Bergen Raises

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 Bulletin in April 1982. Using the responses of this method, the partner could show his overall strength 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 true ‘meaning’ refers to both Major suits, Spades and Hearts.

North-South Meaning

  • 1 and 2 Spades – Shows 3-card Spade support, 6-10 points.
  • 3 Clubs – Shows 4-card Spade support, 7-10 points, artificial.
  • 3 Diamond – Shows 4-card Spade support, 10-12 points, artificial.

Note: Some partnerships reverse the meaning of the 3 and 3 responses.

  • 3 Spades – 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 written them as reversed. The modification followed later. Although the modification could have been called Reverse Bergen Raises, this particular designation was never considered.

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.

In the case that the responder holds sufficient points for game, then the responses are different.

A response of 3 No Trump shows a balanced hand, game values, stoppers in the other unbid suits, and 3-card support in Spades. This response is non-forcing. The opener may pass. However, if the opener wishes to pursue any slam interest, the opener begins cuebidding.

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

  • 3 Spades – Cheapest bid by opener.
  • 3 NT Singleton or void in Clubs.
  • 4¬† Clubs – Singleton or void in Diamonds.
  • 4 Diamonds – Singleton or void in Hearts.


Bidding Sequence 2:

Opener Responder Meaning

  • 3 NT Cheapest bid by opener.
  • 4 Clubs – Singleton or void in Clubs.
  • 4 Diamonds – Singleton or void in Diamonds.
  • 4 Hearts – Singleton or void in Spades.

The Bergen Raises has several advantages, which are recognized by experienced bridge players. The artificial jumps are designed specifically to obstruct the opponents from entering the auction. The responses give a better picture of the strength of 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 used, when one partner has already passed. 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 may be a Takeout Double and is forcing.

Employing the Bergen Raises method, most partnerships 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.