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On-line Law The future of Bridge?

#41 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2019-December-21, 21:17

View Postblackshoe, on 2019-December-21, 10:01, said:

How do those making rules for online bridge know how future programs might implement the rules of the game? Perhaps the first step here is to write a program specification.

IIRC, the old online laws simply assumed that programs would prevent the mechanical errrors that are obviously easy to avoid (AFAIK there's no computer bridge implementation that allows them), so there was no need to include the laws related to them. But rather than assume the programs will operate like this, the laws should probably mandate it.

Do other games have online laws? I suspect they do similarly, e.g. online chess doesn't need the touch-move rule.

#42 User is online   pran 

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Posted 2019-December-22, 04:46

View Postbarmar, on 2019-December-21, 21:17, said:

IIRC, the old online laws simply assumed that programs would prevent the mechanical errrors that are obviously easy to avoid (AFAIK there's no computer bridge implementation that allows them), so there was no need to include the laws related to them. But rather than assume the programs will operate like this, the laws should probably mandate it.

Do other games have online laws? I suspect they do similarly, e.g. online chess doesn't need the touch-move rule.

There are a lot of patience games available on computers, programming them is principally the same.
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#43 User is offline   mycroft 

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Posted 2019-December-22, 10:04

View Postpescetom, on 2019-December-21, 07:52, said:

Life for TDs and SBs may be boring without [mechanical irregularities], but others will not miss them at all.
I have played under screens (not enough) times, and have directed under screens once. Sure, the biggest benefit of screens is the reduction of several types of illegal or unconscious extraneous communication, but the effective elimination of OLOOTs, insufficient bids, opening bids out of turn,... is a big bonus.

As a SB I have no comment, but as a TD, "life may be boring" is - one way of putting it. "Hours of tedium interspersed with moments of terror" (to misquote, misappropriate, and horribly understate a common quotation) would be another. What my DIC told me when I started my screen sessions was that there wouldn't be many director calls (but keeping the game moving was going to be a much bigger part of my job than standard), but when you get one, it will be nasty. And that is definitely true.
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#44 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-December-22, 12:14

View Postmycroft, on 2019-December-22, 10:04, said:

I have played under screens (not enough) times, and have directed under screens once. Sure, the biggest benefit of screens is the reduction of several types of illegal or unconscious extraneous communication, but the effective elimination of OLOOTs, insufficient bids, opening bids out of turn,... is a big bonus.

As a SB I have no comment, but as a TD, "life may be boring" is - one way of putting it. "Hours of tedium interspersed with moments of terror" (to misquote, misappropriate, and horribly understate a common quotation) would be another. What my DIC told me when I started my screen sessions was that there wouldn't be many director calls (but keeping the game moving was going to be a much bigger part of my job than standard), but when you get one, it will be nasty. And that is definitely true.

Understandably so. But online play should exclude even more possible irregularities than screens, there being no physical presence of a screen mate or opportunity to interfere in tray movement, bidding card placement etc. The nasty moments for TD will presumably be mainly linked to disclosure issues, and that is partly linked to the choices that will be made.
Of course the dynamics of TD intervention change too - not being physically at a table in presence of players will make it much harder to interact and pick up certain nuances.
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#45 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2019-December-22, 20:52

View Postpran, on 2019-December-21, 14:38, said:

That is always the first step when writing (actually when first designing) a program!

(Speaking from experience: I wrote my very first computer program in January 1963 - programming language: GIER ALGOL 60)

You were a couple of years ahead of me. :-)
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#46 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2019-December-22, 20:56

View Postpescetom, on 2019-December-21, 15:43, said:

As I see it, the rules for online bridge ARE in large part the program specification.

Of course. That explains why, when I pointed out some years ago in a forum post somewhere or other about a ruling situation on Microsoft's bridge play site that the correct legal ruling could not be made because the software didn't allow it, the guy who then ran that site said, in effect, "well, we're not changing the program".
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#47 User is offline   barmar 

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Posted 2019-December-23, 00:37

View Postblackshoe, on 2019-December-22, 20:56, said:

Of course. That explains why, when I pointed out some years ago in a forum post somewhere or other about a ruling situation on Microsoft's bridge play site that the correct legal ruling could not be made because the software didn't allow it, the guy who then ran that site said, in effect, "well, we're not changing the program".

I assume you're talking about online bridge programs not implementing certain types of assigned scores, not the way they prevent certain irregularities. BBO is guilty of that as well, it doesn't support split scores.

BBO has occasionally been used to run ACBL district NAP or GNT qualifiers, I'm not sure how they deal with this. I suspect they transfer the scores to ACBLScore, and edit the results there, so the results on BBO are not considered "official".

#48 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-December-23, 08:53

View Postnige1, on 2019-November-29, 17:42, said:

Simplifying claim law. You claim by stating a number of tricks and playing on, with your hand exposed. Opponents can accept the claim. Or they can dispute it, by continuing, double-dummy (with Declarer playing single-dummy) A theoretical draw-back is that this permits declarer to embark on a fishing expedition. In practice, that doesn't seem happen, perhaps because only particularly naive and tolerant defenders would allow it. [/size][size="2"]


I was surprised this went undiscussed so far. I fully agree that claim management should be automated completely, at least for all but top level competition and perhaps even there too. The current non-electronic rules are contorted, encourage weak players to make rash choices, deter strong players from making reasonable claims, leave room for gamesmanship on both sides and require TDs to spend much time producing verdics which rarely convince all - so an automated solution can hardly be worse.

Having said that, I'm not wholly comfortable with the actual solution proposed by nige1. I like the fact that it is automated, and that it avoids the minefield of stating/following a line of play. But there is that small risk of a 'fishing expedition' by Declarer, and perhaps also the opposite risk of a 'fishing expedition' by opponents keen to defend double-dummy. More important to my eyes, this solution maintains the 'induced confusion' risk of current non-electronic rules, in that a player may be disconcerted by the request to play on and then make errors he would not have made had he omitted to claim and simply played to the end (I note on BW that even top players are wary of this risk and advise against playing on after a claim is disputed).

Does anyone else share these concerns and/or or have an alternative solution?
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#49 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2019-December-23, 09:42

View Postbarmar, on 2019-December-23, 00:37, said:

I assume you're talking about online bridge programs not implementing certain types of assigned scores, not the way they prevent certain irregularities. BBO is guilty of that as well, it doesn't support split scores.

It may have been that, I don't remember the details, though ISTR it involved Law 8 somehow.
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Posted 2019-December-24, 10:13

 blackshoe, on 2019-December-23, 09:42, said:

It may have been that, I don't remember the details, though ISTR it involved Law 8 somehow.

That's probably 8B1, which says that when the round is called, tables that are in the middle of a board can finish playing it. BBO violates that in "clocked" tournaments, canceling the rest of the board, assigning average to both sides, and allowing the TD to adjust the score.

#51 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2019-December-24, 10:53

Probably, yeah. Not sure that the MS site allowed the TD to adjust the score, but it was long ago so I may have forgotten some aspects.
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#52 User is online   nige1 

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Posted 2019-December-24, 11:11

 pescetom, on 2019-December-23, 08:53, said:

I was surprised this went undiscussed so far. I fully agree that claim management should be automated completely, at least for all but top level competition and perhaps even there too. The current non-electronic rules are contorted, encourage weak players to make rash choices, deter strong players from making reasonable claims, leave room for gamesmanship on both sides and require TDs to spend much time producing verdics which rarely convince all - so an automated solution can hardly be worse. Having said that, I'm not wholly comfortable with the actual solution proposed by nige1. I like the fact that it is automated, and that it avoids the minefield of stating/following a line of play. But there is that small risk of a 'fishing expedition' by Declarer, and perhaps also the opposite risk of a 'fishing expedition' by opponents keen to defend double-dummy. More important to my eyes, this solution maintains the 'induced confusion' risk of current non-electronic rules, in that a player may be disconcerted by the request to play on and then make errors he would not have made had he omitted to claim and simply played to the end (I note on BW that even top players are wary of this risk and advise against playing on after a claim is disputed).
Does anyone else share these concerns and/or or have an alternative solution?


  • When a f2f claim is disputed, current duplicate Bridge claim law rulings create controversy.
  • Many BridgeWinner posters seem to believe that it's unethical for ordinary players to dispute inadequate expert claims.
  • The BBO online claim protocol is similar to Rubber Bridge law and seems to be an improvement but it has drawbacks, as Pescetom points out.
  • I think Sven Pran once suggested that declarer should lay down his claim, card by card, in the order that he intends to play the tricks.
  • Charles Outred thinks claims should be outlawed. Declarer should play on to the last trick.

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#53 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-December-24, 12:21

 nige1, on 2019-December-24, 11:11, said:

  • When a f2f claim is disputed, current duplicate Bridge claim law rulings create controversy.
  • Many BridgeWinner posters seem to believe that it's unethical for ordinary players to dispute inadequate expert claims.
  • The BBO online claim protocol is similar to Rubber Bridge law and seems to be an improvement but it has drawbacks, as Pescetom points out.
  • I think Sven Pran once suggested that declarer should lay down his claim, card by card, in the order that he intends to play the tricks.
  • Charles Outred thinks claims should be outlawed. Declarer should play on to the last trick.



My suggestion FWIW would be for the rules to specify a simple algorithm for declarer play: if declarer retains that there is no better way to play the rest of the hand, then he 'claims' (without specifying any number of tricks) and manual play ceases definitively. The system will then play out the rest of the hand by following the algorithm for declarer and optimal double dummy play for defence. The score obtained will be definitive.
The algorithm would be along the lines of some RA regulations for resolving disputed claims with no stated line of play: pull trumps first, then play off the other suits, always playing high cards first. It would however be a bit more sophisticated, being able to perform basics like not blocking a suit and playing off a cross ruff final, but not taking impasses or seeking end plays or whatever.
As an incentive to claim, the declarer might accrue a time bonus or even a points bonus, awarded on the basis of the number of tricks played automatically.

One obvious argument against this would be that it is generous to beginners and limits experts, but the majority of players are neither and in any case I'm not certain this argument is valid. Ordinary opponents might be grateful that a beginner can claim in a timely fashion rather than playing painfully slow in fear of a mistake. Experts who can see a more promising line of play can always just play it out, Outred style (and with the current rules they are well advised to do that anyway). Another argument of course is that it is incompatible with non-electronic play, except perhaps in a vugraph like situation.
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#54 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2019-December-24, 13:30

Whatever algorithm you come up with, it will turn out in practice to have unexpected flaws - and so people will still bitch about claims.
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#55 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-December-24, 16:24

 blackshoe, on 2019-December-24, 13:30, said:

Whatever algorithm you come up with, it will turn out in practice to have unexpected flaws - and so people will still bitch about claims.

Well nobody should expect it to do anything more than it promises, and that should be simple enough to state in a few lines. The objective is merely to play out "boring" situations automatically in a simple predictable way. If people want better play than that then they provide it themselves. It should of course be possible to practice with the algorithm to get a better idea of what it can and cannot do in various situations. The algorithm would be public so nobody could claim it was unexpected, at most unduly dumb.
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#56 User is online   nige1 

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Posted 2019-December-24, 17:40

 pescetom, on 2019-December-24, 12:21, said:

My suggestion FWIW would be for the rules to specify a simple algorithm for declarer play: if declarer retains that there is no better way to play the rest of the hand, then he 'claims' (without specifying any number of tricks) and manual play ceases definitively. The system will then play out the rest of the hand by following the algorithm for declarer and optimal double dummy play for defence. The score obtained will be definitive.The algorithm would be along the lines of some RA regulations for resolving disputed claims with no stated line of play: pull trumps first, then play off the other suits, always playing high cards first. It would however be a bit more sophisticated, being able to perform basics like not blocking a suit and playing off a cross ruff final, but not taking impasses or seeking end plays or whatever. As an incentive to claim, the declarer might accrue a time bonus or even a points bonus, awarded on the basis of the number of tricks played automatically. One obvious argument against this would be that it is generous to beginners and limits experts, but the majority of players are neither and in any case I'm not certain this argument is valid. Ordinary opponents might be grateful that a beginner can claim in a timely fashion rather than playing painfully slow in fear of a mistake. Experts who can see a more promising line of play can always just play it out, Outred style (and with the current rules they are well advised to do that anyway). Another argument of course is that it is incompatible with non-electronic play, except perhaps in a vugraph like situation.
If Bridge-law specified Pescetom's claim algorithm, then (as Pescetom implies) some players would do better to claim rather than to play the hand out. This practice could reduce the opportunity for such players to improve their declarer play
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#57 User is online   pran 

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Posted 2019-December-25, 03:06

 nige1, on 2019-December-24, 17:40, said:

If Bridge-law specified Pescetom's claim algorithm, then (as Pescetom implies) some players would do better to claim rather than to play the hand out. This practice could reduce the opportunity for such players to improve their declarer play

We have an (unwritten) "law" among directors that the Director shall never directly be involved in actually playing the cards for a player, his job is to judge the play suggested by the player.
The same rule should apply to any computerized bridge-law.
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#58 User is offline   blackshoe 

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Posted 2019-December-25, 10:54

 pescetom, on 2019-December-24, 16:24, said:

The algorithm would be public so nobody could claim it was unexpected, at most unduly dumb.

ROFL! :lol: :lol: :lol:
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#59 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-December-26, 05:27

 blackshoe, on 2019-December-25, 10:54, said:

ROFL! :lol: :lol: :lol:


I would save that for:

 sanst, on 2019-December-26, 02:57, said:

I’ve even encountered players who didn’t think it odd to open the auction with a double “because I’ve no 5 card”.

I find this genial - now Partner's redouble shows minors and 1 is Stayman B-)

Best Wishes.
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#60 User is offline   pescetom 

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Posted 2019-December-26, 05:50

 pran, on 2019-December-25, 03:06, said:

We have an (unwritten) "law" among directors that the Director shall never directly be involved in actually playing the cards for a player, his job is to judge the play suggested by the player.
The same rule should apply to any computerized bridge-law.


Under this proposal the Director is not even involved in play-out situations, let alone involved in the actual play. Note that the player when he hit the "trivial play" button wilfully chose to surrender his right to play further and entrusted the system do to so on the basis that the remaining play was trivial and time wasting. This is of course different from current Law, but not I think in contradiction with it's spirit or objectives. Claims were born to save time by eliminating pointless playing out, not to showcase Declarer's analytical skills, to take advantage of trustful opponents or to create interesting dilemmas for Directors.
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