BOOK REVIEW: “The Mysterious Multi” by Mark Horton and Jan Van Cleeff

Finally a book for ACBL-land about the Multi 2♦ bid.  Multi is not allowed in most ACBL competitions because it is considered too esoteric for club-level players to effectively defend against.  In Europe however, it is a very common convention.  One can only hope that this book will start a movement in North America to open up the list of allowable conventions to include the Multi.

The original Multi 2♦ contained a group of difficult hands:

  • A weak two bid in a major
  • A big balanced hand
  • A big 4-4-4-1 hand

My own personal observations seem to indicate that the modern tendency is to use the Multi 2♦ for the major suited weak two bid only, if for no other reason than to avoid confusion.

Horton and Van Cleef start out by giving a full system basis for a 2♦ that includes all of the above types, but spend the most time on the major weak two bid part of the system.  It appears to be quite complete and a pair that wanted to take this part of the book and put into their system could do so without a great deal of effort.  The artificial follow ups to an opening 2♦ bid are not so complex as to scare anyone off.

The next major section of the book consists of a review of defenses to the Multi.  The authors have some distinct opinions on what is optimal against Multi, but they give a rather complete overview of the most frequently played defenses.  Again, the defenses presented do not seem so complex as to be intimidating to the general serious player.

Now, once you have 2♦ as a weak two bid in a major (regardless of whether you include the other hand types), you need a new definition for opening 2 of a major.  The next several sections cover the options here.  The book covers Muiderberg two bids (weak 5-5 major/minor hands), 2♥ as a weak hand with both majors and 2♥ as a three suited bid.  In my experience against these types of bids, the Muiderberg seem to be the most effective in terms of frequency and preemption. Horton and Van Cleeff again give a full set of system structures (including slam conventions with six-keycard Blackwood scenarios).

After a section on opening 2NT with a minor two-suiter, there are two sections on using Multi in other situations.  The first is after the opponents open 1NT.  In the US, this defense to NT is commonly known as “Woolsey”.  But as with the opening Multi, this is not part of the General Convention Chart, even though it is significantly easier to defend against than the opening Multi.  The other situation raised by the authors is Multi in response to a minor opening.  With more and more pairs playing Reverse Flannery (5+-4+ majors in a less than game forcing hand) after a minor opening, This leaves the weak jump shift in a major with no home.  By playing Multi (again…not on the GCC), you can put that back in your arsenal.  I have never faced this in any mid-chart event (and I am not even sure that it is allowed under mid-chart), but it seems like an idea worth further investigation.

Finally, they end with a section on the Multi in action.  The weakness here is that the hands chosen are not tremendously exciting.  Plus, the hands show how the Multi causes problems for the opponents also would likely have been problems had they been opened with two of the major.

As for the book itself, it is a quick read, very light on theory and exposition with most of the book being a recitation of system.  There were some typographical errors, at least one that matters greatly, and one incorrect application of their system to an example hand.  The book would have been improved with some additional reviewers or editors going over it before publication.

Nonetheless, if you are interested in what the rest of the world is doing bridgewise, then I can recommend that you put this book in your library.

The Mysterious Multi: How to Play It, How to Play Against It
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