By Prof. Tony Campbell

THAT is the question. Last week I promised to show you another hand from Penarth Bridge Club that involves Roman Key Card Blackwood in the bidding. The importance of this system is that it makes sure you have the necessary Aces and Kings to make 12 or 13 tricks for a small or grand slam. The hand here also involves a very useful convention called Splinter, which can really help you reach a slam when one of you is short in a suit. But, remember there can always be a bit of Lady luck. As I have pointed out before, there is only one card game of pure skill - Snap!

The Auction

North opens with his five card suit – diamonds. There is no need to jump on South’s hand. So he bids 1 heart. North is now quite excited by this, and can see that a slam might be on. So he decided to bid 4 clubs, the splinter bid. This shows at least four card support for hearts, a good hand, and a singleton or void in clubs. South can now see there is a likely slam. But he needs to know if his partner, North, has the king of trumps and the ace of diamonds. So South bids 4 no trumps - Roman Key Card Blackwood. There are five key cards – the four aces and the king of trumps. North bid 5 hearts showing two. South now knows that North has either two aces or one ace and the king of hearts. South can count twelve tricks. There are no club losers, all the hearts if North has the king, and probably the ace of diamonds. North’s splinter bid is a slam try. So South knows his partner must have a good point count, at least 14. He then takes a slight risk concerning the diamonds, and bids 6 hearts.

The play

West is on lead. What would you do? West might choose the safe lead of the queen of clubs, which is unlikely to give a trick away. But after North’s splinter, it is unlikely that East/West will make a club trick. So instead, he led the ace of spades. This enabled him to assess the possibilities after dummy went down on the table. South is very happy with this. West then tries, too late, to set up a diamond trick by leading the 2 of diamonds. South as declarer has tricks to spare now. He wins with the ace of diamonds, draws the two trumps, ending up in dummy, discards his two losing diamonds on the king and queen of spades, and his ten of clubs on the Jack of spades. South’s hand is now high, being left with hearts and the ace of clubs. So South made the slam – three spades, seven hearts, one diamond, and one club, 12 tricks. Well bid. However, South was lucky that East did not start with a diamond. This gets the slam off, as it sets up a diamond trick which East/West must make when West gets in with the Ace of spades. In fact, two pairs bid and made 6 hearts, neither defence finding the opening diamond lead

What have we learnt?

1. Roman Key Card Blackwood was invented by the famous world champion Italian Blue team, winning 16 world titles between 1957 and 1975. A key player and inventor was Benito Garozzo. This convention operates when in a suit contract. North’s splinter bid of 4 clubs agrees hearts as trumps. So he showed two key cards with his 5 heart bid. If he also had the queen of hearts he would bid 5 spades. With no key cards or one, the response to 4 no trumps is either 5 clubs or 5 diamonds. Players choose between, what in bridge jargon is often described as 30-41 or 14-30. Using the former, 5 clubs shows no or three key cards, 5 diamonds one or four. Playing 14-30 five clubs shows 1 or 4 key cards, and 5 diamonds 3 or none. It is up to you and your partner to choose which you like best. There are arguments on both sides. Well it wouldn’t be bridge if there weren't any arguments!

2. Splinter is a jump bid showing either a singleton or void in the suit bid, and agreeing the major bid by your partner. It was invented in 1963 by David Cliff and Dorothy Hayden Truscott. Truscott was an excellent American bridge player who won four World championships, and was the top rated women player for many years.

3. Another popular convention searching for aces is Gerber, invented in 1936 by two Swiss players, William Konigsberger and Win Nye, and introduced into the USA in 1938 by the American player John Gerber. A bid of 4C instead of 4NT asks for aces. The response goes stepwise from 4 diamonds telling partner how many aces you hold. Gerber is popular with players who use 4NT after a 1NT or 2NT opening by partner as quantitative. Personally I don't like the quantitative bid of 4NT. Also conventional Gerber doesn’t have the flexibility of five key cards and the queen of trumps.

4. When leading against a small slam, you must have a vision of where you can make two tricks. Expecting to make the ace of spades, and with no club trick in prospect, the correct lead must be the two of diamonds. East/West making the ace of spades and the king of diamonds. One off for a top!

Further information

Good luck with your online bridge. Bridge Club Live (BCL) is the best and may be open again for new registrations. Bridge Online Base (BBO) is OK, but the software is not nearly as good as BCL. BBO is still open for registrations. Contact meryl.skipper@icloud.com for information. A number of members of both Penarth and Sully Bridge Clubs are already registered at both BCL and BBO. I hope you are able to keep copies of my articles as I build them up. Please let me know if they are useful. You can always find my articles online at www.penarthtimes/bridge. Keep an eye on https://www.bridgewebs.com/penarth/. Email me if you have anything you would like me to discuss campbellak@cf.ac.uk.

Sadly last week we lost Audrey Hall, a former and very loyal member of Penarth Bridge Club for many years. We send our sincere condolences to her family. Keep well. Keep safe. Bon chance. Virtual table up.