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The card game of Bezique originated in France and is based on games played in that country over 350 years ago. There are at least six forms of the game and these variations mostly depend on the number of players participating.
Although Bezique originated in France and is believed to be the forerunner of Pinochle, it was superseded there by a similar game called Besigue. Bezique in its original version was soon taken up by the UK and became an extremely popular game in the mid-Nineteenth Century. The more modern versions of the game are accredited to a Swedish schoolmaster, Gustav Flaker, who actually lived in Scotland. The earliest examples of custom-made cards for the game were manufactured by Thomas de la Rue in around 1862. Thomas de la Rue also provided Bezique markers made from bone and score cards designed by a man called Cavendish.
Although conceived for, and usually played by, only two opponents, versions for more players soon found their way into gaming establishments. Deck sizes were also increased to make the games last longer. Most notable of these was Rubicon Bezique which was governed by rules drawn up by The Portland Club, London. Six deck Bezique, also called Chinese Bezique, was reported as being the favourite game of Winston Churchill.
The cards required for playing Bezique differ from those used by more familiar card games in that they are based on a Piquet Deck.
This comprises of a normal pack of cards with all the twos, threes, fours, fives and sixes removed, leaving only the seven upwards to the ace (high). The tens take the unusual ranking of beating all other cards except the ace.
Scoring is a fairly complex affair and changes with each variation of the game but is chiefly based on the two distinct parts of the game: The Play-Off and The Declarations.
The aim is to form, and be able to declare, scoring 'melds', or combinations of cards, whilst also winning tricks in the basic whist fashion. Any variations on the standard game are mentioned in their own section.
The non-dealer starts by leading a card and the dealer can play any card he pleases as following suit doesn't apply until the stock is exhausted. Any card higher than the original lead card and in the same suit will win the trick and any trump card will win unless the lead card was also a trump and valued higher.
Once the stock is finished the final eight tricks must follow suit and a player must play a winning card if he is able. If he has no cards of the particular suit lead in his hand he may trump but is not obliged to do so1. The cards played to each trick are gathered by the winner and placed face-down at their side. These cards play no further part in the round except at the end when tens and aces (in most games) are counted as 'Brisques' and score ten points each.
In most games declarations can be made after winning a trick although some versions impose a ban on declaring until three tricks have been won.
Acceptable melds are all based on the following guidelines:
|Seven of Trumps||Exchanged for Exposed Trump card||10 points|
|Common Marriage||King and Queen of the same suit||20 points|
|Double Common Marriage||Two Kings and two Queens of the same suit||20 points|
|Royal Marriage||King and Queen of Trump suit||40 points|
|Double Royal Marriage||Two Kings and two Queens of Trump suit||40 points|
|Bezique||Queen of Spades and Jack of Diamonds||40 points|
|Four Jacks2||One from each suit: hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs||40 points|
|Four Queens||One from each suit: hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs||60 points|
|Four Kings||One from each suit: hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs||80 points|
|Four Aces||One from each suit: hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs||100 points|
|Sequence3||Ace, ten, King, Queen, Jack of the same suit||100 points|
|Royal Sequence||Ace, ten, King, Queen, Jack of the Trump suit||250 points|
|Double Bezique||Two Queens of Spades and two Jacks of Diamonds||500 points|
Rules for Declarations
Melds must be placed face up on the table in front of the player in order to score.
Only one declaration is allowed after winning a trick.
If another combination is possible from the exposed cards (for example a Royal Marriage after declaring a Royal Sequence) the player can inform his opponent that he will declare this when he next wins a trick.
No card already used in one meld may be added to a second, similar meld. For example a Queen of ♠ used to form a marriage cannot be paired with another King of ♠. It can, of course, be used with its original partner to form a Double Marriage.
A card may be used as part of a different meld from the one already declared. The Queen of ♠ mentioned above can still be added to Queens of ♥,♦ and ♣ to form the declaration 4 Queens and may be added to a Jack of ♦ to form a Bezique. It can not be used with an extra Queen to form another 4 Queens declaration though.
This same Queen ♠ cannot be paired with a different Jack ♦, but can be used for a Double Bezique with its original partner.
Once a declaration has been made the face-up cards are available for playing to tricks or to form new melds.
Scoring can either be done using a cribbage board (each hole representing ten points), Bezique markers4 or a paper and pen.
Scores for melds, sopping the first seven of trumps and playing the other seven of trumps to a trick, are all written down at the time they are scored. Scores for brisques are added up at the end of each round, the winner of the final trick of each round totalling his first.
Winning requirements vary from game to game and are mentioned where appropriate.
Penalties are immediately imposed if any player is holding more than eight cards at a time (100 points to the opponent).
Failing to draw a card after a trick before playing to the next leads to an immediate forfeit of ten points to his opponent.
'Revoking' is failing to follow suit or take a trick in the 'Play-off part two' section of the game and leads to the guilty party losing all of the final eight tricks.
This version is the simplest form of the game and is possibly the one to try first.
Two Piquet decks are required. The Deal is decided by cutting the pack, with the player with the highest card winning. Eight cards are dealt in turn using packets of three, two, three. The seventeenth card indicates the trump suit and is placed, face-up, next to the remaining cards, or stock, which are placed face-down.
If this card happens to be a seven the dealer immediately scores ten points.
The Play-off - Stage One
The non dealer plays a card face up to the table. The dealer can either play a card in the same suit but higher, or a trump, if he wants to win the trick. If he chooses not to win the trick or holds no card which can do so, he may play any card from any suit he pleases. In the event of an identical card being played it is the lead card which always wins. The winning trick is then placed, face down, next to the victor. These cards play no further part in the round except to count up brisques at the end.
The winner of this first trick can then make a declaration5 if he has one, by laying the appropriate cards face up on the table in front of him and stating the name of the meld.
Both players then draw another card from the stock, the winner of the previous trick always drawing first and leading to the next. Play continues in this fashion until the stock is exhausted.
Any player who holds or picks up the seven of trumps may exchange it for the trump card lying face-up next to the stock and score ten points for the privilege. This counts as a declaration and can only take place after winning a trick. The second seven of trumps does not count as a declaration and can be shown as soon as it is drawn or played to a trick, still scoring ten points for the holder.
The winner of the final trick takes the last stock card and the loser takes the exposed trump card. No further declarations are allowed and the game enters stage two.
The Play-off - Stage Two
The winner of the last trick in stage one now leads. His opponent must follow suit, must win a trick if he can and must trump if he can't. Play continues until all the cards have been used and are piled face-down next to each player. The winner of the last trick scores ten points. Players then look at their winning trick cards and count up the number of tens and aces, scoring ten points for each, the winner of the last trick adding them first.
The winner is the first player to reach either 1,000 or 2,000 points depending on the target agreed at the start of the game.
Specifically added to facilitate the game for three players who each play independently from each other, the three-handed version follows the same rules as for the two-handed version but uses 96 cards or three Piquet decks.
The addition of more cards opens up the possibility of Triple versions of the standard scoring system, so the scores are tripled accordingly. A Triple Bezique, for example, is worth 1500 points. The usual target for winning the game is increased to 3000 points.
A game for two players.
Differences from the standard game:
- There is only one deal.
- The winner is the player with the highest score and gains 500 points plus the difference between his and the losers score.
Any fractions of 100 points are generally ignored.
- Rubicon is achieved if the loser fails to make 1000 points by the end of the round. In this instance the winner is awarded 1000 points plus the sum of both scores, plus 320 points even if he, himself, has also not scored 1000 or over.
- The deck consists of four Piquet decks or 128 cards.
- The deal is of nine cards, dealt in packets of three.
- Trumps are established only when a player declares either a marriage or a sequence. The first stock card is not exposed and the seven of trumps has no value.
- Cards may be re-used to form a further meld. If four Kings have been declared and a player draws another king of any suit, he may use this card to form another four Kings declaration. Two marriages of the same suit may also be re-arranged to form two more marriages.
- Play is the same as for standard Bezique except that winning the last trick counts as 50 points.
- Scoring is still maintained as for the standard game with these exceptions:
- Carte Blanche can be declared when a player holds a hand with no court card6.
- It can continue to be declared for each successive draw afterwards if the player still holds no court card. Carte Blanche is valued at 50 points for each declaration.
- Ordinary Sequence: 150 points.
- Triple Bezique: 1500 points.
- Quadruple Bezique: 4500 points.
Brisques are only counted at the end in the event of a tie or if the loser is in danger of being 'rubiconed'. In this instance both players count their Brisques.
This is a variation of Rubicon Bezique and is often called Chinese Bezique.
The main differences from the standard Rubicon Bezique are as follows:
- In this game the winner scores 1000 points.
- Rubicon is worth 3000 points and Carte Blanche is worth 250 points.
- The deck consists of six Piquet decks or 192 cards.
- The deal is of 12 cards, dealt in packets of three.
- Play is the same as for Rubicon Bezique except that winning the last trick counts as 250 points.
- Declarations are valued the same as in Rubicon Bezique, with the addition of special scores for melds in the trump suit only.
- Four Jacks: 400 points.
- Four Queens: 600 points.
- Four Kings: 800 points.
- Four 1's: 900 points.
- Four Aces: 1000 points.
- Bezique declarations vary according to which suit is trumps:
- Hearts: Queen of Hearts and Jack of Clubs.
- Diamonds: Queen of Diamonds and Jack of Spades.
- Clubs: Queen of Clubs and Jack of Hearts.
- Spades: Queen of Spades and Jack of Diamonds.
Brisques are not counted at all.
Very similar to six-deck Bezique with the following changes in scoring:
- The Deck: Eight Picket decks or 256 cards.
- The Deal: 15 cards to each player in packets of three.
- Declarations are as for six-deck with the following changes/additions:
- Bezique: 50 points.
- Quintuple Bezique: 9000 points.
- Trump suit only:
- Five Jacks: 800 points.
- Five Queens: 1200 points.
- Five Kings: 1600 points.
- Five tens: 1800 points.
- Five Aces: 2000 points.
Rubicon is achieved if a player fails to reach 5000 points.
This is the partnership version of Rubicon Bezique.
The Deck: Six Piquet decks or 192 cards.
The Deal: Nine cards, dealt in packets of three, the player to the left of the dealer leading to the first trick.
Declarations: These are made either by the player who wins the trick or he can nominate his partner to do so.
A player can use his own cards and those of his partner to form a meld, provided that his partner's cards have already been exposed in a declaration.
Scoring is as for the standard Rubicon Bezique game with the following exceptions and additions:
- Double Carte Blanche: If both players of a partnership declare a Carte Blanche they score 500 points.
- Any Four Jacks7: 400 points.
- Any Four Queens: 600 points.
- Any Four Kings: 800 points.
- Any Four 1's's: 900 points.
- Any Four Aces: 1000 points.
- Quintuple Bezique: 13,500 points.
- Sextuple Bezique: 40,500 points.
Tips on playing Bezique
As with any card game, winning depends mostly on the luck of the deal and draw. You can, however, increase your chances of winning by a few simple tricks.
If you are holding the seven of trumps it is wise to try and play a trick-winning card straight away if the exposed trump card is higher than nine.
Play lead cards wisely. Use the highest expendable card you hold, especially in the game version which insists on each player winning three tricks before being allowed to declare. The longer you stop your opponent from winning his three tricks the better chance you have of forcing him to discard cards which could make a meld.
Keep a careful eye on what cards your opponent plays as well as what he declares. It is no good collecting for a Double Bezique if he has already used one Jack of Diamonds in the centre play-off section of the game.
Be aware of how many cards are remaining in the stockpile. Making a declaration of a Royal Marriage followed by a Royal Sequence may keep your opponent guessing as to whether you are holding the latter, but won't help if you cannot win a trick before the stockpile runs out, thus losing the ability to declare it! Remember, once the final card of the stock has been drawn no further declarations may be made
If you have a good memory, take note of how many cards of each suit and number have ended up in the tricks which are no longer in play.
Watch the trend of suits your opponent plays to the centre... it may give you an idea of what he is collecting and what he hopes to declare. If you suspect that a Double Bezique or Royal Sequence is imminent it is better to sacrifice your own lower melds in order to stop him winning a trick than to stubbornly hold on to poor scores.
It is to your advantage to not reveal to your opponent that you hold cards you suspect he needs. If he has already declared a Bezique with one Jack of Diamonds and Four Jacks with another and if you keep the Queen of Spades, which you hold, hidden from him, he will continue to retain both Jacks and his Queen in the hope of forming a Double Bezique. Once he knows that you have the other Queen he is free to use them in tricks and start a different collection.
Never forget that the ten beats all cards except the Ace!
If you are playing the standard game check all declarations carefully to make sure that all prials of four are composed with cards of differing suits.
Play the endgame very carefully. Start by leading Aces and 10s if you are sure that he holds at least one card of that suit valued lower. If you hold plenty of trump cards play them next to 'draw out' his own trumps and any Brisques. If you suspect that he holds the Ace or Aces of trumps, use the ten or tens of trumps you have to over-trump suits for which you hold no other cards. There is nothing worse than losing your ten of trumps to the Ace in the final trick thus losing twenty points and possibly the game!
A shareware computer version of Bezique can be found at Card Parade