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  • Paul Mendelson

Humans 1 - Robots 0


Online bridge is incredible.

As well as being able to play bridge with your friends anywhere in the world, compete with your usual partner in your home club duplicates, or enter a competition against players you have never met, you can also play set hands, establish a casual game with people of all nationalities, and even play with and against robots, all on your own.

Bridge solitaire was a favourite of mine while waiting on hold for businesses who can't be bothered to organise their employees to answer a phone, or while I'm being badgered into spending "just" ten minutes of my time giving my opinion of some company's appalling service.

But, all this has changed as I have discovered just how terrible bridge robots really are. Using the bemusingly popular 2 over 1 system, it is impossible to compete effectively in a minor suit, as you have no idea how many cards your partner has in the suit. This results in leaving the opponents at the 2-level where they comfortably make their contracts.

Worse still are the robot's opening leads: 3-card suits against no-trump contracts; doubletons against suit contracts, even if these are suits bid by the opposition. It is disasterous. And, these pre-programme imbeciles haven't the faintest idea what they're doing when you lead either, as the hand above illustrates.

Against East's 3NT contract (what's wrong with just playing quietly in 3D?) sitting South, I led the standard Ks. This is from KQJ or KQ10. Dummy played low, partner played low!!!! and so did East.

Partner's play denies a spade honour, so East must hold sAJ7. I switch to 9c (top-of-rubbish, which loses to East's Jc. East takes the losing dimaond finesse and partner wins. And what does this computerised nincompoop come up with? You guessed it. It leads back a club. East makes 3NT, when it is stone-cold 2 down, and I don't even get a grovelling apology from my partner. It just sits there implacably, ready to mangle an infinite number of deals!

This is why we play a simple rule 99.8% of the time.

When your partner leads an honour against a NT contract, you play any honour you hold immediately. If you don't have one - show count.

So, in the world of even remotely compos-mentis human beings, North overtakes my spade king with her spade ace and returns 6s. South picks up East Js and cashes the first five spade tricks. Whatever South then leads, East must take the losing the diamond finesse and go two down.

As I have said before: Even my cat could manage it.

Cats aside, the conclusion is simple. Technology must serve us, not replace us - maddening as they often are, give me a human partner any day!

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