This conventional method was originally called Bergen Major Suit Raises, because they were only used after one partner opened a Major suit. This is a conventional method devised by Mr. Marty Bergen, and was first published in the ACBL Bridge Bulletin in April 1982. Using the responses of this method, the partner could show his overall values and his actual trump length with one bid.
This method has also undergone some changes since its inception. To some degree, the responses are sometimes completely natural and several are completely artificial.
The responses are different depending on whether the raises indicate a holding with fewer than game values.
These responses for holdings with fewer than game values and their meanings are as follows. The leaning bridge player should remember that the responses are for a Spade opening in the example and that the meaning refers to both Major suits, Spades and Hearts.
North South Meaning 1 2 Shows 3-card Spade support, 6-10 points. 3 Shows 4-card Spade support, 7-10 points, artificial. 3 Shows 4-card Spade support, 10-12 points, artificial. Note: Some partnerships reverse the meaning of the 3 and 3 responses*. See below. 3 Shows 4-card plus Spade support, 2-6 points, preemptive. (Note: some publications show 0-6 points.) 3 NT Shows 12-15 points, 3-card Spade support. (Implies strongly a balanced distribution of usually 4-3-3-3 or similar pattern).
* The reason why some partnerships reverse the meaning of the 3 Clubs and 3 Diamonds responses is because Mr. Marty Bergen, in the original publication, had authored them in this manner. The modification followed later. Although the modification could have been called Reverse Bergen Raises, this particular designation was never considered.
3-Card Support and Values of 10-12
In the case that the responder has only 3-card support for the opened Major by his partner and also 10-12 good support points, the partnership agreement is that a response of 1 No Trump is forcing for one round. In the following two bidding sequences, the responder shows the requirements for 10-12 support points and 3-card support.
North South Meaning 1 1 NT The 1 No Trump bid by the responder is played as one-round forcing. 2 North shows at least a 4-card Club suit. 3 Promises only 3-card support for Hearts and 10-12 points. North South Meaning 1 1 NT The 1 No Trump bid by the responder is played as one-round forcing. 3 North makes a jump rebid in Diamonds promising a 5-card Heart suit, at least a 4-card Diamond suit, and a minimum of 18 points. 4 With the combined values in both holdings and a known 8-card fit in Hearts the responder establishes the final contract. North may also expect only a 3-card Heart suit from partner.
In the case that the responder holds sufficient points for game, then the continuances may change.
North South Meaning 1 3 NT Shows 12-15 points, 3-card Spade support. (Implies strongly a balanced distribution of usually 4-3-3-3 or similar pattern). Pass North has the option of passing. This option is generally acceptable if the distribution is 5-3-3-2 or the values are minimal. The reasoning is that the partnership can more easily play for 9 tricks than for 10 tricks. 4 North has the option of placing the contract in a game contract in Spades (or Hearts, if Hearts), owing generally to added values and/or length in Spades.
Additional Information: a response of 3 No Trump shows normally a balanced holding, game values, stoppers in the other unbid suits, and 3-card support in Spades. This response is non-forcing since the partner may opt for game in No Trump or bid game in the bid Major suit.. The opener may pass a first response of 3 No Trump by responder.
However, if the opener wishes to pursue any slam interest, the opener begins cuebidding. This feature is possible since the almost universally accepted guideline for introducing cuebidding is the fact that the suit fit must first be established. This is the case with the 3 No Trump response since it identifies an 8-card minimum fit in the bid Major suit. Therefore, the introduction of a new suit bid by the opener in such a bidding sequence may no longer be considered natural. The bid is artificial, thus cuebidding.
Three Level Responses
Any jump to the three level in the other Major suit shows a hand with game values, a singleton or a void in an unspecified side suit. In order to identify this side suit, the opener may make the cheapest rebid, or a step bid, which are shown below:
Bidding Sequence 1 Opener Responder Meaning 1 Promises at least a 5-card Spade suit and opening values. 3 The first response on the three level in the other Major suit shows a hand with game values and a singleton or a void in an unspecified side suit. Note: An agreement is desired for the partnership as to whether this response should be considered limited or unlimited. Reason: if the response is understood as limited, then partner has the option of bidding game in the agreed suit when the opening is based on minimum values. Partner must pass. 3 The cheapest bid by the opener requests that the responder make the singleton / void known. 3 NT Shows a singleton or void in Clubs. 4 Shows a singleton or void in Diamonds. 4 Shows a singleton or void in Hearts.
Bidding Sequence 2 Opener Responder Meaning 1 Promises at least a 5-card Heart suit and opening values. 3 The first response on the three level in the other Major suit shows a hand with game values and a singleton or a void in an unspecified side suit. Note: An agreement is desired for the partnership as to whether this response should be considered limited or unlimited. Reason: if the response is understood as limited, then partner has the option of bidding game in the agreed suit when the opening is based on minimum values. Partner must pass. 3 NT The cheapest bid by the opener requests that the responder make the singleton / void known. 4 Shows a singleton or void in Clubs. 4 Shows a singleton or void in Diamonds. 4 Shows a singleton or void in Spades.
Considered Advantages for the Player
The Bergen Raises has several advantages, which are recognized by experienced bridge players. The artificial jumps are designed specifically to obstruct and deter the opponents from deciding to enter the auction. The responses provide a more accurate description of the values held by the responder as well as the length of his holding in the opened Major suit.
The shared information concerning the location of a singleton or void could be a decisive factor in exploring slam possibilities.
The partnership is able to utilize the responses of 4 Clubs, 4 Diamonds, or 4 of the unbid Major suit for other purposes.
Note: It is the partnership agreement of most bridge players that Bergen Raises are not employed, when one partner has already passed in the auction. The primary use of this method occurs after one partner opens a Major suit in first or second seat and the right hand opponent has passed. All responses must be alerted.
If the opponents decide to enter the auction after a response of 3 Clubs or 3 Diamonds, depending on the opening, then a double is generally a lead directing double and/or a takeout double depending on the partnership agreement of the opponents. A double by the opponents may also signify a two-suited hand with one Major and the other unbid Minor suit. If this is the partnership agreement of the opponents, then the Doubler will bid his Major suit after the double. Any cuebid by the opponents of the opener's Major suit promises the second unbid Major suit and the second unbid Minor suit by partnership agreement. Although rare, a pass by the immediate opponent may be a takeout double and is generally one-round forcing.
Systems Off or On
Most partnerships employing the Bergen Raises conventional method agree that the Bergen Raises method is off, if the overcall interferes with a constructive continuation of the Bergen Raises method. If the overcall does not interfere with the constructive continuation of the Bergen Raises method, then the system is on.
If you and your partner wish to include the Bergen Raises in your partnership agreement, then it will prove prudent to practice first, become acquainted with the different responses, and then include this method on your Convention Card, in order that your opponents at the bridge table know that you are using Bergen Raises. It is also prudent to become familiar with the handling of overcalls by the opponents and agree to whether the system is on or off, depending generally on whether the overcall has interfered or not interfered with the constructive continuation of the Bergen Raises method.
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