Gerber

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

Gerber 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:

WestNorthEastSouth
1NT Pass 4
WestNorthEastSouth
2NT Pass 4
WestNorthEastSouth
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:

WestNorthEastSouth
1  2  3  Pass
4

WestNorthEastSouth
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:

4
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

WestNorthEastSouth
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:

WestNorthEastSouth
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:

WestNorthEastSouth
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!