Friday, July 31, 2020

Robot Bridge on BBO

I found the BBO interview with the man who won the recent 2020 NABC Robot Individual quite interesting and have posted part of it below:

Jordan Chodorow is a bridge player, film critic, crossword champion, tax expert, lawyer,  and winner of the 2020 NABC Robot Individual tournament on BBO. Here’s how jcwla won the title – and some questions about where he finds time for all of it.
JC: I’ve entered all of them. To me, robot bridge is the purest, truest form of bridge. Don’t get me wrong; I love live bridge and other forms of bridge on BBO, but they contain a huge element of chance (whom you play which boards against, which system they’re using, how they choose to evaluate a hand, what mood they’re in…). And a club game? You’re a leaf in the wind.
AJC: Did you have a playing, preparation or practice routine for the Bot Individual?
JCAlmost every day, I play the five 12-board ACBL daylongs and the 18-board daylong. I won half a dozen of those in the week leading up to the NABC, so I was in good form. 
To that, I would only add that the top 40 finishers in this event hold a combined 38 NABC+ and 18 NABC titles, with many more among the remaining 3,202 players. That kind of competition is as serious as a heart attack.
After I read it, I contacted him and we had a brief correspondence regarding the topic of robot bridge. I told Jordan that I agreed with him and also enjoy playing with the robots.  I noted that I appreciate playing the relatively simple convention card used by the robots, and having the opportunity to use old-fashioned hand evaluation skills, such as Losing Trick Count, to get to the best contract. I also opined that I find it to be a luxury be able to take all the time I want to play a hand.  During the ordinary time limits and general chaos of a "live" bridge game, it's not unusual to miss the best play due to too-quick calculations and analyses.

I was also interested in his preparation routine for the tournament, and found it impressive.

That being said, here are a few hands from a "near-miss" win in a robot IMP game I played with 482 players.  As you can see, although I racked up 45.34 IMPs in 12 boards, I missed winning by less than 1/2 of an IMP!  As a confession, I had the win locked up, then got distracted by an incoming text, and pulled the wrong card on a hand I was playing.  This costly error lost a lot of IMPs, and I am chagrined to admit that one of the things I most emphasize with serious bridge students is:  STAY FOCUSED!

1. Although some slams were bid, this 3NT contract scored a hefty 9 IMPs.

I had a good auction with the robots and was able to get to the best contract of 3NT. I received a spade lead and got off to a good start by inserting the ♠10, won by the ♠A.  This gave me 2 spade tricks.

3 clubs, 3 diamonds, 1 heart and 2 spades led to a good score of plus 600. (An alternative line of play would be 4 clubs, 2 diamonds, 1 heart and 2 spades.)

About half of the field in my section got to the game, but only two pairs made it.

2. Another 9.8 IMPs beefed up the IMP total with this slam.

After I opened 1♠ and partner bid Drury, I looked at my 4-loser hand and wasted no time asking about keycards.  My hand was suitable for this inquiry and I was comfortable that my kings were protected from attack on the opening lead. The 5 response gave me the information I needed to bid the slam.

A club was led, and in the fullness of time, East made a fatal discard of a club which enabled me to score the slam rather easily.  Barring that, discarding a club on dummy's hearts, plus a winning guess in diamonds would bring it home.

Four pairs out of nine in my section bid the slam, and only two pairs made it for plus 1430.

3. And later, another slam.  Bidding and making slams is how you rack up big scores in these events!

I liked the bidding on this hand.  After North passed and I opened 1, North responded with 3, a "fit-jump", showing good heart support as well as diamonds.  As I had the K and another great 4-loser hand, I bid 4NT, asking for keycards.  The 5 response enabled me to bid the slam.

Again, I had a spade guess on the opening lead.  I finally decided that "no one" would underlead a king in this auction, so inserted the ♠10.  This eliminated my spade loser and the score of plus 980 topped the section and scored 7.6 IMPs.

Although 45 total IMPs and a virtual tie for the win was very good, I'll pay more attention next time to eliminate silly errors and try to get the outright win!

Let me hear from you. How do YOU like playing with the robots?

See you at the table!

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