I must admit in the past I first played occasionally Bridge Baron, and more recently with Bridge Base (BBO). I always played without a subscription primarily because my wife and I were getting our 'bridge fix' by playing in clubs and groups 2-3 weekly.
In mid-late 2019 I decided I would take out a subscription to one of the Bridge programs. This was driven by the fact that now my wife and I only play occasionally with friends. So I through a subscription would enable me to 'keep my hand in'.
I picked 'Funbridge' in part for the name, and in part because I once participated in a 2-day bridge seminar run by someone who worked on/for Funbridge.
All you need to do is download the program or app and play some deals. They offer 100 deals for free, and then you need to take out some form of subscription.
Playing out the 100 hands I found that it was relatively easily, even if some of the automated bidding conventions caught me out.
You have to select a playing profile under 'settings'. I picked the basic SAYC but I did 'upgrade' my card play conventions to 'classic'.
Bidding Profile - basics
In the most basic form of SAYC this involves:
Opening with 12 high-card points (HCP)
Better minor (open longest minor, with equal length open 1♦, except with 3-3 minors then open 1♣)
15-17 HCP 1NT opening (no 5-card major)
20-21 HCP 2NT
Opening 2♣ often called Albarran (artificial 24+ HCP forcing game)
Weak Two (2♦, 2♥, 2♠ means 5-10 HCP and a good 6-card suit)
Preempt (5-10 HCP and 7-card suit with 2 high honours or 3 honours)
Jacoby transfer (including minors)
Checkback Stayman (Stayman over a 1NT rebid by opener rather than a 1NT opening)
Blackwood with simple 30-41 response
No two-suiter (I guess this means no Michaels or Unusual NoTrump)
Bidding Profile - response
1NT (is forcing one round, opener cannot pass, opener must bid again, with 5-3-3-2 opener must bid the better minor)
2/1 no-jump over an opening major is game forcing (12+ HCP), otherwise bid 1NT
2NT game forcing over opening major (with at least 3-card support, opener should name next their shorter suit, implies a jump support in opening major is 'just' invitational)
Jump in new suit over a opening major (16 HCP and good 6-card suit)
3NT over opening major (12-15 HCP and no fit)
Stayman and Jacoby transfer with minors over 1NT and 2NT
2♦ over a opening 2♣ (0-7 HCP, with 8+ HCP natural bid)
Bidding Profile - continuation
Checkback Stayman (e.g. 1♦-1♠-1NT is followed by 2♣ asking for majors, followup is natural)
3rd and 4th suit forcing is NOT used
Drury is NOT used
Splinter is NOT used
Blackwood (5♣ means 0 or 3 Aces, 5♦ means 1 or 4 Aces, 5♥ means 2 Aces and no King of trumps, 5♠ means 2 Aces and King of trumps)
Bidding Profile - intervention
No negative double
Double (X) over opponents 1NT is punitive
2 level intervention over opponents 1NT are all natural
Card Play - 'classic' conventions
Opening lead of the 4th best of longest suit against NT
Against NT lead to show even/odd holding (high means an even number of cards, low means an odd number of cards)
Discards against NT (high-like, low-don't like)
Discards against a suit contract (high-like, low-don't like)
Following suit of declarer (high means an even number of cards, low means an odd number of cards)
No suit preference signals
Notes on game engine
These are notes about how the 'game engine' (called Argine) will react to certain types of bids.
Bids of 4NT can be confusing. It can either mean Blackwood or a 'quantitative' bid. If a fit has been found it will be Blackwood, but if a suit has not been decided (e.g. 1♦-1♠-2♦-4NT) it will be quantitative. This means invitational (probably in NT's) if partner is holding more than the minimum.
Queen of trumps can also be requested using Blackwood. Bids of the next suit (excluding trumps) is a request "do you hold the Queen of trumps?". Imagine that one partner has replied 5♥ to a Blackwood (indicating 2 Aces and not the King of trumps). A next bid of 5♠ is asking "do you hold the Queen of trumps?". A reply at the next level 5NT means "I do not have the Queen of trumps". A bid of the small slam in trumps means "I have the Queen of trumps, but no side Kings". Any other bid says ''I have the Queen of trumps, and a side King". If possible the suit bid will indicated the side King.
Cue-bids of opponents suit shows around 10 HCP and a fit. For example 1♦-1♠-Pass-2♦ shows about 10 HCP's and support for partners ♠.
You always play South, and your partner is always North.
North's bids, leads and discards will be those adopted by South.
East-West plays 5-card major at an intermediary level (3rd/5th leads in suit contracts, 4th best in NT, and discards will be as per South).
East-West does not take lead signals from South into account. East-West will assume South leads from longest suit.
On the first suit played by declarer, East-West will give a 'count' of their holdings, i.e. indicating how many card they hold in the that first played suit.
On the first round of a suit, East-West will give a 'count' of their holdings if they cannot player a higher card.
East-West does not unblock.
In NT with an honour-third, the engine will lead the second card.
In a suit contract, North gives 'upside-down count' in the trump suit, i.e. high-low shows an odd count, and low-high shows an even count.
In a suit contract and holding 4 small cards, the engine will lead the second card, but with a 4 card with an honour the engine will lead the third card.
The bidding profile and card play conventions are relatively easy to follow.
The specific features of the 'game engine' are to be carefully watched, since they are not always easy to identify.
Once you have gone through the subscription and set-up (user guide, and creating a profile in settings), you can 'Play a tournament'.
I started with the 'Series Tournaments', which are groups of four hands. You can play as many of these mini tournaments as you want. A accumulative list is created of a players percentage scores averaged over the tournaments (the two worst results are removed for every 10 tournaments played).
The Series Tournaments last two weeks, each month being split into two tournaments.
The mini-tournaments against the game engine are an excellent way to train oneself, gain experiences, and assess what level a player might have in bidding and playing contracts. As far as I could tell the trend was that South (the player) often had biddable hands.
In started my run of mini-tournaments in the period 16-31 August 2019. Early in that period I completed 40 mini-tournaments (160 hands) I ended up with 69.29%, ranking 11th out of 1,031 players.
As the period goes on more people join, and my score would gradually slide down the ranking. Over the following days I went on to play 70 tournaments (280 hands) and ended up with 69.28%, and a ranking of 25 out of 2,269 players.
As more and more players join the scoring range starts to fill out, e.g. at one time I was ranked 25th with 69.28%, and the 24th ranked player had 69.29%, and the 26th ranked player had 69.17%.
Most of the highest ranks are players who have played only a few mini-tournaments. In fact everyone above me had played only between 6 (24 hands) and 14 (56 hands) tournaments, as compared to my 280 hands.
Given that for every 10 tournaments played (40 hands) the 2 worst scores are eliminated in taking the average, so playing 40 tournaments the worse 8 scores would be eliminated. It is a good idea to play tournaments grouped in 10's, e.g. if you play 39 tournaments the 6 worst scores are eliminated, but if you play 40 tournaments the worst 8 score are eliminated.
One thing to remember is that scoring 69.28% on 70 tournaments, adding an additional tournament to the score does not have a major impact. For example, playing an additional tournament and scoring 90% will result is a new score of 69.57%, but could result is moving up two or three places in the ranking (if you score 90%!). On the other hand, a new tournament with a score of 20% will probably be eliminated as one of the 14 lowest scores.
For me the next step beyond the Series Tournaments was the 'Exclusive Tournaments' under 'Get started/Practice'.