NABC Robot Summer 2021 Winners Interviews

As per usual the quality of play in the NABC Robot Individual was exceptional. We’ve caught up with a couple of the winners of the Summer event, Christopher Moh and Adam Deeb. You can find all the results here.

Christopher Moh

Christopher Moh

Tell us a bit about yourself – where do live, do you have any pets?

I grew up in Singapore, but moved to the US for college in 2005.  I’ve lived in NYC since the end of 2008.  Unfortunately I’m not a pet person.

When did you realise you might actually win the NABC Robot Summer 2021?

I had a good day 1 (70.93%) and realized that if I stayed reasonably consistent I could place well.  There are a lot of good players in flight B and I never actually thought about winning it, so I just focused on not making too many mistakes and playing my usual game.  I’m happy it worked out!

Did you play in the NABC practices, and if so, did they help you prepare?

I usually try to play in the NABC practices, but this year I missed out — I played a few boards of one session and then forgot to finish it.

I play a lot with the robots already so I didn’t really need the practice, but the practices are good for people to get an opportunity to try out the robots for free as well as have the opportunities to win entries.

You have played the previous editions of the NABC Robot Individual? Why did you decide to join in this time?

I have played most of the NABC Robot Individual competitions and have done reasonably well — this is my best result so far, but I’ve placed in the top 100 more often than not.  But the competition is fun, there is a lot of time flexibility and it’s not too taxing. 

Walk us though your NABC Robot experience. Any boards you found interesting or challenging? 

There are always some boards where you think you get a good result but it turns out to be bad. 

Here is one from day 2:

I open a bad 14 count 1NT (the hand is just bad, in real life I might downgrade) and don’t reveal my club fit in response to minor suit stayman since NT often scores better than clubs (assuming both make).  But partner shows spade shortness and I know I have no choice but to play in clubs (opps have 10 cards in spades!).  5♣ is very cold, and I think I get a good board since 3NT is down on a spade lead.   But it ends up at 29% — at other tables, the usual auction is 1♣-(1)-2-3♣-3NT, and the robot on lead with KJT9875 of spades chooses to lead his partner’s heart suit in 3NT.  I also find that it’s interesting that the robot chooses to play in 3NT with a stiff spade.

There are also hands where I just do mildly stupid things and get punished for it.  Here is one from day 1: 

I have ♠AJ875 AJT9 K8 ♣A8 and partner opens 1♠!  After some keycarding, I find out that partner is short in hearts, has the KQ of spades and the Ace of diamonds, and does not have a red suit king.  At this point, we are in 6♠ and I have to make a guess if I’m playing here or playing in 7.  I decide that with only 9 known HCP, and partner not having any other Kings, that the robot is a favorite to have the Q and choose 7♠.  Partner comes down with a total disappointment and the diamond finesse is off for -1 and 9%.  Of course my guess about the Q is pure speculation and this is one of those boards where I should just take my average and move on.

Although the hands I’ve highlighted here are just in the bidding, the real experience of the NABC Robot Individual — and where you win your masterpoints — is in the play of the hand.  There are overtricks and match points that can just be easily ground out by good technique.  You can do very well by getting to a better contract, but I think these are relatively rare compared to just making more tricks in the same contract that everyone else is in.  This is especially because everyone is playing the same system.

What tips would you give to players who are new to playing with robots?

I would say read the tooltips and understand the system.  The robots aren’t very flexible; if you violate partnership discipline — in particular what your partner expects of your hand — you can often end up in a bad spot (for experienced bridge players who are new to robots, a frequent symptom is getting too high).  With experience with the robots, you learn where you can stretch the system (see next answer), but otherwise it’s good to start by playing by-the-book with the robots and learning how their system differs from the 2/1 agreements you might be used to.

“Normal” play, or gaming the robots? What was your strategy?

The answer to this question depends on the tournament and the payout structure.  I tend to play normally in the 12-board ACBL robot tournaments (with a flatter payout structure) and this event with 72 boards where you can accumulate a small edge over many boards.  In the BBO 8-board massive daylongs (which I’ve won a couple of times) there is a little bit more gaming from me — the reason for this is the payout structure is fairly top-heavy, the number of boards is small, and you need a pretty high % to place well.

The one thing that I do even when I play more “normally” is to stretch to bid 1NT with appropriate hands (this includes off-shape NTs, hands with running tricks, and opening 1NT with 14-counts.  But upgrading 19 counts to 2NT is a loser in my experience!).  I do think this is fairly frequent practice among experienced robot players.  I also tend to suppress fits with the appropriate kinds of flat hands and try to play in NT — but this is perhaps just general matchpoint strategy rather than something robot-specific.

What do you usually like to do or play on BBO?

Occasional robot tournaments and bridge practice with friends.  Once in a while I play in an online club or regional game.

How did you start playing bridge? And how did you find BBO?

I started picking it up at the end of 2015 in my office, and it stuck with me.  At that time, BBO was the widely recommended online platform for folks who knew the game well, and so that’s how I got to it. 

What else do you like to do with your free time?

My habits are all pretty geeky in nature; I spend some time on personal programming projects in the cloud, and spend a lot of time watching YouTube and Twitch streams/clips of various competitive activities, ranging from physical sports to eSports to card and board games. 

Adam Deeb

Tell us a bit about yourself – where do live, do you have any pets?  

I live in Clearwater, FL.  I’m married, with two children and one dog.

When did you realise you might actually win the NABC Robot Summer 2021?  

After rounds 1 & 2, I didn’t think I had much chance to win.  When I saw my 69% provisional round 3 score, I thought I might have a chance to win day 3, however, I still didn’t think it would be enough to win the overall.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that I tied for 1st place in Flight C.

Did you play in the NABC practices, and if so, did they help you prepare?  

Yes, I always try and play in the practice sessions.  It definitely helps to get a feel for the way the robots bid & play.  I try to take more chances in the practice rounds to see what works and what doesn’t work.

You have played the previous editions of the NABC Robot Individual? Why did you decide to join in this time?   

This was my 9th time playing in the NABC Robot Individual.  I’ve placed in the top 10 for Flight C once before, however, this was my best result.

Any boards you found interesting or challenging?  

Board 9 on Day 3 for me was a challenging 6♠ bid that myself and only two other players made. 

I had to trump two diamonds in dummy before taking out trump (which ended up being a 4-1 trump split).  After taking out trump and playing my two heart winners, I end-played West with the Ace of Clubs, who then had to lead away from its Q of diamonds into my KJ.  There may have been other successful lines of play, but I was happy with the board and the 96.7% score.

What tips would you give to players who are new to playing with robots?  

Three things. 

  1. Practice. 
  2. Always read the meanings of your bids and robots bids.  It’s important not to mislead your partner based on what they think your bid means. 
  3. Know that robots tend to make passive leads and use that to your advantage.  Always take into account robots bids and leads when declaring a hand.

What was your strategy? 

I play mostly straight-up.  I haven’t figured out how to “game the robots”… yet.

What do you usually like to do or play on BBO?  

I mostly play in tournaments that offer gold points.  I only have 17 gold points so I still need a bunch more to achieve life master.

How did you start playing bridge? And how did you find BBO?  

I learned how to play bridge from my grandparents when I was in high school.  I’ve always loved card games and bridge is by far the most complex.  I found BBO from the ACBL bridge bulletins.

What else do you like to do with your free time? 

 I’m a huge Tampa Bay sports fan so any chance I get to catch a Bucs/Bolts/Rays game, I’m there.  Go Bolts