Kleurenwiezen / Whist à la Couleur

Introduction

The game of Colour Whist (Kleurwiezen or Kleurenwiezen in Flemish, Whist à la Couleur in French) is a Belgian variation of Whist with bidding. In fact the name might better be rendered in English as Suit Whist. It is so called because the trump suit is determined by the bidding, in contrast to the simpler (and less popular) version of Belgian Whist in which the trump suit is fixed by turning up the last card dealt. There are many local variations, especially in scoring, and there are differences between the versions played in the French and Flemish speaking parts of Belgian.

Players and Cards

This is a game for four players, each ultimately playing for themselves, though in any particular deal they form alliances, two against two or one against three, according to the bidding. A standard 52-card pack is used. For bidding purposes the four suits rank from high to low: Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Spades. Within each suit the cards rank from high to low: A-K-Q-J-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. In Belgium the Aces, Kings, Queens and Jacks normally have the indices 1, R, D, V respectively.

The Deal

Deal and play are clockwise. The first dealer is chosen at random; thereafter the turn to deal passes to the left. Some play that the cards are shuffled and cut before each deal. Others play that the deck is never shuffled between hands. The cards are simply gathered together and cut by the player to the right of the new dealer. The version without shuffling obviously leads to more extreme hands and higher contracts.

The cards are then dealt out in batches of 4 and 5. In Wallonia, the French speaking part of Belgium, it is usual to deal 4 cards to each player, then 4 each again, and finally a batch of 5 cards each. In Flanders, the Flemish (Dutch) speaking part, the usual deal is 4 cards each, then 5 each, then 4 each.

The Bidding

Overview

The bidding begins with the player to dealer's left and continues clockwise around the table for as many ciurcuits as necessary until the final contract is decided. The bidding determines the partnerships, the trump suit, and the objective. The winner of the bidding, either alone or with the help of a partner, undertakes a contract either to win at least a certain number of tricks or to avoid taking tricks. The other players try to prevent the contract from succeeding.

The most basic contract is that in which two players form a partnership to try to win at least eight tricks, playing with a trump suit they have chosen. The suit and the partnership are settled as follows. Starting with the player to dealer's left, each player may either pass or name a trump suit with which they would like to play. A player who passes cannot take any further part in the auction. If two players name the same suit, they form a partnership. The first player to name the agreed suit is the proposer and the second player is the acceptor.

When a suit is proposed and accepted, this does not terminate the bidding, since various other contracts are possible. For example, it may happen that the other two players agree a different suit in which they would like to play. Now the partnership that bid the higher ranking suit has priority, but the bidders of the lower suit can try to win the auction by bidding a higher number of tricks. For example: North deals, East bids Diamonds, South bids Spades, West bids Spades, North bids Diamonds. Diamonds are higher than Spades, so it is up to the Spade bidders to decide whether they would like to increase their bid to 9 tricks. In a partnership contract it is the acceptor of the suit who decides whether to bid higher, so in this case West has to decide whether to bid 9 Spades, undertaking that his team of South and West will win at least 9 tricks. If he does, North can overcall with 9 Diamonds, West can continue with 10 Spades, and so on. The acceptors make their decisions without any further information from the proposers.

Often it takes more than one round of bidding for suits and partnerships to be agreed. If the suit you propose at your first bid is not accepted by anyone, then when your next turn comes you may accept a suit proposed by another player, or propose a new suit, or repeat your previous proposal. Alternatively, if the suit you propose is not accepted, you may decide to play alone with that suit as trumps: this is known as a Solo, and your contract is to win at least six tricks, playing against the other three players as a team. A Solo can also be bid if there is no player who could accept your proposal (for example if the first two players agree a suit and the third player passes, the dealer can bid solo), or if your suit is accepted but your acceptor passes later on in the auction, being unwilling to bid any more tricks. There can be competitive bidding between players wishing to play Solos in different suits, or between a single player bidding Solo and the acceptor of a partnership.

Example:NorthEastSouthWest (dealer)
DiamondsClubsHeartsSpades
SpadesPassSolo 6 Hearts-
10 Spades-7 Hearts-
Pass--Solo 8 Spades
--Pass

In the above example, North accepts West's Spades in the second round. West, as the proposer, does not get another chance to bid until after North passes in the fourth round. The North-West partnership needs to bid 10 Spades to overcall South's Solo. When North passes, South is still the high bidder and has nothing to say until East has decided what to do. On the next round, South could overcall the Solo 8 Spades with 8 Hearts, Hearts being a higher suit, but decides not to.

There are several further complications in the bidding:

  1. A player who holds three aces is forced to bid Troel (in Flemish) or Trou (in French). The bidder forms a partnership with the holder of the fourth ace, who must choose trumps. This partnership needs to win at least 9 tricks to succeed. The Troel/Trou must be announced before the start of the auction and replaces the normal suit bidding, though some high contracts are still possible.
  2. The player to dealer's left has an additional option: instead of passing or proposing a suit, he can "wait". At his second turn to speak he must either accept one of the suits proposed by the other players or pass.
  3. There are other possible contracts: for example there are Misère bids, which commit the bidder to lose every trick, and Abondance bids to win nine or more tricks alone.

The Contracts

Here is a list of possible contracts. Please note that the rules of this game vary considerably from place to place within Belgium, and some of these contracts are not allowed by all players.

Proposal (vraag / propos) and Acceptance (meegaan / emballage)
One player proposes a trump suit and another accepts that suit. Together they try to win at least the number of trick bid, which can be 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 or 13.
Solo (alleen)
One player playing alone, with the trump suit of his choice, tries to win at least the number of tricks he bid, which can be 6, 7 or 8. In the Flemish form of the game, a Solo for 5 tricks is also allowed.
Petite Misère / Kleine Miserie
Everyone discards one card face down, and then the player who bid Misere tries to lose all 12 tricks, playing without trumps.
Piccolo
The bidder must win exactly one trick, playing alone without trumps. (Not all versions include this contract.)
Abondance
One player, playing alone, with a trump suit of his choice, tries to win at least the number of tricks bid, which can be 9, 10, 11 or 12. In versions that allow a Small Slam bid for 12 tricks, the maximum Abondance bid is for 11 tricks.
Grande Misère / Grote Miserie
The bidder must lose all 13 tricks, without trumps.
Troel / Trou
One player, holding three aces, plays with a partner who holds the fourth ace. Together they try to win at least 9 tricks, with a trump suit chosen by the holder of the fourth ace. In the Flemish form of the game, if the suit of the fourth ace is chosen as the trump suit, the bidding team only needs 8 tricks rather than 9 to win.
Grande Misère Etalée / Misère Ouverte / Open Miserie
The bidder must lose all 13 tricks without trumps, exposing his cards on the table after the first trick.
Slam (Chelem / Solo Slim)
The bidder chooses trumps or plays without trumps, and must win all 13 tricks, playing alone. In some versions there is a Small Slam (Petit Chelem) for 12 tricks and a Grand Slam (Grand Chelem) for 13 tricks.

The Bidding Process

Before the start of the auction proper, any player who has three or four aces must bid Troel (Trou). If someone bids Troel, the bidding continues clockwise from that player. Each player in turn may bid higher or pass. When three players have passed, the contract bid by the last and highest bidder is played.

Variation: Some players only require a bid of Troel with exactly three aces: in this version a player who holds all four aces is not allowed to bid Troel. A Troel with four aces, when allowed, is sometimes known as Royal Troel.

If no one bids Troel, the auction begins with the player to dealer’s left and continues clockwise. The possibilities for the first player are:

  1. To pass;
  2. To wait - reserving the right to accept another player's proposal;
  3. To propose a trump suit;
  4. To bid Piccolo, Misère (of any kind), Abondance for 9 ticks or Slam.

Subsequent players normally have the following possibilities at their first turn to speak:

  1. To pass;
  2. To propose a trump suit that has not been proposed before;
  3. To accept a trump suit which has been proposed by another player and not yet accepted;
  4. To bid Piccolo, Misère (of any kind), Abondance for 9 tricks or Slam.

The various bids have the following conditions and consequences:

Pass. A player who passes cannot bid again during the whole auction. If all four players pass, the cards are thrown in and the same player deals again. This can happen immeditaely, if everyone passes in the first round of the auction, or it can happen later after one or more players have proposed trump suits, if none of the proposals is accepted and no one wants to convert to a Solo or bid any other contract.

Wait. Only the first player has the possibility to "wait". After everyone has spoken, the first player then has the option on his second turn to accept a proposal that has been made by another player and not yet accepted. If no proposal has been made that he is able and willing to accept, he must pass.

Propose. If you propose and another player accepts your proposal by bidding the same suit as you, that player provisionally becomes your partner, and bids on behalf of the partnership. You are not allowed to bid again unless and until either

  • your partner breaks the partnership by passing or bidding a different contract or
  • your partner hands the bidding back to you, which is only possible after he has bid 10 tricks and has been overcalled by an opponent.
If you propose a suit and no one accepts, then at your next turn you have the following options:
  1. To pass;
  2. To propose another suit;
  3. To propose the same suit again. Not all players allow this option. If it is allowed then a limit is set (usually two or three) on the number of times you can propose the same suit. Some also play that a player who has proposed a suit more than once is not allowed to convert to a Solo.
  4. To accept a proposal by another player that has not yet been accepted.
  5. To bid a solo in a suit in which you have previously proposed;
  6. To bid a different contract (Piccolo, Misère, etc., but not Abondance or Slam)
If your proposal is accepted, but your partner subsequently breaks the partnership by passing or bidding a different contract when overcalled by an opponent, your options are:
  1. To pass;
  2. To bid a solo in the suit you proposed;
  3. To bid a different contract (Piccolo, Misère, etc. but not Abondance or Slam) that is higher than the opposing contract.

Accept. If you bid the same suit that another player has proposed, you accept the suit and form a partnership with that player to win at least eight tricks. When a suit has been proposed and accepted, no one else is allowed to bid that same suit. You are not allowed to bid again unless your contract is overcalled by an opponent or an opposing partnership bidding a higher suit, or a greater number of tricks in a lower suit, or a higher contract. When you are overcalled, your options, when your turn comes, are:

  • To pass;
  • To bid a different contract (Piccolo, Misère, etc.) that is higher than the opponents' contract;
  • If your partnership would need to bid more than 10 tricks to outbid the opponents, you can pass the bid back to your partner. This is call;ed a "passe parôle". The roles are of proposer and acceptor are then reversed (but your partner cannot subsequently pass the bid back to you again). Some groups do not allow the passe parôle option.

    Solo (Alleen) This can be for 6, 7 or 8 tricks, playing alone. Flemish players also allow a 5-trick solo. It is not normally possible to bid a Solo directly. You must first propose your suit, and then you can convert to a Solo if no one accepts. However, it is possible to bid Solo directly if there is no one who can accept your proposal. For example if North proposes Diamonds, East passes, and South accepts Diamonds, West can bid an immediate Solo, since no one is eligible to be West's partner. Different groups of players have different ranking orders of the solos compared to the partnership bids and other contracts; for each local version of the game there is a scoring table that shows the ranking order of the bids. If your solo is overcalled by an opposing player or partnership, you can bid a higher solo or another contract sufficient to beat the opposing bid.

    Small Misère (Petite Misère / Kleine Miserie). The rank relative to other bids will be shown by the scoring table. It is possible for two or more players to play this contract simultanoeusly. After a Small Misère has been bid, subsequent players may make the same bid, and all the bids stand unless someone bids higher. Even though each of the bidders plays for himself, simultaneous Misères are treated in some ways like a proposal and acceptance: for example if the first player says "wait" and another player bids a Small Misère, the first player is allowed to bid a Small Misère too. Some play that if three players bid Small Misère, the fourth player is also forced to play Small Misère.

    Piccolo. As with Small Misère, more than one Piccolo can be played simultaneously. However, Piccolos and Misères cannot be mixed: a Piccolo bid cancels all Small Misère bids.

    Abondance. If you want to bid Abondance, you must do so at your first turn to speak, instead of proposing a suit. It is not possible to introduce a bid of Abondance later in the auction, but if your Abondance is overcalled, you can bid a higher Abondance on your next turn. The trump suit is named with the bid. An Abondance can be overcalled by an Abondance for the same number of tricks in a higher suit, or for a greater number of tricks in a lower suit.

    Grand Misère (Grande Misère / Grote Miserie). This can be bid on any turn to overcall a lower contract. Simultaneous Grand Misères are possible.

    Open Misère (Misère Ouverte / Open Miserie) can be bid on any turn to overcall a lower contract.

    A Slam (Chelem / Slim) can only be bid at your first turn to speak, not later in the auction. In the unlikely event that more than one player wants to bid a Slam, a Slam with a higher trump suit beats one with a lower trump suit, and a Slam without trumps ranks higher than a Slam with a trump suit. If Small Slams are allowed, any Grand Slam beats any Small Slam.

    Some allow a bid of Open Slim - a Slam in which the bidder's hand is spread face up on the table after the first trick.

    Note that if the contract you bid is not overcalled, you cannot change your bid when your turn comes around again. You can only change your bid when your previous bid has been superseded by an opponent's higher bid.

    Some play that after a Piccolo or Misère has been bid it is no longer possible to propose a new trump suit. It is however possible to accept a suit previously proposed by another player after a Piccolo or Small Mière has been bid, provided that the acceptor contracts on behalf of the partnership for enough tricks to outrank the previous highest bid.

    The Play

    In a Proposal and Acceptance or a Solo, the trump suit is already known, and the player to the left of the dealer leads to the first trick.

    In a Troel / Trou, the holder of the fourth ace announces the trump suit and leads to the first trick. He is not obliged to lead a trump. If the player who bid Troel / Trou holds all four aces, he calls for the highest Heart he does not hold. and the possessor of this card announces trumps and leads.

    Some Flemish players play that if you bid Troel with all four aces and the heartK, you must call the king of the highest ranked suit where you don't have the king - i.e. the diamondK unless you have that as well, in which case you call the clubK, and so on.

    In the negative contracts - Piccolo and all kinds of Misère - there are no trumps and the player to dealer's left leads to the first trick.

    In Abondance and Slams the winner of the bidding leads to the first trick.

    In all contracts players must follow suit whenever possible. A player with no card of the suit led may play any card. (There is no obligation to trump, not to beat the cards previous ly played to the trick.)

    The trick is won by the highest card of the suit led, unless there are trumps in it, in which case the highest trump wins. The winner of a trick leads to the next.

    The Scoring

    The game is usually played for snmall stakes. If the score is kept on paper, it represents the amount of money each player has won or lost, and the scores should balance.

    • When two players play against two, each member of the winning team wins a certain amount of money, and each member of the losing team loses that same amount.
    • When one player plays against three, that player is paid by or pays to all three opponents, so the amount won or lost by the lone player is three times the amount won or lost by each member of the opposing team of three players.
    • When there are simultaneous contracts - for example two different players playing a Small Misère at the same time - then each is scored separately.

    In a Proposal and Acceptance or a Solo, the score depends on the number of tricks won. In a Troel there is a fixed score, unless the bidding side wins every trick, in which case there is a higher score, usually double. Each of the other contracts has a fixed score.

    The details of the scores and the precise ranking order of the contracts varies from place to place and is shown in a scoring table. Here is an example from the French-speaking part of Belgium.

    ContractScore if wonScore if lost
    8 tricks with partner8 points
    plus 3 points for each extra trick
    26 points if all 13 tricks are won
    8 points
    plus 3 points for each trick short of the contract
    9 tricks with partner11 points
    plus 3 points for each extra trick
    26 points if all 13 tricks are won
    11 points
    plus 3 points for each trick short of the contract
    Solo 64 points from each opponent for 6 tricks
    5 points for 7 tricks
    7 points for 8 or more tricks
    4 points to each
    plus 1 point for each trick short of the contract
    10 tricks with partner14 points
    plus 3 points for each extra trick
    26 points if all 13 tricks are won
    14 points
    plus 3 points for each trick short of the contract
    Solo 75 points from each opponent for 7 tricks
    7 points for 8 or more tricks
    5 points to each
    plus 1 point for each trick short of the contract
    11 tricks with partner17 points
    plus 3 points for each extra trick
    26 points if all 13 tricks are won
    17 points
    plus 3 points for each trick short of the contract
    Small Misère6 points from each opponent6 points to each
    12 tricks with partner20 points
    26 points if all 13 tricks are won
    20 points
    plus 3 points for each trick short of the contract
    Solo 87 points from each opponent7 points to each
    plus 1 point for each trick short of the contract
    Piccolo8 points from each opponent8 points to each
    13 tricks with partner26 points26 points
    plus 3 points for each trick short of the contract
    Abondance 910 points from each opponent10 points to each
    Grand Misère12 points from each opponent12 points to each
    Abondance 1015 points from each opponent15 points to each
    Abondance 1120 points from each opponent20 points to each
    Troel / Trou16 points
    26 points if all 13 tricks are won
    0 points
    Grand Misère Ouverte24 points from each opponent24 points to each
    Small Slam30 points from each opponent30 points to each
    Grand Slam60 points from each opponent60 points to each

    Notes:

    1. Overtricks and undertricks are scored in partnership and Solo contracts.
    2. In Solo there is no extra score for winning more than 8 tricks - a player who can win 9 or more tricks alone should bid Abondance (or a Slam).
    3. In Troel (Trou) there is no score for overtricks, unless the team wins all 13 tricks. A team that plays Troel / Trou and loses pays nothing.
    4. Simultaneous contracts are all paid for. For example if two players play Small Misère and both win, each collects 12 points and each of the others pays 12 points. If one succeds and one fails, the loser will pay 24 points to the winner, and the other two players neither pay nor receive any points.

    Flemish scoring

    In Flanders, where Solo can be bid for 5, 6, 7 or 8 tricks, it is usual to play that a bid of Solo has equivalent rank to a Proposal and Acceptance for 3 tricks more. Between bids of equivalent level, the rank of the suit decides which is higher. So for example a Solo 5 Clubs is lower than Accept 8 Diamonds, which is lower than Solo 8 Hearts. Here is a possible scoring schedule. When two play against two, each member of the losing side pays one of the winners the given amount. When one plays against three, the lone player pays the given amount to or receives it from each opponent.

    Contract Score for contract Overtricks or undertricks
    5 tricks alone or 8 tricks with partner 2 points 1 point each
    6 tricks alone or 9 tricks with partner 2 points 1 point each
    7 tricks alone or 10 tricks with partner 2 points 1 point each
    8 tricks alone or 11 tricks with partner 2 points 1 point each
    12 tricks with partner 2 points 1 point each
    13 tricks with partner 2 points 1 point each
    Abondance 3 points ---
    Miserie 5 points ---
    Troel 4 points 2 points each
    Open Miserie 10 points ---
    Slam 20 points ---

    Note that when an ordinary game (5-8 tricks alone or 8-13 tricks with partner) is lost, the payment is at least 3 points, because there is always at least one undertrick.

    Doubles

    There are several circumstances that can cause the score to be "doubled". In fact, when more than one of these applies, it is usual not to keep doubling the score but to increase it more gently as follows: x2 for one double; x3 for two doubles; x4 for three doubles; etc.

    The score is doubled if a team wins all 13 tricks in an ordinary game (8-13 tricks with a partner or 5-8 tricks alone).

    An opponent of the final bidder who thinks that the bid will fail can announce "double", to apply a double to the score. Only one double can be added this way.

    If everyone passes - either initially or after no one accepts their proposal - so that no game can be played, the score for the next deal is doubled.

    The score for Troel is double the score for an ordinary game. This doubled score is already shown in the scoring table above, but it counts as a double in the sense that the next double will increase the score only to 6 for the contract and 3 for each over- or undertrick. For example if the troel team wins 13 tricks the score for the contract and 4 overtricks has a multiple of 3 for two doubles applied: (2 + 4) * 3 = 18.

    Variations

    Some variations have been mentioned within the description above, and there are many others. For example Gerver's Guide Marabout de Guide Marabout de Tous les Jeux de Cartes envisages some additional contracts:

    • Piccolissimo: a contract to win exactly two tricks
    • Abondance sur Table: an Abondance in which the declarer exposes his cards after the first trick
    • Chelem sure Table: a Small or Grand Slam with exposed cards.

    Some of the web sites referred to below seem to envisage a paper scoring system in which the scores of the four players do not balance, but add up to a non-zero number. Such a system is clearly not so suitable when the game is played for stakes.

    Other Kleurenwiezen / Whist à la Couleur Web Sites

    FreeWhist.be provides rules, information and a server at which you can play Whist on line against live opponents.

    Another version of Whist à la Couleur is described on Jean-François Bustarret's Jeux de Cartes site.

    Les Amis du Whist gives rules and information for tournament players in Namur and Luxembourg.

    Dafke's Guide to Kleurenwiezen gives rules for another version of the game in Flemish.

    The page Whist, en meerbepaald kleurenwies... on the Pont Neuf site, giving rules in Flemish, has unfortunately disappeared, but here is an archive copy.

    Acknowledgement. This page is partly based on information from Tom Torfs, Peter Kinoo and Nicolas Darchis; also the "Guide Marabout de Tous les Jeux de Cartes" by Frans Gerver, Leo Dignef's thesis "Spelkaarten en Kaartspelen in het Turnhoutse", and the web sites Amis du Whist, FreeWhist.be and Pont Neuf.