Man vs Machine


Will these "guys" one day be impossible to beat? There are different opinions among the experts, time will tell...

                                                                           Zia vs Robots

The world's first international "Man vs Machine" bridge event was played on September 3rd and 4th, 1999, at the Andrew Robson Bridge Club in London. Most of the British bridge press was on hand to witness this historic event, as Robson and a host of guest commentators entertained spectators in the packed Vu-Graph theatre. Would bridge remain as one of the few skills that computers were still unable to master? Or would machines add bridge to the growing list of pursuits (that already include chess) at which they had proved their intellectual dominance? The outcome hung in the balance throughout two days of intense play.

The Man

Representing humans was international star Zia Mahmood. Born in Pakistan and now residing in New York, Zia is widely regarded as one of the best rubber and duplicate bridge players in the world. The flamboyant Zia has been outspoken for years about the chances of a computer being able to best him at the table. Now was the time for action to replace words.

The Machines

Seven of the world's best artificial bridge brains gathered to disprove Zia's claim. Representing America were Rod Ludwig's Meadowlark, from North_ Dakota, and Matt Ginsberg's GIB, from Oregon, the current World Computer Bridge Champion and the hot favourite to upset the mercurial Pakistani. Europe' s challenge was spearheaded by Q-plus Bridge, the creation of Hans Leber from Munich in Germany, which had finished second to GIB in last year's World Championship, and the top two British programs,Andrew Bracher's Oxford Bridge, and Blue Chip Bridge, the brainchild of Ian Trackman and Mike Whittaker. Two Asian contenders completed the field - Tomio and Yumiko Uchida's Micro Bridge from Japan, and the only non-PC based computer, the Saitek Pro Bridge 510 from Hong Kong.

The Contest

The eight competitors played seven-deal matches with alternating partners and team-mates. The team that scored highest on each deal won a point, with each team scoring half a point for a flat board. The first team to score four points won the match. Members of the winning team in each match recorded one Victory Point. If the score were tied at 3½ - 3½ after seven deals, then the match was a tie and each competitor received half a Victory Point. The winner of the tournament would be the first to record the result after 14 rounds:

The final result:

10 VP Zia

8 VP Oxford, Blue Chip, Q-Plus, Saitek

7 VP Meadowlark

6 VP Micro Bridge

5 VP GIB


Photos from the contest:


                                                           Dutch Players vs Jack

In the spring of 2005 Jack challenged various top Dutch players. The matches were all played and the very interesting matches were reported in several medias.
Reports were published in the Dutch IMP-bridge magazine first. The last episode appeared in the February 2006 issue.

1. The Computer Plays Bridge, I Don't Know Whether to Laugh or Cry - July 2005                                    2. Computer Bridge 2; World Champion Jack in Action - August 2005                                                          3. Computer Bridge 3; World Champion Jack in Action - October 2005                                                         4. Computer Bridge 4: Jack Just Isn't Human - February 2006

Setup of the matches: To be able to gauge Jack's playing strength objectively, the Jack team organized several matches against human opponents. In April and May of 2005, Jack played 28-board matches against seven strong pairs. All but the first of the following pairs played in the highest echelons of Dutch bridge, some having represented the Netherlands in European and World Championships. Just vd Kam - Hanneke Kreijns, Erik Janssen - Jeroen Top, Jan van Cleeff - Vincent Kroes, Paul Felten - Erik van Valen, Ton Bakkeren - Huub Bertens, Vincent Ramondt - Berry Westra, Bart Nab - Gert Jan Paulissen

To obtain a wide variety of deals for analysis, Jack played a different set of boards against each pair, choosing randomly from boards played in First Division (the second highest Dutch league) competition during the 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 seasons. The deals were scored at 'Instant IMPS' in order to get results quickly.

To simulate normal human playing conditions, two assistants sat at the bridge table and made the calls and plays that Jack indicated on the computer screen.

                                                       Milan Macura vs Argine

The Slovenien champion Milan Macura has played a series of challenge matches against the Funbridge Robot Argine, which are shown on YouTube. One example: