Monday, November 16, 2009

Racing the robots

I've been playing bridge with the robots on the BBO web site. For those not familiar, it's run like an individual. All the humans sit South and play with a GIB robot. The two opponents are also bots. Your job is to learn how the robots play, then introduce a strategy that will maximize your chances to get good boards. The main rule to remember is this: All's fair in love and bridge cyberland.

Glen Ashton played with the bots extensively during October. He has written a series of posts describing his interaction with them. I don't believe the bridge world is in any danger of being taken over by the robots, but, on the other hand, they don't play any worse than the average club player.

In one of his posts, Glen advocates the One Away Rule: you can open 1NT if you are within 1 point of 15-17 and one card away from a balanced distribution. The idea is to hog the contract. Hey, you play them so beautifully, why not? Anybody can let a bot declare. It takes a real human to grab the reins.

I tried this philosophy/strategy Monday on this deal:

6 5
K 10 8
Q 9 6 3
A J 8 3
J 2 Q 9 4 3
A J 9 5 Q 4 2
K 10 7 2 J 8 5
Q 7 4 10 9 5
A K 10 8 7
7 6 3
A 4
K 6 2

I opened 1NT and the North Bot bid 3NT. The West Bot led the J! Because I bid as I did, West's circuits heated up with 4.2 million simulations, and decided his partner likely had five or more spades. Hey, if it doesn't work out, his partner couldn't yell at him -- these robots haven't learned speech yet.

I won and advanced the 6 to the jack. Next I led a spade to the 10, and cleared spades -- setting up my fifth card in the suit. When clubs split, I had nine tricks, even though I took only one trick in the red suits (I could have arranged to take three -- low diamond, win the return in hand and lead up to the K). I didn't need to do that, and was taking no chances. I could see that making 3NT would be a huge result. In fact it was 100%. Actually, bidding 1NT or 2NT, making three, would have been 81.82%.

Detractors might ask: Is this bridge or a turkey shoot? My answer is that I didn't make the rules, I'm just playing by them. In fact, isn't playing in just about any club game or sectional or regional tournament just as much a turkey shoot? I believe you know the answer to that one.

The board was played 25 times, and you can see all the results, if you click here.

1 comment:

  1. I've played a bunch of these in the last month or two. I agree, it's certainly no more random than a typical club game (if club games had only 12 boards.) In some ways, it's less random as insanity by the bots is more likely to cancel out than insanity by humans, though still not certain.