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Kalabriasz is a remarkably good card game for two players; there are also versions for three or four players.
The name Kalabriasz is possibly Hungarian, but the game is played in many countries and its name has many variations1. The terminology of the game seems to be drawn from several different languages and, as with many card games, there are variations in the rules of the game. In the Netherlands, for example, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht each have their own version of the rules.
Although the international terminology appears strange at first, it is not as difficult to learn as it might seem, and once you are over that hurdle, Kalabriasz gives you plenty of opportunity to develop skills and take risks.
The version given here is for two players who both happen to be male.
Kalabriasz bears a certain resemblance to Piquet and is played with the same 32-card deck (A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7 of each suit).
Ace is high and 7 low, except that in play this changes for the trump suit. In trumps only, J and 9 rank above the other cards, so the order is J-9-A-K-Q-10-8-7.
Three of the cards in the trump suit have special names. The J of trumps is called Jasz (pronounced 'Yass') and the 9 of trumps is called Menell (with the accent on the 'nell' not the 'men'). The 7 of trumps is called Dix (pronounced 'Deece' or 'Dee' as you please).
A game is usually 500 points up (or whatever else is agreed).
For simplicity let's name our two players D for dealer and N for non-dealer. They cut for deal and the one with the lower card deals first. If both cards cut are the same value, they cut again. D deals three cards face down to N, three to himself, three more to N, and three more to himself. A 13th card is dealt face up onto the table, and the rest of the deck is placed face down on the table.
N has first call. If he thinks he can win this hand with the suit of the exposed card as trumps, he will call 'Accept', and play begins. If he thinks he can win with another suit as trumps, he will call 'Pass'. If he thinks he cannot win this hand at all he may instead call 'Schmeiss' (pronounced 'shmice').
Unless N has Accepted, it is now D's call. D may 'Accept' with the suit of the exposed card as trumps, and play begins. If D does not Accept, then if N has called 'Schmeiss' both players throw in their hand and deal again. If N has called 'Pass', D may also Pass in the suit of the exposed card, and N may then Accept in another suit which N nominates. Or N may Pass again, in which case either D Accepts in his own choice of suit, or the hands are thrown in and the deal passes to N.
Once a trump suit is fixed, D deals three more cards, face down, to N and three more to himself, making a total of nine cards each. The rest of the deck is then placed on the table with the bottom card face up.
If one of the players Accepted first time round, so that the trump suit is that of the card that was originally exposed (the 13th card dealt), then if either player now holds the Dix (the 7 of trumps) he may exchange it for the 13th card.
A sequence of three consecutive cards of the same suit scores 20 points. A sequence of four scores 50. Although you may hold more than four sequential cards, the additional cards are ignored for this purpose.
For each hand dealt, only one player may score for sequences. This is the player who declares the highest-ranking sequence. A sequence of four cards outranks a sequence of three. A sequence whose highest card is an Ace outranks one with the same number of cards led by a King. The order of the sequence and the ranking is the same whether it is in trumps or not - ie, Ace high, 7 low. But a sequence which is in trumps outranks a similar sequence in one of the other suits. Where each player has an equally ranking sequence, the non-dealer is deemed to rank higher.
When all the cards are dealt, N is the first to call. He may say, 'Sequence of 50'. If D has only one or more three-card sequences (or none at all), he says, 'Good'. N may in fact have two four-card sequences, and he now exposes them both and gets 100 points. If he has a sequence of five cards, of course he need only show the four that qualify.
If D also has a four-card sequence he will ask, 'How high?', and a winner will be established. The winner then gets the appropriate points for all his sequences; the loser gets nothing.
You do not have to declare all your sequences, or any of them at all. For example, if N declares a sequence of 50, D may know that his own sequence of 50 is lower, so will merely say, 'Good'. And there are times when it may be good tactics not to declare a sequence of 20.
The combination of King and Queen of trumps held by one player is called The Bella, and scores 20 points. There is a difference of opinion as to when this should be declared. Some schools say that it should be declared when the second of the two cards is played; others that it should be when the first of the two is played. Whichever rule is followed the declaration of The Bella is optional, but if it is not declared at the time when the appropriate card is played the 20 points cannot be claimed.
Once the points for sequences have been determined, N leads to the first trick. Each trick consists of one card played by each player. The winner of the trick leads to the next trick. In each trick the second player must follow suit if possible. If he cannot follow suit he must win the trick by playing a trump if possible, otherwise any card will do. If the lead to the trick is a trump, the response must be to win the trick with a higher trump if possible. Failing that, a lower trump must be played if he has one. Failing that, any other card.
The object is to maximise your score by winning certain scoring cards. These are:
- Jasz (the J of trumps) - 20 points
- Menell (the 9 of trumps) - 14
- Ace (any) - 11
- 10 (any) - 10
- King (any) - 4
- Queen (any) - 3
- Jack (except trumps) - 2
Winning the last trick scores 10 points. This is sometimes known as 'Schtoch' (rhymes with Scottish 'loch').
After the last trick each player adds up his points for sequences, Bella, Schtoch and cards won. For the player who decided the trump suit there are three possibilities:
He has scored more than his opponent - each player scores his own total points.
He has scored less than his opponent - he has 'gone bate' (something like being 'rubiconed' in Piquet), scores nothing for that hand, and all his points are added to his opponent's score.
The scores are exactly equal - he has 'gone half bate'. He scores nothing himself, but his points are not added to his opponent's score.