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Bergen Raises by Steve Robinson

Source: District 6 Article by Steve Robinson

I asked my expert panel to discuss Bergen raises. Bergen Raises: One-of-a-major – three-of-the-same-major is a preemptive raise. Partner opens 1 and you bid 3 holding  Qxxx Qxxx xxx xx. Four trumps and fewer then seven support points. One-of-a-major – 3 is a mixed raise. You bid 3  over 1 holding  Kxxx Axxx xx xxx (7-9 support points with four trumps). One-of-a-major – 3 is a four-card limit raise. (I’ve seen 3 and 3 reversed). What do you think of Bergen raises and would you recommend that convention for the average player? What about after an opening bid and interference? 

I got various replies ranging from I love them, they’re OK and I hate them. I am totally surprised that the following expert likes them. 

Marty Bergen: Excellent convention for experienced players. For average player fine if THEY can remember easily. I suggest: On over double, off over overcall.

As in any convention, you have to know what the bids mean, and what if any changes occur by passed hand and in competition. Bergen Raises has lots of variations and they all must be discussed. 

Larry Cohen: I believe in the Law Of Total Tricks principles behind Bergen Raises, but I can’t say this is a «must-play» convention. The convention is fine IF (and only if) the partnership has carefully discussed if it is ON in Competition and/or by a Passed Hand. Also, you have to discuss which version you are playing. So, for a casual pairing at the club to fill out a card and say, «Bergen Raises?» – «Sure.» – is asking for trouble. There are ways to use Bergen raises in comp, but this must be carefully worked out and memorized. Conclusion: Bergen raises (in some form) are fine for regular and well-rehearsed partnerships.

Bobby Wolff: I would not recommend Bergen Raises for any level players. Deciding whether to bid on is a guess at best, with luck, of course. The disadvantage of Bergen is that it gives lead directing opportunities, both positive and negative to the opponents and also sometimes allows the defense an extra round of bidding to calibrate their assets for bidding themselves. To me it is an established fact that the more partnerships tell each other about their hands, the better good opponents judge what to do. I don’t like support doubles, Jack denies on lead, Key-card Blackwood although obviously Key-card Blackwood has some advantages. It is very enabling for the opponent’s judgment on possible sacrifices and more important to be able to lead from the jack of trumps against a slam knowing partner does not hold the queen. Summing up, most players like the above conventions, including Bergen, because it gives them comfort to think they know more about how to base their decisions. Don’t ever forget, good opponents are also listening and those same conventions arm the «bad guys’ more than they help the «good ones». Bergen raises are not as bad, only because the stakes are less and there is still judgment involved. To me, even the best players ever in history are subject to many lucky situations which are better left that way rather than try and be exact and have the opponents almost always do the right thing. As you can see your question struck a nerve with me, causing my strong opinion. Over interference, Bergen is even more telling to the opponents in order to estimate distribution more accurately.

Ron Gerard: Bergen raises are the product of a total tricks warped mind. There are too many other valuable meanings for three-of-a-minor. I would not recommend them under any circumstances. 

Take that Larry Cohen! 

Mike Lawrence: I consider Bergen raises to be a waste of time. They take up way too many bids that have other useful meanings. Also, they give the opponents extra chances to enter the bidding on hands they might not be able to. They can make lead directing doubles of the 3 /3  bids or they can choose to make takeout doubles if they prefer that. In fact, they might be able to make some kind of Michaels bid over the 1  – 3 sequence, if it shows a limit raise, that would not be available after 1 – 3 Even though standard bidding has its awkward moments, it often causes some bad leads from the defenders. Game bidding does not need as much science as slam bidding. I did not put Bergen Raises in my Convention software for all of these reasons. In fact, I think that there are way too many writers making up rules and touting them as a way to honk their horns. I guess that at least half of these ‘rules’ are worthless.

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