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Tackling the Multicolor: The Cento Torri Defence

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Circolo Cittadino AscoliThe Cento Torri defence against Multicolor will be played the first time in the pair tourney Cento Torri that will be held in Ascoli Piceno on February  28th. Ascoli Piceno is called town of cento torri (hundred towers), because the great number of medieval towers she has. The tourney will be played in the ancient Circolo Cittadino (City Club), founded in 1886, seat of the Bridge Club.


The artificial Multicolor 2 opening was invented in the late 60s of the past century by the English Terence Reese and Jeremy Flint. It usually “contains” the following kind of hand: weak major, strong minor, balanced 21-22 and strong three suiter; “strong” means 20 HCP or more, or four losers or less. A widespread variant, called  Mini-multi, is that with weak major only.


Origins of the Multicolor

The idea of a Two-level opening with either strong or weak hand wasn’t entirely new; it was invented in 1915 by the American Bryant McCampbell (St. Louis); the suits were actual. It was the Auction Bridge time, where game and slam level were rewarded even if not bid. The problem the auction bridge’s opener had to cope with was the activity of East: after, for example,

South    West     North    East     

1♥          Pass       Pass       ?

East almost never passed. McCampbell’s “multi-strength” opening (let’s call it this way) purposed to curb the enthusiasm of East. He called his device “Let me alone” opening, meaning that North had not to tamper with the auction.


Studying the target

Multicolor’s further auction

Responses to 2:

– Anything but 2♥ or 2♠: Game forcing or strongly invitational.

– 2: weak relais. Opener can bid 3♣, 3, 2NT if strong. If weak, therefore with a major suit, passes or corrects to 2♠.

– 2♠: to pass if opener had spade or inviting to game in hearth if opener had hearth.

Multicolor’s advantages and drawbacks

  1. The first advantage of Multicolor is that it allows to exploit the 2 and 2♠ opening for other hands, as the strong opening or the major-minor two-suiters.
  2. The Multicolor hampers opponents, analogously to McCampbell’s Let me Alone, as they neither know opener’s strength nor the suit.
  3. The drawback is the lack of pre-emptive effectiveness because North can’t know what actually South opened with; this was pointed out by Benito Garozzo, quoted from Official Encyclopedia.


The points 2 and 3 above look seemingly conflicting: does Multicolor pre-empt or does not? To make clear this point it should be noted that West, after the opening, is effectively held back, but, afterwards, the delay to get the opener’s suit opens great bidding space to East-West. Compare the following auctions, Natural versus Multicolored:


Sud     Ovest     Nord    East



Sud     Ovest     Nord    East

2        Pass       2        Pass

2♠ (Pass)


Both auctions started from or arrived to the same point, a weak two major bid. In the former, West (or East if the auction comes to him), is not daunted by the opening, but has only a chance to bid. In the latter he’s daunted (the opener might be strong), but has two chances to bid, one after the opening and the other after South’s suit and strength were definitively set. Also: in the former West knows opener’s strength, but does not know opponents’ side strength; in the latter he knows that both South and North are weak, or, at least, points are evenly divided between the two sides. In the latter auction, that’s the matter, maybe West and East were frightened by the opening, but no longer after the smoke cleared.


The way the Defense acts.

The Cento Torri defence against Multicolor exploits opponents’ delay to line up at the starting making meaningful the “pass”. Let’s see how.


Suppose that South opens natural weak 2 or 2♠ (not Multicolor), and we, in West, have:

♠Ax  xx   (♣)AQxxxx   ♣()Kxx.

It is easy to overcall 3(♣), there is not problem here. Let’s call this hand Type-I.


Same opening by South, we are still in West, but this time we have:

♠Ax  xx  (♣)QJxxxx ♣()Kxx

We have to pass. We would like to overcall, but partner would expect we have the Type-I hand, not this one. Let’s call this hand Type-II.


Still same opening, still we in West; we have:

♠xx(x)  xx(x)  AQxxx  ♣AKx (Always diamond; three spot cards in opener’s suit and two in the other major suit). Somebody would overcall 3 but it is not that advisable; note that this is the minimum strength a 5332 pattern should have to bid 2 over one level major opening. Be this the Type III hand.


The Cento Torri Defence

Scene 1:

Multicolor Opening 2. West doubles with the Type-III and diamond Type-I hands, or bid 3♣ with club Type-I. With such strong clubs or diamond it is very rare that opener has right the strong hand with West’s suit. West passes with anything else; he does not fear the general pass because South is forced to relay.


Scene 2:

2     Pass    2. East bids 3♣ or 3 with the corresponding club or diamond Type-I hand, doubles with hearth Type-I (hearth instead of a minor), passes with anything else.


Scene 3

2     Pass    2    Pass

Pass (2♠). Veils fell. Now opener’s suit is known as well the sides’ strength. West bids as after a natural weak two major opening, but with a difference: he now can bid the diamond and club Type-II hands because it is safer and the partner now knows that he doesn’t have the Type I and will not go further without the duly strength. And, of course, if South bid 2♠, also East has the chance to bid his hearth Type-II because the Type-I was excluded as he didn’t double North’s 2 relay.


Cento Torri against the Mini-Multi (2 opening by weak major only)

In this case, without strong options, North might pass with diamonds, but little  would change; just the starting point 2 migrated to North and becomes a natural weak-two opening. We before have said “West don’t fear the general pass because North is forced to relay”. We can repeat it but the second part of the sentence, which now becomes: …because East now knows that the strength at least breaks between the two sides and can balance with more ease.


Paolo Enrico Garrisi


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