Kryt'-navalivat'

This page is based on information from Alexey Lobashev.

Introduction

The name of this little-known Russian game - kryt'-navalivat' - means "covering and piling up". It is a descendant of Duraki s nakladkoy, the earliest printed descriptions of which date from the 18th century. The object of the game is to get rid of all the cards from your hand, the last player left holding cards being the loser, or fool.

Players and Cards

This game is most often played by two people. It can be played by three or more, each playing for themselves, but when there are three or four players it is more interesting to play Vsyak Svoi Kozyri. A 36-card French suited pack is used, the cards in each suit ranking from high to low: A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 in each of the four suits.

Deal

Any player can deal first hand; thereafter the loser of each hand deals the next, the work of dealing being seen as a punishment. The dealer shuffles the cards and the player to dealer’s left (the opponent if there are two players) can cut, though in practice players often omit the cut. Three cards are dealt to each player, one at a time. The top card of the remainder is placed face up in the centre of the table, and its suit determines trumps. The rest of the stock is stacked face down, crosswise on top of the trump card, so that the rank and suit of the trump card remain visible.

Play

The player to the left of the dealer plays first, and begins by placing any one card from his hand face up on the table next to the stock to begin the play pile. The game continues clockwise, and subsequent players in turn have two options:

  1. The player can beat the top card of the play pile. A non-trump card can be beaten by playing a higher card of the same suit or any trump card. A trump can only be beaten by a higher trump. Having done this, the player must play another card on top of it; this second card can be any card the player chooses. Both the beating card and the second card are placed face-up on top of the play pile.
  2. A player who cannot or does not wish to beat the top card of the play pile must instead pick up one or more cards from the play pile, as specified below. These cards are added to the player's hand. The turn then passes to the following player, who can either beat the top card of the remaining play pile or pick up further cards.

If after playing you have fewer than three cards in your hand you must draw sufficient cards from the top of the stock to make your hand up to three cards. Note that when playing two cards, both cards must be played before any cards are drawn from the stock. The face up trump is drawn as the last card of the stock, when all the face down cards have been taken.

The pile of played cards should be stacked so that only the top card is visible. Some experienced players play both cards with a single action - the beating card with the second on top of it. In this case the opponents are entitled to look at the first of the two cards played to check that it really does beat the previous lead.

A player who cannot or does not wish to beat the top card of the play pile must instead pick up one or more cards from the top of the play pile as follows:

  • If the top card of the pile is not a trump, the player just picks up this one card.
  • If the top card of the pile is a trump other than the ace, the player picks up the top three cards from the pile, or the whole pile if it contains three or fewer cards.
  • If the top card of the pile is the ace of trumps, the player must pick up the whole pile.

After a player picks up, the turn passes to the next player. If there are still one or more cards in the pile, this player must beat the new top card or pick up, according to the above rules. If the whole pile has been taken, the next player plays only one card: in this case any card can be played, just as at the start of the game.

Example. Three players; clubs are trumps. Player A leads the ?7 and draws a card to replace it. B plays the •K (to beat the 7), covers it with the ?10 and draws two cards. C trumps the ?10 with the ?9, covers this with the ?8 and draws two cards. A beats the ?8 with the ?9, plays the ?10 on top of it, and draws two cards. B does not wish to beat the •10, so picks it up. Now it is C's turn to beat the ?9, but instead he picks it up, leaving A to beat the ?8 again, this time with the ?Q, on top of which he plays the ?7 and draws two cards. B now picks up the ?8, ?Q and ?7, leaving C to beat the ?9 which he played earlier. C has four cards at this point, so if he does play now he will draw only one card to bring his hand back to three cards. The player whose turn it is to play is in all cases allowed, before deciding whether to beat the top card of the pile or to pick up, to inspect the card or cards which would have to be picked up and the card immediately under them, which the next player would have the opportunity to beat. A player who holds the 6 of trumps can exchange it for the face up trump under the stock at any time before the stock is exhausted.

Endgame

When there are no cards left in the stock, play continues without drawing. The object of the game is to get rid of all one’s cards, and a player who has no cards in hand when the stock is empty drops out of the game, while the others play on. If a player has just one card and uses it to beat the top card of the play pile, and there are still at least two other players in the game, the next player in turn does not have to beat this card, but simply plays any one card on top of the pile for the following player to beat or pick up.

The last player left holding cards is the loser. There is no scoring - only humiliation for the player who loses, and has to perform the chore of shuffling the cards and dealing the next hand. When there are two players, the most honourable way to win is to beat the top card of the pile and then lead the ace of trumps as your last card, so that your opponent has to pick up the whole pile and ends the game holding the entire pack of cards.

It sometimes happens that the last player's last card can be used to beat the last card played by the second to last player. In this case, the result is a draw, and the loser of the previous game deals the cards again for the next game (the proverb is: "an old fool is worse than two new ones").

Example. Suppose that two players remain, A and B. A holds the heartJ and club8; B holds the clubK. The top card of the pile is the heart9 and it is A's turn to play. A beats the heart9 with the heartJ and covers this with the club8. B is now the only player holding a card, but since the clubK can be used to beat the club8, the game is a draw.

If the last player has one card left and it is not that player's turn to beat the top card of the pile, that player loses.

Example. Suppose that two players remain, A and B. A holds heartJ, club8 and clubA; B holds the clubK; diamonds are trumps. The top card of the pile is the heart9 and it is A's turn to play. A beats the heart9 with the heartJ and leads the club8 (a mistake), and B beats the club8 with the clubK. A's last card is the clubA, which could beat the top card of the pile (the clubK), but the clubK was not led - it was used to beat the club8. In this case A is the loser. Of course it would be much better for A to cover the heartJ with the clubA, which B would have to pick up, and then lead the club8, making B the loser.

As in most card games, the players usually hold their cards so that the opponents cannot see what they have. However, a player who holds a lot of cards will sometimes spread them out face up on the table, arranging them by suit, to get a better overview. When there are only two players and no cards left in the stock this gives away no information in principle, as the opponent can work out what cards the other player has. When some of the cards have been played, so that the hands are smaller and there are more cards in the pile, the player may pick the cards up again and hold them normally.

Variation

Kryt'-navalivat' can also be played with diamonds as permanent trumps and spades as permanent "anti-trumps". In this version no card is turned up for trumps at the end of the deal. A spade can only be beaten by a higher spade, not by a trump. The ace of spades, like the ace of diamonds, is unbeatable. However, spades cannot beat cards of any other suit. If the top card of the pile is a spade and the next player cannot or does not wish to beat it, only this one card is picked up.

Tactics

As in most games of this type, at the beginning it is generally good to lead from a long non-trump suit, playing the lowest cards first so that if your opponent picks the card up it cannot be used to beat the next higher card, which you will play next.

After the stock is exhausted, a hand at in which at least half of the cards are trumps is very powerful if the trumps are sufficiently good (and include the ace). On each turn you can beat your opponent's play with a trump and play one of your non-trumps on top of it.

In the three-player game, if your right-hand opponent beats a card with the ace of trumps and plays a non-trump card on top of it, it is often correct to pick up this non-trump rather than beating it, so that your left-hand opponent must take the rest of the play pile. Your left-hand opponent can later attack your right-hand opponent with the ace of trumps. This tactic is especially good if your right-hand opponent is weak, since he will have a free play against you after your left-hand opponent has taken the pile.