Vincent Brévart

Vincent Brévart

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How to create prepared games

and have them played from your site
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How to create a prepared game file?

If you have already read the Handling the deal files page, you should be able to create your own deals, and put them together in a file. These deal files are usually presented with all cards face up, but the previous page showed you how to easily change the presentation when opened (for example, by hiding hands or by giving control of South to the user). Despite this, all study tools then remain available, including the buttons to see all four hands and request control of the game by the computer. This study mode, very practical for presenting play situations and reflecting on the decisions to make, is not really suitable for playing in the usual conditions of a game. Now, students often very much want to play for real, and their teacher would also like to test their skills in a real game situation. This is made possible by what was called in my 4 programs the principle of prepared game.

You can group several deals in a file and have your students play them as a prepared game. The playing conditions are then those of a normal game (no possibility to see the cards, comparison with the computer, button for ending rapidly, etc.), but the deals played are those contained in your file. Any deal file can be converted into a prepared game. All you have to do is open the file, go through the File / Presentation of file when opened menu (or the Ctrl+P shortcut), and finally check the box below:

Prepared game

Box to check so as to convert any file
into a prepared game

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How to play a prepared game?

Once your file is defined as a prepared game, you only have to reopen it (by the Open a deal file button or by the favorites list in the File menu), to display a dialog box inviting you to play the prepared game:

Play a prepared game

Dialog box inviting you to play a prepared game

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Then click the Play the prepared game button to start the game. But you can also use the Open the file normally button to open the file and rework it if needed. Here are some important elements of how prepared games work:
  • A prepared game is always played in a fixed number of deals. The latter is the number of deals included in the file. There is no game won on a number of points to reach.

  • It is the first deal in the file which sets the rules for the whole game (unless otherwise specified - click the Help button to learn more). In any case, the rules of the game and the strategy options do not vary during the game.

  • Each deal itself sets the dealer and for bridge the situation of vulnerability. There is not necessarily continuity from one deal to another.

  • During their prepared game, the player can click on the Game scores button, but they will only be able to see the scores of their current game, not those of other games previously played. However, at the end of the game, this same button will display the scores of all the previous games. This arrangement prevents a user from being able to use the results obtained by another player.

  • If a student plays a game of several deals in a row, their teacher will be able to see the result of each deal at the end of the game by the Game scores button. But he can also see again each of the deals played using the File / Deals of the last games played menu (or Ctrl+D), and thus discuss with his student the difficulties encountered.

    Using the File / Create a prepared game, you can also create a prepared game from the last game you just played. This allows another user to replay your game (in the same conditions as above), and thus compare your playing level to that of another player. You may also have fun replaying the game yourself but in another seat (East, North or West). Or have it played by your usual partner, but in the North seat, to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your partnership.

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Special Bridge and website

To read even if you do not have a website
because solutions exist (see further)

How to offer prepared games from a website?

When installing SimiliBridge, files with the .bri extension are automatically linked to the program, so they can be directly opened from File Explorer, by double-clicking on them. The principle is the same from a web page containing a link to a .bri file. When you click on such a link, the browser downloads the file to the user's hard drive, and then offers to open it with SimiliBridge.

Depending on the browser and its download settings, the procedure may vary slightly. Some browsers first ask where to save the file, and then display a button or banner (often at the bottom of the screen) to open it. This will be done either by clicking directly on the "Open with SimiliBridge" option, or via a list where the program should normally appear.

When a prepared game file is opened from File Explorer or from a web page, the start window is simplified compared to the one shown above. The button to open the file normally no longer appears. The only authorized playing position is South. And the rule options are always those set by the first deal in the file. Thus, the teacher can be sure that his students will play his prepared games in good conditions.

Playing a prepared game from the Internet

Simplified dialog box to play a prepared game from the Internet

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How to display comments during a prepared game?

In a .bri file, each deal can be accompanied by a title or a comment. But by default it is not displayed during a prepared game. A teacher may wish not to disclose his own deal comments, or have no indication to give to students who will be playing his game. But otherwise he can request that his comment be displayed at the bottom of the screen, once the concerned deal has been played. To do this, he just has to put braces around the text he wants to see displayed (any text outside the braces will remain hidden). Here is an example of comment that will be displayed in a prepared game:

{Contract 3NT: Did you duck twice in Spades, and then establish your Clubs?}

Braces cause the comment to be displayed at the end of the deal

You can test the start of a prepared game from this page, as well as the display of the short comment that will appear after each deal played. Note that you must first have installed on your computer at least version 4.13 of SimiliBridge.

Prepared game N°1 Prepared game for first-year beginners (minibridge, 2 deals in NT)
Prepared game N°2 Prepared game for more advanced beginners (minibridge, 2 deals about the urgent ruff of losers)

Click a game, then click Open or Open with

Tip

Play very quickly To quickly test a deal in a prepared game, use this button as soon as it is enabled, to rapidly complete the deal. During a game, this fast play does not make the computer play correctly but selects the first valid choice (for example, the lowest valid card). It's not very nice to see, but it avoids having to play the deal card by card. This button is usually used when the user in South thinks he plays no more part in the deal. But you can also use it for quick tests.

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How to create deals well played by SimiliBridge?

This is a recurring difficulty that often discourages bridge teachers: deals from books and manuals are not always well played by SimiliBridge, whether in the bidding or in the card play. And it takes a little practice to be able to tweak the deals to make them interesting for the students they are intended for. Here are the main problems encountered:

  • The right bid in not found
    Check the bidding options, and if they are correct, check the description of the bid in its tooltip. Sometimes there are small variations in the point range or the suit description. And it is often enough to add or remove a card for the problem to be solved.

  • The defense makes the contract too easy
    In SimiliBridge, declarer does not play against a perfect defense of a very high level. He plays against a defense with the same level of knowledge as him. It is therefore sometimes necessary to help the defenders in their choices (add sequences of cards, make a return obvious, etc.) so that the declarer's play remains interesting. Remember that the skills related to signaling and a good visualization of the hidden hands are only activated in full bridge with all the advanced options.

  • The deal is interesting only against a very good defense
    In this case, you still have the possibility to activate all the high level options, and see if the deal is well played by the defense. If so, you can present the deal to students even at a lower level. If in their role as offenders they only have to do things they know how to do, they probably won't notice that they are playing against higher level defenders.
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  • A playing technique is obviously missing
    And many of them are still missing. I try to add them as I go throughout the year, but some of them can take me up to a month or two of work. In the meantime, you can still present your students with deals that will be poorly played during the comparison. But then you have to challenge them to do better than the computer during the comparison, while possibly explaining to them by a comment at the end of the deal (see above) how to play.

  • Even at the highest level, the deal shows huge blunders!
    Big mistakes can come from bad visualization of the hidden hands, a technical card not found, a poorly built game plan, a playing technique not yet implemented, a condition that is too strong or too weak in a decision rule, a badly analyzed situation of play or just a stupid programming error. All these playing mistakes are part of my daily lot, and you should not hesitate to point them out to me, so that I can improve the program and better meet your expectations.

    The playing engine of SimiliBridge does not do systematic research with all cards face up, or statistical research on random distributions. It is based on a principle of visualization of hidden hands from the bidding and the cards played, analysis of criteria of different levels (basic count criteria, situation criteria, analysis of suit handlings, analysis of a game plan with sometimes several steps, analysis of the declarer's game plan in defense, etc.), and finally decision-making from tables of rules with multiple conditions which use all the criteria analyzed. It is a very complex principle of resolution which takes a long time to finalize, but it is the one which amuses me the most to develop. I'm less interested in the outcome than in how the outcome is achieved. What I find beautiful and fascinating is a well-played deal where with each important decision, the playing engine can explain what its intention and its visualization of the hands were.

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How to force the rule preferences of a student?

I must mention here an important point which is sometimes forgotten by teachers. Each deal in a file comes with the rule preferences (bidding options, etc.) with which it was created or played the first time. This is essential for me because I receive deals from many users who all have different bidding options. And I need to be able to play and study each deal with its original settings. Without that, it would be impossible for me to explain a decision or correct a mistake in the playing.

For a prepared game, the principle is the same. The rule preferences are included in the file, so that a student can play the game with the right bids enabled, even if he has not yet checked all the necessary options in his personal preferences. Note that for a prepared game, it's the first deal of the file which sets the options, because you cannot change the conventions during the game.

That said, many students (young pupils and adults) also want to play real games, with random deals. Randomness is real life, it's no longer an exercise, that's what motivates. In minibridge, the dealing proposes hands dealt at random, but sorted so as to always present bidding sequences that the student knows. If, in minibridge for example, this one has only checked the 1NT opening and the NT responses in his personal preferences, the random dealing will propose only deals with a 1NT opening and NT responses, either in North-South or in East-West. By default, I set the advantage to +7 so that the student is often in attack, but he will also occasionally have deals to play in defense, because it is part of the game. The same principle applies to full bridge where more advanced students will be able to practice on random deals but presenting only bidding sequences corresponding to their convention choices.

The problem, for teachers who want their students to play random deals is that they would like to be sure that all have checked the right bids in their personal preferences. So, I've added an option, which is accessible in the same window as the prepared game format, and which is called: Force the rule preferences of the user.

Forcing preferences

The two boxes to be checked so that the prepared game
remotely modifies the options of the user

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If this second box is checked in a prepared game, at the beginning of the game, the program will harmonize the preferences of the user with those of the first deal of the file. Several measures are taken to facilitate this remote adjustment:
  1. During the first prepared game launched by the user, forcing his rule preferences is done by copying them identically. All the rule preferences of the prepared game are transferred to the preferences of the user.

  2. During the following prepared games, forcing is only carried out if it increases the level of the user. The checked options are not unchecked, and the options with several choices always keep the highest choice. Only two restrictive options of minibridge (One-side bidding and Simplified overcall) can be unchecked by the prepared game.

  3. When starting a prepared game with preferences forcing, the user always has access to a box to authorize the modification of his preferences. This box is checked by default, but he can uncheck it to preserve his personal preferences.

  4. The File / Choose the type of bridge menu (shortcut Ctrl+B) opens the same window as the one displayed when the program is started for the first time, and which is used to set up the default options for the bidding and card play. This dialog box contains several colored buttons. Pressing any of these buttons restarts the identical forcing on the next prepared game, and checks the authorization box if it has been unchecked.

    The principle of forcing preferences applies to both minibridge and full bridge. Note that it is not necessary to play the entire prepared game for preferences to be forced. Starting the game and then stopping it is enough. Finally, remember that it is always possible to propose prepared games without forcing the user's preferences. The options of the prepared game will be valid during the time of the game, but at the end, the user will find his personal preferences without any modification.

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How to write an Html page offering prepared games?

If you have a website, you should be able to offer your students prepared games from your pages. All you have to do is create links to your .bri files which must therefore be present on your site. The syntax of these links is relatively simple, as shown in the example Html page below::

<html>
<head>
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1" />
<title>Title of page</title>
</head>

<body bgcolor=white>

<center>
<h1>Title of page</h1>
</center>

Here is how you can write a link to a prepared game in a .bri file:<br>
<a href="prepared_game_1.bri" download>Prepared game N°1</a>
<p>
If the .bri file is for example in the "deals" sub-folder, write:<br>
<a href="deals/prepared_game_1.bri" download>Prepared game N°1</a>
<p>
If the file path requires to go up one level, use two consecutive dots:<br>
<a href="../deals/prepared_game_1.bri" download>Prepared game N°1</a>

</body>
</html>

Example of an Html page with the different syntaxes of the link to a .bri file

Select the framed text above, and copy it to a text editor. After that, save the file with the name of your choice, but above all with the .html extension. Then, by double clicking on the resulting file, your default browser should open a very basic page with three links that are theoretically working. In fact, these will work only if the .bri files they point to are present on your hard drive, with the correct path (always use the relative path from your html page, not the absolute path).

When writing links to a .bri file, the word download is important because it asks browsers to download the file so that it can then be opened using SimiliBridge. Without this instruction, many browsers analyze that the file transmitted to them consists only of text, and they display it as such, without trying to open it with another application. So, I advise you to always add this parameter when writing your links to a .bri file, even if it is not totally sufficient (see below).

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Why do some browsers open the .bri files as text?

Unfortunately, the word download in a link is not yet recognized by all browsers, and it does not work with Internet Explorer or Edge. The solution is then to configure your site so that it transmits the .bri files in a format that will be better understood by browsers. This setting is made by adding the line below to the .htaccess file of your site:

AddType application/octet-stream .bri

At the root of your site or blog, there should be this famous .htaccess file. If it does not exist, you will have to create it, and as Windows does not like filenames starting with a dot, you need to create a file named for example htaccess.txt, include the line indicated above, upload it to your site, and only then rename it to .htaccess. It's a bit complicated, but one gets used to it very quickly.

The AddType line to add to the .htaccess file is documented for Apache servers which make up the vast majority of current servers. If your site is not hosted on an Apache server, contact your host and ask if there is an equivalent solution. The problem is widely reported for downloading different types of files, and in particular images, when you want to allow a visitor who clicks on a link to download an image and not view it directly in their browser.

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If you do not have a website

Even if setting preferences is relatively simple for an experienced user, it may be too complex for a student who is only partially familiar with their computer. When SimiliBridge starts up, I try to propose several typical settings according to the main levels, but these settings are very basic and do not change over time. And neither can I make available option sets that are supposed to satisfy all teachers, because these have different methods, paces, groups of students, and the number of possible combinations of options would be too great.

The solution is therefore to allow teachers to propose their own sets of options corresponding to the level of their students, sets of options that they transmit remotely through the prepared games with preference forcing, as explained above. But that requires a website and some basic knowledge of writing a web page. What if you don't meet these requirements? Well, I can provide you with a standard web page and help you customize it. You can test it on your computer, verify that the links to your prepared games work and set up the right options. And once your page is ready, you send it to me and I host it on my site, at an address that will be your own. This page will not be accessible directly from my personal site, to which it will have no link. It is you who will communicate its address to those of your students who need it.

It's even simpler than that. If you don't want to have the hassle of the Html page, just send me a deal with all the options you want enabled on your students' computers. I will then make you a web page with this deal converted into a prepared game. The page will be reserved for you, and you can test it and see if it suits you. Then, you will just have to communicate its address to your students so that they can come to make the right settings.

The principle remains of course to be developed and tested, but contact me if you are interested. To me, that would be like creating pages with prepared games to help users set their preferences. But instead of inventing my own set of options for unknown users, it is you who would tell me the best settings for your lessons. These personalized pages, specific to each teacher, would therefore be much more functional than the ones I could write myself.

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How to help download SimiliBridge?

Please remind those wishing to play your prepared games with SimiliBridge that the program is free, complete, unlimited, without data collection and without advertising. As an independent developer not belonging to any company and having no registration number, I am not entitled to the "Code Signing Certificate" which prevents, when downloading or installing, warnings related to the fact that I am an "unknown publisher". I'm sorry about that, but one should be aware that this certificate mainly guarantees that the downloaded program is true to the original certified by the author. Therefore, by downloading the software from the official site of the author, site recognizable by its domain name (see below), this guarantee is not really necessary. Let's be logical, the author will not distribute from his own site an imitation of his program. Here is the address of my secure site to give to your students:

https://vincent-brevart.fr/en/bri/similibridge-download.html

At home

Here I am at home, working

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