Page 0043

OCT_08_EB_p42-43 Debate 12/9/08 12:44 pm Page 39

Great Bridge



Flair Bridge

Or vote by post (Editor, English Bridge, 23 Erleigh Road, Reading RG1 5LR).

Comments for publication (not more than 200 words, please) are welcome. David Burn

Can you imagine Shakespeare or Michelangelo about ten minutes. Of course, the com- West North East South

or Beethoven being satisfied with not making puters would need to play an infinite Meckstroth Helness Rodwell Helgemo

mistakes? Would Botticelli have given us the number of extra boards to decide the title, 1♥ Pass

Divina Commedia just by not chucking? but everyone would have gone home to 3♣ 1 Pass 3NT2 Pass

— The Hideous Hog watch Strictly Come Dancing instead (a 4♣ Pass 5♣3 All Pass

competition in which the outcome is Invitational with clubs;

1 2

The right contract;

IF I asked you to name the first great decided entirely by the judges’ and the 3

The wrong contract.

bridge player to come to your mind, I’d be public’s flair for selecting people who

surprised if you didn’t pick Zia Mahmood. cannot dance and encouraging them to North led a diamond, and you or I or some

Or, depending on your nationality and age demonstrate this as often as possible at the computer would have won with the ace and

group, perhaps Geir Helgemo, Benito expense of people who can). played a heart, hoping that the opponents

Garozzo, Paul Chemla, Jeff Meckstroth, Flair is less easy to define. The Oxford would not find a switch to spades (not that

John Collings . . . Now, what have all those English Dictionary says that it is ‘power of computers can hope, but computers would

players in common? Their knowledge of “scent”; sagacious perceptiveness; instinc- be in 3NT anyway). Meckstroth didn’t do

the technical side of the game – bidding tive discernment.’ In bridge terms, this that: he called for dummy’s ten of diamonds,

judgement, percentage plays, Scissors means that flair consists in picking the right won by Helgemo with the queen. Obviously

Coups and compound squeezes – is no moment to do the wrong thing. Because the Norwegian maestro could have broken

better and no worse than other champions. bridge – even duplicate bridge – is not a the contract by playing either major, but he

But what sets them apart from the rest, what game of pure skill, it is always possible that returned an innocent diamond. Meckstroth

make them the people who are surrounded by doing the wrong (anti-percentage) thing pitched a heart, won in dummy, played a

by kibitzers at the table or online, is flair. you will obtain a better result on a single heart, and made his contract.

Percentage bridge is easy to define, occasion than by doing the right (percent- Was this good bridge? No, not by any

though very difficult indeed to implement. age) thing. This does not mean, of course, stretch. Was it great bridge? Undoubtedly

It consists in taking, every time it is your that you should do the wrong thing on – this deal arose in the 1997 World Cham-

turn, the action that maximises your every deal just in case it happens to work pionships and on the morning when the

chances of success assuming that everyone out well; the percentages will in that case details were published in the daily

else at the table is acting rationally. In work inexorably against you. What it does bulletin, the talk among the world’s finest

theory, a computer could be programmed mean is this: was of nothing but the wonderful play

to ‘know’ what action will work out best in Meckstroth had made (if Rodwell had any

the long run given any position that might comments on his partner’s bidding, he

occur at the bridge table (in practice we are Game All ♠ K753 kept them to himself ). I’ve seen a lot of

a very long way indeed from creating such a Dealer East ♥ K8 bridge, but that ten of diamonds – not the

machine). Four such computers pitted ♦ KJ974 two, which would leave a dangerous

against each other would play the best ♣ 32 holding in dummy, but the ten – remains

percentage bridge the world has ever seen – ♠ 10 4 N

♠ A98 the greatest play I have ever seen.

but would anyone consider it ‘great bridge’? ♥ Q3 W E ♥ J 10 6 5 2 In short, if you always play the per-


Would anyone even watch it? ♦ 5 ♦ A 10 2 centages you will be a good bridge player.

Imagine a world championship final ♣ A J 10 9 7 6 5 4 ♣ K8 But to be a great bridge player, you need

contested by two teams of computers. At the ♠QJ62 flair. Victor Mollo opened my address for

end of 160 boards the match would be a ♥A974 me; it is only fitting that he should close it.

0-0 draw in IMPs, but at least the spectators ♦Q863 Those who do the right thing and lose

would not be bored, for with current ♣Q cannot forgive their betters, who do the

processor speeds the event would be over in wrong thing and win. October 2008 English Bridge 39


  1. Page 0001
  2. Page 0002
  3. Page 0003
  4. Page 0004
  5. Page 0005
  6. Page 0006
  7. Page 0007
  8. Page 0008
  9. Page 0009
  10. Page 0010
  11. Page 0011
  12. Page 0012
  13. Page 0013
  14. Page 0014
  15. Page 0015
  16. Page 0016
  17. Page 0017
  18. Page 0018
  19. Page 0019
  20. Page 0020
  21. Page 0021
  22. Page 0022
  23. Page 0023
  24. Page 0024
  25. Page 0025
  26. Page 0026
  27. Page 0027
  28. Page 0028
  29. Page 0029
  30. Page 0030
  31. Page 0031
  32. Page 0032
  33. Page 0033
  34. Page 0034
  35. Page 0035
  36. Page 0036
  37. Page 0037
  38. Page 0038
  39. Page 0039
  40. Page 0040
  41. Page 0041
  42. Page 0042
  43. Page 0043
  44. Page 0044
  45. Page 0045
  46. Page 0046
  47. Page 0047
  48. Page 0048
  49. Page 0049
  50. Page 0050
  51. Page 0051
  52. Page 0052
  53. Page 0053
  54. Page 0054
  55. Page 0055
  56. Page 0056