The ROMAN KEY CARD (BLACKWOOD) CONVENTION
The Roman Key Card Convention (RKC) recognizes that the possession of the King of the agreed-upon trump suit may be just as important as the possession of any side suit Ace. Furthermore, it operates on the premise that possession of the Queen of the agreed-upon trump suit is the preeminent additional information of importance. With this additional information imparted, it is oft times easier for a partnership to determine if the final contract should be at the game level, the 6-Level (Small Slam) or, alternatively, even the 7-level (Grand Slam).
A. Using RKC, there are, therefore, five (5) key cards; i.e., the four (4) Aces and the King of Trumps. The King of trumps is, in the final analysis, almost as important a card as any Ace; for if a partnership is lacking both an Ace and the Trump King, a slam is likely to be a poor proposition.
The RKC Responses to 4NT are, therefore, more complicated than over the standard Blackwood Convention. They allow the responder to show the 4NT-bidder whether or not he/she holds the Queen of the specified Trump Suit as well as the five Aces.
(Using the 0314 Method):
5C = 0 or 3 key cards
5D = 1 or 4 key cards
5H = 2 or 5 key cards, without the Queen of the agreed-upon Trump Suit
5S = 2 or 5 key cards, with the Queen of the agreed-upon Trump Suit (*)
(*) When holding 5 or more pieces in the agreed-upon Trump Suit, Responder may respond as if he/she holds the Queen of Trumps even if it is not present (The unknown extra trump length acts as if the Queen of Trumps were present).
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B. When the Responder has shown 0, 3, (5C) or 1, 4, (5D) key cards to the 4NT inquiry, he/she has not yet disclosed whether or not he/she holds the Queen of the Trump suit. If the 4NT bidder wishes to ask about that card, he/she makes the cheapest possible bid exclusive of the trump suit, the latter of which would signal a sign-off. Using this method the responder would then answer the presence or absence of the Trump Queen along with his/her side suit Kings as follows:
First step = No trump Queen
Second step = Trump Queen and no side suit Kings
Third step = Trump Queen and one (1) side suit King
Fourth step = Trump Queen and two (2) side suit Kings
Fifth step = Trump Queen and three (3) side suit Kings
Example: Opener Responder
4NT 5D (One or Four Key Cards)
5H (Trump Q?) 6C (Trump Queen + One King)
C. If the partnership holds all five key cards and the trump Queen, 5NT is then bid by the invoking partner asking for Kings. Asking for Kings playing Roman Key Card is similar to asking for Kings using regular Blackwood; it promises all the Aces (plus the King and Queen of Trumps) and shows an interest in a Grand Slam.
The responses to 5NT in the RKC system are as follows: Note: The showing of one King (The King of Trumps) has already been accounted for.
6C = 0 or 3 Kings
6D = 1 King
6H = 2 Kings
D. If the Responder has a useful void, the responses to 4NT are as follows, as long as he/she does not go past the agreed-upon suit: Note than in so doing, h/she cannot distinguish between hands that do and do not contain the trump Queen.
5NT = 0 or 2 key cards plus an unspecified void
6C = 1 or 3 key cards, void in Clubs
6D = 1 or 3 key cards, void in Diamonds
6H = 1 or 3 key cards, void in Hearts
6 of the agreed-upon suit = 1 or 3 key cards, plus a void in a higher-ranking suit.
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