Gerber bridge convention

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To explore the opportunity of playing a Slam, which can earn the partnership big points bonuses, one player in the partnership usually needs to have at least a stronger-than-average opening like a One No-Trump bid (minimum 15 points), and the partner needs to have close to opening-point strength as well (minimum 12 points). Generally, you need at least 29 points between the two of you to even start thinking about a Slam.

But even if the partnership has a total of 36 points between the two hands, they will still not be able to make a Grand Slam in most cases if the four missing points are represented by an Ace. The ability to control suits with Aces and Kings (or voids) is vital in determining the viability of playing a Slam contract. Some experienced players bid Slam contracts merely on points, but beginners and intermediate players usually feel safer about bidding a Slam if they have been able to ask their partner: “Hey, how many Aces and/or Kings do you have?”

Fortunately, people have invented conventions for this purpose that partnership may use to “ask for Aces (and Kings)” since the possibility of making a Slam usually depends on missing no more than one Ace.

One of those conventions (the others are Blackwood, 1430, or Roman Key Cards) is the Gerber Convention, which uses 4 as the bid that asks how many Aces a partner has. The reply is as follows: The very next bid, 4 , means 0 Aces; the next bid, 4 , means 1 Ace, the next bid of 4 means 2 Aces, etc. Note: The 4 bid should not be used is either partner had been bidding clubs as a natural suit (not as an artificial bid – that doesn’t count) since in that case there could be confusion among the partners if the 4 bid was natural or a Gerber convention bid.

If the number of Kings is vital to the determination of the possibility of making a final Slam contract, the partner doing the asking will take the very next bid from the answer and that will mean: “How many Kings do you have?” In other words, a partner may ask for Aces with a bid of 4 , and if the answer is 4 (1 Ace), a bid of 4 (the very next bid) means asking for Kings. The answer is determined in the same fashion. The very next bid, 4 No-Trump in this case, will mean 0 Kings, the next bid of 5 will mean 1 King; 5 will mean 2 Kings, etc.

Whether voids should count as Aces and singletons should count as Kings is a matter of partnership agreement, but voids and/or singletons in a suit that the partner has bid should never be counted as Aces and/or Kings. The reason is simple: a void or a singleton is counted on in these cases as a first- or second-round control in the suit, but if it’s in a suit that partner has bid, he/she is very likely to have those controls in natural fashion.

The Gerber 4 bid is the lowest possible bid available to ask for Aces. As such, it has the advantage that if the answer makes it unlikely that Slam is within reach, there is still a good opportunity to bail out at the 4 level, or at the 5 level if needed and settle for Game instead. Gerber does have the disadvantage that some bids may be subject to confusion. The first 4 bid may already be confusing, and a second bid of 4 or 4 may also be confusing. Is the partner really asking for Kings, or is that where he/she wants to stop since he/she had been bidding that suit previously during the auction.

There is simply no perfect system that can foresee all eventualities.

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