Contact usAbout usAffiliates

Accessible Computer Bridge

Paul Hopewell

Article comes from the March 2006 Access IT newsletter

Reprinted with permission from the March 2006 issue of Access IT published by the Royal National Institute for the Blind in the UK

Back to Great Game Products (GGP) Home Page
Complete March 2006 issue of IT

Click here to download Bridge Baron support for the WindowEyes and JAWS screen readers.
Additionally, download information on how to configure Bridge Baron and how to install and use the screen reader support.


If you are not interested in card games then skip this article. Otherwise read on. 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 a more 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 for information on how to play bridge using the ACOL bidding system including a set of free lessons with interactive questions and answers.

To improve my bridge skills I needed a bridge program which would work with my screen reader (Window-Eyes) allowing me to bid and play one hand while the computer bid and played the remaining three hands. I downloaded the free trial versions of several such programs and eventually found Bridge Baron from Bridge Baron 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 You can purchase Bridge Baron release 16 from several dealers in the UK for around £50. Try using Google with the search term 'Bridge Baron' to locate a dealer. Bridge Baron provides accessibility through the following features:

Bridge Baron also includes the following functions unrelated to accessibility which have greatly helped improve my bridge skills:

There are many Bridge Baron functions that 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. I have developed Bridge Baron SET files for the Window-Eyes screen reader and SCRIPT files for the JAWS screen reader which I am happy to share with interested readers. Please e-mail me at for further information.