Bill Bleish - NABC Robot Individual Winner

It was great to catch up with Bill Bleish (78Jayhawk) from Kansas, USA, who came out on top in the Fall 2023 NABC Robot Individual.

Bill lives in Lenexa, with his wife, Trish. They've two children and four granddaughters who live within a mile of them. Bill retired from a sales career with IBM nearly 10 years ago and loves to play golf and bridge.

"I play golf in the warmer months and play more bridge in the colder months."

Back to his successes in the NABC Robot Individual. Bill has finished consistently well over the year, having secured third place in Spring 2019, and sixth in Summer 2023.

This time he's gone and won it! It's no mean feat as it's a nationally-rated tournament where top players from all over compete for the title.

"It is so hard to win. One small misstep or judgement error can kill your chances. I feel very fortunate to have come out on top against some very strong players."

Given his track record of consistency in the NABC Robot Individual, it's good to find out a little about his strategy;

"I play the Daylong Robot Individual on BBO nearly every day, so I have a good understanding of the Robot bidding and play tendencies. I try to bid my hand close to what my robot partner is expecting me to have and don’t take unnecessary risks in the bidding. In the play, I try and make the right technical play while looking for ways to cause the robots to make errors to gain extra tricks. "

Looking back Bill thinks he's only missed one of the previous NABC Robot Individuals and he's a big fan of the event;

"It's exciting to get the chance to compete against world class players and test your skills against the best. I find it rewarding to make good bidding judgements or use my card reading abilities to make the right play."

Here are some of the interesting boards from Bill's games:

Click "NEXT" to see how the hand was played

"Here is a simple hand that surprisingly scored 100%. The robot opponent opened 1♣ in front of me. I have a double stop in clubs and just enough HCP for a 1NT overcall. However, I have flat distribution and no suit to run to if I get doubled. From my experience, I have seen my robot partner sit for penalty doubles with little or no high card values resulting in big penalties. I chose a simple pass. I got off to a low spade lead which was best, but as much as I tried, I could not set the hand (-90). At the time, I didn’t think this was a great result, but every other South bid with my cards, got doubled going down at least 100 and most going down more. A cold top for not doing anything special!"

Click "NEXT" to see how the hand was played

"This was board 19 of 24 in the final session. After a standard auction, West led the 4 to East's Q who shifted to a heart, to my K and West's A. West continued with the J to my Q. I played the ♠A, noting the fall of the ♠Q.  After pulling the remaining trump with the ♠10, I had to decide how to attack clubs. With East winning the Q at trick one, I read East to have the AKQ. (It was highly unlikely West under led the A and East would not play the Q from AQ).  Since this is a best-hand tournament, East was limited to 13 HCP.  With the ♠Q plus the AKQ with East meant West had to have the ♣K. Accordingly, I led a low club towards dummy, concealing my ♣A. West went up with the ♣K and led the 10 back! After I ruffed, I now had a chance to make this seemingly impossible contract. I thought about running trumps to see if I could induce a club discard, but I settled on a rather simple play first. I led the ♣10.  West covered this with the ♣J and Wahla, I had a parking place for my losing diamond!  Was this lucky? Sure, but I gave the Robots a chance to make a mistake. Other Souths pulled trump, ruffed a heart and gave up a diamond. This insured only one club loser but did not give the Robots a chance to make a mistake and allow you to make the contract."

Wow - nice reading of the cards there Bill!

For players who want to improve their skills, Bill emphasizes the importance of watching and learning from other players, especially when they achieve better results on a particular hand, whether through bidding or gameplay. He says,

"In the results history, you can see the board travellers and movies that are available after the session is over, you can easily see what others did to take more tricks or get to a better contract. Other than that, advanced card play takes lots of practice to visualize and execute squeezes, end plays and coups. I think playing against robots in the Daylongs is an excellent way to gain skills as there is no time pressure and you get many more chances to be the declarer."

Thanks go to Bill for sharing his tips and experience. Hopefully this will be helpful to other players in the future.

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