Jeff Lehman

Picture bids

A regional expert had been quoted (if I am remembering correctly, which I might not be!) as castigating “picture bids” because they “never” occur.

Well, “never” might be an overbid.  These were our hands from Board 10 from the May 31 club morning duplicate pairs:




(1) I like partner’s choice of rebids, showing nine of his thirteen cards (5 spades + 4 hearts) rather than only six of his thirteen cards (had he instead chosen to rebid 2).
(2) A “picture bid”, meaning, to our partnership, a minimum hand with no controls in the suits not bid by West (here, meaning no controls in spades and diamonds)


With partner holding AK in spades, one of my uncontrolled suits, and holding a singleton in diamonds, the other of my uncontrolled suits, the hands are known to fit well.  Knowing that my hand holds neither the A nor K suggests strongly to partner that wasted values in my minimum hand are not substantial. And knowing that my hand holds more than one spade suggests that the spade suit might produce six tricks.  A keycard ask would immediately disclose that we hold all but the A of the six key cards and a good slam can be reached on a combined total of only 26 HCP.

By contrast, a minimum responder hand with values in diamonds (say, xx, AJxx, KQ, QJxxx) opposite partner’s hand creates jeopardy should the slam search have advanced the bidding to the five level.

Adopting picture bids along with either serious 3NT or frivolous 3NT can help a partnership identify which minimums can produce slam and which minimums cannot.


LakJune 6th, 2013 at 1:16 am

What would partner bid with a minimum hand such as:

2H- ??

Jeff LehmanJune 6th, 2013 at 1:46 am

Hi, Lak,

To answer your question, responder would bid 3H with the hand you have shown. To sort out whether the 3H bid is on a minimum (but a minimum not qualifying for a picture bid jump .. here, because responder owns the DK) or a non-minimum, the partnership would also employ either “serious 3NT” or “frivolous (or “non-serious”) 3NT” machinery to help define the nature of any follow up control bids. “Fast arrival” is not the accepted approach for my favored methods.

— Jeff

Steven GaynorJune 6th, 2013 at 3:34 pm

HI Jeff

I like your use of the jump to 4H in this auction. ‘Fast arrival’ should not apply unless the trump suit is known by both partners before the ‘fast arrival’ bid is made.

Robin HillyardSeptember 1st, 2013 at 4:58 pm

I’m still a skeptic about picture bids. Surely, the jump to 4H simply expresses minimum values? If the 2C response was an appropriate bid, then by inference responder probably does have values in clubs and hearts only. But I’m doubtful that that can be guaranteed. If the West hand had been dealt Ax Kxxx xxx AJxx, would you have started with 1NT (as I would)? Then maybe there is something to be said for your picture bids.

Without the picture bid agreement, I would have responded 1NT to the initial 1S call hoping to “catch up” later with a direct game bid or a fourth-suit-forcing bid. That has its dangers, so perhaps I am becoming converted to picture bids after all.

Jeff LehmanSeptember 1st, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Robin, I would respond 2C to a 1S opening with Ax, Kxxx, xxx, AJxx. Bidding 1NT is, IMHO, fooling partner. How can I catch up once I have denied holding an opening bid opposite his opening bid? If, after a 1NT response, the auction were to continue 2H-4H, how can partner distinguish between KQJxx, AQxx, x, Kxx, and KQJxx, AQxx, Kxx, x? By contrast, if responder were to bid 2C, the heart fit is ascertained at the three level, and the partners could have time to sort out the fit and controls.

Picture bids do not arise often, but like many other space-usurping calls in game forcing auctions, when they do arise, they often communicate exactly the information that partner needs to hear.

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