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NABC Individual: Robot Coding Horror?
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You are playing in the North American Bridge Championships Online Individual tournament. That's you with a robot partner and two robot opponents at your table competing against other humans in the same situation. Yes, the robots have you outnumbered and surrounded, but you have decided in advance that your strategy will be to play your regular game; i.e., you will not employ tactics specific to robots. The robots' system is 2/1 Game Forcing.

On board 10 of day 1 you hold:

South
A2
QJ874
K986
J8
W
N
E
S
P
?

What's your call ?

South
A2
QJ874
K986
J8
W
N
E
S
P
?

Your opening bid requirements at matchpoints are to open 12 HCP hands, balanced hands with 11 HCP and 2 quick tricks, and balanced hands with 10 HCP and 2.5 quick tricks; greater latitude is applied to non balanced hands.

With 1.5 quick tricks and 11 scattered HCP, "in the red", to turn a phrase, describes the hand aptly. You humor yourself into opening 1. Since not everyone agrees that humor is a good hand evaluation method, you are prepared to defend your bidding by noting those mighty spot cards. Fortunately, robots never criticize their partners.

The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
?

South
A2
QJ874
K986
J8
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
?

Your philosophy tends towards the SHAPE camp, to use topical lingo. So you had already planned to show nine red cards by rebidding 2.

The bidding continues:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
?

South
A2
QJ874
K986
J8
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
?

In this tournament you are guaranteed to have a hand with maximal HCP, so despite those mighty spots, pass is clear. This ends the auction:

W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
P
P

Then dummy hits.

North
K7643
J7432
AK10
South
A2
QJ874
K986
J8
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
P
P

 

Oh, the inhumanity!

 

Of course, your first reaction, as a programmer, is that a coding horror has been perpetrated.

{begin programming interlude

I am partial to the many great computer programming books produced by those associated with the Death Star (the AT&T Corporation). However, the Microsoft Empire did produce some worthy books; notably the great tome by Steve McConnel, Code Complete. In that book the "Coding Horror" icon tags terrible technique.

end programming interlude}

 

Nevertheless, East, Right Hand Robot (RHR), leads the 5. In this tournament Central Hand Robot (CHR) never declares, so you are beamed up to North. Plan the play.

North
K7643
J7432
AK10
South
A2
QJ874
K986
J8
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
P
P

No doubt this coldly calculated crazy call will be duplicated at other tables since CHR is nothing if not consistent, but is 2NT a normal contract ? The opening lead is favorable; but again it's likely to be duplicated at other tables with this auction.

Those in diamond contracts have a decent chance to take 11 tricks by starting a simple crossruff, with 10 tricks a likely fallback result. Fortunately, the diamond suit will yield 3 tricks in NT by simply finessing the king (yes, this play produces only 2 tricks if West has the stiff ace, but by symmetry there is no generally better play for 3-1 breaks and the king gains substantially by producing 4 tricks when East has a doubleton ace).

So your initial plan is to win in North, finesse the K, and hope for a favorable break to make 3. There may be additional chances and additional clues about your target result down the road.

You duck in dummy and West plays the 9. On the 2 East wins the A as West pitches the 2 ! What are your thoughts ?

North
K7643
J743
AK
South
A2
QJ874
K96
J
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
P
P

You got lucky since a smooth duck by East will yield 3 defensive diamond tricks. Apparently diamonds are not a robot's best friend. Was your diamond suit analysis flawed ? No, analogous to 3-1 breaks, there is in general no better play for 4-0 breaks in the absence of other information. Is a heart shift a threat ? No, as long as you pay attention to the spots and positional factor.

In fact, East continues clubs. So you win, pick up the diamonds for 3 tricks and cash out for 8 tricks as further play establishes that there is nothing else to do. You await the postmortem.

Robot
Q1085
AK109652
93
Robot
K7643
J7432
AK10
Robot
J9
3
AQ105
Q76542
Sbrozell
A2
QJ874
K986
J8
W
N
E
S
P
1
P
1
P
2
P
2NT
P
P
P
D
10
2NT North
NS: 0 EW: 0
5
8
9
10
1
1
0
2
A
9
2
2
1
1
7
J
3
A
1
2
1
J
Q
K
6
3
3
1
8
5
3
10
2
3
2
Q
4
10
K
1
4
2
7
5
6
9
1
5
2
4
2
7
A
1
6
2
K
9
2
10
1
7
2
3
J
A
5
3
8
2
Q
K
4
3
0
8
3
Q
6
6
8
0
8
4
8
7
4
J
0
8
5
N/S +120
13

+120 garners 90% ! Out of 25 tables, there were no diamond contracts and only 7 positive scores. Out of 11 2NN contracts, 4 were made. All 8 2NS contracts were down. Only 3 Wests declared hearts. 9 Souths did not open which resulted in North opening 1. Of the 16 Souths opening 1, half rebid 2 and half 1NT.

Here is the traveller.

The robots had a normalizing influence on the possible contracts despite some bidding -- in The Twilight Zone.

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