phenom Noble Shore mastering game
Photo by Lincoln Ross Barbour
Shore (second from left) is not only eager to improve
his hand at bridge, literally, he’s
also intent on developing a computer bridge program to
compete with top
players in national tournaments.
By Laura Bassett
Noble Shore, a first-year computer science graduate student,
also happens to be one of the best bridge players
in the nation. But he insists with a poker
face that his outstanding math skills contribute nothing to his game.
play bridge, you only have to be able to count to 13,” he said. “People
shy away from the game because it is very technical, but it really only requires
logical reasoning. I am good at it, because I have played so much.”
Shore, 23, must have played a great deal of bridge in
the past few years to accomplish what he has.
In July, he competed in the U.S. Junior Team
Trials in New
York City, where he secured a spot on the team heading for the Junior World
Championships in Australia next summer. The United States only sends two
to this prestigious
tournament, mostly consisting of players who have already been successful
in the world circuit. A diamond in the rough, Shore was chosen among the
less experienced players for his talent and potential.
“It’s an honor to be able to play in the tournament,” he said, “but
I am most looking forward to the free trip to Australia. I have never been out
of the country.”
A native of Rockville, Md., he began playing bridge in
1999 during his first undergraduate year at Carnegie
Mellon University. As the poker
across other college campuses, Shore and his friends at Carnegie had
their hearts set on a different game. They played a particular version
known as “Recursive
Diamond,” developed by a Carnegie alumnus. The game involves a unique bidding
system in which each player’s bid reveals the relative value of his hand.
a few people know how to play Recursive Diamond,” Shore said, counting
on his fingers and listing each name. “Twelve, I think. They are scattered
around the nation now. I don’t mind playing standard bridge, but the Diamond
bidding system makes more sense and makes the game more interesting.”
Apparently bridge expertise was in the cards for Shore,
as he began climbing up the competitive ladder
almost immediately after being
the game. Only one year after learning how to play bridge, Shore
and quickly discovered his competitive edge. The American Contract
Bridge League inducted him into the Junior Corps in 2000, and he
He taught an accredited bridge course for six semesters at Carnegie
Mellon while earning his bachelor’s degree in computer science.
Shortly after graduating in 2003, Shore enrolled in U.Va.’s computer science
program, where he studies game theory, knowledge representation, and search techniques,
all relevant to his interest in computerized bridge. For his research project,
Shore has partnered up with assistant professor Greg Humphreys to develop a computer
bridge program that can compete with America’s top players in national
bridge is my hobby,” said Shore, now classified as a Silver Life
Master bridge player. “Computer bridge is my work. The bridge software
that exists is weak — I want to develop a new technique for a bridge-playing
computer program that is as competitive as computer chess programs. The hidden
information in bridge makes it difficult for the computer to decide on the best
moves to make, so I am researching new search techniques. It’s a largely
As complex as this project sounds, Shore regrets that
he may only be able to stretch that research
through his master’s thesis. “For my Ph.D.
I’ll have to move onto something bigger.”
Shore currently teaches bridge lessons at U.Va. and plans
to become a computer science professor after
earning his doctorate.
dealt, moving onto something “bigger” also seems imminently in the
cards for Shore.
is derived from an earlier card game, called
Both bridge and whist are of English origin, having evolved gradually
from several other games, principally triumph, or trump.
name whist probably originated in the early
17th century, and by the mid-18th century whist
had become the pre-eminent card game among
the upper classes in western Europe and North
supplanted whist in the 1890s. In turn, bridge
evolved into auction bridge in the first decade
of the 20th century, and contract bridge was
developed in the 1920s and ’30s.
the early 18th century, whist, bridge whist,
auction bridge, and contract bridge have each
reigned in turn as the most intellectually
stimulating of all card games. Successive improvements
in various features of the games have greatly
enlarged the scope for inferential reasoning,
psychological stratagems and partnership cooperation.
of the game
bridge, there are four players, two against
two in partnership. They play with a 52-card
pack, all of whose cards are dealt face downward
one at a time, clockwise. When play begins,
the object is to win tricks, consisting of
one card from each player in rotation. The
players must, if able, contribute a card of
the suit led, and the highest card wins the
trick. All tricks taken in excess of the first
six tricks are known as odd tricks. Before
play begins, a suit may be designated the trump
suit, in which case any card in it beats any
card of the other suits.
Encyclopedia Britannica online