Roman Key Card Blackwood

Normal Blackwood 4NT or even Gerber (4C) will work well enough in most situations but there will be times when the RKC asking bid is crucial to being able to find the best final contract, which of course will nearly always be a slam, though sometimes it may be a five level contract when you find that a slam is unlikely or even impossible.

The way that Roman key card works is as follows:
Instead of the usual four aces, there are five KEY cards, the four aces plus the king of trumps. That means that you have to have either agreed a trump suit, e.g. in a simple sequence like 1C-1H-3H or say a weak 2 opening when the trump suit is agreed by implication. As well as the five key cards, there is another one which can be of vital importance, the QUEEN of trumps.

How do we respond to the “Roman Key card” ask?
There are two different versions of the responses, which is unfortunate but that’s the way it is, some play it one way some the other:

  • Version 1: 5C 0 or 3 key cards, 5D 1 or 4 key cards; remember this as “0314”
  • Version 2: 5C 1 or 4 key cards, 5D 0 or 3 key cards (“1430”)

Which is better? You decide and agree with partner. “Expert” opinion seems to favour “1430”.

Then, as well as that, the QUEEN of trumps is often a very important card, and that can be found by adding two more steps, with:

  • 5H saying “two key cards WITHOUT the queen of trumps”
  • 5S saying “two key cards PLUS the queen of trumps”

Why is the queen of trumps also an important card? Let’s take a very simple example.
Partner opens a weak 2H, vulnerable against not, and your hand is


Roman Key card gives you all the answers you need:
If partner shows one key card, bid a confident 6H; if partner shows two key cards without the queen of trumps, also bid a confident 6H though you might have a heart loser. If partner shows two key cards PLUS the queen of hearts, bid a super confident SEVEN NO TRUMPS because unless hearts break 4-0 you have fourteen tricks! And if partner’s response is “0 or 3” key cards, you can work out that partner has NO key cards, so sign off in 5H and make a mental note to get a new partner, since partner has opened a weak 2H vulnerable against not with a suit headed by the Q plus some kings and queens in the off suits!