Bergen Raises

I’m not going to go into depth here, but some of my students are experimenting with Bergen Raises.  This is just a quick summary of the convention, which applies after your partner opens 1 of a major suit.  When you have 4 or more trumps for your partner you can show that plus your HCP range with one alertable bid:

  • With 0-6 HCP jump to 3 of partner’s major.  Note:  This is not a suicide pact.  You don’t have to do it if the points are low and the vulnerability is long.
  • With 7-9 HCP bid 3 Clubs.
  • With a limit raise, bid 3 Diamonds.
  • With a game force, bid Jacoby 2NT.

It’s easy enough to remember.  Marty Bergen posits that having more ways to raise your partner is always good.  Additionally, it gets you to the level suggested by the Law of Total Tricks right away.  You do lose the 3C and 3D natural jump shifts, be they weak or strong.

Some people switch the meanings of the 3C and 3D bids, so 3C is the limit raise and 3D is the “constructive” 4 card raise.  This makes some sense, so the more you have the lower your response (2NT game force, 3C limit, 3D constructive, 3 major weak).  When I play Bergen raises I prefer to do it this way.

Here are some things you need to discuss with your partner if you’re going to play them:

  1. Are they on or off in competition?  Some reasonable choices are:
    1. Off in all competition (this is my preference).
    2. On over a double, off over a bid.
    3. On if you can still jump.
  2. How does opener make a game try after the 3C or 3D response?  My recommendation is to use any available suit bid as an artificial general “do you feel lucky?” game try.  For example:  after 1S – 3D, opener bids 3H as a game try and 3S to sign off.  After 1H-3D opener either goes or doesn’t go.  There’s no room for a game try.
  3. What if responder is 4-3-3-3 with the 4 card suit being the trump suit?  Should she make the Bergen Raise?  My preference is to make the simple raise to 2H in lieu of the constructive raise if I have a flat hand.  Partner will still make a game try with a suitable hand.

I like Bergen Raises.  The Bergen Raise system is my second favorite major suit raise system.  (I prefer the system of raises in Max Hardy’s Two Over One book).  However, they are not essential to a player’s development until they’ve developed some judgment and have the more standard conventions down.