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Suppose partner bids one of a (five card) major. Normally you need three of the suit to raise.

But expert Marty Bergen has opined that if your suit has four honors, you can bid it as if were one card longer. Mr. Bergen also wrote, "When partner promises a six-card suit, you can support him with a singleton honor."

So if I have KJ (or KT or QJ) of my partner's suit, I'a going to play him for a suit with two more honors: AQxxx, ATxxx, or even QTxxx. In that case, partner and I would have four (possibly five) honors between us. And in the worst case (partner has xxxxx, we'd have two honors). So I'd raise to two with the aforementioned trump holding plus a side king, because I've "borrowed" an extra (small) trump for my bid, based on my interpretation of Bergen.

Is this a reasonable interpretation of Marty Bergen's dictums? Is this a reasonable move to make even if you don't always agree with Marty Bergen?

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Whichever opponent you have supposedly borrowed this extra trump from is very likely to double you for penalties. If you enjoy going minus 200 and 300 against the opponents part-score be my guest to play this way. BTW - Do you play for money anywhere? I would like to join the game. –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 17 at 17:27
    
@PieterGeerkens: "Money." One tenth of a penny a point. Winner takes home about one dollar. –  Tom Au Aug 17 at 17:29
    
I don't play for less than one cent a point, and prefer 2 or even 5; too bad that you're stakes won't cover my travel costs. –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 17 at 17:31

2 Answers 2

Tere are a myriad problems with this approach when added to a non-Bergen system, particularly if partner is not in on the new agreement.

The missing trump is roughly equivalent to missing over 1.5 points. Thus the bid should not be made with a minimum raise as you suggest, because the missing trump has made it a sub-minimum raise. Thus only with 8-9 HCP should you consider making the bid, and these are exactly the hands where you would like to accept a further action from partner but no longer can due to the missing trump. Bidding this way will in many cases result in you playing a 5-2 major fit instead of 4-4, which traditionally is held to play almost a trick worse on average. In other cases you will be forced to play the 10-trick major suit game instead of a better 9-trick notrump game - remember the missing trump is strengthening either an alternative trump suit or a no-trump stopper, or both.

Bergen specializes in playing a very eccentric style that emphasizes low-point high-fit contracts, especially in the majors. This style of play requires a strong understanding of advanced declarer play concepts by both partners, as well as a very good system agreement to avoid playing inferior contracts. While this approach works well for Bergen, there is a reason that few other top players choose to play the same approach. Either play the whole system, or recognize that Bergen's style is actually not suitable for the game played by you and your partner.

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I find QJ (and likewise KJ and KT) a problematic holding. When "stranded," QJ could be worth as little as 1.0 to 1.5. In the middle of partner's five card suit it should be worth a whole three, and often more, call it an average of 3.5. To compensate for the 1.5 value of the missing trump, I would need four points in side honors (7.5-1.5= an adjusted 6). Likewise, counting KJ as 4.5, I'd need three points (a king or so) in side honors. Wasn't planning a two-trump raise with 6. (In my questions, I have a tendency to "sneak" in a extra jack or other upgrade somewhere, as a result of my "algos.") –  Tom Au Aug 17 at 18:53
    
@TomAu: The absence of a small accompanying trump is a significant flaw in the trump holding, especially in a weak hand, easing the ability of the opponents to pump declarer in their own long suit and hindering communication between the hands. This flaw rates to be about 1 point, negating any added value from having combining honours. Evaluate QJ alone as 2 to 2.5 points. most definitely not 3 or more. QJ alone is likely to be a better holding in partner's side suit than in trumps. –  Pieter Geerkens Aug 17 at 21:15

Certainly it's reasonable, whether or not you are a Bergen acolyte. But it ought to be a rare hand where raising with only two trump is more attractive than the alternatives. These situations come up more often in competition. For instance, if the auction started

(1C) 1S (2C)

I would be happy to raise to 2S with something like

AQ
Kxx
xxxxx
xxx

I agree with Pieter that if you have fewer trump than partner expects you ought to be near a maximum in high cards. This point was made many years ago by Edgar Kaplan.

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