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

In the last two articles in this series we discussed Redwood and Kickback, jumps to the four level in a red suit when our trump suit is a minor and to 4S when our suit is hearts. But sometimes a bid of the Redwood/Kickback suit can ask for keycards even when it’s not a jump.

At both tables in a team game the auction began 1H-4D. This splinter fit opener’s hand well, and he bid 4N to ask for keycards even though he had only one. Partner dutifully bid 5S, showing two keycards with the queen of hearts, and there we were - the only thing to do now was to bid 6H and hope that the missing keycard was the onside king of hearts (it wasn’t - down one for a push).

But notice what happens if we could have bid 4S, even though it’s not a jump, as RKC - now partner would have bid 5H (the fourth step) to show two with the queen, and we could have played there. The same analysis applies even more strongly when our suit is a minor - say that the auction begins 1D-4C (a splinter) and your only keycard bid is 4N; if partner has two with or without the queen you’re too high, and if he has three or zero and bids 5D you’ll have no idea what to do. But if you’re playing nonjump Redwood you can bid 4D as RKC. Now nothing that partner does can embarrass you - if he bids 4H or 4S (14 or 30) you bid 4N or 5D, which is to play unless he has the higher number of keycards, in which case he bids as if your bid was the queen ask. If partner has two without you may pass his bid of 4N (especially likely to be important at matchpoints); if he has two with (and therefore bids 5C) you may sign off in 5D if that’s not enough. You may also, especially at matchpoints, want to play 5N rather than 5D if two with the queen isn’t enough; there are several ways of getting there: We play that a bid of 5S here forces partner to bid 5N; you could also play that an immediate bid of 5N by the Redwood bidder is to play.

So here’s the rule as we understand it: When we’ve agreed a minor or hearts and a jump to four of the Redwood/Kickback suit is not available, a nonjump bid of that suit is still RKC unless it could be a playable spot. And, of course, it’s that last phrase - “could be a playable spot” - that may cause problems. Some auctions are easy - e.g., 1D-3S-4H or 1H-4H-4S; the Redwood/Kickback suit has never been bid and so it’s not a possible playable spot. But what about 1D-1H-3D-4D-4H? This one is actually easy as well - partner didn’t rebid hearts and you shouldn’t have more than two of them when you rebid 3D. OK, so what about 1D-1H-3D-3H-4D-4H? Here it’s best to treat 4H as to play - responder bid nothing but hearts; if responder wanted to bid Redwood he could have jumped to 4H on the previous round (no possibility of disaster there!). We have been trying to work out an unambiguous set of rules for a long time now and haven’t finalized them yet. On the other hand, when Steve plays with other partners the agreement is sometimes merely “nonjump RKC only when really obvious.” We suggest you start with the obvious cases and work from there; expect a few disasters and try not to have them at important times!

Two last things: (1) Suppose you want to cuebid the Redwood/Kickback suit instead of bidding RKC. No problem! A nonjump bid of 4N replaces what a bid of four of the Redwood/Kickback suit would have been if you weren’t playing nonjump RKC. (2) How do you follow up after partner responds to nonjump RKC? The best rule is to say that 4N is to play if our suit is a minor and partner has the lower number of keycards (one rather than four or zero rather than three). If our suit is a major, 4N is the specific king ask. Rebidding the Redwood/Kickback suit is the specific king ask unless you could have bid 4N to ask for kings, in which case it’s whatever you play a new suit bid, other than the queen ask, to be after a response to RKC - for simplicity, you should agree that rebidding the Redwood/Kickback suit is never the queen ask; leave the first unbid suit that isn’t the Redwood/Kickback suit for that.

Up next: Special RKC - how to ask for keycards when partner preempts.

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