Glasnevin Bridge Club

Slam Bidding
In this system,
Gerber is not used and Quantitative Raises are used only in the context of balanced hands and are dealt with in that part of the system manual. This section deals with all other slam bidding techniques.

Control Showing Cue Bids (Italian)
When the partnership has agreed a suit at the 3 level or higher, the bid of any other suit is showing a control in that suit. The same applies after one member of the partnership has insisted on a suit. This system uses Italian style cue bids which show
first or second round control, as opposed to the more usual method where first round controls are shown first followed by second round controls. Suits are bid up the line so skipping a suit denies both first and second round controls in that suit. One of the strengths of the Italian style is that totally unguarded suits are discovered quickly, often allowing the partnership to bale out in game e.g. 1H-3H-4C-4H. Opener here knows immediately that partner has no controls in spades and unless he has spades controlled, can immediately bale out in 4H.

The other big advantage is that if the partnership has all suits controlled at either the first or second round level, this too is discovered quickly so 4NT is still available. Italian style cue bids and Roman Key-Card Blackwood work particularly well together.

The down side is that you don’t know whether partner is showing first or second round control, unless of course (as is often the case), you have a first or second round control in the suit in question yourself. This can be overcome if cue bidding continues to a higher level allowing the suit to be mentioned twice showing both first and second round control. However, this will usually be at the cost of bypassing 4NT.

Note that when the partnership agrees a suit at the 2 level e.g. 1H-2H, the bid of a new suit is not a control showing cue bid but a
help asking trial bid.

Roman Key-Card Blackwood
(RKCB 0314)
This is a version of Blackwood which allows the trump king and sometimes the queen to be shown. It works by promoting the King of trumps to Ace status. The 4 aces and trump king are renamed Key-Cards so the pack now contains 5 Key-Cards, 3 Kings, 4 Queens, 4 Jacks etc. The asking bid is 4NT. The responses are as follows;
  • Step 1 i.e. 5C shows 0 or 3 key-cards (aide memoire – a club has 3 leaves).
  • Step 2 i.e. 5D shows 1 or 4 key-cards (aide memoire – a diamond has 4 points).
  • Step 3 i.e. 5H shows 2 key-cards.
  • Step 4 i.e. 5S shows 2 key-cards and the trump queen.
This scheme of response is quite workable but there is a further elaboration available which can be used, subject to partnership agreement, as follows;
After the 4NT asking bid, in addition to the responses described above, the following responses are available;
  • 5NT shows 2 or 4 Keycards and an unspecified useful void.
  • 6 of the non-trump suit shows 1 or 3 key-cards and a void in the bid suit. This is only usable if the void in question is in a suit lower ranking than the trump suit.
  • 6 of the trump suit shows 1 or 3 keycards and a void in a higher ranking suit.

When to use it, when to avoid it?
Blackwood (of whatever flavor) is one of the most overused conventions in Bridge! Try to remember the following guidelines before pulling the 4NT card out of the bidding box;
  • RKCB works best when you know that the partnership has either first or second round control of all suits, either because you can see them in your own hand or because they have been cue bid. Note that it doesn’t matter whether the control is first round or second round. That’s why Italian cue bids and RKCB work so well together.
  • If you have reached 4S in cue bidding and there is still a suit whose control status is unknown to you, it is generally safer to continue cue bidding rather than bidding 4NT.
  • Do not launch into RKCB straight away after finding your fit unless you have no interest in showing a control and don’t want to give the opposition any information. Generally however, you should show controls first.
  • Don’t use RKCB if the identity of partner’s key-card is vital (as opposed to just how many key-cards partner holds). Suppose you are heading for a heart slam holding AKJTxxxx of hearts, a spade void, AKQ in diamonds and xx in clubs. It is vital that partner has the club ace or king. If you bid 4NT and partner replies 5C (no key-card) or 5H/S (2 key-cards) you know exactly what to do but what if he replies 5D? You’re stuffed. Now you know that partner has either the Club ace which is critical or the Spade Ace which is waste paper! You have absolutely no way of knowing which.
  • Don’t use RKCB if you are hunting for a minor slam and if partner’s response might push you beyond 5 of your minor. Suppose you are heading for a diamond slam missing 4 key-cards and you bid 4NT. If partner has 3 or 4 keycards, you’re fine but what if he has 2? He will bid 5H that’s what and now you are stuffed again only worse! You can’t bid 5D so you are now stranded in 6D and you know you are going down even before you see dummy! In general RKCB is not great when you are hunting minor slams, which is where Redwood comes into play (see below).
  • If hearts is the agreed suit and partner bids 4NT, be very wary of replying 5S as this might put you overboard. One solution is to employ full blown kickback (see below). The other inelegant but not unreasonable answer is to agree that all 2 key-card containing hands in this specific situation just respond 5H, even if the trump queen is held. This may result in missing the odd slam but will avoid disasters. The asking bidder might have the trump queen, in which case he knows that a 5H response is real. If not, he should consider the possibility that partner has the trump queen but has been forced to lie!
King Ask (Grand Slam Try)
If (and only if), after hearing partners response to 4NT you know that the partnership holds all 5 key-cards, you may bid 5NT to ask for kings. The responses are;
  • 6C – no king.
  • 6D – 1 king.
  • 6H – 2 kings.
  • 6S – 3 kings.
Don’t forget, there are only 3 “kings” since the trump king is now a “key-card”.

Queen Ask

This is another optional extra, subject to partnership agreement. After hearing a response of 5C or 5D, the Blackwood bidder does not know whether partner holds the trump queen. He can ask by bidding the cheapest suit that is not a sign-off. In response, partner without the queen bids the trump suit. Partner with the queen bids step 1. Partner with the queen and an outside King below the rank of the trump suit bids the suit in which he holds the king. With two such kings, he bids the cheapest.

Example Auction
  • 1H - opening
  • 4C - splinter agreeing hearts with a club feature
  • 4NT - How many keycards have you?
  • 5D - 1 or 3
  • 5S - queen ask (5H would be a sign-off)
The available answers are;
  • 6H - No trump queen, says nothing about outside kings
  • 5NT - Shows trump queen and denies outside kings below the rank of the agreed trump suit
  • 6C - Shows trump queen and club king
  • 6D - Shows trump queen, diamond king and denies the club king
  • 6S - Shows the trump queen, spade king and denies both minor kings. Note that this bid commits the partnership to 6NT or a grand slam so be very careful. There will be circumstances where you will hold the spade king but will have to deny it for fear of going over-board, just as you sometimes have to deny the trump queen holding two keycards where the agreed suit is hearts.

Dealing with Interruption (DOPI)
Usually when you are slam bidding, the opposition will be listening passively, but what if partner has just bid 4NT and RHO bids? The solution is to use DOPI or more accurately D0P1;
  • Double shows 0 or 3 key-cards.
  • Pass shows 1 or 4 key-cards.
  • Step 1 shows 2 key-cards.
  • Step 2 shows 2 key-cards and the trump queen.
So if partner has bid 4NT and RHO comes in with 5H. Holding exactly 2 key-cards, your bid is 5S (step 1). Holding 2 key-cards plus the trump queen, your bid is 5NT (step 2), and you have lost the ability to king hunt – live with it!

Which suit is the trump suit?

Ideally, this will have been agreed (e.g. 1H-3H). Occasionally, one partner will have insisted on nominating it (e.g. 2C-3H). What if there is ambiguity? Supposing the auction goes 1D-1S-2H-4NT. From opener’s perspective, he can’t tell whether partner has found a 5-3 diamond fit of a 4-4 heart fit. Opener responds on the assumption that the slam they are heading for is the last suit bid before 4NT, hearts in this example. The Blackwood bidder must remember this, particularly if he knows the last bid suit is not the slam suit, in interpreting partner’s response.

Redwood and Kickback
The problem with using 4NT as the asking bid to initiate the RKCB stepped response is that the answer may strand the asker above the safe bale-out point of 5 of the proposed trump suit in any suit other than spades. The lower the rank of the trump suit, the greater the potential danger of this happening. Kickback addresses this by using the suit above the proposed trump suit at the 4 level as the asking bid. Thus for clubs, the asking bid is 4D, for diamonds 4H, for hearts 4S and for spades, it remains 4NT. Redwood is the same but applied only to the minors so the asking bids are 4D and 4H, the two red suits, thus Redwood! The downside of Kickback (and Redwood) is the possibility of confusion between its asking bid and other bids such as splinters, control showing cue bids and, in some auctions, natural bids.

The compromise I propose is to use Redwood for the minors and for now, to continue to use the 4NT asking bid for hearts as well as spades (with the modification outlined above vis a viv trying to avoid answering 5S when the agreed suit is hearts). To minimize the risk of confusion, the following rules will apply, based on the principle that cue bidding trumps Redwood, which in turn trumps splinters;
  1. If the 4D/H bid could be a splinter of Redwood, it’s Redwood. There is little loss here as splinters are generally not a great idea over minor suits.
  2. If you want to cue bid rather than ace ask (often the better approach), go ahead and do so. This switches Redwood off and the ace ask reverts to 4NT.
  3. If the first cue bid you would normally make corresponds with the Redwood bid, you can’t make it as partner will interpret it as Redwood. Instead, cue bid your next highest control and hope to return to the Redwood suit later in the auction.
The response to Redwood is exactly the same as RKCB if you think “Step Thoughts”;
  • Step 1 shows 0 or 3 key-cards.
  • Step 2 shows 1 or 4 key-cards.
  • Step 3 shows 2 key-cards.
  • Step 4 shows 2 key-cards and the trump queen.
Having got your answer and if, and only if;
  • You know the partnership holds all five key-cards and
  • You have sufficient bidding space left;
You can make a Grand Slam Try (i.e. ask for Kings) by making a relay bid (i.e. the cheapest bid available unless that bid is in the agreed slam suit, in which case the relay bid is the suit above it). Again, the responses are straightforward once you have become a “Step Thinker”;
  • Step 1 – no king.
  • Step 2 – 1 king.
  • Step 3 – 2 kings.
  • Step 4 – All 3 “kings”.
Some examples of Redwood auctions;
  • 1C-4D
  • 1D-4H
  • 1C-2C (inverted)-4D
  • 1D-2D (inverted)-4H
  • 2D-2NT-4C-4D
  • 2D-2S-3D-4H
  • 1D-1H-2C-3C-4D
  • 1C-1H-2D-4H
After suit agreement at the 3+ level, a sudden leap to the 5 level shows a void in the bid suit and asks partner to say how many useful aces (i.e. outside the void suit) he has using a stepped response; step 1 = none, step 2 = one etc.)

Acol 4NT
This opening bid is made by a powerhouse hand whose only interest in partner’s hand is whether or not it contains an ace and if so, which ace. The responses are;
  • 5C - No Ace
  • 5D/H/S - The bid Ace
  • 5NT - Two Aces
  • 6C - The bid Ace.
If partner’s answer embarrasses you, you have only yourself to blame!

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