Why Q-plus Bridge?
This question comes in to two parts:
Why play a computer bridge program at all?
This question is more difficult.
Wouldn't it be better to play bridge at the club rather than on your PC?
Indeed, the authors have never thought of Q-plus bridge as a substitute for club play -
the intention has always been to provide a training tool. A bridge program gives you more, not less, opportunities to play bridge.
Having said that we do recognize as part of reality that good bridge players prefer to play
against other good bridge players - they like the challenge and it is hardly challenging to beat up a much weaker partnership.
This is where a bridge program - a good bridge program! - comes in: It provides a strong opponent always ready to play bridge.
But can a bridge program really be a strong enough opponent?
Let's turn to part two of the original question:
Why choose Q-plus Bridge in particular?
Q-plus Bridge is one of the few programs which plays bridge at club standard - if you can beat it regularly
you will be likely to enjoy good results at any bridge club as well.
Relative to other bridge programs, Q-plus Bridge is at the very top of the pack
in terms of playing strength - very few others are in the in the same league.
The tour on the following pages
will tell you in detail about Q-plus Bridge, its numerous functions and its appearance.
The following paragraph is not directly related to the description of Q-plus Bridge, but it might also be of some interest:
Will computer bridge programs ever beat the best human players?
I (Hans Leber, main author of Q-plus Bridge) do not see principle obstacles.
What has been regarded as difficult, for example, in defense drawing conclusions about declarer's hand from the way he proceeds, or as declarer playing in a deceptive way, is not beyond the scope of a program.
It is perhaps true that there might be a level of human imagination which is difficult to match for a machine, but then not all imaginative actions are successful, and it might be compensated by the strengths of a machine (no problems with concentration and emotions).
Also 'judgement' is not a problem because this is
a result of the simulation (which means dealing many possible hands and then calculating the outcome of various actions).
The biggest problem is that top players have a large vocabulatory in the bidding (and similarly, but to a lesser extent, in defense play), i.e. they attach sensible meanings to bids in many - thousands - bidding sequences.
If a computer program wants to get to the top level, it is necessary to match that, and this means a lot of work to do.
As a quantitative estimate:
While about 20.000 hours of work (in the case of Q-plus Bridge) were sufficient
to beat the first 96%-98% of the (regular) bridge players, about 30.000 more hours would be necessary to reach the top players.
(This is about mainstream thinking among bridge program authors. Only Tomio Uchida [Micro Bridge] doubts that bridge programs will ever match the best human players. Ian Trackman and Mike Whittaker [Blue Chip Bridge] think that the estimate is about right; Hans Kuijf [Jack] and Yves Costel [WBridge5] believe that not so much effort is needed, but agree that much is still to be done.)
While the development will continue in principle it is unclear if and when the needed amount will be reached.
It might sound surprising that so much extra effort is needed, but this also reflects the fact that the difference between human top players and average players is huge - it is no accident that on championships 'always' (i.e. during periods of ten years) the same names appear on the top, which - as a side note - is also a strong indication that bridge is not a game of luck!
Q-plus Software GmbH, Heisenbergweg 44, 85540 Haar/München, Germany. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org