The development of the Gerber convention is accredited to Mr. John Gerber, born in the year 1906 in Houston, Texas, United States, and died January 28, 1981, who devised the method in 1938. This convention is sometimes referred to as the Four Clubs Blackwood. The concept and fundamental idea was devised independently by Dr. William Konigsberger and Mr. Wim Nye, both of Geneva, Switzerland, and was also published by them in Europe in 1936.
Note: As is often the case in providing historical information of the 1930s several sources maintain that Mr. John Gerber first published the concept, promoted the concept to the bridge community, and contributed immensely to its acceptance by the bridge community beginning in the year 1936, and it is for these reasons that the conventional method is named for him.
Definition of the Concept
The Gerber convention uses the bid of 4 Clubs to ask partner to communicate by a bid the number of held Aces, and subsequently how many Kings.
According to the concept, as soon as a suit or No Trump has been agree upon, preferably No Trump, the responder will bid 4 Clubs to ask for Aces. In No Trump auctions, it is almost always the responder who will ask for Aces and Kings, since the opener has conclusively limited his holdings. The Gerber convention was devised in order to ask for Aces and Kings one level lower than with the Blackwood convention. In this manner, the two partners can stop the auction, if it proves necessary, on a lower level.
Responses to a 4 Clubs Ace Ask
4 : Shows no Ace or 4 Aces 4 : Shows 1 Ace 4 : Shows 2 Aces 4 NT: Shows 3 Aces
Responses to a 5 Clubs King Ask
5 : Shows no King or 4 Kings 5 : Shows 1 King 5 : Shows 2 Kings 5 NT: Shows 3 Kings
The Gerber conventional method of inquiring about the number of held Aces and Kings is simplistic in form and execution. A partnership must deal individually with any competition from the opposing side.
Sliding Gerber or Rolling Gerber
Note: In the original concept of the Gerber convention, the auction was a little different. The original version is known as Rolling Gerber or Sliding Gerber. Some partnerships still apply this method.
The responses of the opener to a 4 Clubs bid by his partner, after agreeing that No Trump is the contract, and who is asking for Aces are:
4 : Shows no Ace. 4 : Shows 1 Ace. 4 : Shows 2 Aces. 4 NT: Shows 3 Aces. 5 : Shows 4 Aces.
The responses of the opener to a 4 Clubs bid by his partner, after agreeing that the contract is definitely a suit contract, and who is asking for the number of held Aces are:
Agreed trump suit is Hearts Responder Opener Meaning 4 Gerber inquiry asking for the number of held Aces. 4 Shows 1 Ace. 4 King inquiry. Responder asks for Kings by bidding the next higher ranking suit: Responses 4 NT Shows no King. 5 Shows 1 King. 5 Shows 2 Kings. 5 Shows 3 Kings. 5 Shows 4 Kings.
Note: The responder may not bid the agreed Trump suit to ask for Kings. This action would signal a sign-off.
The Rolling Gerber, or Sliding Gerber, has proven to be ineffective in some auctions due to the ambiguity of the bidding, especially if the contract is Clubs. The difficulty in distinguishing between a conventional and a natural 4 Clubs bid in such cases caused many bridge players to adopt the more effective method mentioned above.
Another factor is the procedure with a void, and still another factor is an intervening call. The Rolling Gerber, or Sliding Gerber, did not provide for such instances.
Bridge partnerships have agreed to use the Gerber convention in suit contracts. The following two auctions should clarify this partnership agreement.
Opener Responder Meaning 1 3 4 The 4 Clubs bid by the opener is the Gerber convention.
Opener Responder Meaning 1 Promises opening values. 3 Limit Raise 3 Splinter bid showing a singleton or void in Spades. 4 The 4 Clubs bid by the opener is the Gerber convention.
Points of Consideration
It must be noted, however, that many bridge partnerships have decided that they are unwilling to surrender the 4 Clubs bid as a natural bid or as a cuebid. These bridge partnerships have decided to employ the Gerber convention only after a No Trump opening.
Using the Gerber convention after a 2 No Trump Opening can cause partnerships some amount of ambiguity. Using the Gerber convention after a 3 No Trump Opening can cause some partnerships several tactical difficulties. Even using the Gerber convention after a strong, artificial Two Club Opening with a Two or Three No Trump rebid could cause the partnership some troublesome disagreement.
The following example should illustrate these difficulties, and possible ambiguities.
Opener Responder 2 NT
9 K97 Q104 KJ10865
It is evident that a possible slam in a Club contract is in the making, but the question pertains to the best possible method of ascertaining this goal. A bid by the responder of 3 Clubs is normally used as the Stayman convention, asking for a 4-card Major suit. Some partnerships have decided to use the immediate jump bid to 4 Clubs as the Gerber convention. Still other partnerships have agreed to use the 3 Clubs bid, followed by a 4 Clubs rebid as the Gerber convention. Whatever the partnership agreement may be, these partnerships have no way to bid Clubs naturally.
Assuming the same example as above:
Opener Responder 3 NT
9 K97 Q104 KJ10865
If the responder bids 4 Clubs, the opener will have some difficulty in deciding whether this bid is natural, or the introduction of the Gerber convention. Several partnerships have solved this problem by reserving the 4 Clubs bid by the responder as the Stayman convention, and a 4 Diamonds bid by the responder as the introduction of the Gerber convention.
The meaning of these two bids can, however, be reversed by other partnerships. It seems, however, more logical, in the view of many, to use the 4 Diamonds bid as the Stayman convention, reserving the 4 Clubs for the Gerber convention. There are also some partnerships who employ 4 Clubs as the Stayman convention, and 5 Clubs as the Gerber convention, thereby taking the opener one level higher than Mr. John Gerber intended.
Note: The bridge columnist for The New York Times published his bridge column on July 23, 1988, wrote about the Gerber convention being such a contribution to the game of bridge and to the bridge community in general, that the convention had to be invented in two places. This article has only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.
Note: The bridge columnist for The New York Times published his bridge column on January 29, 1981, and described how Mr. John Gerber employed unusual play techniques and strategy at the bridge table. This article has only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.
Note: The bridge columnist for The New York Times published the obituary on January 29, 1981, for Mr. John Gerber. This article has only been preserved and archived on this site in .pdf file format for future reference.
If you wish to include this feature, or any other feature, of the game of bridge in your partnership agreement, then please make certain that the concept is understood by both partners. Be aware whether or not the feature is alertable or not and whether an announcement should or must be made. Check with the governing body and/or the bridge district and/or the bridge unit prior to the game to establish the guidelines applied. Please include the particular feature on your convention card in order that your opponents are also aware of this feature during the bidding process, since this information must be made known to them according to the Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge. We do not always include the procedure regarding Alerts and/or Announcements, since these regulations are changed and revised during time by the governing body. It is our intention only to present the information as concisely and as accurately as possible.
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