A helping hand
Have you ever wanted to play Bridge? If you decide to take the plunge, make sure you find a partner with the patience of Job and opponents with similar ability to your own or you could be put off the game for life!
On the other hand you could try using a computer simulation.
Although it's not the ideal way to learn, it does have a couple of advantages over the conventional method: You can't annoy your partner if you do something stupid - and even more important, your opponents can't gloat over the inevitable whitewashes in the early stages.
You bid each hand according to the Acol system, and the experts among you will no doubt be pleased to learn that Colossus Bridge 4 supports the Blackwood, Baron and Stayman conventions and the strong two club and take out doubles.
You can opt to play without having to bid, to adopt a weak or strong no-trump convention, and to set your response rate to fast, medium or slow. These can be changed at any time.
Colossus has a tutorial and game as separate programs, so you must make your choice before loading the one you require. Its options make it user-friendly and, if required, these can be changed between hands at the press of a key.
When using either the tutorial or the rubber you play a hand in two distinct stages: The bidding and the play. Your hands during the bidding, and dummy's during play, are displayed graphically, sorted in suit order.
Bidding is simply a matter of typing in a value followed by a letter to indicate the suit - such as 2D for two diamonds.
The tutorial program uses 10 preset hands specially chosen to illustrate the game's various aspects, its strategy and conventions.
At the bidding stage your bid is only accepted if you make the recommended one - make an error and you'll stare vacantly at the screen until you guess, sorry choose, correctly.
The same applies during the play of the cards, when again you must get it right before the game continues.
At the end of each hand, there's an explanation of the particular facet of bidding or play that it was designed to convey.
This package has several other features. You can recap the bidding, view the play to earlier tricks, peep at other hands, claim remaining tricks, or exit a hand at any time to rebid and replay it or move on to the next.
There is also a save/load game option, an autoplay feature and a facility to have a card recommended - both extremely useful for the learner.
With clear, concise instructions and excellent presentation Colossus also includes a guide to the recommended bidding for certaiin point counts and hand distribution, but no help regarding what card to play under what circumstances.
To compensate, it does include a free 125-page paperback book - Begin Bridge published by Elliot Right Way. And very useful it was too when I found myself in trouble. A quick glance often provided all the help I needed - and my silicon opposition never found out.
I'm not really in a position to assess whether this play a good game or not. But my wins and losses have been sufficiently evenly distributed to make me keep playing.
As Bridge tutors go, Colossus Bridge 4 seems to do the job it set out to do.