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SOFTWARE REVIEW
By: Eric Rodwell

Originally Published in Canadian Master Point, November, 1992


Fred Gitelman is well known in Canada as a bridge player, a talented writer, and an authority on computer bridge software. Fred's first product, BASE III, was hailed as a powerful analytic tool for serious students of the game. His latest creation, Bridge Master, is many years ahead of anything else on the market. It is a fabulous product that I am happy to recommend to bridge players of all levels.

Bridge Master is an educational tool designed to improve your declarer play -- a vastly more sophisticated version of the old Autobridge game. The hands are pre-made problem deals much like those you would find in a bridge book. Hands are categorized according to 5 skill levels: level 1 hands are for novices, while level 5 hands are extremely challenging, even for expert players. The hands in levels 2, 3, and 4 will provide valuable instruction for most club and tournament players.

The aspect of the program that impresses me most is the quality of these deals. Fred has created over 300 problem hands so far and plans to keep composing problems as long as there is a demand. The novice and intermediate level hands provide an excellent sample of basic declarer play technique; the expert level hands contain many themes I have never seen in print before.

The feature that makes Bridge Master unique, however, is that if you do not play a hand properly, your contract will always be defeated. If you are supposed to guard against a 5-1 side suit break, the program makes sure it breaks 5-1. If you try to guess where a queen is, instead of taking a 100% alternative line, your two-way finesse will always lose -- you can win only by taking the correct line.

When you have finished playing a hand, a write-up appears on the screen clearly explaining the proper way to play the hand. As you read through the write-up, the hand diagram on the screen will change to reflect what you are reading about. For example, if part of the text says, "If East has four trumps to the jack", then as you read through that part of the text, the East/West hands will change so that East now does have 4 trumps to the jack. It is like watching a movie, or reading a bridge book without having to worry about crossing out cards or flippping pages. This is an excellent medium for bridge instruction.

Bridge Master will also keep track of your progress -- which hands you have played and how you fared, so you can ask it to review specific problems that you previously had trouble with. If you want to practice a particular aspect of bridge technique, you can work only on hands of that type.

Bridge Master is very easy to use: a person who has never sat in front of a computer could master the controls in a matter of minutes. The color graphics are clean and attractive, and the net effect makes a session with Bridge Master an extremely addictive, enjoyable, and educational experience.

Bridge Master offers an excellent introduction to bridge for new players. More experienced players can use it to improve their skills or just to have fun, while even expert players will be amazed at the challenge of playing the level 5 hands. As users improve their skills (and they will by using this program), they can purchase more difficult sets of deals.

Bridge Master will make a perfect Christmas gift for any bridge player or for someone who is interested in learning the game. The only negative thing I can say about this product is that you won't want to stop using it!

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