Artificial Intelligence at bridge

Presentation of the bridge game engine

Argine

ARGINE, THE CLUB QUEEN

Argine, the club queen
Argine is the name given to Funbridge game engine (or artificial intelligence). The creators (Alexis Maugat and Jérôme Rombaut) named it after the club queen found on French card games.

Argine is the anagram of regina ("queen" in Latin). There is much speculation as to the woman she represents: Charlemagne's concubine, daughter of the Greek king Adrastus, Marie of Anjou, Juno or Anne of Brittany...

Just for the record, it is the only card representing a woman who is not holding flowers.

But let's return to Argine, the one you play bridge with.


ARGINE, THE GAME ENGINE

On Funbridge, you play with a partner against virtual opponents, i.e. robots, controlled by Argine. Unlike human players, Argine is always available to play with you. No need to wait until three other players become available to play a deal.

Introduced in Funbridge in 2012, Argine has never stopped evolving ever since (at a rate of 1-2 new versions per month).

The objective of each new version is to have her mimic human behaviour as effectively as possible. In January 2015, Argine reached the symbolic 200 versions mark!

Argine is literally addicted to online bridge. She plays endlessly! Indeed, every day, she plays over 5 million deals in a row!

Another staggering figure: in 2015, she played with more than 100,000 different players of all levels, from beginners to the best world players.

The great strength of Argine is that she is able to adapt to the bidding conventions and systems used by the players she plays with, which is far from being easy!

Indeed, she can play several bidding systems: French 5-card major system, English ACOL system, Polish Club, SAYC, Nordic system and NBB standard. Argine also adapts to the two card play signalling systems you can select in the Funbridge settings.

No less.

You should know that Argine will let you play in her seat when you will be in dummy just to please you! Isn't she nice?

Argine always tries to play quickly. With some partners, she is capable of playing deals in less than a minute.

Our queen is always courteous in all circumstances. She will never complain about you even if you make mistakes. She is not vindictive and is always eager to play. She will always gladly accept to play with you even if you have scolded her.

Argine will also accompany you on practice deals. She always agrees to replay them with you as many times as you wish. Take this opportunity to analyse her advice and dissect her play.

Since 2015, Argine has even been offering you to make corrections to your bidding at the end of deals to explain to you why you didn't understand one another.

As she wants to make sure there is no misunderstanding, she has introduced alerts in her system of play to get you vigilant on the bids that could be misinterpreted.

We have decided to introduce her to you today to give you further details on the way she plays (see below), hoping that it will allow you to better understand her.


Argine is very comfortable with the 1NT opening. There are fewer and simpler associated sequences! That is the reason why sometimes some players take the liberty of opening 1NT with a singleton, a 5-card major and 14 or 18 points.
However, let's be careful because even if this way of playing may prove effective, it is far from guaranteeing a top systematically. And you are likely to come a cropper.

Please note that if you bid a given suit and you have a fit, Argine will persist in going back to it. Likewise, if you have made the wrong bid, don't try to rectify. Argine has complete confidence in you and strongly believes in what you bid first.

If you don't understand your partner's or opponents' bids, display the pop-up window with bidding tips: it will show you the meaning of each bid made (point range and estimated number of cards per suit). This window will also be helpful if you want to be sure that Argine understands your bid. Indeed, it also shows how Argine will interpret your bid. Convenient, isn't it?

Likewise, if an alerted bid has been made, take some time to analyse its meaning. It will prevent you from embarking on a grotesque contract.

After the first bidding rounds, Argine does no longer reason like you. In fact, she selects a sample of deals that could match the beginning of the bidding sequence and analyses the result of each contract on all these deals.
Once she is done with analysis, she declares the best contract from a statistical point of view based on this sample.
This technique differs from human approach. That is the reason why sometimes she may want to stop at 2H for instance, but then if opponents bid 3C, possible distributions change and she thinks that 4H would be a good bet after all.

In defence, Argine scrupulously tells you if she holds an even or odd number of cards in all suits, except in the trump suit, until trick 7. Isn't it convenient for you? But it is convenient for opponents as well... Will you be able to take advantage of this information?

She has an unfortunate tendency to cover honours whenever she can. But she behaves like that with everyone!

Argine is an optimist. She considers all her opponents as perfect players to such an extent that if you run some master tricks, it is possible to see her discarding a bare king, yet coming after AQ, because she reckons that the king will be taken anyway. And she sometimes throws an ace to avoid a possible throw-in (that often you hadn't seen).

To make her plan of play in defence or when she sits across from dummy, her reasoning differs from humans. She tries to identify a sample of deals that could match the beginning of the bidding sequence and analyses the result for each card played based on all these deals. Then she chooses what seems to be the best card to her.

Two slightly sour notes:
  • In IMP tournaments, if Argine sees an opportunity to defeat the contract (even if it is sometimes a very slim chance) in her samples, she will seize it, which may lead her to play cards that can seem confusing or at least do not follow human reasoning.
  • She believes that every player will play in his best interests as if he could see through the cards. Therefore Argine will have trouble understanding that a player can't find a double squeeze and she will not hesitate to throw any card since anyway, in her opinion, the die is cast.


Argine almost systematically leads in partner's suit and when the sequence or at least the meaning are identical, she makes the same lead for all players.

If she ruffs one of your master tricks, it is always with a trump she would never have taken any trick with and with the aim of playing in a way she wrong-foots declarer in a suit with the help of her partner. And even if it is pointless on the deal, it doesn't cost anything either!

If you think that she plays worse than your opponents in East-West, you should know that they are Argine's cousins and play exactly with the same logic as her. The only difference is that they better understand one another. And as the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy, so Argine has less confidence in South's cards (or bids), whereas East-West have blind faith in each other.

Please note that you can report the deals on which Argine has made a mistake. But to ensure that this is productive and we can correct it, this must be an obvious mistake and played badly from a bridge point of view. For instance, if you lose a bare king after AQ, certainly you lose a potential trick but it is not played badly from a bridge point of view, therefore it is not worth reporting.

90% of reported cases are due to a mere lack of understanding between the player and Argine.

And on Funbridge (unlike what may happen in a club tournament), when playing with Argine, you should not experience a setback because your opponents have won a slam that has not been played at all other tables. Indeed, Argine bids in the same way for everyone.

SO... SEE YOU SOON AT THE TABLE?