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Computer Science’s Annual Bot Competition

Matthew and Sean are much amused. (Lance H.)

On April 10, students and faculty watched Mr. Feinberg’s annual bot competition unfold in the Dining Hall. Every year, Feinberg’s Honors Computer Science 2 & 3 students work on a code which they compete in a bot competition. This healthy match creates discussion in the halls, as students are occupied for the few weeks prior, tweaking their codes in every way possible for the ultimate prize: a tiny trophy and bragging rights. Last year, the competition was a game of Baloney or more commonly known as the card game BS. This year, students were challenged to code bots to play Mahjong – a traditional Chinese board game of strategy and luck that emerged in China in the 1800s.

Mahjong gained popularity across Asia quickly and later worldwide. Four players use a deck of domino-like tiles. The goal is to collect sets of tiles while gaining the most points. Players take turns picking up and discarding tiles. A player wins when they have 4 sets of 3 tiles, plus one pair of identical tiles. A set can be 3 identical tiles or a run of 3 consecutive numbers in the same suit.

All players start with 0 points. Four players are randomly selected to compete in each round. When a player makes a winning hand, the losing players give points to the winner. The value of a winning hand increases exponentially if it meets any of the following conditions. 

×2   4 runs

×8   4 triples

×8   only 1 numbered suit with honors

×64  only 1 numbered suit no honors

×8   all honors

×2   each triple of dragons

×2   triple of winds corresponding to the player’s seat

×2   winning tile drawn from wall

Forty-eight students programmed their own bots with 8 finalists vying for the coveted title of bot champion. Graham J. emerged victorious with a point total of more than 3,000. 

“It was fun going through the interactive process of testing and adding to my bit. And it gave me a sense of how in the computer science field you need to test and change your product a lot,” said Sean J., a finalist. 


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