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.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Counting the Hand 1

A clearer and more up-to-date version of this sequence of posts is now contained within aaBridge.  On the  aaBridge  Welcome Screen  click on

             How to  –  Defend like an Expert

you can download  aaBridge  from

This and the following posts form a series on how to count the hand.

You can jump to the other posts by using the Menu on the right.

You have a count on the hand when you know the original distribution of the suits in the unseen hands, ideally including the placement of all the hidden honors.

The aim is to give advice on how to practice counting and so train yourself to do this very difficult task.  You will get none of the “all you have to do is to count up to 13” nonsense, here.
Learning to count and in particular, trying to practice counting, is very difficult.  You need to treat it as a piece of “high level home study”.  Think of it as an elective on a degree course.  Pick a time of day when you are not too tired or have only just woken up.  I suggest that at first you allow at least an hour and try to have a quiet space with just you and your computer.  Of course, in an ideal world you won’t have any distractions.


I am going to show, in detail, a fully web-based way of finding and stepping through hands played by world-class players where you be able to see only one hand and the dummy.  Hopefully being experts their bridge will be sound.

The BBO web-based, all online hand display app, is way better than nothing. However I think that aaBridge can do better as it can be a clearer and easier-to-use method of viewing the files. Using aaBridge also allows you to replay the hand exploring alternate lines.

I will also give two complete examples of slowly 'counting a hand' then with practice we can all get faster.

The next post covers how and where to find the hands of the experts.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Swap between aaBridge and another App as the .lin file player

Windows users have at least two pc applications that can read and play .lin files.

How do I change the program that runs when you double click on a .lin file ?

Find a .lin file and do a Right Click on your mouse. On the mouse menu that opens there are two alternatives.

Either - hover over Open with and then go to Choose default program... - OR - at the bottom of the menu select - Properties.

On the Open with dialog click on the application of your choice and remember to check the "Always use the selected..." checkbox before you click OK.

If the program you want to use does not show but is already installed on your machine you can add it with the browse button.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

aaBridge and .Lin files

The .lin file format is a text based format used to store bridge deals and their play.  It has long been the format of choice of BBO (Bridge Base Online).  If there is anyone reading this who hasn't been to BBO then follow the above link to go there now and open an account.  You can play or just watch Bridge, it's all free.

BBO provides a web-based client as the main interface to their service.

In addition the Windows-based client, which installs the NetBridgeVu.exe application, is still available from their site.  Anyone who runs a Windows system and wants to study bridge hands (.lin files) should also install it.  Link to BBO Window's client installer.

Currently BBO offer the last few months worth of played hands as .lin files.  See here.  You will need to type in the BBO username of a player whose hands you want to look at. If no player springs to mind try "Chick".
For any particular deal you can click the Movie link and step through that deal in the web based player OR click the Lin link, download the .lin file and play it in a 'Bridge Movie' player that runs on your own computer. BBO calls .lin files 'Bridge Movies'.  I assume this comes from the fact that you can move backwards and forwards through the play of the hand.

You might like to download a .lin file and look at it in a standard text editor.  It's possible to make out what's going on. The hand layouts can normally be spotted as can the bidding and the actual play of the cards.

Another application that can play .lin files is aaBridge. This free application runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. It can be downloaded from my bridge site.  While there is only one .lin file format, the files themselves tend to fall into three groups.

Type I - A Single Deal

If you download a .lin file from BBO as described above then that is a type I file. It contains a single deal normally with all of the play of that hand.   aaBridge can also play these files.

Type II - Multiple Deals

These are very like type I except that there are multiple deals in the one file. Windows users who run the NetBridgeVu as their BBO client will find that when they kibitz (watch) any View Graph presentation the app will create a single .lin file containing all of the deals from that session and the play from both the open and closed rooms. This type of .lin file can be replayed with the NetBridgeVu program itself. aaBridge can also play these files.

A zip containing two example Type II files can be downloaded here.

Type III - Complex Tutorials    (aka Bridge Movies)

These are normally long complex tutorials with many stages during which a lot of play can be displayed along with questions and answers. Up to now the NetBridgeVu program has been the only standalone application that can play these files.   aaBridge can also play these files.

The major source for these 'Tutorial Bridge Movies' is the website of expert bridge player and teacher hondo717. Howard's site contains a huge number of downloadable type III tutorial .lin files. You do not need to have a lin file player to view his 'Bridge Movies' because all of his lin files can be viewed online with his web-based  'hondoplayer'.

Friday, 2 August 2013

SAYC Tabulated for BBO v0-45

Way back in 2008 I wrote a word document with this title.  From a quick google I see that it has spread, as these things do.

If you really want it the original and (not so much best as identical) then it can be found at

        Suggestion, check out aaBridge   -

much better than my 2008 work.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Track the Trump

Any new blog should kick-off with a truly interesting post.  'Track the Trump' or more generally 'Track a Suit' is something I only recently learnt from bridge teacher Cornelia Yoder at BBO. Cornelia is currently giving a series of free classes for beginners and intermediates on Mondays at BBO.

As soon as the dummy goes down you look at the suit you want to track, and say in your mind all the missing cards.  That is all the cards you cannot see. Then as each previously unseen card is played you remove it from your mental list and this is the important bit - once again say the complete, now shorter, list to yourself. Let's practice -

You are in 4 hearts and when dummy goes down this is what you see.

And the missing hearts are?  Say them to yourself.

King, Queen, nine, eight, four,  or   K Q 9 8 4  or  however you best think of them.

Cornelia asks the class to quickly type the list out so it can be seen by all. Repetition is the key to learning.  The class has to repeat the list to themselves and so must you.

So go on do it, as each previously unseen trump is played, repeat the now shorter list to yourself.
Do you know what the last outstanding trump is?  Of course you do, it's easy.  Yes I know this was a simple example but it works for hard examples as well.  Now all you have to do is go to your favourite online site, sit behind a declarer and track her trump.   Practice - Practice - Practice

A key advantage of this method is that as the hand progresses you have less to remember. Beginners in particular should never again find themselves wondering 'has that 10 been played'.

Once you have mastered the art of tracking one suit, the next test comes when you also try to track a longer list as a defender and then graduate to tracking two suits at once.