Vincent Brévart

Vincent Brévart

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Handling the deal files

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Why do some menus and buttons remain grayed out?

In my programs, many menus remain grayed out throughout your games, and you sometimes assume that you may not have installed the full versions. I reassure you, my programs are downloaded in full and unlimited version, and if some menus remain grayed out (as well as the tool buttons associated with them), it is quite normal, it depends on the situation.

  • The sub-menus of the View - Play - Progress menus

    These sub-menus are enabled according to the game in progress, depending on whether you are playing a deal or not. Moreover, when you study a deal step by step, many of them are automatically activated because they then correspond to allowed actions (go back to the start of the deal, see all 4 hands, etc.).

  • The sub-menus of the Edit menu

    These sub-menus are always grayed out during a game, because they are exclusively reserved for deal files. When a game is running, no deal file is open. If during a game you try to open a deal file, it will be opened in another window, so as not to interrupt your game.

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But what is a deal file?

A deal file is simply a file in the Text format (that you can open with any text editor), which groups together deals that the program will then be able to display and replay. Each of my 4 programs identifies the deal files according to their extension and internal format: .bri extension for SimiliBridge, .bel for Bel Atout, .pre for Élysée and .whi for Far Whist. Still, any extension is permitted since only the internal structure of the file is essential for a good reading.

The easiest deal file to open is the last corrections file. These are the deals that have been corrected since the previous version of the software. So, launch the program, and before starting a new game, click the Examples / Last corrections menu. The last corrections file is then opened, and you can verify that almost all the menus and buttons are enabled. Among them are the tools to move around the file:

Top of file

Top and End of file buttons, as well as a small
counter to quickly move to a specific deal.

To go from deal to deal, the simplest way is to use the mouse wheel, or the Page Up and Page Down keys. Each corrected deal presents a situation with all cards face up, but don't forget that the machine players do not see the hidden hands. A short comment at the bottom of the screen describes the playing mistake and the correction made to it. This is how you can be informed of the improvements in the new version.

Comment of a deal

If the comment does not fit into a single line,
the tooltip will display the whole of it.

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You can replay each deal as you think best, using the left click on the table to go down from card to card, and the right click to go up. You can also use the progress buttons to go back to the first bid or the first card. Do not hesitate do change a card or a bid, because the deal is never modified in its file. All the study tools are at your disposal:

Player's visualization See the visualization of the player on lead, with several levels of reliability.

Explain decision See the explanation of the decision made by the player on lead.

Play very quickly Play very quickly. This button allows you to quickly study the result obtained on different lines of play.

Restore position Restore position. This button allows you to restore the deal to its initial presentation position. Note that going from deal to deal always restores position.

Save deal as Save deal as. This button allows you to save the deal to another file. If this file does not exist, it will be created and the deal will be placed in N°1.

Copy the deal Copy the deal. This button allows you to copy the deal to the clipboard, so that you can then paste it into another file (see further).

Close the open file Close the open file. When you have finished studying your file and want to start a new game, click this button to close the open file.

There are other example deal files that you can open from the Examples menu. Some of them describe the rules of the game, others present certain playing techniques. In SimiliBridge, you can also play prepared games of ten deals, which can allow you to practice at different levels. But if you attend a course, your teacher may provide you with games he has prepared himself.

All example files accessible through the Examples menu are placed in read only mode, to prevent inadvertent modification. If one of their deals interests you and you wish to modify it, copy it first into one of your personal files (see further).

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The Deals of the last games played file

There is another deal file which you can easily open, and which may occasionally interest you. It is the file of the last deals you played during a game. For example, we have sometimes the feeling that we played the same deal a very short time ago. Or after a game we remember a particular deal and we suddenly have a doubt about what happened. We wonder if there was not a violation of the rules of the game. Or we no longer understand why our partner played in such and such a way. Several deals have passed since, and it is not impossible that we are mistaken, that we get two deals mixed up, or that we have poorly memorized the play situation. But we remain with this impression of doubt, and the regret of not having studied the deal more precisely just after having played it.

As it was often happening to me, I very soon set up an automatic saving of the game deals, as well as the File / Deals of the last games played menu (and the Ctrl+D shortcut). You can open this file at any time, even if a game is already running. In this case, the backup file will be opened in a second window. You can then find the deal that interests you, study it quietly, then return to the first window to continue your game. Note that the file will always be open on the last deal you just played. Use the mouse wheel to view previous deals.

By default, the last 20 deals are automatically saved. You can increase this number (up to 99) through the general preferences on the Files page. Make sure that the Save the game deals option is checked. To know the details of the other options of this backup, read the help page accessible by the Help button.

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For advanced users

How to create a deal file

If you want to create your own deal files to for example illustrate your theoretical explanations, have your students play test deals, or even build deals that you will then put into boards, this is very simple and in several ways:

New deal file New deal file button, or Ctrl+N shortcut key. By this button, you will enter a file name and a new empty file will be created.

Other ways to create a file

Open deal file You can also create a new deal file by clicking the Open deal file button and by entering the name of non existing file. Then, a confirmation box will ask you if you want to create the file. Shortcut key: Ctrl+O.
 
Save deal as During a game, you can also save to a file the deal you have just played. If the filename you enter exists, the deal will be appended to the end of the file. But if the name doesn't exist, the file will be created. Shortcut key: Ctrl+S.

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How to modify a deal file

When created, the new file is empty. But it is very easy, with a simple Copy and Paste, to add deals that come from any other file. Many deal files are accessible in my programs through the Examples menu. You can therefore group the deals you are interested in together into a new file, and then change them as you like.

Cut Allows to cut the current deal and put it in the clipboard. Shortcut: Ctrl+X
Copy Allows to copy the current deal to the clipboard. Shortcut: Ctrl+C
Paste Allows to paste all the deals stored in the clipboard. Shortcut: Ctrl+V
Insert a new deal Allows to insert a new deal before the current deal. Shortcut: Insert. This button takes you directly into the deal editor (see next section).

Tips

  • By pressing and holding the Control key (Ctrl), you can cut or copy several deals, which are then added one after the other to the clipboard. This makes it possible to move or duplicate a group of deals.

  • The Ctrl+A key allows to copy all the deals of a file to the clipboard. By the Paste button, you can thus duplicate a whole file.

  • The Del key allows to delete the current deal without copying it to the clipboard. You will then be asked for confirmation.
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How to modify a deal

To modify a deal in a file (dealing the cards for each player and setting some parameters like the dealer or the scores), you just have to move to the deal in question, and then click the Edit deal button:

Edit deal Edit deal button, or Ctrl+E shortcut key.

Then, the editor window opens:

Deal editor

SimiliBridge editor, to deal out the hands

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It then becomes possible to deal out each card:
  • either by a simple click to give the card to the highlighted player.

  • either by dragging the card and dropping it onto the hand of your choice.

Some buttons are provided to pick up all the cards, to deal them at random or to finish an incomplete dealing. In SimiliBridge, the Adjust to the board button allows, after having entered a deal number, to make sure that the dealer and the vulnerability are in accordance with the official boards.

Tips

  • To turn a deal, use the + and - buttons or keys. Note that the + and - keys also work from the open file, without having to open the editor window.

  • Before opening the editor window, you'd do well to set the main type of your deal by the Preferences menu. In Belote, the editor will be different depending on the type of belote (contract belote is played with a single round of dealing, the other types with two rounds). In Bridge, it is the type of game (rubber bridge or bridge like in tournaments) that will influence the editor and the functions it offers.

  • For the deals concerning a belote with 2 rounds of dealing, you can select the turn-up card, the cards of the first round and those of the second, as well as the floating cards, those which pass from one player to another according to the player who takes the turn-up card. For more information, click the Help button in the editor.

  • You can duplicate a deal found on the Internet or displayed by another program. For that, the best is to reduce the SimiliBridge window to its minimum size, and to move it to one side of the screen. Then, when opening the editor, the window will be very small. You'll be able to move it so as to see on the screen the two deals: the one you want to duplicate, and the one you are editing.
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Where are your deal files located?

Your deal files are by default located in your My Documents or Documents folder, which is the folder provided by the operating system to save your personal files. In this folder, you will find the CardGames sub-folder shared by my 4 programs. Then another sub-folder bearing the name of the program concerned. And finally, the My deals sub-folder, where your files will be placed by default.

  • For Bel Atout: Documents / CardGames / Bel Atout / My deals
  • For SimiliBridge: Documents / CardGames / SimiliBridge / My deals
  • For Élysée: Documents / CardGames / Élysée / My deals
  • For Far Whist: Documents / CardGames / Far Whist / My deals
You can however put your deal files in any folder. Try to create sub-folders to classify your files for example by playing level or by type of technique. The more organized your files are, the easier it will be for you to find them. To move around the different folders, my boxes for creating, opening and saving a deal file all have a Folder button that gives you quick access to your 10 favorite folders:

Folder button

Folder button to easily change folder

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In my programs, you can only open one file at a time. But by the File menu, you have the list of the last 10 opened files, which allows you to easily switch from one file to another. Note that these ones are always opened on the deal being studied when they were closed. Finally, for those like me who work for a long time on the same file, or receive files from users who have different rule preferences, here are two small options accessible by the general preferences on the Files page:
  • Keep file open on exit
    Check this box to request that any open file be kept when you exit the program. The next time the software is launched, this file will be automatically reopened on the deal being studied when quitting.

  • Point out deals with different rules
    Check this box to request that a white square be displayed at the top left of the screen when a deal has rule options different than your own game options. In the rule preferences, the options that differ from yours will be pointed out by a small black or white square.
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Presenting deals on computer

In a teaching situation, you may wish to present deals to your students, to explain the rules of the game or a particular technique. Computers (desktop or laptop, with or without a data projector) allow a quick and attractive presentation. The possibility to play the deals and to try out multiple lines of play will encourage students to participate and reason about each decision to take. Here are some additional tips for successful presentations:

  1. A file can contain up to 999 deals
    So, don't hesitate to put several deals together in the same file. However, don't make files that are too big. A dozen deals is often enough to illustrate a point of rule or technique, and it is better to have small files well named and well classified, than a huge file that is difficult to handle.

  2. Each deal in a file is saved with all its rule options
    Each deal is saved with all the rule options (scoring, bidding and playing techniques) that were checked when being built. Therefore, you can open a file for beginners, and at the next moment a file for advanced players. The options required are automatically restored.

  3. Each deal can be presented on a specific bidding or playing position
    For an explanation to be quick and lively, it is necessary to be able to present a deal on a specific bid or card play, without having to replay the entire deal from the start. This is done very simply using the Save position button.

    Save position All you have to do is move first to the bid or card play you want to show, and next click this button. Then, the deal will always be presented on this play.

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  4. Change the presentation of a file when opened
    If, when opening a file, you want the cards to be hidden, or the computer not to show its choice, or the explanation of the decision to be displayed rather than the scores, this is possible by the File / Presentation of file when opened menu (or the Ctrl+P shortcut). The dialog box that opens offers you different types of presentation, as well as the following option:

    Apply presentation Check this box so that if the presentation is changed on a deal, it will be applied again when going to the next deal.

    Advice: It's better to prepare all the deals in the file first without worrying about the presentation. Next, when the deals are ready, you change the presentation of the file. Then, you can develop your explanation according to each deal presented.

  5. Restore the initial position of a deal
    When presenting a deal, you can play the cards one by one, go back to the previous card, down to the next one, etc., so as to try the lines of play being suggested, or show the result of some choice or other. If after having studied one line of play you want to go back to the initial position, click this button. Then the deal is reread from its file.

    Restore position Press this button to restore the deal to its initial position.

  6. Add a title or a comment to a deal
    To facilitate your presentation, you may want to add a title or a comment to some of the deals, to remind you of the question to ask or the thread of your explanation. This is done very simply by the Change deal title button.

    Change deal title You can also use the Ctrl+T shortcut key, or directly click the title bar at the bottom of the screen.

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  7. How to quickly complete a deal
    If the South controlled by computer button is checked, the Play very quickly button is enabled and allows the deal to be completed quickly. This sometimes helps to show that if this card is played..., the contract goes down! And that after restoring the initial position and playing another card..., the contract is made!

    South controlled by computer    Play very quickly Students are fond of this kind of proof. But take care to ensure the success of your demonstration in advance...

  8. What is the Clear from position button for?
    A deal presented at a certain position is of course memorized with all the bid and card choices before that position. But it can also be memorized with all the choices made after that position. This allows you to see again a deal as it was played from start to finish. To erase this memory from the current position, and thus regain the freedom of choice for each player, click the Clear from position button.

    Clear from position Once you have cleared the memory from the current position, you also have to save the position (see 3.) if you want the deal to always be presented like this.
    Clear from position When this button is grayed, it means that there is no choice (bid or card) saved after the current position. The players then make their own choices.
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    Special Bridge

  9. Turn the deal quickly (- and + keys)
    To get students to think about the declarer's game plan, we often present our deals just before West's opening lead, the only visible hand being that of the declarer sitting South. A click on the table shows the opening lead and Dummy, and the discussion on declarer's game plan can then begin.

    However, before showing Dummy's cards, you may want to make your students think about the opening lead that West must choose (if revealing his hand does not really matter). This can be done easily using the - and + keys of the keyboard or the numeric keypad.

    • The - (minus) key turns the deal in the opposite direction of play

      West's hand then moves to South, and discussing the opening lead can begin.

    • The + (plus) key turns the deal in the direction of play

      West's hand then goes back to its place, the highlight showing the player on lead sitting West.

    If your presentation includes the bidding, it may be necessary to add a pause so that West's opening lead is not displayed too soon. To do this, open the rule preferences on the Timing page, and check the Click before ending the bidding option.

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How to quickly change your preferences

When a student wants to play a few deals on computer, he must play at his level with the right bidding and playing techniques. And if several players of different levels want to play one after the other, setting the options may very quickly become tedious. The same problem will arise if you prepare deal files for several playing levels. You will quickly get bored of constantly changing your rule preferences.

Fortunately, my programs allow you to define several users or modes of use, and thus change all your preferences with a few clicks, whether it is the general preferences (colors, sounds, etc.) or the rule preferences (scoring, bidding or playing techniques, etc.). This quick change is done by the File / Choose user... menu (or the Ctrl+U shortcut). The window for choosing the user then opens:

Choose user
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By judiciously naming each of the 6 users (or the 6 modes of use), you can easily switch from one set of preferences to another. The title bar of the main window will then mention the name of the current user. Note that by giving each user characteristic colors (for the table or the scoring area), you will be able to identify at a glance which mode of use you are in. Colors are selected through the general preferences on the Display / Colors page.

Tips

  • When you create a new file, the rule preferences for your first deal will be those of the current user. To create deal files for a given level, you should therefore first select the user corresponding to this level.

  • However, if you insert a new deal into an existing file, it uses the same preferences as the deal being studied. So, you can easily build a file for a given level, as soon as you have set the preferences for a first deal.

  • Another way to build a file without worrying about the rule preferences is to use Copy and Paste. You can easily copy a deal and paste it into the same file. Then you just have to enter the editor to change its distribution and parameters.

  • When you open the rule preferences window from a deal in a file, you must differentiate between the preferences of the deal (the Deal n°x/x button is then pressed), and the game preferences of the current user (the Game button is then pressed). The two preference sets are independent.

    Rule preferences

  • In the deal preferences window, you can use the mouse wheel to switch from one deal to another and thus check the preferences of each deal. Note that small black (or white) squares will tell you which options differ from the game preferences of the current user.

  • If you want to modify the preferences of all the deals in the file in the same way, change the preferences of one of the deals (any one) first. You are allowed to modify several options, even if they are in different pages. The Apply to all button is then enabled. You just have to click on it for all the option modifications you have just made to the current deal are applied to all the deals in the file.

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How to create prepared games