SHOREHAM bridge players had a unique experience last Tuesday, when a computer turned up to play at their weekly club meeting.
Adur Valley Bridge Clubs member Mike Whittaker was putting his computer program to the test in what has been described by the club as “an extremely rare occurrence”.
Mike, who has been developing Blue Chip Bridge (Chip to his friends) with Ian Trackman over the last 20 years, said although the computer program had made occasional appearances at bridge clubs, this was a first for Sussex.
Chip was playing club proprietor Bob Whiting, his seventh human partner, at the weekly session at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Shoreham Beach.
Mike added: “Chip and Bob finished fourth out of 12, with 58.6 per cent, a good score.
“Chip played well and they might easily have won but for a couple of close decisions.”
Chip has represented the UK in many computer bridge championship events all over the world.
In 1999, Chip became the first computer program to play in, and win, a club bridge game, at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.
In the same year, Chip played in the $10,000 winner-takes-all Man v Machine challenge match in London and finished second to Zia Mahmoud, one of the world’s top players.
“I used to be a precious metals chemist but gave that up around 1990 to concentrate on bridge, a game I first became interested in while at school in Edinburgh in the mid-1970s,” explained Mike.
He joined forces with Ian, who co-presented the BBC TV show Micro Live, in 1992 to work on Chip using artificial intelligence techniques.
Now, thousands of bridge players all over the world use the program at home.