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All comments by Nicolas Hammond
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@iRichard: “Nicolas, don't you have data for Forquet-Garozzo?”
Yes. Forgot to include them in the BW post.

I don't have much - 190 boards. Not quite enough to be statistically significant for some of the algorithms, but enough for a couple of them. They rank #516 on the amount of data I have on pairs.

Here's a Forquet opening lead question from the book (p 185). I won't give the answer as don't want to give out spoilers. Forquet on lead against 2. What did he lead from 8 K106532 Q1092 K2 and what do you think his partner had?

Chapter 46 goes over the data from the Bermuda Bowls 1955-1991. Forquet is mentioned with three different partners: Guglielmo Siniscalco/Pietro Forquet, Benito Bianchi/Pietro Forquet, Benito Garozzo/Pietro Forquet. There are ten pairs from that era with enough data to be analyzed.
July 21
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@Barry: Thanks for the input, I particularly appreciate the price!.

The presentation of Figure 15 on the web site is missing annotation of the axes in the figure, but is described in the surrounding text. My son helped me put the web site together so it is a grab from the book, paste to PNG, web resize, stuck in HTML. The axes are more fully described in the book. The explanation value for the X axis takes a chapter and half! The concept that it is possible to calculate this value is at the heart of the book. Too much for the web site.

As I am sure you know, formatting/presentation is hard. Most books are 6“ x 9”. There are some tables that I wanted to put it that could not be made thinner without removing necessary content, so I ended up with a 7x10 book. Reducing font size, impossible to understand table headers were all tried, but the easiest solution was to move to a 7x10 book. Given a 7" width book, and with padding, margins etc. there is still little room. The first format for the reviewers was the typical letter size Word document. For pictures/figures there is a problem of putting too much information in the diagram. In nearly all cases the axes description is in the body, not the figure. Part of that is where the figure came from, as I use different tools to generate the data. Labeling the Y axis is particularly hard within the space constraints.

There are always tradeoffs when putting a book together.
July 21
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I use different data sets. I use either data from Vugraph, or from the EBL/WBF/ACBL web site, or The Vugraph Project. I am adding data from another NBO.

The software is both “sophisticated”, but also “simple”. Same with the algorithms.

There is not one magic formula to detect cheating. I have different approaches to detect cheating on bidding, leads, defense.

To keep things simple, I do have a single formula that condenses everything to one value. It is a “mistakes function”. A typical player will make similar numbers of mistakes on defense and declarer play. A cheating pair makes fewer mistakes on defense. This is the MF value.

I can calculate at the tournament level. For a given tournament, similar players, I expect this value to be an approximate constant given a large number of boards.

When I remove the data from cheating pairs, I am removing just their data. The formula is designed to detect cheating. The value is expect to go up. It does in all cases with large data sets. Put simply, cheating pairs make fewer mistakes on defense and this can be detected.

I realize that this concept is new. Very few people understand it at the moment.

If you accept that such a formula exists and the “quality” of a bridge tournament can be measured, why does the data show such a big change from pre-2015 to post-2015?

I show that the formula works by applying the data to 11,000,000 ACBL records. As you get better. You make fewer mistakes. I can calculate the value for players above a certain masterpoint level.

The data shows there are at least three different eras. 1955-1983. Up to 2015. Post 2015.

The results are consistent for major tournaments within those eras.

What else changed in Bridge?
July 21
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@Avon: I don't have much data on Eugenio Chiaradia and Massimo D'Alelio. They rank #548 based on the amount of data I have on each pair. As such, their results may be subject to more statistical variation than others.

I was to put this pair in the top 200 pairs, then Chiaradia would rank #315. D'Alelio in this partnership was awful. He would rank #399. This is based on “safe” opening lead. Based on this statistic, you would presume that they are bad players and do not cheat. But “safe” leads are not a good indicator of cheating; there are better ones (one more plug for the book - details are in it).

Part of detecting cheating is remaining ahead of the cheating pairs. As such, there is quite a bit of information I did not put in the book. I have a formula that calculates “dishonesty”. It is not in the book. It shows me the difference between their declarer ability and their defensive ability. I can then compare with other top pairs. A high dishonesty rating does not mean you are a cheating pair. All cheating pairs have a high dishonesty rating.

There is not much data on Chiaradia/D'Alelio. But I can generate their “dishonesty” rating and form an opinion based on this and other data on the likelihood they were cheating.
July 20
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@Tony: “It is dangerous to get too excited about opening leads, as a passive leader will ”find“ partner more often than an aggressive one. With or without help.”

Absolutely (dangerous). I cover the different styles of opening leads in the book. I was chatting to Bob Hamman yesterday. He has two different styles with this three main partners - Zia, Paul Soloway, Bobby Wolff. He is able to mimic his partner's style.

So…. I have data on you/Andrew Robson (I have data on everyone!). Which of you is the “better” leader. Let me define “better” as the person who makes more “safe” leads (ones which do not give up a trick).

You rate #170 on the list of the top 400 in terms of safe leads. Do you think Andrew rates higher or lower when playing with you? Actually this is a bit of a spoiler because this result is listed in the book (page 113).

Which of you (Tony/Andrew) is the more “aggressive” leader? One who hits partner's honors more often?

I also have data when Andrew plays with Alexander Allfrey. Alexander ranks #162. Do you think Andrew rates higher or lower when playing with Alexander? (Result not in the book, but will give it).

Part of the book is handling perception/reality.
July 20
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@Avon: “Nicolas: We were certainly looking at different things.

I searched for deals where Blue Team players made a lead that:
- almost no strong player would choose
- suited partner very well indeed”

Absolutely. But you are now getting into subjective opinion on what strong players would do. Some people make quirky leads.

The software can look at ALL leads and see how successful they are.

This is different from finding opening leads that are “suspect”.

I cover this in the book.

A good thought exercise (before you read the book please!) is to construct an algorithm that you think will detect cheating on the opening lead. See what you end up with. Then compare to what is in the book.
July 20
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@Richard, “Not that much difference between Avarelli and Belladonna when playing with each other. The difference between Belladonna partnering Avarelli and partnering Garozzo is eye-catching.

How was Garozzo partnering (a) Belladonna, (b) someone else?”

In order for statistical analysis to be valid, you need a large data set. I only have enough data on Belladonna/Avarelli and Belladonna/Garozzo so can't comment on Garozzo with anyone else.

The difference is not that eye-catching. Better partnerships understand each other's overcall style etc.
July 20
Nicolas Hammond edited this comment July 20
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@John: “Hadn't realised ZIa and Meckstroth were quite that bad…”

Obviously, I deliberately chose a famous player/pair close to them in the rankings.

Detecting cheating on opening leads is quite complicated.

One possible approach is to check for how successful the lead, which is the data I presented above for some pairs. Is that the best approach for cheating? Details in the book. These details are very useful for improving your opening leads.

Meckstroth ranks #222 out of the 400 pairs when playing with Eric.

Zia ranks #18 when playing with Meckstroth.
July 20
Nicolas Hammond edited this comment July 20
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@Avon: I took the data from the top 200 pairs from the top tournaments. This includes Belladonna-Avarelli.

I sorted the 400 players based on the percentage of safe leads, i.e. leads that did not give up a trick.

Avarelli ranked #268, two spots above Zia, playing with Michael Rosenberg.

Belladonna, playing with Garozzo,, ranked #33, two spots below Bob Hamman, playing with Bart Bramley.

Belladonna, playing with Avarelli,, ranked #335, seven spots ahead of Jeff Meckstroth, playing with Zia.

Avarelli was not that good at opening leads…. using this statistic.
July 20
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I met him as well. He has a PhD from MIT. He's still working on new mathematics.
July 19
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See http://www.detectingcheatinginbridge.com for details about the book, include from snippets from some chapters and some of the figures in the book.

“Next: If I understand things correctly, it should now be possible to inspect the hands that WILL be used for individual tournaments, identify boards that the expert system will use, and then generate a hypothesis in advance regarding pairs that are unusually likely to make the right decision.” Not quite. What has happened is that the software identified a pair. Video of this suspicious pair was done, the software analyzed the data, and was able to predict boards where something “unusual” happened before the video was watched. Watching video proved that indeed something “unusual” happened on those boards.

In order for this system to work it relies on a large data set. Given a large data set, if a pair is defending better than say, Balicki/Zmudzinski who were transmitting information about suits, then this raises flags.

There are multiple algorithms detecting cheating in different parts of the game. If they are released, then cheating pairs will modify how they play in certain parts of the game making it more difficult to detect cheating. Comparing results from top players quickly flags the outliers. Once the outliers are outside normal statistical deviations, they become more suspect.

However…. I hope the long term effect will not be in detecting cheating but how using statistics can improve your own game.
July 19
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Microsoft Ready and Inspire 2019 convention (40K attendance) finishes today. Presume it might free up a certain person to come and play.
July 18
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I did start with WBF, not ACBL… Last time I complained about something with the ACBL, they changed their By Laws.
July 17
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Not useless for me because I teach, but I didn't use any of those images. My point remains the same. It should be easy for a non-ACBL writer to find a (free) image to use in a publication.
July 17
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Nowhere does it state that these are free for commercial use. There should be a lot more on this site so that someone who writes articles can use. See Gita's post on the problem.
July 16
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I found this the funniest and saddest quote. Someone posted the comment

“Article written about the authors’ discovery that playing the card game Bridge is surprisingly fun and enjoyable.

Shows picture of Texas Hold ‘Em”

The author, Gita Jackson, replied:

“PLEASE FIND ME A PICTURE OF HUMAN BEINGS PLAYING SPECIFICALLY BRIDGE THAT DOES NOT COST HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS TO HAVE THE RIGHTS TO USE, IN A HALF HOUR TURNAROUND, NUMNUTS”

Got to appreciate the author's sincerity.

Surely this is something that the WBF and ACBL can easily fix by making available a set of images/photographs that are free for commercial use and easily downloadable from their web sites….
July 16
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Details of book are at http://www.cheatinginbridge.com
July 15
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Or too young! Sorry about earlier typo.
July 12
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I played with my then six year old son at the Atlanta NABC a few years ago. It was an open pairs. We had no late plays, no director calls, and we didn't finish last or second to last. We played Stayman, transfers, no carding. Every child is different and will learn at a different pace. Your grandson is not too old to play.

My son got tired of every pair that came to the table wanting to know how old he was. He wanted to ask the same question in return but was too polite. He just wanted to play and not answer personal questions. We didn't return.

Make sure that when your grandson starts playing, it is in a positive environment.
July 12
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