Author: Larry Cohen
Date of publish: 11/07/2009
Level: All Levels

Gerber BabyGerber Baby

What is going on with Gerber? Last I heard, it was a baby food. Oh—and occasionally used at the bridge table.

Maybe once every thousand deals you need to ask for aces after partner’s notrump bid. Because a raise to 4NT is usually invitational, you need an ace-asking device.

John Gerber invented his now oft-misused convention so that after a 1NT or 2NT bid, a jump to 4♠ asks for aces. The responses are: 4?=0 or 4, 4?=1, 4♠=2, 4NT=3.

Please read the the previous paragraph carefully. Notice the text says: “a jump to 4♠.” It also says “after a 1NT or 2NT bid.”  Here are some examples of Gerber:

 1NT Pass 4♠  
 2NT Pass 4♠  
 1?  Pass 1? Pass
 2NT Pass 4♠  

For some reason, many of my students have gone wild with this convention. Almost every conceivable 4♠ bid is being used as ace-asking. The auctions above (the jump to 4♠ comes after a notrump bid) are proper. But, look at the following auctions where 4♠ should NOT be Gerber:

 1?  2♠  3?  Pass
 1? Pass 1♠ Pass
3♠ Pass 4♠  





I could list 100's more where I've seen players take 4? as Gerber. No! Stop, please!  In the auctions above, 4? is needed as a natural bid. On the first auction, what is West to bid with say:

?A K Q 8 7
?3 2
♠A Q 10 7 2

On the second auction, what is responder to bid with, say:

♠K J 8 7
?5 3
?K 2
♠K 10 9 7 6

1♠   Pass  3♠ Pass 

What about all the auctions where 4♠ is needed as a control-bid, such as:




♠ KQ9874  
♥ A  
♦ 42  
♣ AK43

He can't ask for aces with that hand, because his side could be off the ♠AK. He wants to make a control-bid in clubs and find out if his partner controls diamonds. 4♠ is NOT Gerber!!

It is normal expert procedure to have 4♠ available on numerous auctions for natural or control-bidding purposes. If you want to ask for aces, there are other ways. 4♠ should be Gerber only as a jump after notrump.


What if partner's last bid was 3NT and you want to ask for aces? 4♠ would typically be natural (or other), so 5♠ ("super-Gerber") is the ace-asking bid. For example:

 3♠ 3NT  Pass ??

South would bid 5♠ to ask for aces. Most expert partnerships use 4♠ as some sort of asking bid or form of Stayman. Here is one more:


 1♠ (2♠) 3♠ Pass
3NT Pass  ??  

East would bid 5♠ to ask for aces. 4♠ would be natural and forcing (something like: ♠ --  
♥ AQ9852  
♦ 76  
♣ AKJ85.
 4NT would be quantitative/invitational (something like: ♠ Q2  
♥ KQJ92  
♦ AJ7  
♣ AJ2).


I know this will fall on many deaf ears. Too many are in love with 4♠ as Gerber. For experienced players, Gerber should be only a baby food.

*note: 4♠ is forcing in this auction

FOOTNOTE: During the 2009 Regional at Sea I gave my "anti-Gerber" lecture. Director Harry Falk loved it and told me that next to Gerber on the convention card he used to write: NITLFY.  What does it mean?  Not In The Last Forty Years! 

Gerber is not alertable.