Bergen raises are a form of major-suit raise when playing 5-card majors. After a 1H or 1S opening, responses of 3/// show different types of 4-card support.


Responses to 1

I use the acronym "CLAP" to remember Bergen raises: "Constructive, Limit And Preemptive."

3   A "Constructive" raise, showing 7-10 points and exactly 4-card trump support.
Example:

Q32
AT54
9
JT876

3   A "Limit" raise, showing 10-12 points and exactly 4-card trump support.
Example:

KJ4
AJT2
JT93
T9

3   A "Preemptive" raise, showing 0-6 points and exactly 4-card trump support.
Example:

A32
J643
T973
93

3   An "ambiguous spinter" raise. Unbalanced, game-forcing raise 12+ points and 4-card trump support, with an undisclosed singleton or void. With a balanced game-forcing raise, use the Jacoby 2NT convention instead.
Example:

J32
KQ93
AKT87
2

Partner is expected to bid 3NT as an artificial relay, after which responder will bid his singleton/void suit at the 4-level.


Responses to 1

3   A "Constructive" raise, showing 7-10 points and exactly 4-card trump support.
Example:

QJ32
KJ4
92
J976

3   A "Limit" raise, showing 10-12 points and exactly 4-card trump support.
Example:

AQ54
J32
KJ92
43

3   An "ambiguous splinter" raise. Unbalanced, game-forcing raise 12+ points and 4-card trump support, with an undisclosed singleton or void. With a balanced game-forcing raise, use the Jacoby 2NT convention instead.
Example:

AQ72
J643
5
AKT4

Partner is expected to bid 3NT as an artificial relay, after which responder will bid his singleton/void suit at the 4-level.

3   A "Preemptive" raise, showing 0-6 points and exactly 4-card trump support.
Example:

KT98
6543
T973
2


Bergen raises are based on the Law of Total Tricks, which suggests that the partnership should bid to its number of total trumps. With a nine-card fit, for example, the partnership should bid to the 3-level.

Note that Bergen raises are commonly off by a passed hand. If partner opens 1/ in 3rd or 4th seat, then Drury is often used for conventional responses instead.


Openers Rebids After a 3 Response ("Constructive" Raise)

3   This is typically played as a "help suit game try", showing game interest with 4+ diamonds and 14-16 points. (Alternatively, it can be played as a "short suit game try", showing a diamond singleton or void and interest in game.) Responder is expected to sign off in 3/ with minimum values, or bid 4/ with maximum values.

OpenerResponder
ATS8652
HAQ873KT92
DAJT8KQ4
C63T7

Opener    
1
3 (2)
Pass

Opp 1    
Double
Pass
Pass

Responder    
3 (1)
4 (3)


Opp 2    
Pass
Pass

  1. 3 is a constructive raise, showing 7-10 points and 4-card support.
  2. 3 is a game try.
  3. 4 places the final contract. Responder likes his diamond honors after hearing 3.
3   If the agreed suit is hearts, then this is a signoff bid. If the agreed suit is spades, then this is typically played a "help suit game try", showing game interest with 4+ hearts and 14-16 points. (Refer to the description of 3.)

OpenerResponder
KT93SAJ5
HAKJ43QT52
DJ895
CT59763

Opener
1
3 (2)

Responder
3 (1)
Pass
  1. 3 is a constructive raise, showing 7-10 points and 4-card support.
  2. 3 is a signoff.
3   If the agreed suit is spades, then this is a signoff bid. If the agreed suit is hearts, then this is typically played as a strong and natural bid, showing 4+ spades and interest in slam. Responder is expected to do something intelligent at his next turn (sign off in 4, cue-bid an ace, etc.).

OpenerResponder
AK843SQJ52
HA932KQ5
DJ88762
CT953

Opener
1
3 (2)

Responder
3 (1)
Pass
  1. 3 is a constructive raise, showing 7-10 points and 4-card support.
  2. 3 is a signoff. Note that it would be a mistake to bid 3, which would show game interest and 14-16 points.


Openers Rebids After a 3 Response ("Limit" Raise)

3   If the agreed suit is hearts, then this is a signoff bid. If the agreed suit is spades, then this is typically played a "help suit game try", showing game interest with 4+ hearts and 14-16 points. (Refer to the description of 3.)

3    If the agreed suit is spades, then this is a signoff bid. If the agreed suit is hearts, then this is typically played as a strong and natural bid, showing 4+ spades and interest in slam.


Opener's Rebids After 1 - 3 ("Preemptive" Raise)

Pass   Shows less than 18 points.

4    Shows 18+ points in an uncontested auction. In competition, however, this may be a sacrifice.

OpenerResponder
83ST52
HAKQ32J654
DJ875
CAT9Q7654

Opener
1
Pass

Responder
3 (1)

  1. 3 is a preemptive raise, showing 0-6 points and 4-card support.


Opener's Rebids After 1 - 3 (Game-Forcing Raise)

3 is an unbalanced, game-forcing raise with a singleton or void. Opener can sign off in 4S with a minimum and no interest in slam. If opener is interested in slam, however, he can bid 3 as a relay bid asking for responder's short suit. The purpose of these "ambiguous splinters" is to avoid giving the defenders too much information when opener wants to sign off in game.

3   Artificial relay. Responder is expected to bid his singleton or void at the 4-level:

  • 3NT - Club singleton/void
  • 4 - Diamond singleton/void
  • 4 - Heart singleton/void

OpenerResponder
AK843SQJ52
HA5KQ42
DT9875
CKQA65

Opener
1
3 (2)

Responder
3 (1)
4 (3)
  1. 3 is an unbalanced game-forcing raise.
  2. 3 asks responder to disclose his short suit.
  3. 4 shows a singleton or void in diamonds.

At this point, opener likes his hand because he can envision all his diamond losers getting ruffed in dummy. He can proceed with Blackwood or whatever slam methods the partnership uses.


Opener's Rebids After 1 - 3 ("Preemptive" Raise)

Pass   Shows less than 18 points.

4   Shows 18+ points in an uncontested auction. In competition, however, this may be a sacrifice.

OpenerResponder
AKQ843ST952
HAK32Q5
DJ88762
CT653

Opener
1
4 (2)

Responder
3 (1)
Pass
  1. 3 is a preemptive raise, showing 0-6 points and 4-card support.
  2. 4 is a good bet with 17 HCP and extra shape. Note that in standard bidding methods, the auction might simply go 1 - Pass - Pass - Pass.


Opener's Rebids After 1 - 3 (Game-Forcing Raise)

3 is an unbalanced, game-forcing raise with a singleton or void. Opener can sign off in 4H with a minimum and no interest in slam. If opener is interested in slam, however, he can bid 3NT as a relay bid asking for responder's short suit. The purpose of these "ambiguous splinters" is to avoid giving the defenders too much information when opener wants to sign off in game.

3NT   Artificial relay. Responder is expected to bid his singleton or void at the 4-level:

  • 4 - Club singleton/void
  • 4 - Diamond singleton/void
  • 4 - Spade singleton/void

OpenerResponder
A5SKQ42
HAK843QJ52
DKJT95
CT5A983

Opener
1
3NT (2)
4(4)

Responder
3 (1)
4 (3)
Pass
  1. 3 is an unbalanced game-forcing raise.
  2. 3NT asks responder to disclose his short suit.
  3. 3 shows a singleton or void in diamonds.
  4. 4 is a signoff. Opener has 15 HCP but wasted values in diamonds.


In Competition

Bergen raises are on over an opposing double, but are otherwise off.


Pros and Cons

The primary benefits of Bergen raises are that:

  • Opener receives more detailed information than if playing standard limit raises.

  • The partnership reaches the 3-level faster than if playing limit raises; this 'fast' arrival may preempt the opponents. The Law of Total Tricks (also popularized by Marty Bergen) says that a pair should usually bid up to the 3-level when holding a combined 9+ trumps.

  • Good 4/ games are occasionally reached when responder makes a preemptive raise.

The main drawback of Bergen raises is that they give up the natural 3/ responses. However, this loss of strong jump shifts is marginal if playing a 2/1 system, because such hands can be shown by a simple 2/ game-forcing response.

See also ACBL District 6's expert panel discussion about Bergen raises, as well as my article with an obvious title, A Bergen Disaster.


Origins

Bergen raises were created by American expert Marty Bergen. Read my interview with Marty Bergen too, if you'd like.

What I've written above is just a primer. You can buy Marty's complete booklet on Bergen Raises directly from his website, which I like because he autographs everything. Mention BRIDGEBUM to get a special deal on books: buy 1 hardcover, get 2 softcovers free.

See also

  • A Bergen Disaster
    An article about opponents taking advantage of a Bergen raise.

  • BROMAD
    Conventional raises after an opening 1/ bid and an opposing takeout double.

  • Interview with Marty Bergen
    An interview with Marty Bergen, the inventor of Bergen raises.

  • Jacoby 2NT
    A 2NT response to 1/ showing game-forcing support.

  • Jordan 2NT
    An artificial 2NT raise after the opponents make a takeout double. Shows limit raise values or better.

  • The Law of Total Tricks
    A bidding philosophy based on trump-suit fits around the table.

  • Limit Raises
    A major suit jump raise that shows game-invitational values and 4-card support.

  • Reversed Splinters
    A variation of splinters in which the bid suit shows shortness in another suit.

  • Splinters
    A double-jump shift to show unbalanced, game-forcing support in response to a major suit.

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