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Responding to 2C, Bergen Raises, and the Complete Jacoby 2NT

Our practice hands today sparked some chalkboard time. Here, I will record the topics we covered.

There are three 'systems' that I have played with various partners to respond to the strong 2C opening bid. Let's go through each one:

The way most of us were taught, and the way the majority of players still play, is what I will call the "standard" responses to 2C. They are:

2D: A "waiting" bid. Could be as few as zero points; opener will describe his/her hand with the rebid.

2H, 2S, 2N, 3C: All these are "positive" responses, indicating 8 or more points and a 5+ card suit (except 2N, which shows only 8+ points). Certainly game forcing, with possible slam interest.

Note that some partnerships ALWAYS respond 2D, thus allowing opener to declare the trump suit (or suggest NT) first. Also note that 2D followed by the "cheaper minor" indicates a bust hand.

In this system, responder describes his high card points in steps as follows:

2D: 0-3 HCP

2H: 4-6 HCP

2S: 7-9 HCP

2N: 10-12 HCP

3C: 13-15 HCP

...and so on. There is a chance that the weak hand may end up declarer if the step-bid happens to be the eventual trump suit, but this method narrowly defines responder's strength.

In this system, responder tells opener how many control points he has. An ace is worth 2 control points, and a kind is worth 1 control point. Responses are:

2D: At most one king

2H: 2 control points (either one ace or two kings)

2S: 3 control points in the form of one ace and one king

2N: 3 control points in the form of three kings.

3C: 4 control points (four kings, two aces, or an ace and two kings)

... and so on.

This system discounts the 'quacky' cards -- queens and jacks, and immediately tells opener how many high honors responder holds. I have had far more success using this system than either of the above two systems.

This convention is used widely (almost universally) by advanced players, but almost never by novice and intermediate players. It is a powerful and logical outgrowth of two of our Bridge Principles -- the Law of Total Tricks and the Principle of Fast Arrival.

Bergen raises are called for when you have 4-card support for partners major suit opener. Since we have (at least) nine total trump, the Law of Total Tricks says we should at minimum be playing at the three level. Since we know we are going to the 3 level, we want to get there fast (the Principal of Fast Arrival).

There are two "flavors" of Bergen raises. Let me start with "standard" Bergen raises, then I will show you my preferred variation, known as "reverse" Bergen. Note that all Bergen raises are alertable.

Assume partner opens 1H; we look at our hand and we have four hearts to support partner. If we have 13+ total points we will respond with Jacoby 2NT (see below); if we have 12 or fewer points, we will use a Bergen raise as follows:

3C: 6-9 points (including dummy points)

3D: 10-12 points (including dummy points)

3H: Less than 6 points (preemptive)

"Reverse" Bergen swaps the meaning of 3D and 3D. I prefer this because the bids are in descending order of strength:

3C: 10-12 points (including dummy points)

3D: 6-9 points (including dummy points)

3H: less than 6 points

As mentioned above, Jacoby 2NT is the proper response when you hold an opening-strength hand (including dummy points) and four-card support when partner opens 1 of a major. Such an auction would start off like:

1S -- (pass) -- 2NT

Note that if the opponents interfere, then Jacoby 2NT is not available (i.e., 'system is off' over interference).

Clearly, this is a game-force bid, with the possibility of exploring slam. This alone is a powerful bid even at this level of depth, but the real power of the convention lies in opener's rebids. Opener can show a minimum hand (jumping straight to game -- the Principle of Fast Arrival), a strong hand, or a shapely hand. Here are the rebids (assuming 1H -- pass -- 2NT -- pass):

3C, 3D, 3S: shows shortness in the bid suit (singleton or void)

3H: show a strong opening hand (16+ points)

4C, 4D, 4S: shows a second 5-card suit*

3H: shows a strong opening hand (16+ points)

4H: shows a minimum opener (13-15 points) with no shape

After opener's rebid, if responder is even mildly interested in slam, s/he can start bidding controls, or bid RKC Blackwood. This is a great way to find slams with fewer than the "recommended" 32-33 combined points.

There you have it, a recap of the topics discussed in today's lesson. See y'all next Sunday!


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