Blue Chip Bridge 6
by Ian Trackman and Mike Whittaker
Ian Trackman started his professional life as a lawyer, but when he discovered computers, he became so fascinated that he changed direction and became a programmer. As his expertise grew, he became Software Consultant for the BBC' s Computer Literacy Project, and even ended up presenting several programs.
Ian met his wife, Susan, when they were both students, and together they learned to play bridge. His interest in computer bridge began as a hobby in the early 1980s. "I realized that if wanted to produce a good program, the project would have to change from a hobby to a commercial enterprise," says Ian. Today, Blue Chip Bridge has become a full-time occupation.
"As a fairly-average bridge player, I knew I would need input from a seriously good player, which is why I teamed up with Mike ... "
Mike Whittaker worked in South Africa for three years, and many of the industrial chemistry techniques that he developed are still in use there today. Bridge has been a hobby since Mike's schooldays, and he enjoyed some success as a Scottish junior international, He has written a regular column in Bridge Plus for some years, and has co-authored two books (Test Your Acol Bidding and Practice Your Acol Bidding). Since teaming up with Ian in 1995, the development of Blue-Chip Bridge has filled most of Mike's trine.
When they began working in earnest on Blue Chip Bridge, Mike's first task was to compile an Acol bidding database, although this has now been expanded to include Five-card Majors and Standard English. "I thought a few thousand entries would be sufficient," comments Mike, "but I made a slight underestimation. Now, five years later on, I am still hard at work on it, improving it in small ways. It is the bidding database that, we think, sets Blue Chip Bridge apart from other programs - it is easily the world' s largest, with over 45,000 entries, Blue Chip Bridge relies on it in order to bid and, if there is no exact match in the database, it uses fuzzy logic to choose the best-fitting bid from among candidate bids. Obviously, it is impossible to cover every possible sequence, but bridge is not played like that and we have other tricks up our sleeve as well. Unusual hand-types can sometimes cause problems, and there were one or two clear indications of this in the Zia match, but Blue Chip Bridge will continue to improve. Once we correct a mistake, it will never happen again -I wish human players had that ability!
"In play and defense, Blue Chip Bridge is a 'searching' program. It uses information from the bidding to reconstruct the unseen hands, constantly changing its perception as new information is disclosed during the play. We are always looking for ways to improve the search procedure. The difficulty is to arrive at a sensible play in a reasonable time. Despite the enormous calculating power of modern computers, the numbers involved are gigantic. People who buy the program don't want it to sit there for ages before playing each card, so the depth of searches is limited by commercial and practical factors." (from 1999)
Blue Chip Bridge participated in the ACBL Computer Bridge World Championships from 1998-2006., at best 6th place in the round robin. In 2008 Blue Chip Bridge didn't participate, but played a
role in the experimental Individuals. Ian Trackman has invented the protocol used in the event for network play, the Blue Chip Bridge Protocol.
Blue Chip Bridge is a commercial program. A Demo is available for download.
It is only available for Windows.
Blue Chip Bridge is not available for Mac, but can be run with a Windows emulator, Virtual PC.
Blue Chip Bridge supports the following systems: ACOL, 5 Card Major, Standard English, Andrew Robson and 11 configurable conventions. It is the best program for Acol players according to Zia Mahmood.
Play up to 16 boards in an IMP scored match against the robot or play random deals.