Success in Spades: Using AI Planning Techniques to Win the World Championship of Computer Bridge

Stephen J. J. Smith, Hood College; Dana S. Nau, University of Maryland; Thomas A. Throop, Great Game Products

The latest world-championship competition for computer bridge programs was the Baron Barclay World Bridge Computer Challenge, hosted in July 1997 by the American Contract Bridge League. As reported in The New York Times and The Washington Post, the competition’s winner was a new version of Great Game Products’ Bridge Baron program. This version, Bridge Baron 8, has since gone on the market; and during the last three months of 1997 it was purchased by more than 1000 customers. The Bridge Baron’s success also represents a significant success for research on AI planning systems, because Bridge Baron 8 uses Hierarchical Task-Network (HTN) planning techniques to plan its declarer play. This paper gives an overview of those techniques and how they are used.

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