Passion of The Game of Bridge

ROPE/DOPE: A Must After Blackwood or Gerber Convention

ROPE/DOPE: A Must After Blackwood or Gerber Convention

If your partnership use either Blackwood Convention (4NT/5NT) or Gerber Convention (4C) for asking Aces, Key Cards or even Kings, one of the defensive bidding that you need to have is to still answer the convention even the opponent has disrupted it with some sacrifice bidding. DOPE/ROPE Convention is one of the nice complimentary of Blackwood/Gerber.

The Convention: ROPE/DOPE

DOPE is shorts for Double is Odd, Pass is Even.
ROPE is shorts for Redouble is Odd, Pass is Even.

That’s would be the answer of partner’s question of “How many keycard you have” or “How many Aces you have” via Gerber/Blackwood convention

Yes, you need to alert opponent for this artifical bid.

In Action

Let see the convention in action:

  • Your partner (North) open “1NT” strong, 16-18 HCP, balanced distribution no 5 cards major
  • Your RHS (Right Hand Side) – East opponent passed
  • You (South) have 19 HCP balance distribution 4-4-3-2. So, you are thinking either 6NT if partner has 2 Aces or maybe 7NT if he has 3 Aces. So you bid Blackwood convention asking for Aces “4NT“! See illustration below:

    ROPE/DOPE in Action
    Dealer: N
    Vul: NS
    AT8765432 e[n/s]w
    South West North East
    1 NT pass
    4 NT 6 ??? .
  • Your LHS (Left Hand Side) – West opponent, apparently holding 9 cards Spade headed by A and T, 3 cards Heart, void diamond with singleton club, ask your partner “Blackwood?”. When your partner nodded, he  bid “6
    Advance sacrifice. He was ready for doubled and short 5 tricks for -1100 non-vulnerable vs your vulnerable 6NT of 1440
  • Using ROPE/DOPE convention, partner “Pass” to indicates even holding of Aces. From your point of view it is clear that partner has 2 Aces. Cannot be zero as total HCP between you and partner is already 35 HCP. The point missing will not be more than 5 HCP. And cannot be 4 as you hold one Aces with you.
  • Hence, you confidently bid 6NT to play.

There are other variation for this convention such as DOPI/ROPI (Double/Redouble = zero, Pass=1 and subsequent bidding is 2, 3, 4 etc). So , with above example North should reply with “6NT” to indicates 2 holdings as 6NT is the next bidding after 6♠.

The problem with DOPI/ROPI is that if partner has more than 1 Aces/Key Card, partner need to bid something, hence literally preventing opponent to be penalized instead.

For example: on above example, how about if West bid 7♠. instead of 6♠. (which is still good: X-6 for -1400. Still better than -1440 if you making 6NT). Using DOPI/ROPI partner need to bid 7NT which hardly can be made and opponent will score +100 instead of -1400. In contrary, using  ROPE/DOPE, partner simply “Pass” to indicates even holding just like above, and when it comes to your turn you, just bid “X” – Double for penalty: +1400 instead of +1440, but much better than -100.

Remember the Convention

It’s effectively known that you will remember something much better if you associate it with something. Furthermore, just this convention you can see the possible convention as it can be: DEPO/REPO, DOPE/ROPE, PEDO/PERO, or PORE/PODE, etc

But, I will give you a mnemonics to never ever forget this convention:

“Rope A Dope”: Rumble in A Jungle – Muhammad ‘The Greatest’ Ali vs George Foreman

[Rope A Dope Painting]

Ali vs Foreman, even Ali used ROPE/DOPE! - photo: - click to check the painting

On 30-October-1974 in Zaire, a boxing fight known later as “Rumble in A Jungle” took place. It was between that time’s current heavy weight world champion George Foreman against the challenger Muhammad Ali.

For this big fight, Ali used what then called “Rope A Dope” where he just lay himself again the rope of the ring letting Foreman to punch him repeatedly to drain his energy, while Ali cover himself in protective posture. So, what Foreman hist just his protective arm. And it works ! Foreman become tired and the rest is history.

So, “Rope A Dope” is to be used after Gerber/Blackwood and you would not even able to forget it anymore, once you remember Ali’s story !

Update your convention !


  1. David Streifford /

    Hi Denis,

    Re slam bidding,, you say a 4NT response to partner’s 1NT opening is ace-asking. Unless you have a specific agreement for this, 4NT is nearly always “quantitative” and asks partner to bid 6NT if max and pass if minimum.

    Thanks for you website.


    • Denis Kristanda /

      Yes, I used Quantitative my self.
      But here is the better tips: if partner is maximum, rather than jump to 6NT all the way, why don’t he just answer the number of Ace? No disadvantaged right ?
      The reason is, say you play 1NT strong 15-17HCP. You have 16 points. So your aim is the total is 33points then bid slam knowing there will be no 2 Aces out. The drawback is 2 fold:
      1. Maximum in quality: if you hold S:AKQT H:KT98 D:AT9 C:T9 (it might be only 16 points, but with all those 10 and 9, I’ll consider it maximum, and you should too. As in the long run it give you more points)
      2. 7 missing points may not be 2 Aces, but it could be AK from the same suit. So, you are down in the first 2 trick. But if partner answer no of aces anyway, you could possibly deduct from your hand whether AK from the same suit is likely or not. So, the whole room playing 6NT minus 1, you play 5NT contract. But if you increase your requirement to 34HCP before bid slam, then you might found out that the whole room bit 6NT except you. Granted there will be occasion that you did not bit that 6NT because you know exactly that AK from the same suit is outside, then you can answer the question from bulletin writer proudly that you know exactly there are AK from the same suit is missing and you become the better bridge player others will respect.

      Hope this helps
      Subtle point that could make different.

  2. partner opened 2 clubs. I held a k qxxx of clubs. twelve points not counting heart void. I answered blackwood with 5 hearts to show a of clubs and a void.please comment

    • Denis Kristanda /

      Hi, sorry to reply soo late.
      If your partner’s 2C is Precision like (showing 6+ club or 5 club + 4 major) and you have such superfits club and 12hcp with void, you probably better of with forcing sequence and splinter rather jump to ace asking because slam is likely for sure. The worst thing happen is that partner have AKQx heart which is less use for your partnership.
      If your partner’s 2C is standard “Powerhouse”, then better find the fits first before doing any ace asking. Avoid any unnecessary jump.

      I would suggest only answer the ace asking with the number as agreed first (1430 or 0413,etc) then showing “extra” later on. Or you can use “exclusion kay card” where 5H means asking for no of Aces but not including Heart.
      All and all, need a robust agreement from partner.
      Hope this helps

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