All About Funbridge
Created by GOTO Games, Funbridge is one of the leading options for online bridge play. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at GOTO – Virginie Delattre, spokesperson, gives us a chat, and we talk about Funbridge’s Bridge Bot, Argine.
Q: There have been updates like the chat feature in March. Has the ability to chat engaged users to talk more during bridge games, and do you save conversations along with game statistics?
A: Yes, the number of conversations has increased since on top of one-to-one conversations, there are now group conversations. They are saved for users’ convenience but everything is encrypted.
Q: Funbridge is acquiring Le Bridgeur (one of world’s leading bridge publishers) and undergoing a merger with BBO. Will this change the user experience at all?
A: Nothing has changed for the users. Both platforms remain separate and independent. The offers and services they provide are quite different, which leaves it up to players to choose which ones suit them best.
Of course, our job is to continuously try to improve the game experience and add new features or game modes.
Q: Some of the largest players use Funbridge. Could you reeal some of the players that regularly play?
- Vanessa REESS
- Cécilia Rimstedt
- Krzysztof Jassem
- Zia Mahmood’s son
- Antonio Palma
- Alain Labaere
- Thomas Bessis
- Frédéric Volcker
- Cédric Lorenzini
- Jérôme Rombaut
- Milan Macura
- Adam Grossack
- Mickaël/Ola Rimstedt
- Nicolas Bausback
Q: Let’s talk statistics from the infographic published in 2019. USA, France, UK, Netherlands and Canada are the biggest bridge-playing Funbridge countries. Why do you think this is?
A: Simply because they are the largest countries in terms of number of players. And those territories also have really good organisational structures (i.e. federations, membership, clubs, etc.).
Q: I’ve always wondered why you don’t offer Money Bridge. Will this change?
A: This is not part of our strategy at the moment and on top of that, the French law doesn’t allow it. We really want to keep this spirit of playing for passion.
Q: What more new features are planned for the future?
A: Knock-out tournaments like in tennis (with 1 vs 1 rounds), easy tournaments for fun, monthly challenges in the main federation tournaments, playing directly from your web browser with no download required.
Analyzing Argine: Behind Funbridge’s Bridge Bot
GIB (or Ginsberg-in-a-Box) might be one of the most famed bridge AI systems out there, but it’s not the only one. Funbridge has “Argine” behind the curtain, in use on the platform since 2012. We spoke to Jérôme Rombaut, the Deputy Managing Director for Funbridge about what makes Argine tick.
“Argine is the fourth version of an engine developed by Funbridge,” says Jérôme, “and is indisputably the most complete one.” It started as a program created by bridge player and IT expert Alexis Maugat, but it wasn’t a bridge AI – it was only for analysing hands at first. The system was named Argine once Alexis joined the team in 2012 and it was put into motion.
The strengths of Argine, he says, lie in it’s versatility; “You can play many different bidding systems and select your own conventions. Bids are easily understandable, and its ‘very human’ behaviour make it a valued partner… Argine always responds to a given situation in the same way, which ensures fair tournaments.” he adds.
How Argine Works
What about issues with Argine? How is the system updated, corrected and taught to respond to things that it’s never seen before?
“Argine is updated once or twice a month,” says Jérôme. They receive around 500 problems and user reports – but out of the 500, only about 10% apply to software flaws and deals. “We correct about 50 to 100 cases per month.”
“Several levels of analysis are involved for Argine to find the right bid to make or the right card to play,” notes Jérôme. First, it draws from a large database for all basic bids of every system and for some card play areas (like lead, play, after dummy on trick 1, etc.). Next, there’s a further analysis based on the information the system collects during the bidding phases and rules for “non-codified bids.” Also, the system relies on a “Monte Carlo method combined with a 4-hand solver for the most difficult bids and non-codified card play.”
Simply put, Argine thinks on her feet.
The million dollar question is how Argine stays superior. “There’s a solid and consistent bidding system on which you can rely while playing,” says Jérôme, “This is the basis of a good bridge engine, and this is the case with Argine.”
“The large database of test deals allows us to make sure the improvements made to each new version do not disrupt what was working well before, and areas of improvement are quickly identified thanks to the large number of deals played by our users every day and their feedback.”
Have You Heard?
Recent rumors (in places including BridgeWinners) have wondered whether Argine might even come to be a replacement or alternative for GIB. Any truth?
“Our merger with BBO allows us to look to the future differently, and we’re thinking of what we could bring to our users to make our apps even better. No decision has been made yet, but we may offer GIB on Funbridge, and Argine on BBO in the short- or medium-term.”