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

We’ve been saying all along that RKC is both powerful and complicated. As if to prove our point, in the just concluded Spring Nationals one the best pairs in the world (Bobby Levin and Steve Weinstein) were on the team that won the premier event, the Vanderbilt Teams, despite using RKC to bid a grand in the final off the ace of trumps. And they won two IMPs for doing so! (The pair in the other room had a different keycard accident and bid the same grand, but Lew Stansby, looking at the ace of trump and on lead against 7NT if the enemy ran, doubled.) You might enjoy going to http://www.bridgewinners.com to read the exchange of emails between Levin and Weinstein about this hand.

When great players such as these have a keycard accident you can be pretty sure one of two things has happened: one of them had a void which the other didn’t expect or one of them thought that there were two relevant suits whose kings counted. We will discuss the latter problem in the next installment; today we look at what to do when you have a void and want to ask for keycards.

When you have a void and ask for keycards you want to tell partner not to count the ace of your void when telling you how many keycards he has. The reason should be obvious - if we’re missing one keycard you’d like to know that it’s the ace of the suit you’re void in before you decide to bid a grand; if we’re missing two keycards you want to know that if one of them is the ace of the suit you’re void in before you bid a small slam.

Here’s the black letter rule: Once we have a known trump fit, so that a jump to 4N would be RKC, a jump above 4N tells partner to exclude the ace of this suit when answering how many keycards he has. For example, if our suit is spades - say that the bidding has begun 1S-3S - a bid of five of a minor or 5H tells partner not to count the ace of the minor/hearts; that ace is said to be excluded, so bridge players refer to the bid of 5m/H as “exclusion.”

There aren’t really too many complexities here. It’s best to play that a bid is exclusion only if it’s both a jump and above 4N, so that an auction such as 1S-2H-4D is not exclusion (assuming that you’re playing two over one game forcing it should be a splinter in support of hearts). There is one special case: 1H-3H-4S - it seems to fit the criteria to be exclusion in spades but isn’t; for now, please just take our word for it.

Up next: Double RKC.

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