Thursday, 12 December 2013

aaBridge Watson Edition - Released

The aaBridge Watson Edition, just as the name says is a combination of the free bridge playing app and Watson's - "The Play of the Hand at Bridge".

aaBridge website

This new version is also a full lin file player. This means that it will play all the Bridge Movies (lin files) that can be found on the web. 

The very best source for these is the fantastic Hondo Bridge website, which is also the source for the Watson Book lin files embedded in the program.

For those who are interested and want to write their own lin files it also contains many 'how to' tutorials. These include how to package the whole thing into a single 'self playing' file that you can email to others, all without any programming.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Watch a Closed Torunament on BBO - How to

The EBU have started running tournaments on BBO. They are not allowing any one to watch (kibitz).  But you can still see the tournament and watch the play of the cards the moment the event finishes.  Any BBO tournament can be viewed this way.

The solution is in two parts -
   1.  -  Find the 'lin' files of hands you want to watch.
   2.  -  Watch them on a good lin file viewer.

Part 2.  is covered by some the posts of the series titled Counting the Hand.
Part 1.  is below -

Finding the lin files of your tournament

The quick way is to google  -  BBO hands  -  or one step longer, is to go to the home page of BBO and click the Hand Records item in the top bar.

then - click on

Click here for results of recent tournaments

Next you will see the list of organizations that run tournaments. As this post was inspired by the new EBU tournaments, click on the EBU link showing in the first column, ringed.

This opens the current list of recent tournaments. Currently they go back about a week.
I picked the oldest in the list. Played on - Sun Oct 20 4:00 PM. Here you have a choice.  Assuming that you want to view the better players click the Leaderboard entry, as marked above.  This open a window on the same browser page -

 The winners of the event were  Red Ace7  and  VMO60.  To watch their play click their percentage score. This opens the table of boards they played showing their scores.
Success - this is the list of lin files that we wanted to find.

See  Counting the Hand for all the details as to your choices.

If you have installed the Opera Browser and you have set it to automatically run aaBridge for lin files.  The with just one click it will download the lin file and show you the deal exactly as you want to see it.

On board 4 the winners got 65.38% playing in 4H.  In Opera I did a single click on the Lin, circled above, it downloaded the file and opened aaBridge to show -

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Cornelia's Free Bridge Class

For my face-to-face bridge I play at a small club in the UK.  Only a few of the other members play on-line. The EBU have just started running master points earning competitions on BBO. I hope this will give BBO more credibility in the eyes of those in the UK who are new to on-line bridge.

See my previous post - Acol Club on BBO - for hints on getting started.

One of the many great things about BBO is that there are a number of teachers giving classes.  This post is a shameless promotion of Cornelia Yoda's classes. Not only are they high quality but her free class (a shop window for her pay-for classes) is held at a time when us Brits are still awake and that is a BIG plus.

Cornelia's Free Bridge classes are held (almost) every week on Monday. Her class (2015) starts at 5:30 pm EDT.  10:30 pm  UK time (Except the two weeks a year when the US and UK daylight saving times are different).

You can hear Cornelia speak while she gives the class

This is an audio class - you can hear the teacher  but any questions (if you have any) need to be typed in the normal BBO way (more on this later).

How to - find the class

Register and get a Login ID for BBO.  OK - if you really don't want to do this you can follow the instructions in my Acol Club on BBO post except that you need to go -

       List all tables
       All Public and Private Clubs
       All Public Clubs

then on the line with  -   BILies Retreat  -  click  - Show Tables

Now set BBO to show Full Tables 1. If the time is about 5 minutes before the class then Cornelia's teaching table will be visible with Chick sitting in all four seats. Chick is Cornelia's BBO ID.

Once you have a BBO login ID the best way is to 'Friend' Chick.  You can do this at anytime even when she is not logged on. So do this well before your first ever class.

Login to BBO - your screen should be something like -

1. Click on the - Friends tab - so it is visible
2. Click on the - My BBO - (menu button)
3. Click on - Manage friends and enemies
4. Enter  Chick  in the input box.
5. Click - Add
6. She will then appear in your permanent friends list
7. LATER - when she is on line, Chick will appear under Friends 1.

When you see that Chick is online -

Click on her name 7. (above) and something like the adjacent box will appear.

Click on the Join table button (bottom left) and you will be taken to her table.

During the class you will told to view only the East or the West hands.  To do this click on the NAME BAR of the seat in question and with the mouse menu select  - Kibitz <seat name>

I suggest BEFORE your first class you go to a table (anywhere) and practice the above.

If you are not used to the BBO table settings, I recommend -

(Mouse menu button)  click on the cards / card area and select

      Display deal using pictures of cards

then (Mouse menu button)  click on a card and select

      Use bigger cards

You can hear Cornelia speak while she gives the class

This is an audio class. At the start of the class Cornelia will put up a link on BBO chat area of her room and all you have to do is to click it.  The link is -

Note - this link only works while the class is in progress.  When working the link shows a web page which you need to keep open to keep hearing her voice.  (BBO has its own voice system which Cornelia DOES NOT USE, so you can ignore any 'voice options' you see on the BBO table page.)

I know that this way of sending out sound works for Windows, Macs and Linux. I don't know what system is like for iPads or other pad/portables.  If you know the answer (or find out the answer) why not leave a comment and tell us all.

Don't worry if all this appears a bit daunting, it will all be obvious come the second week.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Acol Club on BBO - How to find it

We all know BBO is a top online Bridge site.  So you go there and log in or use the 'Look around our site' button.

Click   -   List all tables

Click   - 

All public and Private Clubs


Click  - 

The Acol Bridge Club  (public)
Once there you can click on  Full Tables numbered 1 and on Kibitzers numbered 2. Then click Join on a table with a few kibitzers to watch the play.

Having Lots of Kibbers can mean the play is more interesting.

Have a look under Option (top center) - More Options, for - you guessed it - interesting options.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Standard American 21 - Book Review

First published in 2004, with the second edition in 2006 this book is aimed clearly at ageing American bridge players who see themselves as descendants of the Goren way of bridge.  It also titles itself as a book for rubber bridge players but in truth only one chapter out of the 14 was given over to rubber bridge and that was well worth the read.

I bought the book because, coming from the Acol world, I wanted insight into five card majors.  This book precisely hit the spot.  It's a great summary of the background cloud of bridge assumptions that American bridge players have all grown up with.  With larger than average print the book documents these assumptions precisely and clearly.  This bidding culture has also updated for the 21st century, insisting that weak twos, Stayman and transfers are all basic, must have's, even for rubber bridge players.

Recommended - except if you're a good player who already knows Standard American, because in that case you don't need it.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

One Click to Open Web Lin Files

The previous series of posts covered using aaBridge to help practice counting the hand. The core of the system is that you find a list of lin files on BBO and view them using aaBridge.

For Windows users, Opera can make this last stage a one click operation.

Install both aaBridge and the Opera Browser on your windows pc.

In Opera -

1. Click     Tools

2. Click   Preferences...
3.  Click the Advanced  tab
4.  Click Downloads
5.  Click the MIME entry       application/bbolin        lin
6.  Click the  Edit...

Look to see if any of the applications listed are aaBridge.  Here it is the second application so you need to select it.

1.  Select open with aaBridge as the default action.

If aaBridge is missing ! you can press 2. Choose and add it.

3. Click OK
From now on, when you click on a  lin file showing on a web page in Opera

It will launch aaBridge and show the hand.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Counting the Hand 7

Length signals practice with aaBridge

While no genius as a bridge player, aaBridge does have autoplay capability.  This is most commonly used to play the defense when the majority of the high cards have been dealt to the North South hands with a real person sitting South.

If instead it you sit either East or West then aaBridge will still deal all the high cards to the North South pair and play them as declarer and dummy.  You can then practice counting the hand while your partner gives you count signals.

Look under the Seat and AutoPlay tabs for the appropriate settings.  aaBridge only signals with cards eight and below. It will pay no attention to your signals but that does not mean you need not bother to practice them.   :)

This is the final post in the series on counting.  Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Counting the Hand 6

Example 6a - Sitting South Playing in Six Spades

This is post number 6 in the series on counting.  For information on where to download the free multi-platform aaBridge program and how to set it up for training, see the earlier posts in this series.

Remember to click the AutoPlay tab and then look to see that Show Hidden Hands is unchecked. You should also open the Seat configuration tab and (as this is a preset example hand) set it to - "Use the 'You Seat' set in the deal".  This makes sure you will not accidentally see the hidden hands.

If you forget and aaBridge does open up with the wrong hand showing, then you can use the same trick that is always needed for the BBO hand viewer. Squint so you can't see any of the detail and click with your mouse on the compass name bar of the hand you want to become visible.

Run your copy of aaBridge and drag-and-drop 'Example 6a' from the lin file collection into your running app. 

Declarer has bid an unfortunate small slam especially given the lead of the king of diamonds.  The matching shape in hearts and diamonds removes almost all flexibility.  We have five spades, three hearts, a diamond and two clubs.  And that makes 11 tricks.  With a certain loser in diamonds we have to bring the clubs in for three tricks without loss.

Excluding crazy play by the opposition the only way declarer can make the contract is to find either a doubleton queen and jack of clubs or the club suit splitting 4 – 1 with the singleton being either the queen or jack.  And in that case we will need to be in a position to finesse the remaining honor.

The only reasonable line of play is to run tricks and see what the defenders throw away.  Follow in your own running aaBridge application.

On tricks two and three declarer draws trumps, West shows out on the second round and discards the four of diamonds, so East started with four spades and West with one.  As West started with the king of diamonds presumably from king queen and has just thrown one away, let's assume he has the largest proportion of the nine diamonds they share. Of course they may be split 6 - 3 and not  5 - 4. Ideally we want to fill in the blanks so we can discover the club distribution.

W     1 = ? = 5 = ?            E     4 = ? = 4 = ?

Follow along as declarer cashes winners in trumps and hearts.  On trick eight West, who earlier threw a heart when he could not follow to the spades, shows out of hearts and throws a club.  So we now know West started with three hearts.

W     1 = 3 = 5 = 4            E     4 = 4 = 4 = 1

So if we are correct about the 5 - 4 division of the diamonds we now know the clubs started as 4 to West and 1 to East.  And declarer might just have a chance but of course if West started six diamonds then he will also have started with only three clubs.

Time to find out more about the distribution, so declarer leads his losing diamond picked up by East's jack.  Who spits back another diamond, ruffed by declarer with the last trump.  Declarer now has K 9 7  facing A 10 5  in clubs and nothing else.  We know East has the remaining heart.  Declarer cashes the ace of clubs and the jack appears from the East, a chance!   But still no certainty.  The five of clubs is led towards the king and nine, West playing the eight.  And declarer ... ?

I don't need to tell you what declarer did because you are following along in your own copy of aaBridge and so you know.  Of course if you're not following along just go back a couple of posts and see how to install aaBridge on your Windows, Mac or Linux machine.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Counting the Hand 5

Practicing counting with aaBridge

First a quick recap, you have installed and configured aaBridge, you have been to the BBO hands site and have a tabled list showing some hands played by experts.
By clicking on one of the Lin links you can (after a couple of clicks or so) view and step through the play of the hands in aaBridge. If this is not the case then you need to go back a post or two and read up on the procedure.

Suggestion: - When you first start using this procedure and are trying to practice counting as a defender, select game to high level contracts that have gone one down. When you are trying to practice counting as the declarer, select game to high level contracts that have only just made.

Because the hands on the BBO site age out after a few months I cannot direct you to a fixed example that you can download from them.  Instead here is a link to a zip file containing some examples that can be worked through here in this blog post. Download the zip file, and unzip it and load the first example into aaBridge.

5a - Sitting East against Six Hearts by South

Follow along in your own copy of aaBridge.

If you are someone who likes to see the actual bids physically happen then you can click the button marked Bidding on the left-hand side of the green command bar.  Then click on Show Bidding and the bidding will play through to the end, you can vary the speed, (click on Options in the menu bar).  Click, Review the Play to continue from where we were.

What does the bidding tell us?  Despite our attempts to butt in with three diamonds and again with five diamonds, South forged on, all the way to six hearts. The three spade bid almost looks like a reverse, despite being forced there by our bid of three diamonds.

Surely South has to have at least six hearts and maybe as many as five spades, but four is probably more likely.  If this is so then South has at least 10 cards in the majors leaving only three cards maximum for the minors. South being long in both majors certainly fits with our hand shape.

What about the points?  We have a meager six, North for his two heart response can't have that many.  Partner?  Must have something serious for the double. She certainly can't be expecting, or shouldn't be expecting, any trick from diamonds. Either way south must have a powerhouse of…?

If you want to see only the first card of the first trick then click the Play Single Card button as shown in the adjacent image. This is normally done when counting as declarer but there's no reason why you can't do it when defending.

The first trick
Straight away we can see that partner must have the queen of clubs to go with her king.  And that's five points taken care of.  But let's back up a bit - we have just seen the dummy and if our analysis is correct about the distribution of South's hand, we can try to work out what shape partner must have.

Assuming South has six hearts then North must have three and we have one, so partner must have the remaining three.  What about the diamonds?  Partner supported us at the four level so she must have at least three of the four that remain. This leaves only one for South which in turn would leave South with only two clubs.

If doing this sort of thing is new to you then take a pencil and paper and start to write down your own notes.  It's slow and tedious at first but it's the only way to improve.  I am writing notes on the hands as I count them so you can too.

If we take South to be  4 = 6 = 1 = 2  then partner must be 3 = 3 = 3 = 4

The second trick
Wow, this trick tells so much.  It's now almost certain the declarer must have started with the five spades A K Q J 3.  Partner surely would not have held up the ace if she had it as we know that she has the queen of clubs which she would now want to cash.

Declarer has clearly under led his four top honors in order to get an entry to the table and has done this before attempting to draw trumps.  And if declarer has five spades than he has to have one less of something else. Let's assume partner has the four diamonds which goes well with her four level bid in the suit.  This means that declarer may be 5 = 6 = 0 = 2 and partner 2 = 3 = 4 = 4.  Of course South minor suits could actually have been 1 = 1 in which case he is now out of clubs and has one diamond which would go on the ace.  I wonder what declarer will lead from dummy?

So now we know declarer did start with a void in diamonds and his second club, a clear loser, has just vanished.  Is there a realistic chance that he has only five hearts and an extra spade or club?  The extra spade is out of the question because with a six card spade suit that strong, it would have been the suit to open.  As for the extra club; his bidding would certainly have been a bit reckless if he had started with  A x x  in clubs. It's looking more and more likely that our call of declarer
being 5 = 6 = 0 = 2 and partner 2 = 3 = 4 = 4 is on the money.

The fourth trick
Declarer plays the three of hearts from table and the ace from his hand, partner following with the ten.

The fifth trick
I am only showing the first two cards because the jack says it all.  Partner must also have the king because otherwise declarer would play it.  Declarer is playing the nine with the hope that the king and jack will crash on each other.  It's not his lucky day.  So six hearts is going one down.

Click the Normal button to leave Review mode and have aaBridge show you the way it likes to display a finished hand.
Yes, this was an actual deal found using the method I described earlier.  The only changes I have made were to remove the names.  It did not seem reasonable to leave the names on view.  I also rotated the cards so that the actual declarer was in the actual South seat.  This is simple to do with the aaBridge editor with just a couple of clicks.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Counting the Hand 4

Using aaBridge

I assume you have been to my bridge site, downloaded aaBridge, installed it and played a couple of slam hands. It comes pre-configured to do just that. The aaBridge program saves its deals as .lin files.  Open aaBridge then (using Menu bar | File) select - Open 'autosaves' folder.
Dragging any of the .lin files onto the aaBridge app will open it. Windows users should also be able to open any .lin file by double clicking it.

If you are a Windows user and instead the .lin file is opened in the BBO client program then see this blog post for how to switch the default '.lin file opener' from one application to the other.

Before we can start using aaBridge as our 'Bridge Hand Counting' trainer it needs to be configured.  Extend the right-hand panel and click on the AutoPlay tab.  Make sure that  - Show Hidden Hands - is unchecked.

Click on the Seat tab, look to see that the settings for loading existing and finished hands are as you want.

The settings image shows that you will initially view every deal from the point of view of declarer's right-hand opponent and that declarer will always be put in the bottom (South seat).

The final setting is in a way the most important as it tells aaBridge to start in Review Mode and so keep two of the four hands hidden.

We can now pick up from where we were two posts ago and open a BBO table of expertly played hands. If you haven't yet done that step, go there and do it now.
Now double-click one of the .lin file links showing in your table. Your browser may now prompt you, asking if you wish to Save or Open the .lin file. Choose to save the file and then drag and drop the saved file onto a running aaBridge application. That .lin file should now open in aaBridge. Windows users have the choice of selecting 'Open' in which case the .lin file should open directly in aaBridge.

The deal shown above is the same deal that was shown in the previous post. As you can see this time it has automatically loaded showing only the cards of the dummy and our chosen seat. The dealer is positioned at the bottom and we are seated on her right hand side.

So at last we have the tool that does the job and can get down to the real task of thinking and practicing counting the cards, that will be the subject of the next post.

Hints and Suggestions

Just as when watching play at BBO, aaBridge shows any alerts in the bidding panel.  If there is an announcement associated with that alert then it will be displayed when you hover over the alert with your mouse.

There are a number of options under the Start Up options tab which you should quickly look at and set to the way you most prefer.  I suggest you switch off the Splash screen and switch on most of the optional buttons, in particular the anti-clockwise and clockwise rotation buttons.

All the buttons and option settings in aaBridge have an associated hover-tip. Just hover your mouse over the item and the tip will appear. You can return to normal 'play the hand' mode by clicking on the Normal button bottom left.

Discovery - Windows users can have two defaults !

If you only occasionally use aaBridge to view the .lin files available from the BBO hand service then try the Opera browser as an additional browser. Opera lets you choose which application you want to use to open a particular type of downloaded file.

This way when you use Opera you get aaBridge and when you use any other browser you get the Windows BBO client and you never have to change settings again.

See    one-click-to-open-web-lin-files    post later in this blog.

It is a 'one click' solution.  You do one click on a lin file link in BBO and aaBridge opens with that lin file showing.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Counting the Hand 3

Using the BBO Web-Based Hand Viewer

The previous post covered how to find viewable hands (.lin files) that have been played by expert players.  This post covers how to view them with the BBO web-based hand viewer.
Follow the method given in the previous post and open a table just like the example shown above. The next bit is both important and slightly silly. Click on any of the Movie links.  The web-based hand viewer will open showing you
the hand.  As it opens squint so you can hardly see anything except a blur.  Now try to click on one of the player name zones. The South name zone is circled in the adjacent image.

When you successfully click on a name zone the other hands will become hidden. Now it is safe to look. I said it was slightly silly.

If you look back at the table you will see that there is a results column that shows both the contract and who was declarer.  You can use this to decide in advance which seat you want to make visible while you squint.  For example the third hand in the table was played by West. So if you wanted to count the hand from the point of view of the declarer's right-hand opponent (which would be South) then it is the South name zone you are trying to click on as you squint. As we will see later using aaBridge avoids all this fun.

Using the next and previous buttons you can now watch the play.  I agree that the BBO online hand viewer is infinitely better than a list of the cards played.  But in many ways it just does not work for me.  When I look at the South hand my brain tells me that South has more cards in clubs than in spades. I can clearly see that the clubs are one card longer than the spades.  But my brain is being fooled, there are exactly 4 cards in both suits.


Windows users have the alternative of installing the BBO client and clicking on the Lin link. A couple of clicks later and they should see something like -

This old NetBridgeVu.exe application can be very pretty.  (I am still a regular user of it as a client for playing on BBO.)  However, it fails disastrously as an 'Off-line Counting Trainer' because you always get to see all four hands!

The next post will cover aaBridge.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Counting the Hand 2

Where to find hands played by top players

Go to the BBO (Bridge Base Online) website. If for some reason you do not want to open a free account, you can still access their site by clicking the Look around our site button.

On the main site page drag the slider marked 1 to the center. In the Who's Online section the list of star players, those with yellow stars, should be showing. If it is not showing click the Stars tab (marked with a check mark and the number 2).

Now click the the light blue Sort by status button ( marked with the number 3). It will go red when the list is sorted.

Scroll down the sorted list until you get to the area where the players are marked as Playing Tournaments or Matches. 

At this point, if you wanted to, you could click on the player’s name and then when the next dialog opens you could click on the Join table button and go and watch them play live.  But this is not what we are here to do. 

Make a note of some of these players' BBO IDs (usernames).  Open another browser window and go to the BBO hands records page at -
Into this dialog you can enter any of the BBO user IDs you found earlier.  If there is some other good player such as a teacher whose BBO ID you know then you could always use that. The logic we are using here is; given we have found a good player playing in a match now, it is quite likely that they have played a match or two in the recent past. 

I suggest you choose matches and tournaments because that is where players tend to try their hardest.
In the resulting table you can see a Movie column and a Lin column. The use of the Movie column is covered in the next post.

(Yes there is a real player with a BBO ID of  'fake'.)

P.S. Occasionally, normally in what would be the middle of the night in the US, the BBO Hand Record service is suspended for maintenance.  So if you find it is not operating, try again later.