ST Bridge Partners
--opponents and instructors too
Reviewed By HARVEY BERNSTEIN
Bored? Dying for a game of bridge, but can't find three other players? Or do you just want to improve your game. Three ST programs not only provide a computer "partner" and two opponents, but also offer a helping hand.
Two of the programs come from Artworx. Bridge 5.0 plays a decent (if uninspiring) game, while Compubridge is a text-based instructional program (written in ST BASIC, of all things). From Britain's CP Software, BrIdge Player 2000 with Tutor combines elements of both and is by far the best. All three packages work on either color or monochrome monitors.
Compubridge ($29.95), based on a popular book series by Shirley Silverman, teaches the basics of bridge using a combination of straight text and quizzes. Ten lessons cover the range from beginning concepts through finessing and overcalls.
While the ideas of a fully self-contained bridge tutorial on a disk (even one written in BASIC) might be a good one in theory, Compubridge leaves a lot to be desired. First, the entire right half of the ST screen is taken up by a chart of numbers and suits to be clicked on when answering questions in each lesson's quiz. Not only is this unnecessary in the tutorial portion of the program, but each chapter offers only four or five half-screens of text. If the program offered a full- screen display, this would break down to two to three screens in each of 10 chapters--not much depth.
In the tutorial, sometimes a sample hand is displayed. Unfortunately, it is wiped from the screen before it's discussed. This means that unless you have a photographic memory or want to flip the "page" back and forth (a very slow and tedious process), you must copy it down by hand.
Each quiz presents a series of sample hands and requests the proper bid response or card to play. By clicking on the aforementioned chart, players select their answer. Now, bridge is a complex game, and in many situations, there is more than one correct answer. Compubridge acknowledges this in its documentation, and handles it by "suggesting" an alternative. Choose a possible correct answer, and the program responds with "Another possible answer is..." Very diplomatic--except that you get this response whenever you enter an answer different from the program's best suggestion. But while there may be many correct answers in a given situation, there are more incorrect answers--which Compubridge never corrects.
Bridge 5.0 ($39.95) is far more successful than Compubridge. The computer controls the other three hands in a typical bridge "rubber." In addition to playing random hands, Bridge 5.0 lets you customize hands and save them to disk. Stuck for the proper bid or card to play? Bridge 5.0 has an "auto" mode that suggests the correct move if requested.
Bridge 5.0 plays good game, understanding both the Blackwood and Stayman bidding conventions. Graphics are good, and all input is handled with a point-and-click method.
Bridge Player 2000 with Tutor takes the concepts of both programs and ties them together nicely. The tutor is hardly for beginners. It assumes familiarty with at least the rules of bridge and, in the intermediate to advanced lessons, Stayman and Blackwood. It serves more as a means of brushing up on knowledge than teaching anything new. There are 20 fixed hands, each of which seems designed to focus on a concept--basic bidding, short bids, finesse, etc.
Based on the concept of learning by doing, you bid first and then play the hand. But the program will no accept a bid or a play unless it's the correct one! If you're completely stumped, press [Z] to display the proper move. This is fine during bidding, where the most proper response is usually pretty cut and dried. But during play, often there's no single "correct" play, and second-guessing the program can be frustrating.
After playing the sample hand, an analysis is offered. While designed to further explain the "lesson" of the hand, it's written in a style similar to the bridge colunm in the daily paper.
The Play Bridge option gives you a choice of bidding and playing hands, or just bidding. While you can't set up custom hands as in Bridge 5.0, you can choose between set and random hands, and always or never being dealt an opening hand. Each hand can be replayed upon completion.
The graphics in Bridge Player 2000 with Tutor are not as good as in the Artworx program, nor does it support mouse input, but these are minor complaints. Bridge Player 2000 plays a superior game of bridge.
Artworx, 1844 Penfield Road, Penfield, NY 14526. (800) 828-6573. Color or monochrome.
CP Software, Stonefield, The Hill, Burford, Oxfordshire, OX8 4HX, United Kingdom. 099 3823463. Color or monchrome.