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Bergen Raise is a must-have companion for 5-cards major opening. However, it cannot standalone by itself. Because it also needs some other bids to complete the purpose. Hence, I do not call this article as a Bergen Raise convention, but it is a Bergen Raise structure.

So, all the Bergen Raise does is to show four cards (or more) support in the opened Major. That’s it. However, since 3-cards support is also a fit, we need to accommodate all of them in one-unified structure.

To be more specific, we need to look after the following:

  • Three-cards support:
    • weak (0-5HCP)
    • simple raise value (6-9HCP)
    • invitational value (10-11HCP)
    • game-force value (12+HCP)
      • balance
      • unbalance
  • Four-cards support:
    • weak (0-5HCP)
    • simple raise value (6-9HCP)
    • invitational value (10-11HCP)
    • game-force value (12+HCP)
      • balance
      • unbalance

Notes:

  • In this article, we will not discuss the hands that are not fit in the opened Major (if you have two or fewer cards in the Major)
  • See the individual bid sequence for 1 and 1 for the complete set.

Support in a Weak Hand (0-5 HCP): 3M

Firstly, with a weak hand, there is a possibility that the opponents have more point than our side. Therefore, since you have a suit, you can do a blocking bid to make it more difficult for the opponent to find their optimal contract. For example, you see your partner open with 1 and you have the following hand:

J98764 82 9764 T

So, whatever the opponent bid, with at least 11 trump cards in your hand, although only have 1 HCP, you just want to bid 4 to make sure the opponents cannot find their fit. If you have only 4-cards support (i.e 9 trump cards with you and partner), you can still safely bid at level 3 (Remember the law of total trick?) However, if you only have 3-cards support, a Pass probably the best choice.

In this case, Bergen Raise defines that 1-3 and 1-3 are a weak bid with 4+cards support.

Simple raise support (6-9 HCP): 3

In this category, to bid game, opener needs to have the maximum range (around18-19HCP). So, by bidding a 3 after opener open 1M, we let the opener knows that we have 4-cards (or more) support with 6-9 HCP.
The Bergen Raise bid for simple raise value was originally a 3 bid, however, we swap the two to allow a cheap slam try (see below)

For 3-cards support, the normal bid applies. 1M-2M.

Invitational Support (10-11 HCP): 3

Bidding 3 is showing an invitational hand with 4-cards support.

So, If the responder has an invitational value hand, it only takes the opener with a mid-range hand (around 16-17 HCP) to be able to bid game. Therefore, in an instance that opener has an 18-19HCP, a slam is still possible. That is whay, after 1M-3 (invite), any other bid than 3M or 4M is a cuebid sequence showing slam interest.

 

For hands with 3-cards support

Initially, with invitational value, if you have only 3-cards support, Bergen use the 3 bid via 1NT as follows (but DO NOT USE it):

OpenerResponder
11NT
2x3*
*3-card support invitational value (DO NOT USE)

However, this is not ideal and not recommended to use as you can end up having a minimum opener and only 3-card support and play on level-3. Isn’t it better if you can only play at level-2 if the opener is a minimum? Of course, it will be better. I recommended using Reverse Drury below.

Again to emphasize this point, please consider a few points below:

  • Bergen raise is good dan safe because, with extra support card, you usually end up with less loser a(or more trick) compare with 3-cards support only. So, if you still use 3 card support at level-3 then it defeats the purpose of using the Bergen raise.
  • If a 3-card support invite can be done only with 1NT bid, then there is no way ever to pass 1M-1NT (even passed hand). While passing 1M-1NT is not recommended for unpassed hand, if the partner has passed, it is safe to do so. Now, if you can have 3 cards-support via 1NT then, 1NT MUST not be ever be passed.
  • And finally, there is a better easy alternative, why not use it: Reverse Drury

As mentioned above,I would NOT recommend not to use the above. Instead, use a “Reverse Drury” convention. A Drury convention is a bid of 2 after 1 Major opening to ask if the opener has minimum value or normal opening value(in the context of a third-hand opening). A reverse Drury is the other way around, the bid inquires whether the opener has more than minimum hand. However, the respond is the same: if the opener is minimum, the opener will re-bid the Major. For example:

OpenerResponder
12*
2**Pass
*3-card support invitational value
**minimum

And voila! We will only play on level-2 if the opener is minimum. Extra safe.
So, how about the natural bid that 2 normally represents? Still there. We just use it as “multi” meanings. All other bids by the responder will imply that the responder had C and not the 3-card Major fit with invitational value. For example:

OpenerResponder
12*
2**2NT***
*3-card support invitational value or natural 4+ card
**minimum
***4+card- balance – 10-11, no 3-card S

Game Forcing (12+ HCP)
Balance Hand.

If the hand is really flat, say 4333, it doesn’t really matter if you have 3-cards or 4-cards support. Because there is no extra trick to be ruffed. And also, it might be better to play a 3NT game instead of a level-4 in Major. Therefore, for  12-15HCP range and balance, the bid is 3NT

For the balance hand with 4-cards support that is better than 12-15HCP 4333, bid 2NT (Jacoby 2NT) and opener then need to show the short suit that the opener has. As for the 3-cards support, you can start by showing another suit first before giving a delayed fit confirmation. For example:

OpenerResponder
12
2NT3*
3NT4
*3-card support, FG

However, there are hands that you do not want to give the opponent extra information about what suits your holding. In this case we can use 1H-2S and 1S-3H to show 3-cards support 12+HCP FG and opener can just bid 4M, 3NT or show opener’s second suit. Nevertheless, the trump has been set.

Unbalance Hand.

For fit with unbalance hand, it is good to show directly the short suit by do a splinter bid. If the opener is interested in a slam, cuebiding can be starting. On the other hand, you can also show the good suit that you have without telling about the shortage on the first occasion (delayed fit)

Bergen Raise Structure:

1?
2:3cd support. Invitational
2:3cd support. 6-9
2:3cd support. 12+. FG
2NT:4+cd support, FG
3:4+cd support. Invitational
3:4+cd support. 6-9
3:4+cd support. 0-5. Weak
3:Splinter
3NT:(4333) 12-15 HCP
4:Splinter
4:Splinter
4:Weak. Distributional
1?
2:3cd support. Invitational
2:3cd support. 6-9
2NT:4+cd support, FG
3:4+cd support. Invitational
3:4+cd support. 6-9
3:3cd support. 12+. FG
3:4+cd support. 0-5. Weak
3NT:(4333) 12-15 HCP
4:Splinter
4:Splinter
4:Splinter
4:Weak. Distributional

How to remember?

It is quite easy as you just need to start to remember that 3M is the weak one and getting stronger as the bidding goes lower i.e 3 is simple raise, 3 is invitational and 2NT is forcing game. Then bid the other major (2 or 3) for FG with 3-cards support.

Responder Bid after a Bergen Raise

  • After 1M-2M, the Long suit and Short Suit game trial is in effects.
  • Following an invitational bid, if maximum, just bid the game or bid other suits to show extra/value. Otherwise, sign off to the lowest bid available in the Major.
  • After 1M – 2NT, 1-2 or 1-3, opener start to show the short suit (singleton or void) and continue with cuebidding or Blackwood.
  • As soon as Splinter bid made, opener start cuebiding with first-round control or sign off at game if not interested in slam
  • After a weak bid opener can pass.

Defensive Bidding

  • Upon opponent’s double: all system on (i.e ignore the Double)
  • Upon opponent’s overcall: Bergen Raise is NOT in effect. i.e cannot use Bergen Raise sequence anymore.

Bergen Raise structure