Chuck Arthur

Exclusion Blackwood

This is not a poll or a quiz like MSC type entries, but I would like to hear from you, especially if you think that you have an answer to any of the questions posed at the end. First, here is the story that brought this on. I was merely a spectator for the whole ride on this one.

All are vulnerable as West deals.




West East
 AK104  QJ865
 K863  AQ105
 Q76  –
 QJ  AK65
  South  Chuck  


West North East South
1 nt pass 2 pass
2 pass 5 pass
5 pass 6 pass
pass pass pass  


5 diamonds was Exclusion Blackwood, agreeing hearts, showing slammish values, and asking about aces (or keycards) ignoring the Ace of diamonds. My partner led the Jack of diamonds. While everybody was inspecting the dummy, I asked as to the meaning of 5   and West told me that it showed 0 or 3 keycards ignoring anything declarer might have in diamonds. Clearly it was not 3. West muttered something about the possibility of their being too high if partner had zero, but I doubted that, since partner might have doubled with the AK. At the very least, he might have tried cashing at least one of them at he opening lead! The play was over rather expeditiously. West had blundered: she had shown 0 or 3 where she actually had 2 without the Q. While our opponents were straightening this out, I pondered what might have happened had West given the correct response. The auction might have gone


West North East South
1 nt pass 2 pass
2 pass 5 pass
5 nt pass 6 pass
6   pass 7 pass
pass pass    


I believe I heard the opponents say that they were playing specific kings continuation, so 6 would have guaranteed all 4 keycards and the Queen of trump, and asked partner to name each king she held, up the line, ignoring the King. 6 would have been bid with trepidation, but partner asked, so he must be prepared for that response. How ironic: here was probably the only pair in the room with the tools to be able to bid the cold grand slam, and they failed to do so only because of an error. We dodged a speeding bullet there partner. This board was absolutely flat: all 9 EW pairs scored 1460.

How do you play the responses to Exclusion Blackwood? 0123? 1430? Something else? Here, it was apparent that this pair was playing 1430. The person who taught me EB said that the responses should be 0123; when I asked why, he said that he could not remember, but that he would find out. I reminded him a couple of times, but he never could tell me. That was about 10 years ago, so I do not expect an answer from him now. Is it simply a matter of agreement, or is one scheme superior to the others? How does the Queen of trump fit into this scheme? I assume that we can use the first suit in the gap to ask about the Queen of trump if the response was ambiguous in that respect. What about contiuations? Do we ask about the number of kings or specific kings?


David LindopMarch 10th, 2010 at 9:26 pm

I think the 0123 response comes from Eddie Kantar (the authority on KCBW). The next step (or a rebid of the void if that isn’t available) is the Queen ask, except that 5NT is reserved as the specific King ask.

However, I don’t think I’ve ever discussed this with a partner. I’ve always assumed we would play 1430 responses, including the step for the trump Q. I would then play the next step as the King ask. Guess I should check with my partners.

john cunninghamMarch 10th, 2010 at 10:40 pm

When someone jumps to the 5 level opposite a no trump opener it is safe to assume both that the opener will have at least one key card, and that he won’t have as many as four,( and only rarely three.) If he has four partner is severely overbidding!

So. Something like one/two/three/two with queen/three with queen…………

Marshall Miles suggested that if one splinters, then subsequent blackwood excludes that suit.

Here, they could have jumped to 4 diamonds, secure in the knowledge that partner is so yucky he will rebid hearts. THEN 4 NT is exclusion. When, as here, partner bids a simple 5 hearts (because he doesn’t have specific nt auction responses) You could easily have 5 spades as a specific king ask. Either for spades, or less usefully, an up the line continuum.

don mcgillMarch 11th, 2010 at 8:39 am

Cut to the chase. There is no need for the “high drama” of the “opponents” when it was stated that we were “spectators.”

Wouldn’t it be simpler to just ask, “What is your agreement?” without the excess verbiage.

Bob McPheeMarch 11th, 2010 at 8:59 am

I always played 03-14 exclusion. While splinters with voids are problematic I would have bid 4D rather than 5D here because I want to hear about S. After all isn’t partner entitled to hold AKQ in D and 2 small S? Players like to take control, and with students I always plan a couple of sessions with them where I bar RKC just to prove to them that it is not the big deal we all think. This approach has proved itself as a valuable teaching tool with most.

On this particular hand key card response showing 1 leaves the asking hand unsure if slam makes. So I consider exclusion a mistake as soon as the fit was uncovered. Even when partner bids 4H telling you about all the bad news you are not barred from bidding again as the 5 level certainly appears safe (not 100% as there could be a S ruff) and you can identify the problem in S when over 4H you continue with 5C.

Ross AndersonMarch 11th, 2010 at 10:43 am

Chuck, I understand EB but have never been involved in a sequence that uses it and have not agreed to use it with any partners. However I find it hard to believe that nobody reached 7. I would think that over 2 hearts a 4 diamond bid would lead to a sequence of 4 spades – 5 clubs – 5 spades – 6 clubs – 6 hearts- 7 hearts. The opener with the spade AK and no diamond A or K is odds on to have the heart K and probably a useful club or 2.Sounds to me like the opening bidder gave up early on this hand.I also think anyone who plays forcing stayman would get to 7 and anyone who transfers and then initiates a forcing sequence would be hard pressed to stay out of 7 especially if a super accept bid is made.

Chuck GallowayMarch 11th, 2010 at 10:57 am

Since I play 1430 and specific Kings I would have the auction you constructed because I don’t like to have some different thing to remember for a very rare bid. I don’t recall ever using it. The web site “Bridge Conventions” specifies the 0123 responses and refers to an aritcle in Bridge World Magazine May 1981. This might be helpful.

Tom KinnearMarch 11th, 2010 at 2:25 pm

Very interesting….especially reading the various responses.

I cannot imagine how no one got to the grand…….especially using the very useful EB.

BUT….be that as it may……since no one got there…….it is easy to say the grand should be odds-on….but apparently at the table….not so easy…..

For the record…..I have always played ( read assumed ) 1430…..and Specific K’s.

Now….on David Lindop’s suggestion….I shall read Kaplan again.

I also think Bob Mcphee makes a great point …..especially for mentoring slam bidding…..Q bidding is in !!

Martin HunterMarch 11th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

After discussion with partner, I play 4 steps: 0, 1, 2 without Q, and 2 with Q

There is no way that a sane EB bidder could be looking for 3 or 4 Keycards.

Debbie BennettMarch 12th, 2010 at 8:00 am

Having looked this up at the ACBL website, it is suggested that one can use steps, e.g. 1-2-3 etc.

If a partnership uses keycard blackwood, they can use keycard exclusion if they like, the same goes for roman keycard blackwood, if it is your preference. It’s the same with other conventions, it doesn’t matter what you agree upon as long as you have an agreement. This comes up soooooo rarely, most partnerships haven’t got an agreement. I think cue-bidding might improve most of the auctions where exclusion could have been used. Long before I knew of exclusion, I had a cue-bidding sequence whereby partner DIDN’T cuebid my void, so I used blackwood anyways knowing they weren’t showing me a keycard in the suit I didn’t want to hear about!

I like forcing stayman as it means I can raise to 3 hearts over 2 hearts to show a slam try, cue-bidding follows at a very low level.

A forcing stayman auction would have proceeded 1nt,2d,2h,3h(slam try),3s,4c,4h. Responder would now know opener doesn’t have ace OR king of diamonds, (and start salivating), followed by whatever form of blackwood they use.

Steve UngerMarch 13th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

My partner and I played this hand. I was East and over 1NT, I transferred to spades. We do not play super acceptance except with a maximum, so partner bid 2 spades. I bid 3 clubs; he bid 3 spades (he thought 3 clubs was forcing to game (!) and he thought 3 spades was stronger than 4. I bid 5 diamonds (exclusion) to follow up with king asking outside of diamonds. If he had two controls and the K of hearts I would have bid 7 spades. However, here is where the confusion arouse. South doubled 5 diamonds and partner did not know what to bid and simply bid 6 spades which I passed. We did agree previously to respond 0,1,2,3,4 to exclusion; then the next suit up is for the Q of trumps and 5NT or two suits up asking for number of kings (of course, outside of the exclusion suit). After the game, we decided we would play R0P1 if this would ever come again.

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