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20th Ourgame World Computer-Bridge Championship
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One more championship held at the 2016 World Bridge Games to report on.

The 20th Ourgame World Computer-Bridge Championship was help September 10-15, alongside the World Bridge Games in Wroclaw, Poland.

Go to www.computerbridge.com for the entries, results, and the 20 year history including many articles on robot play, most recently 2 articles in The Bridge World.  Right now the score card and play (pbn file) are posted for the final KO.  The same will appear for the semifinal and most of the round robin. 

Wbridge5 (France) narrowly defeated Micro Bridge (Japan) in the 64-board final KO.

With one round to go in the round robin, three of the spots in the semifinal KO stage were nearly secure [Wbridge5, Micro Bridge and Bridge Baron (USA)], with three robots competing for the last playoff spot.  Shark Bridge (Denmark) defeated Xinrui (China) by enough to overtake it for the final semifinal birth.  Q-Plus Bridge (Germany) just missed a similar big win against RoboBridge (The Netherlands), falling short of the needed 37 Imp victory to overtake Shark Bridge.

Some interesting deals follow.

 

This deal from the last round robin match contributed to Shark Bridge's needed 47 Imp win over Xinrui to overtake Xinrui for the fourth spot in the semifinal KO stage. Shark Bridge won by 55 Imps.

West
KQ92
K1073
AQ854
North
10876
10743
84
932
East
QJ
J865
AJ92
KJ10
South
AK95432
A
Q65
76
W
N
E
S
1
4
6
P
P
P
D
6 East
NS: 0 EW: 0

Declarer (Xinrui) misguessed the Q, playing South for short diamonds. Down 1, -100

At the other table, Shark Bridge declared 6X

W
N
E
S
1
1
X
P
2
4
4NT
P
5
X
6
P
P
X
P
P
P

An expertly played deal by Shark Bridge.  The lead of the spade ace was ruffed in dummy, followed by the heart king won by South's ace. Spade king ruffed in dummy, followed by the heart queen, giving declarer the bad news about the trump suit. North needs to hold at least three clubs and two diamonds to have a trump coup. Declarer now cashed three rounds of clubs. South had 7 or 8 spades, one heart, 2 clubs, so 2 or 3 diamonds. Declarer played South to have the diamond queen, so cashed the diamond ace and a low diamond to the ten! Now running the clubs produced a trump coup. +1660, and 18 Imps to Shark Bridge.

Note that two rounds of diamonds must be played before running the clubs as North will discard a diamond on the fourth club.

With two boards to play in the semifinals, and both matches almost even, the drop of a stiff king offside would decide both matches.  This deal was played in the 'human' team events (O-W-S-M), board 31 of the round of 16.

West
AQ872
732
J43
K5
North
J1043
AQ1098
AKQ
A
East
5
K5
108765
108632
South
K96
J64
92
QJ974
W
N
E
S
P
P
2
2NT
P
3
3
P
4
P
P
P
D
4 North
NS: 0 EW: 0

Opening lead ♠5

West plays ♠Q, ♠A, ♠7 for East to ruff, and East returned a club, West playing the King. With West a passed hand, East was marked for the heart king, and East was likely 1-2-5-5, so Wbridge5 got it right and dropped the stiff ♥K. No blood as 4♥ was also made by Shark Bridge, but a needed play by Wbridge5 to win the match.

In the other match, at one table Micro Bridge played 3NT-N +1, and at the other table Bridge Baron (USA) reached 4♥-N with no opposing bidding. The ♠5 was led, and after the ♠Q, ♠A and ruff by East and a diamond was returned.  Now the location of the missing kings was uncertain.  Bridge Baron ruffed the third diamond and took the heart finesse for down one.  The 12 Imp pickup sent Micro Bridge to the final KO.

In the 64 times the deal was played in the ‘human’ team round of 16, the contract was 4♥-N 52 times. 3NT was played 7 times and easily made 9 or 10 tricks. Of the 49 times the singleton spade was led against 4♥, declarer made the contract 20 times. Of course the play depended on declarer determining who held the ♣K, as if West held it then East was marked with the ♥K, and even if East held the ♣K, some of the time East would also hold the ♥K. One clue might be the signal West gives when returning the third spade. It seems that West might signal for a club return knowing that a diamond return could be fatal if partner held the king. So deciding on stiff ♥K with East is an interesting study.

One of the best played deals of the robot championship occurred early in the semifinals (board 4).  Wbridge5 was in 6 against Shark Bridge and Micro Bridge was in 5 against Bridge Baron.  This deal was played in the quarterfinals of the 'human' team events (O-W-S-M).

In the Wbridge5 - Shark Bridge match.

North
532
AQJ4
Q3
A653
South
K7
96
AK98652
92
W
N
E
S
1
P
1
2
2
X
P
3
P
4NT
P
5
P
6
P
P
P

Q lead.  Plan your play.

 

West
AQ6
K8732
10
QJ84
North
532
AQJ4
Q3
A653
East
J10984
105
J74
K107
South
K7
96
AK98652
92
W
N
E
S
 
1
P
1
2
2
X
P
3
P
4N
P
5
P
6
P
P
P
D
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0

With West long in hearts, without the K, therefore the spade ace, a heart-spade squeeze without the count is the marked play. For success diamonds must be 2-2 or 3-1 with a stiff honor with West as declarer needs two entries to hand, one to take one heart finesse and one to run the diamonds. Diamond queen overtaken with the ace caters to both possibilities. The play proceeds: club ace; diamond queen overtaken with the ace; heart finesse, diamond finesse (restricted choice); run diamonds and on the last diamond West has no safe discard.

East:  AQ  K87  - North: 53 AQ4  - South:  K7 9

At the table West discarded the ♠Q, declarer led a spade to West’s stiff ace and West had to return a heart, +1370 and 15 Imps as Shark Bridge was in 3◊ for +150.

Note that the play must be the same to make 5◊, so in diamonds it is a 4 or 6 deal. The best contract is 3NT by South with 9 top tricks unless diamonds are 4-0.This deal is from the quarter-finals of the team championships.

Of the 32 times this deal was played in the ‘human’ team quarterfinals, the contracts were: 3NT by South (17); 3NT by North, down (2); 3◊ (7); 3♠ by East (2); 5◊, down (2), making with a overtrick (1); and 6◊ (1) making.

In the Micro Bridge versus Bridge Baron match, Bridge Baron was n 3 +130 and Wbridge5 was in 5 +620.  The opening lead against 5 was a low heart, finessed, and on the run of diamonds West was similarly squeezed.

Robot play has greatly improved over the years. My estimate is that the best robots could hold their own in near-top flight competition, but would not win against top teams. One area that would add to the robot top level play would be the use of complex systems, as there is no issue of forgetting. In the robot championship systems are limited. This is to let the developers concentrate on improving the play rather than plan defenses against a number of complex opponent systems. In addition, many of the robots are used commercially where complex systems are not the norm.

See the 2016 robot information and results and go to www.computerbridge.com for the 20-year history including many articles on robot play, most recently two articles in The Bridge World. July 2015 and May 2016

Jack (The Netherlands), a pre-tournament co-favorite, did not participate due to unforeseen circumstances, but will return next year to try to regain the title. First time contestant Xinrui demonstrated that it is a player, with a good showing against most of the field, and narrowly missing a semifinal birth. Meadowlark Bridge (USA) returned after 12 years of absence, and got thoroughly thrashed, but the developer claims it will be competitive next year.

Congratulations to Yves Costel, developer of Wbridge5 for a fine victory and to Tomio and Yumiko Uchida, develoeprs of Micro Bridge for a good battle down to the wire. Congratulations to all the developers for their dedication to advancing robot play and for competing in friendship. Much thanks to the ACBL, WBF and this year’s sponsor, Ourgame, for all their support. A big thank you to the Polish Bridge Union , notably Marek Malysa, for all their support, and for making us feel at home, to Hans van Staveren for his technical support, and to Ron Tacchi, Jean-Paul Meyer, Brent Manley and Mario Chavarria for their fine coverage of the robot championship.

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