Sjavs

This page is based on a contribution from Anthony Smith, with further information from Hedin Meitil and Hans Jacob Thomsen.

Introduction

Sjavs is game of the Schafkopf group, which is popular in the Faeroe Islands. "Sjavs" is pronounced "shouse", rhyming with "house". Although the Faeroese-English dictionary explains Sjavs as being a Danish game, the version of the game given in the Danish games-manuals is a 20-card 3-hander whereas the Faeroese game is a 32-card 4-hander. Anthony Smith learnt this game on 20th October 1996 on the Aberdeen - Tórshavn ferry from four players whose names he did not note. On 22nd October he took part in a tournament at the Mimir club in Tórshavn as the guest of Jákup Dalsgaard.

The players

Four play, in two two-player partnerships, partners sitting opposite one another.

The cards

The 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s are removed from a standard 52-card pack to leave 32 cards. Six cards are permanent highest trumps, ranking from high to low: clubQ, spadeQ, clubJ, spadeJ, heartJ, diamondJ. The remaining cards, whether in the trump suit or not, rank A, K, (Q), 10, 9, 8, 7. There are thus 13 trumps if a red suit is trumps and 12 if a black.

The cards have point values as follows: A=11, K=4, Q = 3, J = 2, 10 = 10. The remaining cards have no point values. There are thus 120 points in the whole pack.

The deal

The dealer shuffles and offers the pack to his right hand neighbour to cut. If he does so then the dealer deals in fours, clockwise, until each player has eight cards. If the dealer's right hand neighbour chooses not to cut but taps the pack with his fingers or knuckles then the dealer deals in eights.

Choosing the trump suit

Dealer's left hand neighbour has first opportunity to speak. He must state the length of the longest trump-suit he can make with his cards, provided it consists of five or more cards. If he has no five-card trump suit he says, "Pass". Turn to speak then passes clockwise. Once someone has stated a length, subsequent players pass unless they have a better holding than any already announced. For this purpose, a longer trump suit is better than a shorter, and a trump holding in clubs is better than one of the same length in an unstated suit, even if the first player had in fact a club holding.

When all have had an opportunity to speak, the player with the longest length states his trump suit. If he has more than one equally long possible trump suit and one of them is clubs then he must at this stage announce clubs. If no one at all has a trump holding of five or more cards then the same dealer deals again.

The play

Dealer's left hand neighbour then leads and play proceeds clockwise. Players must follow suit if they are able to and can choose freely whether to trump or discard if unable to follow suit. The winner of each trick leads to the next. When all the tricks have been played each team counts the card points in the tricks they have won.

The scoring

If the side that announced trump have:

    all tricks they score 12, or 16 if clubs were trumps
    90 - 120 they score 4, or 8 if clubs were trumps
    61 - 89 they score 2, or 4 if clubs were trumps
    31 - 59 their opponents score 4, or 8 if clubs were trumps
    0 - 30 their opponents score 8, or 16 if clubs were trumps
    no tricks their opponents score 16 whatever suit is trumps

If both sides have 60 points there is no score for this game, but the value of the next game is increased by two, no matter what had been the original trump.

Winning all the tricks is known as "vol". Obtaining more than 30 points and thus avoiding a double loss is called "at vera javnfrujjur".

If a single player from the side that announced trumps wins all the tricks, the team scores 16 points, or 24 points if clubs were trumps.

The score-sheet

A rubber consists of 24 points, but points are counted down from 24. A vertical line is drawn, and a horizontal near the top. The two columns are headed "We" and "They". Whenever a game is won, the winning players subtract the score from their current total and write the new score in their own column on the next horizontal level below the level where anyone's score was last recorded. Thus the first figure written is got by subtracting the first score from 24. The side whose score first reaches - or passes - zero have won the rubber. If their opponents are still on 24 this counts as a double victory. A victory is recorded as a cross at the bottom of the winners' column on the score sheet and is referred to as "winning a cross".

A team that has 6 points remaining is said to be "on the hook" (because the figure 6 looks a little like a hook). There is a superstition that if you are on the hook it may take a long time to get off it again.

Variations

The following differences are found in Suðuroy, the southernmost island:

  • If the cards are cut they are dealt in batches of 3-2-3 rather than 4-4.
  • If both sides have 60 points, the value of the next game is increased by either 2 or 4 depending on the winner - if the side that announced trump wins, then 2 points are added, and if the other side wins 4 points are added, to reward them for achieving the "draw".
  • Many do not award a double victory if the losers are still on 24, and many do not score extra points if single player wins all the tricks.

Three-player Sjavs

In 3-player Sjavs you deal 10 cards to each player and 2 cards to the table, face down. If player to dealer's right cuts the cards are dealt 3 each - 1 to the table - 2 each - 1 to the table - 3 each. If he taps, they are dealt 10 to the first player - 1 to the table - 10 to the second player - 1 to the table - 10 to the dealer. The bidding process is the same as in 4-player sjavs. One player makes trumps and the other two form a temporary partnership against him.

The trump maker has the right to discard either one or two cards from hand face down and pick up cards from the table to replace them. If the trump maker discards one card he must choose one of the table cards without looking at it first. The opponents do not see the discards nor the cards picked up, and if the trump maker discards one card or no cards at all, the one or two unused table cards are not seen by anyone until after the play. In all cases the two cards on the table, whether exchanged or not, count for the trump maker at the end of the play.

The score sheet has 3 columns, one for each player. If the soloist wins he subtracts points according to the 4-player rules. If he loses, the other two both subtract the appropriate number of point - for example if the soloist takes 50 cards points with hearts as trump the opponents score 4 each.

Two-player Sjavs

In 2-player Sjavs 4 cards are dealt face-down on the table in front of each player. Then on top of each of each of these cards, another card is dealt face-up. Finally the remaining cards are dealt, 8 to each player. The face-up cards count as cards in the player's hand, so in principle it is possible to bid as many as 12.

In the play too, the face up cards in front of you count as part of your hand. If you play a table-card that has another card under it, when the trick is complete you turn the second card face up and it becomes available to play.