Conventions: Refining your Bergen Raises by Paul Lavings

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Bridge conventions come and go, but Bergen Raises have stood the test of time. Now it’s time to recommend some refinements.

Paul Lavings
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Paul Lavings

Paul Lavings

by Paul Lavings

Bridge conventions come and go, but Bergen Raises have stood the test of time and, in my mind, stand up there with Blackwood and Stayman. Now it’s time to recommend some refinements.

Bergen Raises over 1 and 1 work so well it makes good sense to also use them after 1 (1) and 1 (1NT) and 1 (1NT), as well as after an opposition takeout double. So after 1 (1), Hand 1 (see below) bids 3, Hand 2 bids 3, and Hand 3 bids 2, as would be the case if there was no 1 interpose:

4 3
Q 8 5 2
J 10 3
A 9 8 5
4 3
Q 8 5 2
J 10 3
A K 10 5
4 3
Q 8 5
J 10 3 2
A K 10 5
     

If the overcall is 1NT, the same bids apply on hands 1). and 2)., but with hand 3). you would double for penalties, leaving 2 as natural and non-forcing. Now you may be able to end up at the two-level if partner has a minimum.

The Jacoby 2NT, showing a game force raise with 4+ trumps, is a cornerstone of Bergen Raises. After 1/ – 2NT, opener shows a shortage, but if slam was never a possibility, your side is giving away information for no good purpose. A better idea is to use 3 over the Jacoby 2NT to show any minimum:

1 2NT
3 4
   

This is now a common sequence, where the opponents are given no extra information. After 3, showing a minimum opening, responder now asks for a singleton with 3. With 15+ and a singleton club opener bids 4 over 2NT.

The 1 – 3 and 1- 2 sequence is commonly used to show a limit raise with three trumps. This sometimes gets the partnership too high, and allows the opponents a free double of the other major, which may prove troublesome. One solution is to play a forcing 1NT response to include the three-card limit raise, but the solution may be worse than the problem.

Another solution is to use a 2 response to one of a major as a three-way bid, showing either a natural club response, a balanced hand of 11+ HCP, or the three card limit raise. This works well, but is a memory strain, and there are some weak spots in the method.

The response of 3NT to 1 or 1 is frequently used to show a 4-3-3-3 shape, even with four of the suit partner opened. When partner opens 1, you will make as many tricks in notrumps as spades, which will give you a better score at matchpoints, so long as the defending side cannot establish a suit. So with QJ104, KJ6, K87, A103.

your hand has no ruffi ng value, even though you have four-card support, and it makes good sense to bid 3NT to play, if opener is also balanced.

When the 1 or 1 opener is in third or fourth seat, Drury is a must. The opening may be shaded, so the emphasis is to stop low, and avoid the three-level.

There are a variety of Drury methods:

Pass – 1/1

● 2: Maximum pass with three-card support
● 2: Maximum pass with four-card support

This method differentiates between three and four-card support, so has an advantage over 2 only as Drury.

Another variation is:

Pass – 1/1

● 2: Maximum pass with support and better clubs than diamonds
● 2: Maximum pass with support and better diamonds than clubs

The first method is surely better.

When opener is in third or fourth seat you should keep your 2NT and 3 responses as if opener was in first seat, rather than use Drury. You might have a hand where you really do want to go to game because the opening bid improved your hand out of sight.

Let’s say you hold:

65, 109843, AKJ543, —

Pass (Pass) 1 (Pass)
?

If you can’t open this hand in your system what do you bid when partner opens 1? With a void and five-card support, your hand has enormous potential, 7 is more or less laydown opposite the right 11-count, say A74, AK762, 102, 876.

You want to do much more than jump limply to 4; you need space to explore how the hands fit together. The answer is to still bid 2NT, game forcing with 4+ trumps. You are too strong to
simply splinter with 4.

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