by Rodney A Ludwigs
Rodney at the Man vs Machine event in 1999
Rodney started playing bridge in 1968 while in college at the University of North Dakota.
For fun, he started writing some code in Fortran to generate bridge hands. It involved bringing a stack of cards to the IBM mainframe computer center, submitting them, and getting a printout the next day.
He completed his internal medicine residency from 1979 to 1982. In 1980, for one year, He did a post-doctoral fellowship in computer applications in medicine at UCSF.
By the late 1980s, he had a fully functional bridge playing program written in C, on an Amiga computer.
By the 1990s, he had developed a bridge program that was based on Prolog, C++ and along with a script language of Lua on a Windows computer. Prolog was chosen because of a requirement that the reason for a play must be explainable to the user. Thus each play had reason for selection and the user could ask for a message of explanation. This was completely different from the search techniques used in many programs at that time.
Rodney decided to sell Meadowlark Bridge using the then new fangled internet. It was a good selling program of the mid and late 90s.
The Meadowlark is North Dakotas state bird. The program used birds as a theme for for it's different playing levels and strengths.
World computer bridge championships were held from the mid-90s. He started competing in those and won in 2000 at Maastricht in the Netherlands. For each contest, He traveled with his friend David Walker. He was a great help with testing and better than a good travel partner.
Rodney then retired from computer bridge.
In 2016, he retired from his internal medicine practice to the north woods of Minnesota with his wife Pam. He began tinkering with Meadowlark Bridge once again. He re-entered the computer bridge championships in 2018 (Florida), and 2019 (San Francisco). Now he had resurrected the Windows program and planned to offer it for download in late 2000. He had also developed a library for bidding and generating bridge hands that can be used on multiple platforms. It's the engine for the "Tricky Bridge" program that is being released by Scott Hoffer for the IPhone in October 2020. But the release of Meadowlark Bridge 2020 was never done.
Description of the 2020 version:
- The bidding systems offered SAYC, Kaplan-Sheinwold, Precision, Acol, and a simple version with only a couple of conventions.
- There was an extensive collection of about 100 conventions available, ranging from Blackwood, to splinters, to RKCB, and such things as Italian control bidding. Even fit-bids and negative free bids were available.
- The program could load hands from PBN files, RBN files.
- It could display the expected number of tricks during the play of the hand for help with analysis.
- It could present all of the bids and plays, with a commented analysis of each bid and play.
Rodney is now working on a new version of Meadowlark, Bridge, where he had upgrade to the latest version of Python and implementing new ideas, which he describes in this article on Great Bridge Links
It's unclear if and how if Meadowlark Bridge will be released to the public?
Rodney participated with the new version in Christine Goulden's bot championship 2023.