Friday, 19 December 2014

Learning by Watching and Thinking

A clearer and more up-to-date version of this post is now contained within aaBridge.  On the  aaBridge  Welcome Screen  click on
             How to  –  Defend like an Expert

This post is about using aaBridge to follow along with previously played hands.  You can choose to follow the hand either as the declarer or as a particular defender.  When defending, observing the hand being played allows you to concentrate on counting the cards in declarer's hand while the player you are following actually does the hard work of choosing the cards.

First, go to the aaBridge website and check you have the latest version, if not please download and install it.

An earlier set of posts, Counting the Hand  covered the basics of using your (or other peoples) played BBO hands to help you learn to count declarers distribution.

This post simplifies and gives more insight in to that procedure.  The latest version of aaBridge contains over 1,200 commented deals, sourced from the HondoBridge website. We will use one.

On the aaBridge menu bar click  Books  then click - Hondo717 - Mentoring 2008

The internal file  mentoring080103.lin   being the first file in that folder, will open and wish you a Happy New Year (for 2008).

Click the  Flow >  button   twice    and  Board 1  will display.  (see below)
The nine different deals in this bridge movie are shown as the bumps on the black-and-white navigation bar, bottom of the window.  Some of the deals are shown with labels like o2 and o3.  You can click anywhere on the bar and aaBridge will jump to that point in the Bridge Movie.

Looking at Board 1 you can see that the contract is 2 hearts by North, Howard (hondo717) is sitting South and is dummy (which shows slightly darker) and that the declarer sitting North is Kia (nome). We are all indebted to Howard for his bridge teaching and to Kia for producing these many hundreds of Bridge Movies.

Now you can play this Bridge Movie (.lin file) in the way intended by the author.  Just click the Flow >  button and watch the play develop and read the commentary.

But the point of this post is that with aaBridge you can do better.  Yes of course you should play through the hand as the author intended but first, I suggest you step through the deal looking only at one hand and dummy and so getting no clues from the commentary or other visible hands.

The way to do this is by using the  Enter the Deal  button but before you do that there are a couple of things to set up.

Viewing only one Seat and Dummy

Click on the Seat tab in the right-hand panel to make the Seat options visible.  If the right-hand panel is not showing drag the right-hand slider to the left.

Click on and so set the two options shown with red dots.

Now you can choose your viewing seat.  Select LHO, RHO  or Declarer.

The image above shows the Declarer radio button being clicked.

Clicking the Declarer radio button changes the display so that the declarer's hand is now shown in the bottom zone.

Click on the  Enter the Deal  button and you will enter the deal (image below) and see only the declarer 's hand, the opening lead and the dummy.  The declarer will now show in the more normal position of the South zone.

Click on the  Flow > button to watch the hand trick by trick as declarer.
A great way to improve your bridge is to go slowly through the hand, thinking all the thoughts that the declarer has to think.  How would you plan the play?  Maybe you can see a better way to play it  than the declarer did? Can you work out what the opponents have in their hands?

In this mode you have much more flexibility than when you are stepping through the main Bridge Movie.  You can change the visible hand by just clicking on any of the name bars OR show them all by clicking the show button.  You can move backwards and forwards in the play of the hand by using the navigation bar at the bottom of the window.  Just click the  Back to Movie  button to return to the main Bridge Movie.


A more challenging way to go through the deal is when you are viewing it as one of the defenders. Click on the  Back to Movie  button and in the 'Enter the Deal' question select RHO as your seat of choice (red dot). Again click the  Enter the Deal  the deal button.
Now you are viewing this deal from the point of view of declarer's right-hand opponent.  Just like at a real table, the declarer (nome) is on your left and dummy on your right.  Your partner sitting opposite has led the king of spades.

This is an ideal way to practice the many defender skills, such as working out where declarer's high card points must be and declarer's initial suit distribution?

If you are someone who prefers to study defense problems with the style of diagram found in newspapers and books, where declarer is always in the South zone and the defenders are always left-right then aaBridge can do that for you too.

Go back to the main movie using the  Back to Movie button and in the Seat panel change the answer to the 'In a Movie' question to Declarer (see the red dot).

Now once again go into the deal with the  Enter the Deal  button. This time you will see that the declarer (nome) is in the South zone, while you the RHO, right-hand opponent are unsurprisingly on declarer's right.
You are of course free to choose whichever style suits you most.  However my recommendation is that you try to see if you can to get used to studying defense problems with yourself in the South zone, as that gives a far more realistic experience when compared with playing bridge for real, be it at a actual table or online.

Summary of the Procedure

Move forward in the normal Bridge Movie mode, as soon as you see a new deal immediately look down and click on the  Enter the Deal  button this avoids seeing any cards in the 'hidden' hands.

When you have viewed as much of the play as you wish to, click the  Back to Movie  button and return to moving forward in the Bridge movie.

(Very occasionally you may find that you will need to move forward in the Bridge Movie for a few clicks until you get to a point where you can  Enter the Deal.)

That's it, now all you have to do is to find the time to study.

Tidying Up  and  Other Hints

Once you have completed a session using the Hondo717 Mentoring files, you might like to set the two Seat panel questions back to their default values. The default answers are are the first radio button of each question.

Large Computer Screens
If you have a large computer screen and you want to run aaBridge at a large size so that you can more easily read the text then you may find that the bridge diagram of the hands becomes unnecessarily large.  You can counter this effect by using the Size & Font tab and by selecting Tiny (red dot).  This will produce the layout shown below.

Stopping the Red Hint arrows

If you find the red arrow hints getting in your way then you can switch them off.

Select the  Red Hints tab and uncheck the four boxes.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Reverse Bergen Major Suit Raises

This post is a teaser to get you to read/save the printable version at

This post follows from the previous one, on Bergen Hand Evaluation.  The sample table below (one of 4 tables in the document) shows the meanings of the responses to openers 1 heart. It is shown here slightly cropped, to stop it from being too small to read.
One of the interesting things that the table shows (see the shaded bids) is why Reverse Bergen, where the 3 club bit is stronger than the 3 diamond bid, has a more natural flow.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

High Quality LAD - Bergen Hand Evaluation

Printable ver =>  High_Qualtiy_LAD_a_Bergen_Hand_Evaluation_mnemonic.

Marty Bergen's book – Slam Bidding Made Easier – introduced a deeply clever Hand Evaluation methodology. I think of this approach as being the – Milton Work Count on steroids.

There is a fantastic tutorial on   Bergen Hand Evaluation   at   where this   'Bridge Movie'  can be played on line. 

Alternatively  you can download the bridge movie by clicking on the bold link above.  It can then be played on your computer with the free aaBridge Movie player from

Note – aaBridge is my work and I am proud of it.  However I am in no way associated with the hondobridge website.  But I did indeed write aaBridge in order that I could play, on my own computer, all of the many hundreds of fantastic bridge movies that can be found there.

I see this as a supplement to the above tutorial.  The clear explanations and examples contained in it are as good as it gets when it comes to describing how to calculate Bergen's  Starting, Dummy and Declarer  points.  One thing the bridge movie does not do is offer any advice as to how to memorise the Bergen Method. 

High Quality LAD   is my attempt at an answer.   (The best thing is, for you to start the tutorial and then return here once you are asked to do your own full calculations).

The image on the left is a  mind picture. Literally the picture I bring to mind when I calculate Bergen style.  You will have read some of the Bergen Hand Evaluation tutorial so you should already be familiar with the following –
Hcp – High Card Points.

Quality – 3 of  the top 5  (in 4+ card
          suits only)  +1 each suit.

Length –  5th, 6th ... card in any
          suit   +1 each card.

Adjust3 – Adjustment for too many
         Q & J's  ±often zero.  Can go
          up or down.

Dubious doubletons – Qx, Q, Jx, J,
       KJ, ...  -1 for each. Always
       goes down (or is zero). 

Once you know there is a fit (3+ cards in short trump hand) you can add values for the fit.  Dummy (short trumps) is the simple case –  you only add for  D  S  V  hence the dashes in that table.  For a Singleton you add, 2 pts if you have only 3 trumps and 3 pts with 4 or more.  With a Void, you add the number trumps as points.   Declarer (long trumps) gets to double dip with the trump suit +1 for the sixth and any subsequent trumps. +1 for any other 4+ card side suits. Just remember the pattern 6  4  0  2  4  and that dummy is the simple case.

Open Min
13 - 16
Resp Min
 6 - 9
17 - 19
33 +ctr
37 +ctr