This came up at the table in the 299er game the other night — not, I hasten to add, because someone actually bid it, but just in the conversation after a hand. This is an ace-asking bid, as you can imagine. You might automatically think that partner is invoking Blackwood, asking for the number of aces you have, but it’s even more specific.
When partner opens 4NT, she is asking you to identify specific aces in your hand. If you have the ace of hearts, bid 5H — if you have the ace of clubs, bid 5C. That’s how it works. Partner doesn’t care about voids, or how many points you have, or anything else — just, do you have an ace and if so, which one is it. If you have more than one ace, bid 5NT.
I think usually partner will be looking for a cover for a single loser and is trying to decide between a small slam and a grand. I’d open 4NT with something like S x H AKQJT987653 D A C Void. The difference between opening 2C, bidding the heart suit, and then bidding Blackwood — if partner has one ace, is it the useless AC, or the wonderful AS?
I would certainly forgive a partner who’d never heard of this opening bid and responded as if it were Blackwood, asking for the number of aces. I can’t remember anyone at the table actually opening 4NT — ever. Mind you, I have used an ace-asking system called Albarran, but that will be the topic of a future post. This is the sort of thing that comes up once in a lifetime, if ever. But if you and your partner are both on the same wavelength, you’ll get a well-deserved top that once in your lifetime.