Combined Bergen is a modification of both Original and Reverse Bergen Raises. I was first introduced to the concept by Pat Peterson, a well known expert, teacher and director in Citrus County, Florida.. She is patpete2 on Bridge Base. I wrote a blog post detailing the concept about 2 years ago and it was my most popular blog ever, eliciting responses from all over the World. Since many of my readers were not following my blog at that time, I decided to repost it in a new format with examples and more detail. It’s time to rethink your Bergen and you now don’t have to ask regular or reverse, just say Combined!!
Why Do It?
The Combined Bergen Raise eliminates a difficult situation which arises after 1 heart or 1spade is opened and responder bids 1NT forcing. If opener has a strong hand worth a jump shift of say 3 diamonds; what now does 3 hearts or 3 spades show by responder? Is it a two-card false preference or could it be a limit raise with 3 trumps? If responder happens to have the limit raise with 3 trumps, does he have to bid 4 hearts or 4 spades using up valuable bidding space? Does he bid 3 hearts and give partner the idea that he has 2 trumps. With the Combined Bergen Raise this is addressed by using the 3 diamond response to show the limit raise with three trumps and the 3 club response to show a four card raise with a range of 7-12 hcps. This does not lose anything because we have ways to find out if the Bergen raise is a constructive raise or a limit raise by an "asking bid" by the opening bidder.
Combining the Bergen 4 Card Raises
The solution is to compress the Bergen 3 club and 3 diamond responses (four-card raises) into one response, 3 clubs. This shows a 4 card raise of the major with 7-12 hcps. If opener’s fowward going action will benefit by having the raise further defined, opener can initiate a "range check" by bidding 3 diamonds. If inquiry is made responder’s rebid of 3 hearts shows a constructive raise 7-9 hcps and 3 spades shows a limit raise of 10-12 hcps. You don’t need two bids to show two separate ranges. Alternatively, opener could ignore the range check and bid 3 or 4 of the major, each of which is to play. If after the range check response, Opener does anything other than bid game in the major, it would be a slam try.
Example 1: As Opener you hold AJ1086, KQ107, K87, 8
You hear 3 clubs over your 1 spade opener (7-12 Combined Bergen). Since opener would be willing to play at game against a limit raise, but would settle for playing 3 spades against a constructive raise, bid 3 diamonds to ask partner which he has the limit or constructive raise. If partner bids 3 hearts you bid 3 spades. If partner bids 3 spades, you bid 4 spades.
Example 2: As Opener you hold KQ107, AJ1086, K87, 8
You hear 3 clubs over your 1 heart opener (7-12 hcps, Combined Bergen). Ask partner if he has limit or constructive raise by bidding 3 diamonds. If you hear 3 hearts (7-9 hcps) you pass, If you hear 3 spades you bid 4 hearts. A occasional comment has been “when you bid 3 diamonds over 3 clubs in the heart suit sequence, if partner has the limit raise you are locked into a game contract.” Why would you bid 3 diamonds if you did not want to play game against a limit raise??
Example 3: As Responder you hold: KQ97, K987, 543, 98
Partner bids 1 spade, you bid 3 clubs (Combined Bergen 8 hcps). If partner asks your range by bidding 3 diamonds, you rebid 3 hearts “I have a constructive raise”
Example 4: As responder you hold: KQ97, K987, QJ9, 98
Partner opens 1 spade, you bid 3 Clubs. If partner asks your range by bidding 3 diamonds, you rebid 3 spades showing the limit raise. If Partner opens 1heart, you bid 3 clubs. If partner asks you range by bidding 3diamonds , you rebid 3 spades “I have a Limit raise”
Three Diamonds as a 3 Card Limit Raise
As noted earlier the response of 3 diamonds to an opening bid of 1 of a major shows a 3 card limit raise. This avoids the ambiguity detailed in the first paragraph when opener makes a jump shift. Responder by bidding 3 diamonds completely describes his hand with one bid. In addition, the response of 3 diamonds is much more preemptive than responding 1NT as a prelude to showing a 3 card limit raise. These are major advantages which now can be availed of by using Combined Bergen.
1NT is Now Semi-Forcing
Using Combined Bergen also changes the meaning of the 1 no trump” response. Since the 3 card limit raise no longer uses the 1NT response, it is no longer necessary to have 1NT treated as forcing, so the response of 1NT becomes semi-forcing and shows a hand of 5+-11 hcps with 0-2 card support for the opening major. Opener now may pass with a balanced hand (5332) and less than 14 hcps. To put it in the positive, opener takes a bid with an unbalanced hand or if he has 14+ hcps.
Example 5:: As opener you hold AJ1086, KQ104, K4, 87.
You open 1spade partner bids a “semi-forcing NT, you respond 2 hearts. You do not pass 1NT semi-forcing with another 4 card suit even though you have only 13 hcps.
Example 6: As opener you hold: AJ876, 874, KQ8, K4
When you open 1 spade and you hear 1NT (semi-forcing) you may pass 1NT with only 13 hcps and 5332 distribution. Partner has 2 or fewer spades and may has as little as a good 5 or 6 hcps. It might make 1NT and in any event figures to beat other pairs playing 1NT forcing..
Example 7: As opener you hold: AJ1086, KQ5, KJ7, 107
When you open 1 spade and you hear 1NT (semi-forcing) you bid 2 diamonds. You can’t pass with 14 hcps in case partner has the 11 point forcing NT.
Example 8: As opener you hold: AJ986, KQ5, KJ7, Q2
With 16 hcps and balance, open 1 NT, the best bid for this hand. If it looks like a NT hand bid it.
Interference and Combined Bergen.
If Opener’s LHO doubles, then Combined Bergen remains “on” as if the double hand not taken place.
If Opener’s LHO overcalls Combined Bergen is still on as long as it constitutes a jump shift. So 1h/1s/3c or 3d are combined Bergen. 1h/2c/3c would be a cue bid showing a limit raise or better but 3 diamonds would still be Combined Bergen showing the 3 card limit raise. Finally 1s//2h/3c or 3d are not combined Bergen as they are not jump shifts. They show a club or diamond suit respectfully. If all this distinction is too much for you, just play Combined Bergen off over overcalls, but have a partnership understanding how you show supporting hands.
If Opener’s RHO doubles the bid of 3 clubs or 3 diamonds, since they are artificial bids it should be a lead directing double. If 3 clubs is doubled I like the Combined Bergen rebids to retain their normal meanings. If 3 diamonds is doubled, 3 or 4 of the major should be to play and redouble would be showing slam interest asking responder to cue bid a control or if none to rebid the major..
Third Hand Opening Bids.
If you like to play some form of Drury, then continue to play it and Combined Bergen will be off by a passed hand. If you have a partner who is not comfortable with Drury (has missed 3 successive alerts), then just play Combined Bergen “on” opposite a 3rd hand opener. I play it both ways depending on my partner and his or her preference.
Try it, but remember that almost all bids and responses are ALERTABLE. I think it passes the test of most good conventions. It is not complicated, it adds value and it doesn’t require that you give up any bids that it does not replace. I think you will particularly enjoy playing 1NT contracts again or forcing opponents into awkward balancing action on non-fitting hands.