Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Friday, August 15, 2014

Playing the Machine

One of the advantages of playing duplicate bridge with and against a computer program is that the program is always up for playing.  Trouble sleeping? Time to waste?  Need to work on bridge skills?  The machine is always ready A computer doesn’t have a dress code.  However you are dressed or undressed you can just scoot into a chair and fire up the machine. 

Of course the program is also always ready to freeze long enough for me to forget the strategy, the trump count, the history of bidding and whatever else I had in mind forty-five minutes ago when I was last able to play a card.

Another good thing is that it is impossible to strangle a program.  Program rarely, if ever, file charges with the police.  And no matter how much I curse at it, the program does not get up and walk away. 

I am convinced the program I have singles me out for practicing its best game.  At the end of each game there is a list of scores.  Why does the program bid me up and leave other players in makeable contracts?  Why does the machine utilize iron defense when contesting with me and let other players off with marshmallow level squishiness at leading and trumping? Last time I played the program bid two hearts against the highest rated player and five diamonds against me.  The machine made both bids but it got more points for making a game bid than from making a partial game bid.  All I did in the biding was to pass.   So what makes the highest ranked player better than me?  How did he or she force the computer to underbid the hand?

The dang thing chooses the best opening bid more often than the famous German professional team recently accused of developing a system of coughs to signal what the opening lead should be.  When the allegations were made public, the team denied everything citing allergies as an explanation.  An examination of the records showed their allergies led to accuracy in opening leads not suggested by the bidding and not achieved by any other team.  The team was so insulted they never played in another international tournament. 

On screen there is a box around the bids that allows me to request more information about bids made while the program is pretending to be my partner.  At first I thought that was supposed to be helpful.  The bids had made, however, often had little or nothing to do with description of what the bids meant.  

After a substantial number of games played I had some of the weirdness in bidding figured out.  Then the program was “updated.” Subsequently, the number of unpredictable bids rose to a level even higher than the original tally.  If I ever meet the programmer I’ll club him or her, steal any diamond jewelry, rip out his/her heart and bury him in the back yard using a spade.

But I can still play in my underwear.  


E. B. Davis said...

Sounds like torture to me, Warren. This summer, I've avoided underwear! :>)

Jim Jackson said...

Warren -- what program are you using? I haven't had the same issues you have when I've played against the computer -- not that I've done that for some time.

The two Germans (both medical doctors -- one wonders about their medical practices as well) were banned for playing in any World Bridge Federation tournament with each other for life and from from any participation for 10 years.

There is to be a separate hearing to strip them of their world title (which they won against the Americans who caught them cheating and agreed to play even though they knew the Germans were cheating in order for officials to record the Germans in action.)

I'm at a Sectional tournament in Marquette, MI right now. Yesterday we took first overall in the first game and slipped up in the second for a less robust showing! 8 more sessions of bridge on Fri, Sat & Sun. However -- wearing our jammies would be frowned upon. :)

~ Jim

carla said...

Yet you choose to play again! I'm glad the experience makes you so murderous--that will always help your writing.

Shari Randall said...

That programmer had better run!

Gloria Alden said...

I've never played bridge or any online game. I much prefer playing cards with people I can see and communicate with. I enjoy the camaraderie, laughter and yes even the griping and grumbling when things don't go the way I want them to. Ir'a much more fun to gloat when I win with others there to listen to me.

KM Rockwood said...

Ah, games where one competes against a computer! Since I tend to think there are gremlins living in my computer, I'd attribute the problems to them. After all, what do they have to do with their time except figure out ways to torment actual humans who try to use the computer?