Chuck Arthur


Everybody plays Blackwood. A major modern improvement is to play Roman Key Card Blackwood. I believe so called “RKCB 1430” to be nearly universal; it certainly is around here. This works well enough when the agreed suit is a major. When a minor suit is destined to be trump, there is often a real danger that the response to 4nt will get us too high if we have insufficient controls.

For the past ten years or so, whenever partner is willing, I have been playing a gadget that dramatically improves my minor suit slam bidding. I am very high on this convention. We (and others) have dubbed it Minorwood: Blackwood for the minors. In certain strong auctions, a bid of 4 of the agreed minor is RKCB. This is most useful because we need the extra space afforded us by starting our keycard asking at 4 of the agreed minor rather than 4 notrump. When should 4 of a minor be Minorwood? Here are some sample auctions that I like to play as Minorwood. The opponents are silent through all of these.

  • 1 – 2 (GF); 3 – 4
  • 1 – 2 (GF); 2nt – 3 ; 4
  • 1 – 2 (inverted); 4

You and your partner may add to this list as is your preference. I believe that the following auction should NOT be minorwood: 1 – 1nt (F); 3 – 4; nor should 1 – 4♦.

The responses to Minorwood should pattern match whatever you use for RKCB 4nt, i.e. 1st step 1 or 4 keycards. 2nd step 0 or 3 keycards, etc.

The continuations are not so obvious. My way of thinking has 4nt and 5 of the agreed minor to play. If the response already confirmed or denied the Queen of trump, then the next open step should confirm that the partnership has all the keycards and the queen or trump, and be a grand slam try, ostensibly asking for specific kings up the line. If the response was ambiguous with respect to the Queen of trump, then the next open step should ask about her, and the second open step should be the grand slam try.

You may read more about Minorwood and its companion Redwood here.

 I was West when the following hand was dealt.

Dealer: East

Vul: All

West East
9 A63
A QJ864
K642 AJ1093


West North East South
    1 1
2 Pass 2 Pass
2 Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass 5 Pass
Pass Pass    

Partner and I were not on the same wavelength here. We had agreed to play Minorwood, but our convention card read simply “Some Minorwood.” I had hoped that partner would interpret my 4 diamonds as Minorwood; clearly he did not, and we missed a good slam. I think that it is most useful to play 4 diamonds as Minorwood in this auction. The same would apply if the auction had gone


West North East South
    1 1
2 Pass 2 Pass
4 etc.    



West North East South
     1  1
2    pass  2 pass 
 3  pass  4    


Partner and I have since agreed to play such auctions as Minorwood,

To view the virtual traveller, click here. We were pair 24 EW.


John Howard GibsonOctober 26th, 2010 at 5:42 am

Yes I like the concept a lot. At least you can bale out in game at the 5 level, whereas with the 4NT slam enquiry that might not be possible. Mind you there must be plenty of openings for 4C bids to be used initiating slam investigations at this lower level.

David LindopOctober 26th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I certainly wouldn’t recommend Minorwood for a casual partnership. Too easy to creat a disaster. If you are going to use it, the partnership needs some firm ground rules that cover all undiscussed situations. For example: Only in a GF and not the first time the suit is raised. (So I wouldn’t play 1S-2C; 2N-3D; 4D as Minorwood.)

The auction in the deal you gave is typical of where there is likely to be confusion. If 2S agreed diamonds, no problem. If it could be a probe for notrump (more common), then 4D would not be Minorwood – simply suit agreement.

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