The Simplified Club Program is primarily designed as a tool for practicing bidding in the Simplified Club System or Standard Amwerican Yellow Card. The operation of the program is fairly intuitive for the user who has some familiarity with the game of bridge and the Simplified Club System or the Standard American Yellow Card system.
The usual course of play uses just two entries in the File menu: Deal and Play. After starting up the program, you click on the Deal menu item, and the computer deals out the cards. The West hand is always the first to deal. The computer bids the hands around to South -- always your hand -- and then displays the bidding window for you to select a bid. Select the entries for your bid from the lists by clicking on them (if nothing is selected, the default bid is a pass) and press the Submit Bid button to make your bid. If you want to review the bidding before making your bid, click on the Explain Bidding button. A window will appear listing each bid made and, for the program bids, an explanation of what the bid means. While you are learning a bidding system, you should make frequent use of the Explain Bidding feature. In addition, if you get stuck, you can click on Suggest Bid in the Help menu, and the computer will tell you what it would bid in your situation. If you realize you have made a mistake in your bidding, you can click on the File>Rebid menu entry, and the bidding will be restarted from the beginning. If you want to change the bidding options, for example, the system or conventions used, you cannot do that in the middle of bidding. You must first select the File>Reset menu entry. This will cause the bidding to be stopped and enables the bidding related functions in the Options menu.
The default bidding system is the Simplified Club System. If you wish to change to Standard American Yellow Card, you should click on the Options>ACBL SAYC menu entry. The menu entry for the currently active bidding system will be checked in the Options menu.
Once the bidding is complete, you click on the Play menu item to initiate play of the hand. If your partnership won the bid, the hands will be rotated if necessary to make the South hand the declarer and the North hand Dummy. West will then play a card, placing it on the "table," the square box in the center of the window. The North hand (dummy) and the South hand (declarer) will then be displayed. When it is dummy's turn to play a card, the message "Play a card from dummy" will appear above the table. You select the card to play by clicking on it in dummy's hand. When it is declarerís turn, the message "Play a card from your hand." appears below the display of your cards. If East-West won the bid, you will keep your cards. The play is the same as when you have won the bid except the North hand is played by the computer, and either you or the North hand have to lead to initiate play.
When four cards have been played on a trick, a "trick complete" window pops up with a continue button. The cards of the last trick will remain on the table until you click on the continue button, giving you the chance to evaluate what has been played. The upper left hand corner of the screen displays the current contract and a running total of the tricks won by each partnership. When the last trick has been played, the Game Complete window will pop up with a statement about whether you made the bid and how many over or under-tricks, if any, you made. If scoring is enabled, the score pad will then be displayed with the current score. (Scoring will be disabled if the hand is being rebid or replayed or if any of the options are selected that give you an unfair advantage over the computer.)
The program offers a range of options beyond straight bidding and play. After you have bid a hand, if you want to see if you bid it correctly, you can select the Autobid option and rebid the hand. The computer will bid all of the hands, displaying the cards in each hand so you can see the features of the hand on which the bids were based. If you are only interested in declarer play, you can select the Play All Hands option, and you will be made declarer for all hands after bidding is complete. You can play the hands double-dummy, and if you are not interested in defensive bidding, you can give the North-South hand varying degrees of preferences in the deal.
The following is a brief description of the menus and the functions of the menu items.
The File Menu
- Deal: As might be expected, selecting the Deal menu entry results in the cards being dealt. After completing the deal, the program initiates the bidding. Unless the Autobid option is selected, only the cards in the South hand, which is your hand, are shown. On the first deal, the West hand bids first, and the program will bid the hands around to South. On each subsequent deal, the first bidder (the hypothetical dealer) moves clockwise around the table as in a real Bridge game. When it is your turn to bid, a bid selection box will appear with lists for selecting your bid.
- Rebid: Selecting the Rebid menu entry results in the bidding of the hand restarting from the beginning. This function is useful if you are not happy with the results of the bidding and would like to try a different approach or if you would like to see how the program would have bid the hand. For the latter purpose, you would first select the Autobid option before rebidding. Selecting the Rebid function will disable scoring until the next deal.
- Play: When the Play menu entry is selected, if your partnership won the bid or if the Play All Hands option has been selected, the hands will be rotated as necessary to make the South hand the declarer and the North hand Dummy, and West will lead a card to initiate play. Both your hand and dummies hand will be displayed. If East is declarer, you will need to lead to start play, after which the West hand will be displayed as dummy. If West is the declarer, the computer will play a card from the North hand and from the East hand, and the East hand will be displayed as dummy. Play will continue as in the normal play description above. Whenever it is your turn to play a card, either from your hand or, if declarer, from dummy, you may click on the Play menu item. After verification that you want to restart play, the play of the hand will be aborted and restarted. Whenever a hand is replayed in this manner, scoring is disabled.
- Adjust: Sometimes you may wonder how a hand would have played out if North had been able to bid before West's preempt or if you were declarer rether than defending. The Adjust function allows you to answer those kinds of questions. You can rotate the hands clockwise or counterclockwise, and you can specify which hand should start the bidding.
The Adjust dialog box also has an advanced function that allows you to change indiviual cards in the hands that were dealt. Clicking on the "Advanced" button brings up the Manual Deal window. Towards the left hand side of the window is array of cards laid out in suit columns, Clubs to Spades (which will be empty whenever all the cards have been dealt). On the right side of the dialog box are four hands, East, North, West and South, showing the cards as currently dealt. To move a card from a hand to the card array, you simply click on the card. It will be removed from the hand and placed in the card array. To move a card from the card array to a hand, you first select the hand by clicking on the handís label, EAST, NORTH, WEST or SOUTH. The label for the selected hand will appear in bold type. You then click on the card in the card array that you want to move into the selected hand. Clicking on the CLEAR button will move all the cards to the card array. Once you have placed the cards that you care about into the hands, you can click on the FILL button and the remaining cards in the card array will be randomly placed in the hands (and the hands ordered by suit and rank). Clicking the CANCEL button will close the window and any changes you made to the deal will be ignored. Clicking the ROTATE button will rotate the hands one seat clockwise, so that the hand that was East will become the South hand, the South hand will become the West hand, and so on. Whenever the hands have been fully dealt, a DONE button appears. Clicking on it finalizes the deal and closes the window.
Scoring is disabled whenever the Adjust function is used.
- Reset: During the bidding or the play of the hands, the options that relate to the bidding or the play, respectively, are disabled until completion of the activity. Thus, for example, you are not allowed to change bidding conventions in the middle of bidding the hand, nor are you allowed to switch to playing Double Dummy in the middle of the play of the hand. If you wish to change the disabled options without waiting until the bidding or the play is complete, you will have to use the Reset menu entry to stop the bidding or play and enable all options.
- Store: When a hand has been dealt, it can be stored in temporary storage for later recall by selecting this menu item. This function can be used if you think a deal is particularly interesting or is otherwise a deal you might want to play again, perhaps with different options, or to share with other players.
- Restore: Displays a selection window for identifying which deal, by deal number, to restore from temporary storage. The selected deal will be loaded into the program as the current hand. Bidding will be started immediately upon the restore as if a random deal had been made. Scoring will be disabled unless playing in duplicate mode.
- Next: Restores the deal from temporary storage that immediately follows the last deal restored.
- Load: Loads previously saved deals from a file into temporary storage, where they can be accessed using the Restore and Next functions. If a file in the wrong format is selected or if the file has been corrupted, an error condition will be flagged.
- Save As: Saves the deals in temporary storage into a file selected by the user. The saved deals can then be accessed with the Load function.
- Exit: Terminates program execution. No information about the play of the hands will be saved. However, the scoring of completed rubbers, as well as all cummulative scores, will be saved.
The Options Menu
- Simplified Club: Selects the Simplified Club System as the bidding system used.
- ACBL SAYC: Selects the American Contract Bridge League's Standard American Yellow Card system as the bidding system used.
- Conventions: Allows you to select which optional conventions (Stayman invitational, Four Diamonds Asking or Fit Showing Jump Shift for the Simplified Club system; Fourth Suit Forcing, Jacoby No Trump, Jacoby Transfers and Lebensohl after reverse for Standard American; and Michaels/Unusual NT and Help Suit Game Try for both systems) you want the computer to use. The conventions selected will be used for both North South and East West bidding. For a description of the Simplified Club optional conventions, see the Bidding Rules Outline in the Help menu. As to Help Suit Game Try, note (a) when used with Standard American, the two NT bid is not given any meaning and (b) when used with Simplified Club, a help suit bid shows a hand at the minimum end of the range (the 2NT 'suitless' cue bid shows strength) and a cue bid after the help suit bid shows a strong interest in slam. Editorial note: we do not like the Help Suit Game Try convention. It applies to a very limited number of hands and, in our experience, leads to a bad result almost as often as a good one.
- Scoring: You can choose one of three scoring methods: Rubber, Chicago or Duplicate. The rubber game scoring is according to the standard ACBL rules. With Chicago scoring, each hand is scored separately without part scores carrying over to the next hand. This is a good choice for practicing bidding because there are never part scores to take into account in bidding. Duplicate scoring compares your score on a hand with the benchmark scores that North-South received with the computer playing all hands using both the Simplified Club System and SAYC. It then computes a match point score assuming a normal distribution of scores around the benchmark scores with 20 pairs playing in the match. It also provides a cumulative percentage of total match points. A percentage over 50% means you are beating the computer.
- Autobid: If this menu item is checked, the program will bid all hands, and the cards in all the hands will be displayed. This option is most often used when you are starting out and want to see some sample hands with the bidding explanation or after bidding in the usual way to see if the program would bid the hand the same way. It can also be used if you are more interested in playing hands than bidding them, but that sort of defeats the principal purpose of the program. Scoring is disabled when this option is selected.
- Show hands after bidding: If you are primarily interested in practicing bidding and not in the play of the hands, you should check this menu item. All four hands will be shown after the bidding is finished so you can evaluate whether the bidding got you to the best contract. If you are interested in the play of the hands, you probably should not check this item so that you will not know what cards are in the opponentís hands. Scoring is disabled when this option is selected.
- Play All Hands: If this menu item is checked, you will play all hands as declarer, even those where the East-West pair won the bidding. Scoring is disabled when this option is selected.
- N/S Deal Preferences: This function allows you to have the computer give a bias in favor of the North-South hands in dealing the cards. Selecting "None" will result in random deals. Selecting the "Weak" preference will mean that one of the North or South hands will be able to make an openning bid (if anybody can) but does not guarantee that North-South have the better hands. Selecting the "Strong" preference means that each of the East and West hands will be weaker than the weakest North and South hands. It does not, however, guarantee any specific level of strength, only the best relative strength. Scoring is disabled unless the "None" preference is selected.
- Double Dummy: When this option is selected, the cards in all of the hands are exposed during play but not during bidding. Scoring is disabled.
The Scores Menu
- Score Card: Selecting this menu item displays the score card for the current rubber. The score card can be displayed at anytime during the bidding or the play. Upon exiting the program, the current score card is erased.
- Cumulative: The program maintains a running total of the rubber game scores of the East-West and the North-South hands in each completed rubber as well as the number of rubbers won. It also keeps a running total of the Chicago scores and the master points received in Duplicate as well as your cumulative percentage of total possible master points. Selecting this menu entry displays the running totals. The cumulative scores are saved upon program exit.
- Reset Scores: Sets all the cumulative scores to zero and erases the current score card. The sub-menu items (Rubber, Chicago and Duplicate) reset only the scores for the scoring method selected.
The Help Menu
- Explain Bids: Upon selecting this menu item, a window will appear listing each bid made and, for the program bids, an explanation of what the bid means. The bidding can be reviewed in this manner at any time, including during the play of the hand.
- Suggest Bid: The computer will tell you what it would bid in your situation, along with giving you an explanation of what the bid would mean. If you make a bid that is not consistent with the bidding system you are using (as determined by the computer) the computer will no longer understand what you are trying to say, and this function will be disabled.
- Bidding Rules Outline: This item brings up a window containing a summary of the Simplified Club system in outline form. It is, of course, not an adequate substitute for the full description of the system but rather is intended to remind you of the system's essential elements. The best summary description of the Standard American Yellow Card system can be found on the American Contract Bridge League's web site at http://web2.acbl.org/documentlibrary/play/SP3%20%28bk%29%20single%20pages.pdf
- Instructions: This brings up the window you are now looking at, but presumably you already knew that.
- Program Notes: Selecting this menu item brings up a window with a description of some of the design limitations of the program.
- Report Issues: If you have experienced a problem with the program that you would like to tell us about, you can use this facility. Enter a brief description of the problem in the text box. If the problem relates to the current deal, the reporting facility will automatically include a complete desciption of the hands being played, so you do not have to describe them. However, a heads up as to what to look for, e.g. "Passed 4NT Blackwood," is useful. You can also use this feature to get get help, but you will have to enter your email address in the description text box along with your question.