Theory and Conventions

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M J Bridge

Bidding

Hands

Kickback, Redwood etc.


Blackwood and RKCB work quite well when spades have been agreed, and almost as well when hearts are the agreed suit.


However, when the agreed suit is a minor all too often the ‘wrong’ answer will take you past a safe contract at the five-level.  Of course, such a convention should not be invoked if this possibility exists, but it leaves a gap in the system.  It is, in fact, scarcely ever correct to use Blackwood or RKCB in their basic forms once  a minor suit has been agreed.


There is a further difficulty in that it can prove difficult to agree a minor suit in a game-forcing manner below game-level as raises of partner’s suit will usually be played as limit bids, and prospective cue-bids are likely to be interpreted as no trump stops rather than first or second-round controls.  QJTx is a wonderful no trump stop, but it will not help partner avoid two quick loses in the suit in a slam contract.


There are a number of ruses to get round the problem:-

inverted minor suit raises are recommended;

a raise of a minor to the four-level as a forcing slam-try has much to commend it.  (There are various ways of doing this, one of which is Minorwood - see separate page.);

and frequently it will be possible to create a game-forcing situation with a bid in the fourth suit before agreeing the minor suit, thereby setting the stage for a cue-bidding sequence.


In the present context of control-asking bids the secret is to ask at a lower level than 4NT.

Typically this will be a bid of four of the suit above the agreed trump suit.

Thus when clubs have been agreed then 4 will be the key-card ask, and when diamonds are the agreed suit then 4 will be the key-card ask.


Kickback

If you agree the Kickback convention then this principle will apply in all four suits, using 4 to ask when hearts have been agreed in addition to the two examples given above.


Redwood

If you agree Redwood then the red suits will be used as above once a minor suit has been agreed, but 4NT will be used over either major.


In either case you may agree to play the convention for four aces or for key-cards.  My feeling is that the key-card approach is greatly to be preferred.  And if your agreement is key-card then you may choose to play either 3014 or 1430 just as in RKCB.

Intermediate and above

K Q J

K 8

A J T 8 5

6 4 3

Partner has splintered, agreeing diamonds with a club shortage, and your hand has improved tremendously.

There is, though, a concern over the trump honours.

Bid 4 if playing either Kickback or Redwood.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1

-

4

-

?









Possible drawbacks


However, you must do more than agree one of these conventions.


These bids can clash with other agreements.  It is important to assign some priorities so as to avoid confusion.


The most likely clashes will be with splinter bids or cue-bids, although a clash with Voidwood is also possible.

K Q J

K 8

A J T 8 5

A 4 3

2 is an ‘inverted minor suit raise’, agreeing diamonds and forcing.

Playing either Kickback or Redwood you would like to bid 4 as a key-card ask.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1

-

2

-

?








K Q J


A J T 8 5

A K 8 4 3

2 is an ‘inverted minor suit raise’, agreeing diamonds and forcing.

You would like to bid 4, either a s a splinter or as Voidwood.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO

1

-

2

-

?









These two hands illustrate the problem well.


A bid of 2 would be forcing following the ‘inverted minor’ suit raise.

3 can then be agreed as either a splinter or Voidwood, and 4 as Kickback or Redwood.

If you agree that 3 is a splinter then you will only be able to play Voidwood directly with a bid of 5, instantly committing you to a small slam.


Either consider every possible scenario with your partner, or adopt some simple all-purpose rule such as ‘Redwood always takes preference’.

You may wish to adopt a further agreement along the lines that other unnecessary jump-bids below the Redwood bid are splinters, whereas jumps in a new suit above the Redwood bid are Voidwood.


Fit in the Redwood suit


The other principle problem arises when a fit is located in both a minor suit and in the Redwood suit.

A 8

K T 7

A J T 8 5

K 4 3

You want to be in a heart game, but 4 would be a key-card ask, and in the normal run of things 3 would not be forcing.

You

LHO

Pard

RHO



1

-

2

-

3

-

?





My solution is that in such sequences as that above the jump to four of the major should be played as a key-card ask, and the reversion to three of the major should be played as natural and forcing.

There may well be other equally good solutions.


Conclusion


I like these conventions, but they do bring their own problems.

If you are a partnership looking to move forward then adopt one of these, and talk through (and learn) how you are going to deal with each and every one of the ambiguities such as those indicated above.


But if you are playing with an occasional partner, or not aiming for the perfect system, or you just don’t want to commit anything else to memory (very sensible) then stick with consistent basic methods.