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The misterious Multi – Review by Paolo E. Garrisi

Posted on 12 February 2011

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In a detective story, the murderer remains unknown until the last page. How do figure out a story where not only the murderer, but the victim is unknown as well? This is the Multicolor, the opening bid where the strength is unknown as well as the suit. In Mark  Horton and  Jan van Cleeff’s work, we discover that it has been invented by Terence Reese and Jeremy Flint: these Englishmen are the same authors of the thriller we were talking above; it’s title is “The thirteen trick”. We recognize the same twist inspiration.

Book review: “The misterious Multi – How to play it, how to play against it”. By Mark Horton and Jan van Cleeff. 2009 Master Point Press, Toronto. 208 pages.

 The Authors (from the fourth page cover):

Mark Horton (England) is editor of BRIDGE magazine and a regular member of the editorial team for the Daily Bulletin at World and European events. His most recent book is “Misplay these hands with me”.

Jan van Cleeff (Netherlands) has been a Dutch champion many times, and has frequently represented his country. He is the publisher of Bridge Magazine IMP, and the author of several previous books.

 The multicolour is a 2 opening with weak major or other strong options, as balanced 20-22, strong three suiter, strong two bids. The Authors, however, suggest the “two-way Multi”, with only weak major or 20-22 balanced hand; it simplifies the responses and the opener’s rebids, and also frees the 2NT opening for other purposes (as a minors two suiter).

They wrote in the introduction: “What we have done in this book is to provide not only a detailed explanation of how to play the Multi [or against it], but also a description of many of the associated conventions that have grown up around it”.

 Glossary. Weak, Constructive, Undisciplined Two-Bid openings.

“Weak” is under 10 HCP (High Card Points). “Undisciplined” means with uncertain length in the main suit. “Constructive” means 7-12 HCP.

 The weak major is obviously the most frequent holding; then, after the chapter on historical background, there is a study on it that is worth for any weak two bid opening. Are reported a dozen of hands from 2005 Estoril World Championship (Portugal), each one studied in terms of suit quality, suit length, points range, and in which measure the three characters are linked. Not surprising, the strength ranges from 4 to 9 HCP. The Authors write:

“You may prefer something else, certain with a lower starting point, but no much higher, as the time you have 10 points and a six card major you are close to a real opening bid.”

This is not in NeapolitanClub philosophy: the Eugenio Chiaradia’s two bid opening is constructive (7-12). In the upper side are those hands which HCP are enough for a normal one-level opening, but are short of defensive strength, as this one:

♠KQ8643 Q5 K82 ♣Q7

If the opening is here 1♠, there is the danger that the partner, trusting in aces and kings we don’t have, could raise too high, or could double the loudly opponents when, instead, it should be better to defend. We have to acknowledge, however, that the modern use is the “weak” one; also Pietro Forquet, today, does not play longer constructively. (read here >>)

From the responder’s side, it is focused another problem dealt with opener’s strength. Having:

♠5 K42 9532 ♣K6432

On partner’s 2, the right response is 2♠: it shows heart support, then the opener will bid 3 – if he has the suit – preempting West. But, the Authors say, the responder has no desire to have opener jump to 4on a “good” weak two. They here suggest and describe the Ogust development, as: “…It only rarely commits the partnership beyond the three-level in opener’s major”.

 The weak only Multi, without strong options – also called mini-Multi – constitutes the matter of the third chapter (out of eleven). There is the Rodwell-Meckstroth treatment, and it is very interesting to read, on it, the specifications on how the hand’s strength, the suit’s quality and the vulnerability are linked:

“Not vulnerable, the points range…is 4-9 and the major suit can be five, six or seven cards in length. A five-card major should be at least QJ8xx, but any six-card major is allowed and a seven-card major would be one that was unsuitable for a three level preempt…Vulnerable, the range widens by a fraction to 4-10 points and should always be a strong five-card suit (such as QJ1098, KQ1097, KQJ87 or AKJ65), a six-cards suit, or a seven-card suit unsuitable for the three-level…Meckwell don’t open if the suit and the hand are too weak”

 Defending against a Multi might look simple: West can pass anything but an opening strength hand with diamonds – in which case he doubles. When the smoke clears, he bids as against a normal weak two bid. This method, alas, often does not work. The opponents could identify earlier their suit, and the auction comes back to West at three or four-level. In the mini-Multi, furthermore, North can pass with diamonds or – when very weak – with anything, paying a barrel of not doubled undertricks for a game or slam. Horton and Van Cleeff’s have their own defense which rests upon a principle:

“…Defenses generally try to achieve two basic things: tell partner which suit you think opener holds and include a way of showing a balanced hand in the range 12-15…”

Other defenses are explained in details too – Dixon, Winter, ACBL’s, Meckwell, Granovetter, and also the “Magnum opus” of Eric Kokish.

There are also answers to simpler questions, as “How good a hand do you need to overcall 2 with two of a major?”. In the example, West bid 2♠ with:

♠KQJ103 J32 K93 ♣Q9

Too little? By no means, if you are Giorgio Duboin, as he was (2003 Montecarlo Bermuda Bowl). Spades was right the opener’s suit; doubled, he escaped to 2NT in general misfit and with only 22 points, making three.

 The quizzes are numerous and accurate. Example:

E-W vuln. You are dealer as West in the following hand. Would you open a Multi 2?

♠KQJ10972 109 J ♣842

The answer: you might open this with 2, but unlike a hand we quoted earlier you don’t have the sterile 7-2-2-2 distribution, and the right choice is 3♠.

 A bid that covers more than one meaning makes room for the opening bids “freed up” by it. We already mentioned the minors two suited 2NT. Another idea is the Muiderberg, or Dutch Two-bid: the 2and 2♠ openings hold 5-10 HCP, exactly five hearts/spades and four or more cards in one of minors.

 The Multi criterion – a bid that covers more than one meaning does not end in the 2♦ opening. There are several fields where it can be applied, as in the Weak Jump Shift Response: in Brink and Drijver’s system (Netherlands), the response of 2 to 1♣ or 1opening is Multi, showing either a weak two major – the hand which response would have been 2 or 2♠ – or a game-forcing one with diamonds. This allows the use of 2 and 2♠ as natural strong jump.

Another interesting use is the Multi Landy defense against opponent’s 1NT opening.

The grand final” chapter recalls circus’ final parades: a review of heroes, clowns, and amazing animals. For example, having:

A1054 102 9 A107543

West North East South (M.M.)

Pass

2

Pass

2♠ Pass 3 Pass
4 Pass Pass ?

And being Marion Michielsen (Netherlands), N-S vuln, what do you do here?

(Hints: normally a Multi opener has not another four card major, as in natural weak two bid; and West’s auction shows willingness to be in game at hearts, but not at spades. Then…)

 Multi and Ethics.

In the chapter of the Muiderberg (Dutch Two Bid, quoted above), Horton and Van Cleeff wrote:

“Chess players like to try and surprise their opponents in the opening with a novelty. Muiderberg is the bridge equivalent, a convention that allows a player to open the bidding with minimal values”.

 The chess digression calls for a remark. The great chess players’ main fear is to face a theoretical novelty sitting at the table. Three cases have been famous in the past: the Sergio Mariotti’s four pawn assault on Svetozar Gligoric (1969), the Bobby Fischer’s invention against Michal Botvinnik (1962), and again Bobby Fischer, this time against Mark Tajmanov, in the quarter of final of the 1972 World Championship (that one in which he defeated Boris Spasskj). In the last case the variant came from an idea of the same Mark Horton: he’s a chess International Master.

 The question is: the chess players aren’t protected from others’ new ideas; why the bridge players should be? The chess players have to work on others’ studies more than on developing their own new variants; on the contrary, Bridge have general theory books of 300 pages in which the opponents come in at page 291.

 Bob Hamman thinks differently. In “World Class”, by Marc Smith (1999 Masterpoint Press, Toronto), he says:

“…The powers that be are making a big mistake. They are allowing bridge to turn into a game of language instead of a game of logic. Too much of the emphasis at the moment is on devising methods that the opponents cannot possibly prepare to deal with. Multi 2 is a perfect example of the type of convention that causes problems. The reason is that each implementation of Multi, and the way that the opponents play it and their style, requires a different defense…If you are playing chess and someone plays an unusual variation against you, at least you have the whole board in front of you – you have a sporting chance to compete…”

Bob Hamman is the all time greatest bridge player, and he has been chess player too, when young, nevertheless it must be said that the chance to compete in chess is only nominal. The chess player that faces an unknown theoretical novelty has few hopes to survive: of the three cases reported above, only the great Botvinnik escaped from an humiliating rout – he drew.

The novelties – right or wrong they are – are almost always lethal, in chess as well in bridge. The difference is that chess players need a good defense, but they cannot find it in the brief time of the match (but they are Fischer or Botvinnik). All the bridge pair need, instead, is any defense, but they cannot have it because “The Powers that be” forbid agreements during the auction. The bridge players are as chess players that, in front of a novelty, since that moment have to play blinded.

The NeapolitanClub’s position on this matter is for Freedom: all systems have to be available, but allowing the Knowledge, i.e defenders have the right to prepare and consult a written defense. In 1962’s Bermuda Bowl, Terence Reese proposed it – the written defense – against the springing tide of conventional methods. The Americans supported him, but Frenchs, Argentines and Italians were against. Overwhelmed, Terence maybe thought: “Well, do you want the war? The Multi is what you deserve!”

***

by Paolo Enrico Garrisi

For further reviews click here >>

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