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December 20, 1987

PLAY BRIDGE? WRITE SOFTWARE? THERE’s UKP1m FOR YOU IF YOUR PROGRAM BEATS ZIA

By CBR Staff Writer

The best bridge player Pakistan has ever produced has offered UKP1m of his own money to the first person who comes up with a computer version of the game capable of beating him and his partner. Zia Mahmood, regarded by many as the best player in the world today, made his offer on BBC TV’s International Bridge Cruise. He was echoing a widely held view in the bridge world that while chess machines are able to challenge the top players, the best bridge programs are scarcely a match for the average club player. The absence of good computerised bridge games is something of a surprise given the ease with which much of the game can be reduced to a series of ‘rules’, in theory making it ideal for an expert system. Granted, judgement and psychology, two important parts of bridge, are near impossible to duplicate on a computer, but players weak in these areas have been able at times to win some of the game’s major prizes. Bridge is a four handed game played by two pairs, with partners sitting opposite each other. Each hand consists of an auction, with players bidding according to a predefined system to show the distribution, and number of aces and picture cards they hold. This is followed by play of the cards in a similar fashion to whist.

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