M A J O R   S U I T   K E Y C A R D   B L A C K W O O D
How Many Keycards Do You Have?

Roy Wilson

What's wrong With RKC?
Eddie Kantar wrote four different books trying to describe how to overcome the problems with Roman Keycard Blackwood, and numerous auxiliary conventions such as Kickback, Redwood, Minorwood, etc, have been devised to compensate for the failures inherent in it, but it is still one of the world's most popular conventions.  Four books!  And yet, two players will sit down to play for the first time and one will ask, "Fourteen thirty or the other?"
The other will reply, "I play zero three one four."
And with that they go on to the next item on the card.  So much for Eddie's four books.

Good and Bad
The idea of making the king of trump equivalent to an ace was a great improvement over the old standard Blackwood, and being able to ask about the queen is almost as valuable.  RKC works wonderfully well when your trump suit is spades, but not so well with hearts, and is awful with the minors.  (To be fair, standard Blackwood is no better when your trump suit is a minor, especially clubs!)  Let me show you a disaster caused by the misuse of RKC.  This hand occurred on BBO, BridgeBase Online.

The Problem
I'm pretty sure you can see the problem without me pointing out the obvious... Declarer was committed to slam off two aces because the trump suit was hearts and not spades, which could have been passed.  Like I said, the convention works great when you have the master suit.

Three Suggestions
  • Read Kantar's four books and then tell your partners what you learned, because they won't read them
  • Give up RKC - but keep the idea of the king of trump being a keycard and use a modified standard Blackwood
  • Take a look at MSK, Major Suit Keycard, which is not as complicated as RKC, but solves this problem

    Major Suit Keycard - MSK (Created by Roy Wilson)
    Major Suit Keycard is a modified Blackwood that is optimized for majors, hence the name.  It will also work for minors, but a partnership would do better using Gerber or Minorwood when the trump suit is clubs or diamonds.

    4NT is the asking bid: 4NT is the asking bid:
      5     Zero or one Keycard
      5     Two Keycards but no Queen
      5     Two Keycards with the Queen
      5     Three keycards or two with an unspecified void
      5NT     Four keycards
      6     Three Keycards and a void specifically in clubs
      6     Three Keycards and a void specifically in diamonds
      6     Three Keycards and a spade suit void - (Always the other non-trump major)
      6     Three Keycards and a heart suit void - (Always the other non-trump major)
    5NT is the asking bid:
      5     Zero or one King
      5     Two Kings
      5     Three Kings
    The same agreement can be used with the 5NT asking bid after a response of 6.

      1.     When the response to 4NT is 5 showing zero or one keycard, the asking partner can bid 5 to discover which it is.
      Retreating to five of the major denies a keycard, but bidding a new suit shows one keycard with the queen of trump and jumping to six of the trump suit shows one keycard, but denies the queen.
      2.     In response to the 5NT king-asking bid, a bid of 6 shows either zero or one king.  The 6 is available to find out if the responder has zero, or does he have one?  When responder has no kings, he simply stops at the small slam in either hearts or spades, but with one king, he should jump to the grand slam.    (Don't ask, unless you want to be in the the top contract!)
      3.     In response to the 4NT asking bid, a bid of 5NT shows four keycards... But now the player who started the asking sequence cannot use 5NT to aks for kings!  But it's not a problem - the player who initiated the process simply becomes the responder and tells his partner how many kings he has.  This is a partnership game, and the Asking/Responding roles have been exchanged.
    Now take another look at the hand at the top of the page and bid it again, using MSK.

    If you would like a more complete explanation of Roman Keycard try:  

    Roy Wilson