Ray Lee

New from MPP Part 2

There’s much controversy in ACBL-land these days about the dreaded Multi.  At least, it must be dreaded by someone, since you don’t get to play it in many events.  Linda wasn’t allowed to use it last month in two National Championship events, since neither involved the requisite 6+ boards per round.  Brian Senior, also playing in San Diego, commented to me in his usual acerbic fashion that he thought it strange that when he was allowed to play Multi, he had to provide a written defense to it, even to opponents who played the convention themselves.  To me it seems odd that a convention that every LOL can deal comfortably with outside North America is so restricted here.  Especially odd when you are allowed to use a Multi defense to 1NT — a 2 overcall that shows an unspecified major suit.  I suspect my friend Bobby Wolff will take me to task for this comment as I know he believes that Multi is fraught with potential ethical issues, but if it is, why allow it as an overcall of 1NT?  In fact, why allow it at all?  I think the worry in the ACBL is ‘time to prepare a defense’ — which if the convention were more prevalent, wouldn’t really be an issue.  I suspect some ACBL Director got a bad board one time against it, and that put paid to that.

Surprisingly, for a convention so widely used (in the rest of the world at least), there’s very little written about it, and nothing at all in terms of modern ideas collected in one place.  Until March, of course.  That’s when The Mysterious Multi — how to play it, how to play against it by Mark Horton and Jan van Cleeff will be available.

Actually, this book is much more than it appears from the title.  Yes, it does cover the Multi (in all its various forms, not just the weak-two version), and suggests a number of modern methods for constructive auctions following on from the opening bid.  Which one you select will depend on how complicated you want your system to be, and how much memory work you are comfortable with.  The same is true of defenses to Multi, which are also covered in detail (there’s even an appendix which runs to 6 closely spaced pages — this is the defense Eric Kokish recommends to pairs he coaches who don’t want to do too much work!).

However, I’ve never personally been convinced that Multi in and of itself is terribly effective (as long as your defense includes natural two-level major-suit overcalls).  What I do like about Multi is that if you use it, it frees up other two-bids, and the book spends a great deal of its time discussing the options that become available for opening bids of 2 , 2 , and 2NT.  So we have a full treatment of Muiderberg twos, which are becoming very popular for good reason, as well as some less common approaches such as a three-suited 2 opening, and a weak two-suited 2NT.

The conventional Multi defense to 1NT (variously known as Multi-Landy and Woolsey) gets a whole chapter.  There’s no doubt that at an expert level, this is the majority pick for a defense to 1NT, so even if you don’t want to play it yourself, it’s important to become familiar with it and learn how to deal with it.  Finally there’s a fascinating chapter on some very modern Dutch bidding theory, which involves using a Multi 2 response to an opening bid in a minor.  The concept is similar — you can use the bid as a weak jump shift in an unspecified major suit, and free up the other two-bids for assignment eslewhere.

A book by two top journalists is bound to contain a host of deals from championship play, and this one is no exception.  It’s rounded out with a chapter entitled ‘Multi in Action’, which is just that.  Mark assured me they would be careful to be objective, and include deals where Multi didn’t work out so well in addition to ones where it paid off. Indeed, there are plenty of both types.

Perhaps I should send copies to the ACBL Board — do you think we could convince them that Multi isn’t so mysterious after all?

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