Minor Suit Blackwood
Roman Key Card Blackwood is a powerful tool, if used properly, but its value diminishes sharply when you have agreed a minor suit and are obliged to use 4NT as your RKCB asking bid. The problem, of course, is that the response to the RKCB may get us too high. With a minor suit agreed, when we ask with 4NT, there’s simply not enough room to work with.
Obviously, the solution is to make our RKCB with a lower bid, and there are two methods in common use … Minorwood and Redwood.
The Minorwood method uses 4 of the agreed minor for the RKCB ask. But, it’s necessary to have rigorous rules defining when 4 of a minor bid is RKCB, and when it is natural. Auctions have a habit of spiraling out of control when one player is trying to get out in 4 of a minor, while the other one thinks he is in a slam auction! So, after many years of playing part-score hands in slam, and vice versa, we came up with two simple cases.
The first case is Third-Time Minorwood, and these are the conditions:
If we are already in a game-forcing auction,
And, we have not agreed another suit,
And, the minor has already been bid naturally twice,
Then, the third bid of the minor (at the 4-level) is Minorwood.
2♣ 1♣ 1♥
Minorwood Minorwood Invitational
In the first auction, 2♣ established a game-force, no other suit was agreed, so the third Club bid was Minorwood. Similarly, in the second auction, 3♣ established a game force after Opener’s reverse, so it’s Minorwood again. In the third auction, that 3♣ was merely invitational, so it does not pass the test … we are not trying to suggest that 4♣ here as some sort of natural bid is particularly useful, but we do tend to give preference to accurate game bidding over below-game slam tries.
The second case is Jump Minorwood, and it works like this:
If we are in a constructive auction (as in at least invitational to game),
And, we have not agreed another suit,
And, I have yet to limit my hand,
Then, a jump to 4 of a minor is Minorwood, if one of these conditions applies:
Either, your last bid suit was the minor
Or, my first bid was a minor.
This may sound complicated, but the rules are really just plain common-sense, as hopefully will become apparent with these examples. We’ll start with some auctions which are not Minorwood:
(A) 1♦ 4♦ (B) 1♣ 1♦ (C) 1♣ 1♠ (D) 1♣ 1♠
2♦ 4♦ 4♣ 2♠ 4♣
(A) This is not Minorwood because 1♦ did not create an invitational auction … so, without other prior agreements, 4♦ is simply preemptive … lots of Diamonds and out.
(B) Same story … 2♦ does not elevate the auction to “invitational to game” status, so 4♦ is not Minorwood … we don’t suppose that we’ll ever use this bid in our lifetime, so we won’t even waste your time offering a meaning. And, if after 2♦ you really do have an RKCB type of hand? No problem … bid 2 of a major, just to keep things moving along, and then bid 4♦.
(C) Again, 1♠ did not invite us to game, so 4♣ is not Minorwood. Then, what is it? We suggest that it is a Spade raise … with solid Clubs.
(D) This is not Minorwood because we have agreed Spades. It’s a Splinter.
Next, some real live “Jump Minorwood” auctions:
(E) 1♠ 2♣ (F) 1♣ 1♦ (G) 1♦ 2♦ (H) 1♦ 2♣
2♠ 4♣ 2NT 4♣/4♦ 4♦ 4♣/4♦
(E) 2♣ created a game force, and so the jump is Minorwood.
(F) 2NT elevated the auction to invitational, so now 4 of either minor is Minorwood.
(G) Assuming that you are playing Inverted Minors, that 2♦ bid is invitational … thus, 4♦ is Minorwood.
(H) 2♣ is game-forcing, now 4 of either minor is Jump Minorwood.
♠ 4 ♠ A6 1♣ 1♦
♥ 8 ♥ J63 3♥ 3♠
♦ AKQ74 ♦ JT652 4♦ 4NT
♣ KQJ874 ♣ A32 6♦ Pass
In this auction, 3♥ was a Splinter in support of Diamonds. As this was (indirectly) the second Diamond bid in a game-forcing auction, 4♦ was clearly Minorwood, according to the rules.
With Redwood, we use the suit above the (minor) trump suit as RKCB. If Clubs are agreed, 4♦ is RKCB, and if Diamonds are agreed then 4♥ is RKCB. The basic Minorwood rules can also be used for Redwood. For example, if we are in a game-forcing auction, and we agree Clubs, and then someone bids 4♦, it’s no doubt Redwood. Likewise, if we are merely in a constructive auction, have agreed a minor, and then one (unlimited) player leaps to four of the suit above, this is Redwood.
Redwood does have some pitfalls, however. Consider this auction:
It appears here that Opener has (in addition to a Reverse-strength hand) secondary Spade support. He could well be 3-4-5-1, in search of the best game. Similarly, Responder also might be in search of the best game, perhaps he has 4-3-5-1 shape, and is suggesting the 4-3 Heart fit as a place to play.
Note that, in this auction, Minorwoodites would have no problem whatsoever. After 3♠, Responder’s 4♦ would be unequivocally Minorwood. Does this mean that we are prejudiced in favor of Minorwood over Redwood? Well, we try not to be, and here is an auction which demonstrates our even-handedness:
4♦ here does not pass the Minorwood test. But 4♥ surely passes the Redwood test, after all, it is a jump … if Opener really wanted to bid Hearts naturally, he had 3♥ available.
Yes, as the name suggests, we actually advocate both Minorwood and Redwood. This is what we suggest:
- First option is to follow the Minorwood rules whenever they apply
- If Minorwood is operational, then the would-be Redwood bid is either a cue-bid or (if a jump) a
- If Minorwood is not operational on a particular sequence, then revert to Redwood
- If that doesn’t work (presumably because no fit and/or force have been established), then a jump to
4NT will usually be interpreted as RKCB.
- Finally, if you had a Minorwood or Redwood bid at your disposal, then bidding 4NT is natural (and,
usually, invitational to slam).
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