids 4N, RKC, when hearts is our suit you bid 5H with two keycards without the queen of hearts and 5S with two keycards and the queen of hearts. But what do you bid with two keycards if, say, both spades and clubs are trump? Take a moment to work it out. OK, the steps are 5H, two keycards and no queens; 5S, two keycards and the queen of clubs; 5N, two keycards and the queen of spades; and 6C, two keycards and both queens. You should have noticed that several of those responses overlap with what in a single RKC auction would show voids (5N and 6C). The answer is that when RKC is double you cannot show voids (for just this reason - the queen showing responses take up so much room that voids go by the wayside).

All well and good, perhaps, but why then do some very good players not play Double RKC even with their regular partners? The great difficulty is knowing when Double RKC is on. We have a number of complex rules which we usually don’t remember and aren’t going to burden you with (an odd thing is that when one of us forgets the usually does as well, so no harm ends up being done). We’ll start you out with one rule that probably everyone who plays Double RKC would agree with: If you and your partner each supported the other within the first five natural bids in an auction Double RKC is on. An easy case is 1S-2H-3H-3S-4N, where we’ve each supported the other in the first four bids. What about 2C-2D-2H-2S-3S-4H-4N? It may look as if the support for hearts came on the sixth bid, but this is where the “natural bids” language is relevant - 2C and 2D are not natural bids and so don’t count; thus, 4H was only the fourth bid.

Up next (although discussed a bit in this article): What suit is trump?

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