These notes are reproduced with the permission of Dave Huggett who gave the seminar on the subject on November 26th, 2017.
The section on Jacoby 2NT has been supplemented with information from Tony Haworth's page at the Porthcawl Duplicate Bridge Club.
The notes have been modified to make them interactive. If you make an incorrect bid three times you will be able to see the correct bid.

Slam Bidding or the Misuse of Blackwood

Slam bidding is difficult at the best of times and requires a delicate approach, yet sadly most people are not content to take a softly softly route. Blackwood, any sort of Blackwood, is an ace-asking manoeuvre and for many it is the be all and end all of sophistication. Sadly its use alone seldom provides the way forward, as the following hand will demonstrate.

You hold: A J     Q J 10 9 7 5     A 7 6     8 5
Partner opens 1 and you respond 2 and you are surprised and delighted when partner raises to 4. But what now? You have a seven-loser hand and partner must have about a five-loser hand so a slam looks possible, and for many the solution is to wheel out everyone’s favourite convention – Blackwood. So you bid 4NT and partner responds 5 showing one ace. Are you any further forward?

a) Partner could have: K Q 10 7 5     A K 4 2     K Q     6 3    
Although you have fourteen tricks ‘on top’ if the defence lead anything but a club you only have eleven tricks if they do, so clearly you would not want to be in a slam.

b) On the other hand partner could have: K Q 10 7 5     A K 4 2     5 3     K Q    
Now you have twelve tricks ‘on top’ and clearly want to be in a slam, so what has gone wrong?

Clearly Blackwood has failed to solve the problem and this leads us to postulate the following rule: Never use Blackwood if a particular response leaves you uncertain as to what to do next. Put another way you must know exactly what you are going to bid after you get the response to your ace-asking question.

(For those of you who are aficionados of Roman Key-Card Blackwood the same reasoning applies. In the above example the response to the Blackwood enquiry would be 5, showing two key cards but denying the queen of trumps. The initiator of the enquiry would still not know how to proceed.)

Suppose you hold: K Q 8 7 5     K Q J 8 3     none     A K 3    
You open 1 and partner responds by bidding 3, a limit bid showing an eight-loser hand. Clearly a slam is very likely but does bidding 4NT solve all your problems? If you get a response of 5 showing two aces would you know what to do next?

c) Partner could have: A 10 9 3     A 5     K 9 8 4     8 6 5    

d) Clearly you would want to be in a grand slam, but what if partner held: A 10 9 3     10 5     A K 8 4     8 6 5    
Now you have a cashing ace against you and the small slam is all you can aspire to. It’s the same old story: Blackwood has been misused because the response to the enquiry has not solved the problem of what to do next.

As a general rule NEVER use Blackwood if you have a holding of two low or more in an unbid suit and NEVER use Blackwood if you have a void in an unbid suit.

Roman Key-Card Blackwood

Roman Key-Card Blackwood is a more sophisticated way to ask for aces once a suit has been agreed and uses the king of the agreed trump suit as a fifth ‘ace’. It works like this: -

In reply to 4NT: -

After a 5 or a 5 reply the enquirer can find out about the queen of trumps by bidding 5 or 5 - if this is below the trump suit. Without the queen of trumps responder signs off in 5 of the trump suit, but with it he will cue-bid his lowest king. With no extra king to show he bids six of the agreed trump suit. 5NT by the enquirer asks for kings on a 0,1,2,3 etc. step response, but remember not to show the king of trumps - you have already owned up to that.

(Note: Where a deal is to be bid you will first see the dealer's hand and after you have made a bid the next hand will be shown and you may bid that hand. When bidding has finished the complete deal will be shown.)

W S Kxxxx H A D AQxxx C AQ E S AQxx H xxxx D Kxx C xx W 1S 4NT 5H (Queen of ?) 7S E 3S 5D (1 or 4 'aces') 6D (Yes, & the King of )

Cue Bidding

When a trump suit HAS BEEN AGREED, and the partnership IS COMMITTED TO GAME, there can be no use for the bid of a new suit except as a slam try. All such bids can therefore be regarded as CUE-BIDS, showing a CONTROL in the suit (normally the ace or a void) and suggesting the possibility of a slam contract. The first opportunity to make a cue-bid usually arises at the four-level, although it is just possible for a cue-bidding sequence to start at the three-level.

The last bid in each sequence is a cue-bid.

3 4

In a) East cannot wish to play in clubs after spades have been raised. He is showing first round control in clubs and suggesting a slam.


In b) West’s second bid commits his side to game, and he is merely showing a strong hand with first round spade control.


In c) there can be no point in showing a diamond suit, so four diamonds is therefore a cue-bid agreeing spades.

Note that in all cases game is assured when the cue-bid is made. In general the cue-bidder bids his cheapest control first, i.e. the bid that keeps the bidding as low as possible. Thus in the sequence c) above West has denied the ace of clubs.

It should be remembered that cue-bidding is a co-operative venture. A cue-bid carries the message ‘I have extra strength and control of this suit, ‘What do you think of our slam prospects?’. The responder has several ways of continuing and with a minimum hand and no slam interest he will merely sign off in the trump suit. If he has extra values and is satisfied about the control situation he may go straight to a slam. With an in-between hand he may express interest by making a reciprocal cue-bid. Of course a responsive cue-bid that goes beyond the game level is positive acceptance of the slam try and shows a stronger hand.

Note that a repeat cue-bid in the same suit shows second round control - a singleton or the king.

Examples :-

W S KQxxx H AKxx D Ax C xx E S Ax H QJxxxx D KQx C xx W 1S 4H 5D E 2H 4S 5H

Here the club weakness becomes apparent.


W S x H AKQxxx D AKQx C Ax E S xxx H Jxxx D xx C Kxxx W 2C 2H 4C 4S 6H E 2D 3H 4H 5C

East has shown support for hearts and second round club control in an otherwise weak hand but that is enough information for opener to bid the slam.

Splinter Bids

Sometimes a slam might be made on relatively thin values, especially if the two hands fit well, and a common technique designed to find such a fit is by the use of a so-called ‘Splinter Bid.’

Suppose you have a hand like K8xx QJxxx x Axx and partner opens 1. Clearly you have the values for 4 but if the hands fit well there could easily be more than ten tricks available. Basically if opener held no values in diamonds – when there would be no ‘wasted values’, or the ace so that there are no losers in that suit, then that would be ideal. To inform partner of your holding you can bid, in the above example, 4! A double jump in a new suit in these circumstances shows a singleton in the suit bid or sometimes a void. It is agreeing the suit bid by opener.

Let us see how the whole hand might be bid: -

W S AQ732 H AK2 D 863 C K2 E S K865 H QJ854 D 2 C A75 W 1S 4NT 6S E 4D 5H

South simply uses RKCB after the good news about the diamond suit has been received, hears about two key-cards, and bids the slam.

Sometimes opener makes the splinter bid after he hears partner’s response in a new suit. For example in the sequence 1 – 1 – 4 would show a singleton club, a five-loser hand and spade agreement. A hand like Axxx AKxxx AQx x would be suitable to bid in this way.

It is recommended that Splinter Bids by responder are usually somewhere in the range 10-12 points with anything higher best dealt with by using a Jacoby response of 2NT. Also while it is obvious that a sequence that starts 1 – 3 is unusual and is a splinter showing a singleton spade and game forcing in hearts, it is perhaps easy to forget that 1 – 4 is also a splinter sequence, because it sounds so natural!

Jacoby 2NT

When 1/ is raised to game on a seven loser hand, that hand can superficially range from a low-pointed distributional hand to a really strong hand in terms of high card points but with less distribution. For example look at the following very different hands after partner opens 1: -

a) K x x x x
K Q x
J x x x
b)     A x x x
K Q x
A x x x
Q x

Both hands have seven losers and yet if you were looking for a slam you would probably prefer to hold the second hand because you need to have the right number of first and second round controls. So because it is right to bid 4 on hand a) it just cannot be in order to do so on hand b) because of the vast difference in high card strength. Because of this and also because it is never necessary to bid 2NT over an opening bid of one of a suit, Jacoby came up with the novel idea that such a response should show a high card raise to game in partner’s opening suit – or more! So the correct response to an opening bid of 1 on hand b) would be 2NT. This shows 13 + points – game forcing – support for major (4+ cards - 4-card major; 3+ cards with honour - 5-card majors). This hand usually controls the contract thereafter.

How the opening bidder proceeds after this is largely a matter of partnership agreement but the fact remains that at least the opener will know that he is looking at an opening bid opposite.

Some play that a bid in a new suit at minimum level after 2NT shows a singleton while a jump bid in a new suit shows a void. Responder can then cue-bid if necessary and/or use RKCB.

The opener’s responses focus on showing shape as follows (assume 1 opening):

3, 3, 3 - singleton or void in the suit 13+ points.

4, 4, 4 - secondary good four/five card suit – a source of tricks.

3NT - intermediate hand 15-16 points, with no singleton or void.

3 - strong hand 17+ points, with no singleton or void.

4 - all other minimum hands (12-14 points).


- with a minimum (11) opening bid, and a singleton or void, don’t show the feature. If responder is particularly strong he can bid again.
- with a good secondary four/five card suit and a singleton or void, give preference to showing the four/five card suit (remember this also implies a singleton or void).
- same applies for 1 opening


W S K Q 10 3 2 H A Q 4 D K Q 7 3 C 3 E S A J 5 4 H 2 D A J 8 6 C A 7 6 5 W 1S 3C 3H 4D 4N 7S E 2NT 3D 4C 4H 5C

Using this method South is showing a singleton club and the ace of hearts while North is showing first round diamond control and second round heart control in addition to first round club control. A check-up on Key-Cards shows that North also has the ace of trumps making the grand slam a standout.


W S 2 H KJ984 D AJ872 C A8 E S A73 H Q1072 D KQ C K953 W 1H 4D (5 card suit) 5D (3 card suit) E 2NT 4NT (RKCB) 6H

Over the 2NT, opener shows his second suit. Responder’s KQ are now very useful. With one key-card missing, settle for the small slam.


W S AK2 H KQ984 D QJ72 C 8 E S QJ3 H AJ72 D 84 C KQJ3 W 1H 3C E 2NT 4H

Opener shows the singleton club, which is not to responder’s liking. Settle for 4. With a better hand he may progress.


W S AJ2 H K10984 D QJ72 C 8 E S KQ3 H AJ72 D 84 C A973 W 1H 4H E 2NT No

Opener shows a minimum hand rather than showing the singleton. With A instead of Q (13 points), show the singleton club.


W S A2 H KQ984 D AK73 C 86 E S KQ3 H AJ72 D 84 C A973 W 1H 3NT 4D (cue) 4S (cue) 5D (3 key cards) E 2NT 4C (cue) 4H 4NT (RKCB) 6H

Action Over Opposition Bid Over 2NT

Example - 1 - pass – 2NT - 3

Double - singleton (in clubs)
4 - void in clubs
3 - 17+ points with a club stop (A, Kx, Qxx)
3NT - 15-16 points with a club stop
4 - 11-14
Pass- forcing (any strength)

Whatever you choose to play after partner has responded 2NT it should be a matter of common sense that a direct leap to game would deny any interest in a slam and the responder would only bid on if he was very strong.

Example Hands for Slam Bidding


W S A Q 7 6 5 H K Q J 5 3 D K 3 C 2 E S K 9 4 3 H A 6 D A 8 6 C 8 7 4 3 W 1S 4NT1 6S E 3S 5C1 No


W S 8 7 5 H A Q J 9 8 D K Q J 3 C A E S 3 H K 6 5 4 D A 10 8 C K 8 7 5 3 W 1H 4C3 4NT1 6H E 3S2 4D3 5H1 No


W S K Q 7 5 4 H A K 7 5 D A 9 C 7 6 E S A 8 H Q J 9 4 3 2 D K Q 6 C 8 2 W 1S 4H 5D3 No E 2H 4S3 5H


W S K Q 7 H A 9 D A K Q 7 6 4 C A 5 E S A 6 5 3 H K 8 7 4 D J 9 3 2 C 6 W 2D 3H3 4C3 4S3 7D E 3D 3S3 4H3 5C3 No


W S A Q 9 8 7 H A K D 8 6 5 4 C K 3 E S K 7 5 4 H Q J 8 5 D 2 C A 7 4 2 W 1S 4NT1 6S E 4D2 5H1 No


W S K 6 3 H K Q 87 D A K J C A 4 3 E S A 8 7 H A 4 3 D Q 6 5 C Q 7 5 2 W 2NT No E 4NT


W S Q J 9 5 H A Q 7 5 4 D A 2 C 6 3 E S A K 6 3 2 H K 2 D K 9 7 5 C A 5 W 1H 3S 5S1 No E 1S 4NT1 7S


W S K 9 8 H A 6 5 D Q 5 4 C A 8 7 5 E S A 3 H K 2 D A K 10 9 6 2 C K Q 2 W 1NT 3H3 4C3 4S1 5S1 No E 3D 3S3 4H3 4NT1 7NT

Example Boards for Slam Bidding

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N S K Q 5 4 H A 6 3 D J 9 7 5 C J 2 W S 9 2 H 10 5 4 D A Q 8 6 2 C Q 10 6 E S 6 3 H 9 2 D K 10 4 3 C 9 8 7 4 3 S S A J 10 8 7 H K Q J 8 7 D none C A K 5 S 1S 4C 4NT 7S N 3S 4H 5S No


4C & 4H are cue-bids and 4NT is RKCB. 5S shows two key cards and the Q.


N S A Q 7 6 H Q 3 D Q J 7 6 C 8 5 3 W S 5 2 H A 10 8 4 D 10 5 3 C 10 9 4 2 E S 9 4 H K 9 7 5 2 D A 9 4 2 C 7 6 S S K J 10 8 3 H J 6 D K 8 C A K Q J S 1S 4C No N 3S 4S


4C is a cue-bid but when North cannot cue-bid in return South knows there are aces missing.


N S J 8 5 H 9 8 5 2 D A 7 5 4 3 C 6 W S 7 4 H K J 7 3 D Q 8 2 C Q 10 9 3 E S 6 2 H Q 10 6 4 D J 10 9 C J 8 7 4 S S A K Q 10 9 3 H A D K 6 C A K 5 2 S 2C 2S 4C 4H 7S N 2D 3S 4D 5C No


North does well to support spades at once. 4C, 4D, 4H and 5C are cue-bids so South knows his partner has a singleton club.


N S A 3 H K 9 7 5 D 10 8 7 5 C A 7 6 W S K Q J 7 H 4 3 D A 6 4 2 C 10 8 3 E S 10 9 8 6 4 2 H J D 9 3 C 9 5 4 2 S S 5 H A Q 10 8 6 2 D K Q J C K Q J S 1H 4NT 6H N 3H 5C No


North shows three key-cards (it can hardly be none) but South does not mind which ‘ace’ is missing and can bid the easy slam.


N S K 6 5 H J 10 8 D K 9 C A 10 7 6 3 W S Q J 9 4 H A 7 6 D 10 8 C J 9 5 2 E S 10 8 7 3 H 9 5 3 2 D 5 4 3 2 C 4 S S A 2 H K Q 4 D A Q J 7 6 C K Q 8 S 2NT 6NT N 4NT No


4NT is not Blackwood but asks partner to bid 6NT with a maximum, pass with a minimum.


N S 9 H K Q 6 4 D A 10 5 4 C J 9 7 6 W S A K 8 3 H 9 2 D 8 7 6 C 10 8 3 2 E S Q J 10 7 2 H 8 3 D J 3 C K Q 5 4 S S 6 5 4 H A J 10 7 5 D K Q 9 2 C A S 1H 4C 4NT 6H N 3S 4D 5S


3S is a splinter bid agreeing hearts. 4C and 4D are cue-bids while 4NT is RKCB.


N S A 7 4 H Q 10 6 2 D A 9 C K 8 3 2 W S Q 9 6 H J D J 10 8 3 2 C 10 9 6 5 E S J 10 8 5 2 H 9 5 D K Q 6 5 4 C 4 S S K 3 H A K 8 7 4 3 D 7 C A Q J 7 S 1H 3D 4C 4S 7H N 2NT 3S 4D 5C No


2NT is Jacoby showing a high card raise to game. 3D shows a singleton then an exchange of cue-bids shows all key players are present.


N S A 7 6 2 H K 4 D Q J 8 3 C K 9 5 W S 10 3 H Q 10 9 5 D A 4 C J 8 7 6 3 E S K 4 H J 7 3 2 D 10 7 6 5 C A 10 4 S S Q J 9 8 5 H A 8 6 D K 9 2 C Q 2 S 1S 4S N 2NT No


North shows a good raise to game or better but with a complete minimum South signs off in game.