Judy Kay-Wolff

HANG-UPS OF MY HUSBANDS (Part IV)

Three down and more to come!   Let me remind those of you who have not kept pace with the earlier Hang-Up blogs, I am not the ‘speaker’ — merely ‘the scribe.’  Continuing with Bobby’s least favorite conventions, let us resume today with BERGEN RAISES (BR).

Bobby classifies this as another convention that is not nearly as helpful to the users as to their astute opponents, though admittedly, does a number on lesser players!  BRs are a variety of jump raises with the dual intention of showing a trump fit to partner and at the same time crowding the bidding for the enemy.   Because of the theory of the Law of Total Tricks and trump fits (especially on the right vulnerability), BRs appeal to many as they serve as an obstacle course.  A variety of weak raises disadvantages the opponents, forcing them to investigate their options at a high level.  Quite often these calls are made with relatively balanced hands and ultra-weak holdings and intimidate unsavvy opponents into submission, thereby stealing the hand.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            At least to Bobby, Marty Bergen (along, of course, with his former partner and friend, Larry Cohen — ‘MISTER LAW”) has contributed mightily to bridge by awakening us to just how valuable big trump fits can be (always nine pieces or better).  With that as a premise, it is now up to the audience to evaluate how we should utilize our newfound great arsenal of trump pyrotechnics.  Yes, it must be better, when holding a large trump fit with partner, to up the level as high as practical to make it as cumbersome as possible for the opponents to enter the auction and exchange information.  Bergen Raises are most effective when their users have enough values to ward off the bogeyman who is frequently lurking in the shadows during attacks of overbidding — standing ready to punish these irrational blind leaps of faith.

Marty sometimes suggests jumping to three of partner’s major with as little as J10xx in that major and perhaps only xx, xxx, xxxx in the other three suits. Let us assume that he is right and not belabor this point, though there may be some well-considered high-level bridge personalities who differ.  It is not that judgment with which Bobby picks a bone.   It is rather the other can of worms that Bergen Raises open.   BRs dictate jumping to three of a minor suit (in response to a major opening), and depending upon which minor is chosen, distinguishes between a three card raise and four card support.   It is these ramifications with which he takes issue.

Counter-measures are easy to strategically deploy.   Some use the double to show the other major and a minor — thereby freeing up a cue bid of the opponent’s suit as a standard three suit takeout.  Yet, another effective treatment over an artificially bid suit is the plain old-fashioned double!  If used for ‘lead direction,’ the absence of the double is not unlike the dog that doesn’t bark.  It may suggest you look elsewhere for your opening thrust.  Another benefit of the lead directing double might also suggest a possible trump suit for your side — for sacrificial purposes — even with the miraculous possibility of  converting it to a ‘make.’  To Bobby’s way of thinking, BRs afford the opponents better judgment calls because more information about strength (and especially distribution) is revealed.

Novices and inexperienced players, due to their lack of sophistication, can be targets of intimidation with the deliberate use of such conventions intended to freeze the opponents out of the auction with light jumps, sometimes of Yarborough proportions.   This ilk of players are easy prey as they are unsuspecting victims!   Also, similar home brewed conventions figure to work against these relatively innocent beginners, but the key here is for the serious, honest wannabe who is on the rise not to be mesmerized or overwhelmed by the alleged effectiveness of such fancy footwork and needs to recognize and accept all of this for what it is.   Before one embarks on these space rocketing adventures, explore their soundness and practicality — and don’t be blindly smitten into incorporating them into your partnership understandings.  Employing these conventions against your talented and experienced contemporaries is one thing, but using such methods at the expense of unwitting, inexperienced, low-level players is like taking candy from a baby!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        These strategies are commonly called “shooting fish in a barrel” which should be more fittingly reserved for aquariums — not bridge contests. 


7 Comments

jack mendelsohnJanuary 6th, 2009 at 12:18 am

Judy, My three favorite conventions are Bergen raises. Support doubles and I love Jack denies 10 implies. I better change my card if I am ever to develope a partnership with Bobby.

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 6th, 2009 at 3:08 am

Jack, I would have settled for just three changes. My Convention Card underwent a total facelift!

PegJanuary 6th, 2009 at 4:36 pm

Judy – I, too, hate all three of these conventions!

You let me know when Bobby is ready to enter an event with me 🙂

Judy Kay-WolffJanuary 6th, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Hey, Peg: You are adorable (and good, to boot) — but just get in line!

PegJanuary 6th, 2009 at 11:10 pm

What do I have; ticket #328? 🙁

MichaelJanuary 12th, 2009 at 9:30 am

I don’t play JDTI as I haven’t really seen the point, I dislike support doubles (but often have to play them in pick up 2/1 partnerships), I’m not a fan of Bergen raises although most of the Bergen raises around me use the minor bids to always show 4 card support and to distinguish between the 9 loser and 8 loser hands (6-8.5 points versus 8.5-11.5 or so).

I must admit that while I’m ambivalent at best about normal Bergen raises, I really like BROMAD (bergen raises over major artificial doubles). That is when partner opens 1M and RHO makes a takeout double here I like to play the following:

XX – 10+ points and 2 or less support [more allowed only if the hand is very defensive oriented]

2C – 8 or fewer losers (generally 10+ points) and 3 card support [partner acts like you have 8 losers, you correct if you are better]

2D – 9 losers (generally 6-9 points) and 3 card support

2M – 10+ losers (generally 0-5 points) and 3 card support

3C – 8 or fewer losers and at least 4 card support [again partner acts like you have 8 losers and you correct if you are better]

3D – 9 losers and 4 card support

3M – 10+ losers and 4 card support

4M – 9+ losers and 5 card support

The reason I like this so much is that in this situation we’ve beat the opponents into the auction and exchanged some information, and with one opponent likely short in partner’s suit it is quite likely we have a fit. It is also quite likely that we want to play in our fit and useful to know if this is our hand, their hand, or a hand with split points. We exchange this information and find out quickly where we can get. When we have the points but no fit, of course, we retain the ability to penalize them and can start the forcing auction. The weaker we are (as a partnership) the more space we eat up to block the opponents from finding their fit. The stronger we are the more room we leave for ourselves. We also are operating at a safe level with respect to the “law” of total tricks, and in fact bidding one level lower than our known partnership level which can help defend ourselves against a bad trump split which is more likely than a priori because of the take out double.

Bobby WolffJanuary 16th, 2009 at 8:51 pm

To Michael:

Thanks for your response to some of the latest blogs. You are probably a real bridge lover, but along with that, have a real scientific bent to your bridge approach. You have it down to a gnat’s eyebrow what you consider the best bridge approach to raising partner’s suit. I am not that particular in the difference between specific approaches and admit that down deep I think there is a rather large luck element in being as accurate as we all hope to be.

Having said the above, I possibly over-consider how the opponents judgment can be improved (regarding bidding judgment and the opening lead) and therefore rather shoot it out with them at the Bridge OK Corral than overpaint my message and therefore educate the wary opponents into usually doing the right thing against us. Regarding the Wolff Signoff auction wherein after 1D P 1H P 2NT if responder rebids 3 spades — it strongly points (in my view) to more hearts than spades since in the earlier days of the popularity of 4 card major openings (a view I still think superior, if played properly, to 5 card majors) a player opened 1 spade ahead of 1 heart if he held 4 of each. Continuing with that premise, it would follow that if a responder first bid hearts and then spades he would normally have more hearts than spades so 1D P 1H P 2NT P 3S shows more hearts and thus 1D P 1H P 2NT P 3C P 3D P 3S rings the bell to remind partner that this special sequence is a checkback, holding 4 of each major.

However, your version is at least just as good, perhaps better, but to me, mine is easier to remember. Just like it is true in every form of game competition which is played, the better the execution — the better the results will be, so it is best to have both partners comfortable in the specific method and each willing to work very hard to be the best they can be. Also, if it is possible, it also helps to have both partners talented enough to go forward to meet equally talented foes together. More power to your methods and good bridge luck for the foreseeable future.