This document describes how I use the program Bridge Baron with the WindowEyes screen reader or the JAWS screen reader to play the card game bridge against my computer. It includes links to download the relevant WindowEyes or JAWS screen reader support, and to download MP3 sound files containing demonstrations of Bridge Baron running with JAWS or WindowEyes.
This document and the associated screen reader support was developed for Bridge Baron release 16, WindowEyes 5.5, and JAWS5.10. Bridge Baron releases 16, 17, and 18 all work fine with WindowEyes releases 5.5 through 7.11. Bridge Baron releases 16 and 17 all work fine with JAWS 5.10, 8.x, and 9.x. There is a yet to be resolved problem with the JAWS support with Bridge Baron release 18.
Overview of bridge
I have recently taken up the popular card game bridge after an absence of some 30 years. I play in a bridge group with sighted people using Braille cards. As a blind person this is quite challenging as I have to remember the cards in my hand and the cards in the dummy hand in addition to the bidding and the card play which everyone has to remember. I thus needed to enlist my computer to hone my skills in amore relaxed environment.
Bridge is one of the most enduring and popular games in the world. The normal game requires four players in two partnerships North-South and East-West. A full deck of cards is shuffled and each player is dealt thirteen cards. Card play is the same as whist, you have to follow suit if you can and the highest value card wins the trick. If you cannot follow suit you can take the trick with a card from the suit designated as trumps. Ace is the highest value card followed by King, Queen, Jack and then the numbered cards in descending sequence. Before card play you have the auction. Players bid in turn for the contract, that is how many tricks their partnership will take. A bid of one club means the partnership will take seven tricks with clubs as trumps. A bid of three no trumps means the partnership will take nine tricks with no suit designated as trumps. Each successive bid must overcall the prior bid with suits ranked in the order clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, and no trumps. Thus a bid of one diamond overcalls a bid of one club, and a bid of two clubs overcalls a bid of one of any suit or a bid of one no trump. You can pass rather than make a bid, and the auction finishes when all remaining players have passed. The player in the winning partnership who first bid the winning suit is the declarer and the player to the left of the declarer plays the opening card. The declarer's partner then places all their cards face up on the table to form the dummy hand which the declarer then plays. Your partnership wins points which count towards the game score if you make your contract, and you win bonus points for each over trick. If you fail to make your contract the opposing partnership wins bonus points for each under trick.
A key function of the auction is to convey information about your hand to your partner. Thus some bids have conventional meanings depending on the prior bidding. In the ACOL bidding system, which is widely used in the UK, an opening bid of two clubs means you have a very strong hand but not necessarily a lot of clubs, and a bid of two clubs in response to your partner's opening bid of one no trump asks your partner whether they have good hearts or spades. Look at acol.me.uk - the home of acol bridge for information on how to play bridge using the acol bidding system including a set of free lessons with interactive questions and answers. Look at Warren's free bridge workshop for information on how to play party bridge using Standard -American Goren bridge techniques.
Overview of Bridge Baron
To improve my bridge skills I needed a bridge program which would work with my screen reader allowing me to bid and play one hand while the computer bids and played the remaining three hands. I downloaded the free trial versions of several such programs and eventually found Bridge Baron. This is the product of over 42 years of research and development and is a five-time winner of the world computer bridge championship. You can download a free trial version of Bridge Baron from Great Game Products - Bridge Baron - patches and demos. You can purchase Bridge Baron from several dealers in the UK for around £50 and from dealers in other countries at an equivalent price. Try using Google with search term "Bridge Baron" to locate a dealer.
Bridge Baron accessibility
Bridge Baron provides accessibility through the following features:
- Sttandard menus and dialogues. All Bridge Baron menus and dialogues obey Windows standards and are thus accessible to screen readers.
- Newspaper style hand display. You can optionally choose to have each hand of cards displayed in its own fixed four line area of the screen using notation like "S:A K T 8" for the Ace, King, 10 and 8 of spades. You can easily overlay the screen areas for each hand with a screen reader user window and set up hot keys to read the hand.
- Bidding and card play keystrokes. You can enter bids using keystrokes like 2h for two hearts, 3n for three no trumps, d for double, r for redouble, and p for pass. You can select cards to play from your hand or the dummy hand (if you are the declarer) using keystrokes like ca for the Ace of clubs, d3 for the three of diamonds, st for the ten of spades, and hq for the queen of hearts. Alternatively you can use the simulated mouse function of your screen reader to review the hand content and then do a simulated left mouse click to play the card under the mouse pointer.
- Verbal announcement of bidding and card play. You can set Bridge Baron to announce bids as they are made and cards as they are played. You can also review the bidding and card play via menu options. Here Bridge Baron uses a different graphic icon for each of the card suits of clubs, diamonds, hearts and spades. You will have to label known icons, such as those from previously announced bids, using your screen reader graphic labeling function.
- Verbal announcement of bidding and card play hints. At any time you can press the F2 key to get Bridge Baron"s recommendation of what bid you should make or what card you should play. You can set Bridge Baron to announce these hints. The hints help build confidence as you can work out what bid you would make or what card you would play and then see whether Bridge Baron agrees with you. You should not, of course, slavishly follow Bridge Baron"s suggestions as your choice is sometimes better than his!
Bridge Baron also includes the following functions unrelated to accessibility which have greatly helped improve my bridge skills:
- Support for a wide range of bidding conventions. You can separately set the bidding conventions used by the North-South partnership and the East-West partnership from a list of 19 conventions including three flavours of the ACOL system which is widely used in the UK, and all the American systems used in other parts of the world. You can create your own conventions by editing one of the standard conventions, and you can also separately set the skill level for the two partnerships, remembering that a higher skill level means that your computer takes longer to think.
- Take back key. During the auction or card play you can press the F9 key to backout your most recent bid or card selection and then make a different choice. This is a good learning tool as you can correct mistakes or explore the consequences of different choices. You can repeatedly press the F9 key to go back as far as you like.
- Auction interpretation. During the auction you can view an accessible display of Bridge Baron"s deductions about the contents of each hand. You can compare this with your understanding of the various bids, and thereby improve your bidding skill.
- Support for duplicate bridge. This is used in tournaments to remove the effect of the deal. Different players play the same hands, and their achievements are compared and appropriate points awarded. When you have completed a deal you can ask Bridge Baron to replay all four hands of that deal. You can then compare results and thereby see how you could have better played the hand, or feel pleased that you did better than Bridge Baron!
There are many Bridge Baron functions which I have not yet explored, including support for multiple human players. Thus you and your regular bridge partner could play North-South and have Bridge Baron play East-west. I have found Bridged Baron fully accessible for all the functions I have so far used. It has helped improve my bridge skills and has been great fun.
You can use the following links to download Bridge Baron support for the WindowEyes and JAWS screen readers:
In both cases unzip the downloaded zip file, and read the file baron.doc for information on how to configure Bridge Baron and how to install and use the screen reader support. If you do not have Microsoft Office the file baron.doc can be read with WordPad which is standard on all Windows computers.
You can use the following links to download MP3 sound files containing demonstrations of Bridge Baron release 16 running with the JAWS or Windoweyes screen readers. In both cases the files are each about 3.5 MB in size.
- Download an MP3 demonstration of Bridge Baron with the Windoweyes screen reader
- Download an MP3 demonstration of Bridge Baron with the JAWS screen reader
This page was last modified on 31 July 2008