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some comments to BIC2 my personal experience with BIC2

#1 User is offline   jardaholy 

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Posted 2021-April-05, 15:51

Last year, I enjoyed BIC1, and when I found out that BIC2 would be organized soon, I started thinking whether to take part or not in BIC once more. There were pros and cons and the pros (to have magnificent possibility to compare my bridge with the players worldwide) finally won the cons. Right now, one day after the last board, I must tell, I am happy I took part, finishing at 42nd place (okay, not that big success, but I am satisfied). Still, I would like to mention some cons and perhaps it may help to improve the format and, in particular, sport quality of this competition.

First: I do not have that big problem with the mistakes of the robots playing my partners in common regular daylongs. The true is that there were moments in the past, I really was thinking about leaving BBO, because some (so many) mistakes of the robots were really tragic (passing grand slam invite 5NT during bidding or making unbelievable mistakes during the defense - losing tricks in trivial way be discarding top honeurs etc. etc.) Still, the true is that the same way, the robots can kill your result, they can help you improve it making mistakes when you are the declarer, and, of course, they kill the results of the others, as well. Finally, I would say, there is a kind of fragile balance between the cases, they help you and they kill you. However, it is clear that the level of randomness (uncertainty) of your result, although you play your standard level, is much higher - you can play as the God, but if the robot passes your grand slam invite, the eight-boards daylong is lost for you. And, of course, those, who play better, are impacted more in the bad way than those, who are not that good. Anyway, if one takes the daylongs as a magnificent training opportunity only, the purpose of playing them is quite fulfilled. But - BIC is something what is (at least) proclaimed as being on different level - this is real big worldwide bridge event so that the sports/competitive aspects should be pointed out and the highly increased level of uncertainty of your results due to mistakes made by the robots devaluate the quality of the result achieved (both in case, it is good, and in case, it is bad). It is very nice that new developments are made at BBO as videochat etc., but, for me, improving the ability level of the robots significantly would be of ten times higher value.

Second: A small addition to the "first". This is not just about spectacular "killing" mistakes - they are not so much frequent, anyway. However, there are quite frequent mistakes or "strange decisions" of the robots, which, as a result, cause that those who call for perfection lose against those, who not (by breaking the rules of bidding system). In BIC training, I got balanced 3-3-3-4 12HPC without any medium values (tens, nines) and my partner opened one club. I have no other bid than 2NT (11-12 HPC, invite according to the bidding explanation). My partner bid 3 clubs and I decided, with club support and values in all suits around to bid 3NT. I got something like 11% for that board, because my partner jumped to five clubs immediately (in the MP tournament, without no obvious reason!) - and there was very large group of "better" players, who just jumped (incorrectly, in my opinion) directly to 3NT after the opening bid, passed. Similar board appeared even once more in the same daylong, where bidding in (even more) non-standard way a real success. I am sure (or at least I hope) that, in a long term, more correct way would be rewarded, but my objection is the same as above - the level of randomness of your result is significantly increased this way and if it is not that bad in common daylong, it is bad in BIC. (Beware - this is not about the fact that it is better to hide the information about your hand sometimes, I know and use this aspect of bridge).

Third: In "common" daylongs, you get the best hand and you play the board as the declarer quite frequently. In the Zenith daylong and, in particular, in BIC, there is no such rule so that you defend the same number of boards where you are the declarer in. The problem is that the robot, your partner in the defense, does not provide signals, or provide them in a very limited manner (and even, quite often, breaks the signal rules, which are explained in GIB manual). It is a real torture when you are left in a pure guess situation just because you do not have signal, you could have had even from the beginner on the opposite side. Once more, the consequence is that the randomness of your result is higher - and the same is valid, of course, for the other players - so that the real value of your result is not that big you would like to. Back to the "first" and "second" point - I understand that improving the level of play of the robots can be very challenging task, in general, because bridge is (fortunately) very tough game. But I do not understand what would be that difficult in just improving just signaling made by the robots (which can be programmed quite simply, at least some signals, in my opinion). Back to "first" - that would be of ten times higher value for me than the video chat at BBO.

Fourth: I have one specific point directly related to the "third". I have been playing bridge on different levels for more than forty years. I was never educated that my first lead against NT contract should be passive (after the bidding sequence as 1NT-3NT or something like that). I have almost never seen such approach in the world championship games, which I could follow thanks to BBO. I really think that passive leads like that are statistically worse than active leads in a long term. So, my first, big, but smallest problem here is that my robot partner often does not vote for active lead and we miss a very straightforward best defense. But my bigger (psychological) problem is that even if I follow the strategy of the active lead and it should have been successful in the given board (there is real risk that it could have been a losing one, of course), my robot partner still does not return the suit and we lose the contract, as well. Still, the biggest problem is not directly connected just with the objectively best defense line. One of the big advantages of the active lead against NT contract is that the intention and next moves of the defending line are outlined for both partners, whereas passive leads leave you very often in the pure guess situation (see "third" point above) even strengthened by the fact that you do not get any relevant signals from the partner. And all the matter is even more complicated by the fact that even the robots lead actively sometimes. I understand that the solution is difficult here and my objection would be perhaps disproved, but perhaps there are many players, who would agree with me.

Fifth: I really can see that cheating has become big subject for the organizers of BIC. However, if splitting all players in smaller groups than before in combination with smaller total number of players than in BIC1 leads (in qualification phase) to the results obtained by comparison of performance of four, three or just two (!) players, whereas, in some other daylongs from the series the result is made from 10 or more tables, I dare to say that some results may be simply almost useless. Still, that was not the biggest issue for me - I just decided to qualify and, for me, the championships started by the finals, where reasonable number of comparisons (probably an optimum compromise between the anticheating effect and the aim to have the most objective results) was done.

Last but not the least. I tried to analyze my boards at first (BBO records provide very nice apparatus for doing that) and I also look at some extraordinary results of the other players to see, what I can do better. And here, I got a bit confused. In the finals, I opened the results of one player achieving more than 70% in one daylong. A half of his boards (the most successful ones) was bid in a very nonstandard way - opening one in minor suit with very typical 1NT opening hand ( balanced 15-17 points) and jumping to 3NT in the next round or opening one in minor suit with minor doubleton or tripleton and five card side major suit etc. Actually, I did not select this player randomly - I remembered him from BIC1, where he achieved unbelievable result of 89% in one daylong, bidding 10 boards out of 12 boards in very non-standard way and making 100% in half of the boards (typically by a bidding sequence where he jumped to 3NT after opening one in minor with 12-14HPC, getting one over one response and jumping to 3NT immediately). Since this player was very successful both in BIC1 and in BIC2 (as well as he has been at BBO generally), it seems that there is some alternate way of bidding at BBO, which is completely different from the system bid by the robots (and the players), which is still extremely successful at the same time and which is completely beyond forty years of my bridge experience. It is really a mystery for me. I know that the players sometimes just try to turn over the wheel in the badly started tournament, but this seems to be systematic approach, which, by the thinking of me as graduated statistician, should finish the 12-boards daylong with one or two 100% results, six 0% results and the rest somewhere between...

I hope that some players will find my comments interesting and wish them good luck in the next BIC.
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#2 User is offline   hrothgar 

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Posted 2021-April-05, 16:17

> This seems to be systematic approach, which, by the thinking of me
> as graduated statistician, should finish the 12-boards daylong
> with one or two 100% results, six 0% results and the rest
> somewhere between...

Many players are trying to maximize the chance that they finish in one of a small number of top positions.

To them, a 60% game is not better than a 30% game.
As such, they tend to adopt high variance strategies.

Given the small number of boards that events like the BIC use, players who want to win there are very strong incentives to do so....
Alderaan delenda est
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#3 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2021-April-05, 16:33

You make many interesting points - all of which are the subject of frequent discussion here.

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First: "Mistakes that GIB makes."

As you say, everyone suffers in the same way. So-called "poor-play" by GIB is a part of the contest. Since GIB relies on information provided during the bidding and play to make its decisions, results will differ depending on how you bid - see point 2.

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Second: "Non-Standard" bidding

Playing against GIB is a very different game when compared with so-called "real Bridge". Much of the expert advice you see on this Forum comes from superb players with (apparently) little experience playing against GIB (judging from their number masterpoints on BBO).
In saying this, I am not disputing these people's talent - I read what they have to say carefully and take note. But, they are playing a different game. It is a bit like comparing cricket and baseball. Sure, both games are intensely boring, and both require the use of a ball and a stick. It is also likely that many skills are transferable, but the two games are obviously different.
To "win" at robot Bridge it is necessary to learn a different set of skills - some of which people are kind enough to share on this Forum (thanks, e.g. nullve).

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Third: "signalling."

One thing that the robots have taught me concerns the relative importance of signalling compared with working out how to play a hand well in defence. I don't think I have the balance right yet, but focussing on what the discards of my "partner" mean rather than worrying about specific signals has improved my F2F game as well as my defence against robots.

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Fourth: "GIB Leads"

The books by Bird and Anthias (e.g. https://amzn.to/3rSQu2z) explain the logic behind GIB leads. The system notes (https://bit.ly/GIBsystem) clearly state that this is the approach used by GIB in determining what to lead. Much of the "non-standard bidding" aims to subvert this particular process.

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Fifth: "Anti-Cheating method."

Agree. The anti-cheating method used by BBO tends to suck the fun out of the tournaments. I can't think of any useful alternative - I wish I could.

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Sixth: "Clever bidding by other people".


Most people make better bids than me, so this is not a wall that I have run into yet, but as I mentioned above. It is a different game, and the bidding tactics that result in success can be completely different to the approach used in "real Bridge".
non est deus ex machina; även maskiner behöver lite kärlek, J'ai toujours misé sur l'étrange gentillesse des robots.
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#4 User is offline   spade7 

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Posted 2021-April-06, 05:50

The 0-100 BIC was useless - boards were compared 2 or 3 times.
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#5 User is offline   Douglas43 

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Posted 2021-April-06, 13:26

Cricket, boring? No wonder you left Yorkshire! Posted Image
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#6 User is offline   pilowsky 

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Posted 2021-April-06, 14:20

View PostDouglas43, on 2021-April-06, 13:26, said:

Cricket, boring? No wonder you left Yorkshire! Posted Image


Seriously? You need an excuse to leave Yorkshire.
With the frozen milk pushing the caps of the milk bottles in the Arctic cold?
Chip butties?


Take me home to Sheffield http://bit.ly/TakeMeSheffield
Take me home - Oakbrook Road
Life is cold there, Whiteley Woods.
Sheffield Wednesday, take me home.


The place nobody belongs. Posted Image
non est deus ex machina; även maskiner behöver lite kärlek, J'ai toujours misé sur l'étrange gentillesse des robots.
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