After toying with it now and again since learning the game back in my Rockwell International days, I have decided to up my bridge game and attempt to become an expert. With that goal in mind, I got back into the online bridge community and play as seifertd on Bridge Base these days. It is an excellent site for playing online bridge, much better than other sites I have tried. There are many play for free options and if you want to earn ACBL master points, you can pay to enter tournaments against both human competitors and against robot players using the very good GiB program, which has won against human players (but only when they make mistakes). Unlike chess, bridge has yet to be cracked by good AI.

So far, I am up to 15 master points and have reached the point where I have to join a flesh and blood club to go higher. There are several clubs here in the SF Bay area, including one about 3 miles from my house. Hopefully, I can get my wife interested by signing us up for a bridge class teaching the en vogue 2/1 Game Force system used by just about everybody in the USA today.

I had an interesting deal in a free online tournament the other day. Bridge Base runs daily 8 hand tournaments open to all for free and at the end of the day, you can compare your performance against thousands of other players playing the identical hands (or boards as they are known in duplicate bridge) with the GiB robot players in the other seats. Duplicate bridge refers to the fact that all players play the same cards in each hand or board.

In this deal, I was playing the South hand (the embed makes it look the opposite, so not sure what is going on there). I made the standard 2NT opening to show a balanced hand and 20-21 high card points. From there, my robot partner made a Jacoby transfer bid of 3, showing length in hearts. The NT opener must bid 3, completing the transfer. This convention is useful for finding an 8 card fit for a possible suit contract, while keeping the powerful hand hidden during play. In bridge, the first hand in a partnership to mention a particular suit will end up being the declarer if the contract ends up in that suit. The other hand becomes the "dummy" and is revealed to all. The Jacoby transfer is a very useful gadget to keep the powerful cards hidden during the play and everybody and their brother uses it. The Robot then followed with a 4♣ bid.

Here is where I don't know if I failed or not and is something I have to learn if I want to be an expert. I responded with 5♣, showing support for clubs as the trump suit. The Jacoby transfer in this case was useless because now the weak hand will be declarer. I was a bit confused by the GiB bids, but decided to "trust my partner", a simple rule of thumb in bridge, with my raise to game. But with good 5 card support, should I have gone right to slam?

As the cards lay, it was a 7 card laydown which I did not bid. We ended up making the 5♣ game contract with 2 overtricks. But who made the mistake in the bidding? Me or the robot? Or did we make a mistake? In my point of view, spades was a problem, with a possible 2 tricks to lose and from my robot partner's point of view, diamonds was likewise a problem. Conservatively playing, we should just take the known game (we had at least 29 high card points between us), but with the robot's void in spades, it could have upgraded it's point count to 14, giving us at least 34 total points and a slam a virtual certainty. But like much in life, nothing is ever certain.

Still left wondering about this one though ...