This blog provides supplementary thoughts and ideas to the site. If you haven't seen the main site, there is a lot there including the Martel and Rodwell interviews, photos, and articles. This blog is focused on advancing bridge theory by discussing the application of new ideas. All original content is copyright 2009 Glen Ashton.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

BBO, the best and the worst

BBO Forums had one of its finest days, thanks first due to Roland Wald, the tireless BBO vugraph organizer. It's recorded in this thread:

What he did was send an email out to 50 North American experts on a 2/1 bidding problem - he got 45(!) replies, and he complied these and posted them. Here we can see how the Internet "twitter" might work in the future, if bridge experts were ever to adopt the software.

Roland sends out a quick text:
S: Q9x H: Q8x D: QT9x C: Kxx 1S-Pass-?, 2/1, bid 2S or 1NT, reply to #B5431

45 experts text back to #B5431 their answers - it doesn't take long for each.

The software itself quickly compiles the answers and provides the set as the question, followed by the stream of answers. Instant bridge expert panels made easy by software!

Next note the simulation studies by Wayne Burrows in the thread. He produced some interesting statistics.

Roland had emailed me the question, but I chose to post a reply directly on the forums, because I knew my answer was best not incorporated into the expert consensus, which clearly would be to bid 2S.

First here's Eric Kokish for the experts:
2S. Not close to 1NT, whether forcing, semi-forcing, or NF
Next here's me:

2S at IMPs or if 1NT forcing, 1NT at pairs if 1NT is semi-forcing or not forcing
Now say you do your probability homework and your models/simulations confirm this opinion, and you do play 1NT semi-forcing. You then go to the Boston NABC and play in all the board-a-match events, which are closer to pairs than IMPs. You can beat the experts if you deviate from the field in situations where your studies have shown you that better results can be obtained, on average, from doing something unusual compared to expert rote bidding.

While it would be great for all those experts to be available in a twitter pool for quick question/answers, it,s not going to happen any time soon - it's taken a long time for us just to get enough regular bridge blogs to have sufficient synergy.

Since readers are going to treat bridge blogs like newspapers - reading one article, skimming another, reading just the headline of a third - there needs to be enough content across the bridge blogophere so that readers, if only reading a fraction of what is written, get enough content to make scanning and reading bridge blogs valuable time spent for them. Until recently we didn't have enough content across all the bridge blogs for this synergy to happen but now, led by the bridgeblogging site, we have gotten there.

Certainly we could do with a few more blogs - I think BridgeBase should have one. As it stands now, Fred Gitelman ends up posting on BBO forums from time to time (note he did not post in the forum discussion above, but he did reply to Roland's question). However it is a waste of the time that he can contribute to us if he has to defend/explain/re-explain/re-write/re-defend his positions, which he often has to do. Although the BBO forums are moderated (compare to and some of the continuing flame wars), the discussions are highly variable, and sometimes are quite shallow, or they degenerate or stall - since what Fred has to say is always thoughtful, insightful, and valuable, to the point where a mandatory search to perform from time to time on BBO forums is to find all postings for member fred - I suggest a blog would be a better vehicle.

Imo, it would be better for Fred to start a BridgeBase blog - if they got one or both of BridgeBase's well-known investors (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett) to write a blog posting, the traffic on this blog would be incredible: great for BridgeBase, great for bridge!

The power of blogs was seen in Judy Kay-Wolff's blog (on bridgeblogging) post on cheating, and the many comments (Kleinman/ Seagram/ Blumenthal/ Lee/ Tornay etc.):

At this time, the last comment is an "Open Letter to Fred Gitelman…" from Bobby Wolff, and you will notice that Fred had already posted a set of comments, so he could have already started a BridgeBase blog with the time he invested in these replies.

I'm now going to wade into the cheating swamp with a few comments here - however I encourage you to post comments on Judy's blog if you have opinions on the issue. The reason I'm not commenting there is I don't have a strong opinion either way.

We've seen cheating at bridge take place at clubs, at sectionals, at regionals, and at NABCs. For example, at the last NABC we attended, we were late finishing the second board of the national pairs event. A player who had already finished their first round started to stare at our table and the cards being played.

We certainly see cheating online - a while back we had strange bidding by an opponent, and when the round was over I asked him about it, and then he incriminated himself by saying he bid this way knowing we did not have a good fit - however the only way he could have know that is to have been aware, during the bidding, that his partner was long in our suit!

We sent this hand into BBO. In following with BBO policies I will not hear back from them on this issue, but I have noticed certain players vanish from BBO. Thus, it seems, BBO does investigate suspicious cases, and I believe they do take action from time to time. I have also seen cases where there was a strong set of compelling evidence, and since the player is still active on BBO, either there was no action taken, or there was just a temporary suspension, or the player was actually a world class player capable of making amazing leads and plays all the time.

Imo, the cheating we do see online in the ACBL events is about the same level we see in live bridge, where many remarks, hitches, mannerisms etc. are used to telegraph hands to partner. Since we don't raise any fuss at live bridge unless it is outrageously blatant, we don't get too concerned with online bridge and the few masterpoints at stake.

And that's the strangest thing about cheating at the pedestrian levels of bridge: it makes no sense. For the online bridge events, why pay $1 to enter an event to cheat in it? - even if one collects 1000 masterpoints this way, say after $3,000 of online fees, one still has nothing, since to get any ACBL rank you have to have 2/3 of your points obtained in live bridge. Why pay thousands of dollars for nothing? - if anything the cheaters cheat themselves.


  • At 12:26 PM, Blogger Memphis MOJO said…

    You can beat the experts if you deviate from the field in situations where your studies have shown you that better results can be obtained, on average, from doing something unusual compared to expert rote bidding.

    And to carry this farther, unless you are one of the world's top players (and perhaps even then), shouldn't you gear your system to take adavantgage of this?

    Example: play a weak 1NT (12 to 14)

    Example: Don't play Jacoby 2NT over 1M. Use it as a natural bid to try and get the contract played from the other side with a different lead from the rest of the field.

    Your thoughts?

  • At 12:33 PM, Blogger Memphis MOJO said…

    "it's taken a long time for us just to get enough regular bridge blogs to have sufficient synergy."

    For some reason, bridge players haven't "taken" to blogs and I'm not sure why.

    When I started my blog, I decided to have both bridge and poker content. I like both games and it was my blog, afterall. At first I wrote mostly about bridge. Nobody commented, nobody linked to me at their blog, my traffic was low.

    When I started writing more about poker, my blog traffic increased, my number of comments increased, and poker bloggers linked to me.

    I am not really sure why this is.


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