Friday, March 07, 2008


Title: WBridge
Author: Yves Costel
License: Freeware

Computer bridge programs are starting to come of age. Most top level programs play the cards using Monte Carlo methods. For dummy play, they simulate many random distributions for the opponent's 26 cards which are consistent with the bidding and then use a double-dummy engine to play each hand. The line of play which is successful against the most random deals is taken. This method yields some sharp card play, although not quite expert level.

For the bidding phase of the game, the programs often use flowcharts written by experts. If the programs get off their flowchart, things can go bad fast. The odd psyche bid can really throw them for a loop. However, when the programs have to make a decision such as whether to accept an invitation to game, they again use a Monte Carlo method to make the decision. The programs actually perform better than expert humans in these situations. I expect that by examining these simulations, humans will develop better heuristics for making decisions in invitational bidding situations.

There are several good bridge programs out there. I have logged many hours with GiB and Jack. These two have impressed me, a good flight B player in the ACBL. But both are a bit pricy. On the other hand, the winner of the the last world computer bridge championship is a freeware program called WBridge.

The biggest flaw with WBridge is that all of the menus are in French. There is a help file in English which is great, but the menus are only in French. It is actually easier and would be more helpful to translate the menu resource. There are free editors to do it! You can have it use English card symbols (AKQJ) instead of the French (ARDV). Language aside, this is a great program. I have not played it as much as some others, but believe it is as strong as GiB or Jack. It is certainly better than your average club player for whatever that is worth.

Above is a screen shot during the bidding. There are many helpful tools built into WBridge. One is the info button. With this turned on, the current knowledge of the other three players hand distributions and strengths based on the bidding so far is shown. Also if you hover over a bid, the meaning of that bid is shown. The default bidding system is 5-card majors with lots of gadgets. The meanings of the various bids were not translated from the French help file to the English one. So, it took me a little trial and error and a few disasters to figure things out.

In tournament mode, it replays the hands with computer playing your cards as well. By comparing, you can see how well you did. On this hand, due to substandard defense on my part, 3NT made with an over trick. At the other table, 3NT was defeated. The running state of the match in the lower left corner.

My only complaint about the interface in WBridge is that you need to hit the continue button at the beginning of the bidding and play. It seems like this should not be necessary. Maybe there is some menu entry to turn this off.

Will computer surpass humans at bridge? At on-line, impersonal bridge, of course computers will rule, maybe quite soon. At the table, it may take a while. A big part of bridge is the human interaction. Even at my level, noticing hesitations or that one defender paying more attention than the other is often key to making a hand. Computers cannot see these things.

The one area I expect/hope to improvement is in computer generated bidding systems. Using genetic/evolutionary computing techniques, I foresee computers developing far superior bidding systems and hand evaluation methods than humans use. Such systems will surely not be ACBL legal, but in more liberal tournaments computers could easily out pace us humans.

If you are interested in learning to play bridge, one nice site is Bridge7.


At 8:43 AM, Anonymous kamagra said...

I like these games because they help me to improve my skills as a gamer, it is a perfect training when I decide to get into competitions, it's like a sparring for me.m10m


Post a Comment

<< Home