The origin of this variation is unknown. This variation of the original concept of Blackwood pertains only to the method for asking for Kings once the trump suit has been either established or definitely implied. This is accomplished via a Relay Bid. The relay bid is the next higher-ranking suit unless it is the trump suit, and the responses to the King-ask relay bid is given in steps. This method is designated as the King Relay Blackwood although this may not be the official designation as this action is employed for other approaches when seeking slams.

Basic Approach

The difference is such applications is that the Ace-asking bid is accomplished with the original Blackwood convention. Once the partnership has determined that all Aces are present, and there is the question about the number of Kings, then and only then does the partnership switch to to the King Relay Blackwood method.

This approach can, of course, also be employed also using other slam-seeking approaches. The partnership can agree to employ Roman Keycard Blackwood asking for the five Keycards, all four Aces and the King of the trump suit, and then employ the King Relay Blackwood method to ask for side Kings. This multiple application for the Ace and/or Keycard asking bid for Aces and/or Keycards and then the switch to King Relay Blackwood is neither incompatible nor disallowed by the sponsoring organization.

The first and most important guideline for the application of the King Relay Blackwood is that either player can employ the King Relay Blackwood method once the trump suit has been established. The second guideline is that King Relay Blackwood is initiated once one partner jumps to 4 No Trump to ask for Aces and/or Keycards, which then agrees that the last named and bid suit becomes the trump suit.

Note: It is important for the partnership to agree that when there is neither an established trump suit nor an inferred trump suit, then the bid or jump bid of 4 No Trump is quantitative. This quantitative bid is requesting then only that the partner bid 6 No Trump with maximum values and to pass with minimum values.

The following schema shows the steps and the number of Aces (or Keycards when employing another form of Blackwood showing Keycards).

First Step: zero Kings
Second Step: 1 King
Third Step: 2 Kings
Fourth Step: 3 Kings
Fifth Step: 4 Kings

The following illustrations should assist the bridge student and clarify the bidding sequences as to which category, to which they belong.

South North
Spades AJ9
Hearts KJ865
Diamonds AKQ
Clubs K
Spades K5
Hearts A943
Diamonds 853
Clubs A954
South West North East   Meaning
1 Hearts Pass   Opening values and at least a 5-card Heart suit.
3 Hearts Pass   Limit Raise showing at least 4-card support and 10-12 points.
4 NT Pass   Blackwood convention (asking for Aces).
5 Hearts Pass   North shows 2 unspecified Aces.
5 Spades   Pass           The next higher-ranking suit becomes the King Relay Blackwood. South is asking for any side Kings. (Note: With Roman Keycard Blackwood the partnership would be asking only for side Kings, not the King of trump.)
6 Clubs Pass   North shows one unspecified side King. A bid of 5 No Trump (First Step) would deny any side King.
7 Hearts Pass Pass Pass   South bids the grand slam. (Note: South can also bid safely 7 No Trump as the final contract.)

The Blackwood convention can be changed to a variation thereof such as Roman Keycard Blackwood 0314 or 1430, or any other Ace and/or Keycard-asking bid. However, once the partnership has agreed upon a different method, then the step responses may or may not remain the same.

A Quantitative Bid:

South   North
Spades KJ843
Hearts A4
Diamonds AQ107
Clubs J6
Spades Q7
Hearts KQ75
Diamonds KJ4
Clubs AQ54
South   West   North   East   Meaning
1 Spades   Pass           Opening values and at least a 5-card Spade suit.
        2 Clubs   Pass   Does not deny Heart support; shows a minimum of 4 cards in Clubs.
2 Diamonds   Pass           Shows a second suit with at least 4 cards in length.
        2 Hearts   Pass   Artificial. Fourth Suit Forcing. Requests partner to further describe his holding.
3 NT   Pass           From the bidding South can make a safe assumption that partner has game values and jumps to game in No Trump since there is evidently no suit fit.
        4NT   Pass   North guarantees additional values besides minimum values. This is not Blackwood or any other form of Blackwood, but rather a quantitative bid asking partner to bid on if holding additional values and to pass if not.

This distinction must be made by the partnership as to when the 4 No Trump bid is Ace-asking (or Keycard-asking) and when the 4 No Trump bid is quantitative. In order for the bid of 4 No Trump to be Ace-asking, the partnership must have an established trump suit or an inferred trump suit.

Inferred Trump Suit

South   West   North   East   Meaning
1 Clubs   Pass           Promises opening values.
        1 Hearts   Pass   Promises at least a 4-card Heart suit. One round forcing.
2 Spades   Pass           South has reversed showing at least a 5-card Club suit and a 4-card Spade suit in addition to extra values.
        4 NT   Pass   North shows at least a 4-card support for the Spade suit, and the 4 No Trump bid is Blackwood asking for Aces. This bid is not quantitative. If the response by South is positive and the partnership has all four Aces, then the partnership can initiate King Relay Blackwood to ask for side Kings.

Note: The original version of King Relay Blackwood strongly recommends that if the trump suit is a Minor suit, then the Ace-asking player should hold at least two Aces before initiating Blackwood. Some partnership agreements have modified this recommendation to state that if the trump suit is Clubs, then the Blackwood bidder should hold two Aces. However, if the trump suit is Diamonds, then the Blackwood bidder is allowed to hold only one Ace before initiating Blackwood so as to ensure that the partnership does not bypass the Minor suit in the case that two Aces are missing.

Interference by Opponents

If and when the opponents decide to interfere with a call of a double after the partnership initiates Blackwood, then this double is simply ignored, and the responses remain the same as if there had been no call of double.

However, if the interference is a suit bid, generally a sacrifice by possibly non-vulnerable opponents, then the partnership has a problem in that the line of communication has been broken. The suggested guidelines in handling such a bid for sacrifice is as follows and is shown in steps. The condition is that the steps begin with the suit bid by the opponent after the initiation of Blackwood.

Pass: Shows zero Aces
First Step: Shows 1 or 4 Aces
Second Step: Shows 2 Aces
Third Step: Shows 3 Aces

An example of such a bid for sacrifice is shown below in the following auction, which can be interpreted by the experienced bridge player. The individual holdings are not shown.

South   West   North   East   Meaning
1 Hearts   3 Diamonds           West makes a preemptive bid.
        3 Spades       North suggests a new suit on the three level and promises sufficient values to bid on the three level.
            4 Diamonds   East has most likely concluded that South-North have slam and, being non-vulnerable, decides to raise partner's preemptive bid.
4 Spades               South has at least a 4-card support for the suit of partner. This raise shows only sufficient values for game, and does not promise additional values.
    Pass   4 NT       North promises additional values, Diamond shortage, and initiates Blackwood. This bid is not quantitative.
            5 Diamonds   East continues to interfere and obstructs the line of communication. North-South must now employ the suggested guidelines to show the number of Aces.
Pass               A Pass by South shows zero Aces. The partnership can stop in 5 Hearts.
5 Hearts               This is the First Step and shows 1 or 4 Aces.
5 Spades               This is a sign-off bid and allows the player to stop short of slam. This is an optional action.
5 NT               This is the Second Step and shows 2 Aces.
6 Clubs               This is the Third Step and shows 3 Aces.

The final contract, or even a double if the opponents continue to bid, for North-South is based upon the step bid by the answering partner. These guidelines can be altered or modified to meet the requirements of the partnership.



If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.