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Zsíros

Introduction

The Hungarian game Zsíros (also known as Zsírozás or simply Zsír) belongs to an unusual group of card games found only in Central and Eastern Europe. It is closely related to the Czech game Sedma, the Finnish game Ristikontra and the Serbian/Bosnian game Sedmice, the Romanian game Şeptică and the game Hola (= naked), which may be of Polish origin. Zsíros has been played in Hungary at least since the 1930's. Though the principles are unusual, it is quite straightforward to learn, and offers scope for interesting tactics.

Players

Zsíros can be played by two or four people. When four play, there are two fixed partnerships, with the partners facing each other.

Cards

The 32 card Tell pattern pack is used. These are the standard cards used in Hungary for most games (for example for the national game Ulti). The names of the cards are:

Suits   Ranks
Makk Acorns   Ász Ace Tízes X
Zöld Leaves   Király King Kilences IX
Piros Hearts   Felsõ Over Nyolcas VIII
Tök Bells   Alsó Under Hetes VII

Objective

The aces and tens are called zsír (grease), and the aim is to capture the majority of these cards.

Deal

The first dealer is selected at random, and the turn to deal rotates anticlockwise after each hand. Initially, just four cards are dealt to each player. The remaining stock of undealt cards is put face down on the table to form the talon.

Play

The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick, and each of the other players, in anticlockwise rotation, contributes a card. Any card may be played - there is no requirement to follow suit, etc - in fact suits are irrelevant in this game. The trick is won by the last card played which is equal in rank to the led card.

Example: A leads a nine, B plays another nine, C plays a king, and D plays an ace. The trick is won by B.

Sevens are wild.

That is to say, you can use a seven to equal any rank that is led. So for example, if the following cards are played to a trick: A: ten, B: ten, C: seven, D: nine, then C wins the trick. On the other hand if the cards are A: ten, B: ten, C: seven, D: ten, then D wins the trick.

If a seven is led, it counts only as a seven, and the trick is won by the last seven played to it.

Multiple tricks

When everyone has played one card to the trick, if the winning card was played by an opponent of the player who led to the trick, the leader has two options:

  1. stop at that point and concede the trick to the opponents;
  2. continue the trick for another round, by playing another card of the same rank that was originally led, or playing a seven, representing that rank.
If the leader chooses to continue, the other players must then each play a second card to the trick. After this, the leader can continue for a third, and even a fourth round, if the opponents are still winning and the leader still has another equal card or seven to lead.

The (multiple) trick ends at the end of a round when either:

  • the leader's side is winning (in which case the leader is not allowed to continue), or
  • the leader is unable to or does not wish to continue, or
  • everyone has played all their cards.
At this point whoever was the last to play a card equal in rank to the original lead, or a seven, wins all the cards in the multiple trick, draws first from the stock, and leads to the next trick.

Example: suppose the cards held by the players are as follows:

A: ace, ace, over, seven;
B: ten, ten, nine, seven;
C: king, king, eight, seven;
D: ace, over, under, seven.

The trick begins: A: ace, B: ten, C: eight, D: seven. If A stops the trick now, D will win, so A continues: A: ace, B: seven, C: seven, D: ace. D is still winning, so A plays a third round: A: seven, B: nine, C: king, D: under. Now A is winning, and stops at this point, gathering all 12 cards. Note that if B or D had another ace to play on the third round, winning the trick, A could not continue for a fourth round; A cannot play the over to this trick as it does not match the original lead.

Drawing from the Talon

At the end of the trick (or multiple trick), each player in turn, beginning with the winner of the trick, draws sufficient cards from the talon so that they have four cards in their hands again. When there are insufficient cards left in the talon to allow this, the remaining talon cards are distributed equally to the players. After the talon is exhausted, the game continues without drawing until all the cards have been played.

Calls

In the four player game, you are not allowed to communicate with your partner, except that there are four calls you can make when it is your partner's turn, to suggest what your partner should play. Your partner may follow your suggestion but is not obliged to. The calls are:

"üss!" beat it! - i.e. play a card equal to the lead, or a seven
"ne üss!" don't beat it!
"zsírt!" grease it! - i.e. play an ace or a ten
"ne zsírt!" don't grease it!

Scoring

At the end of the play each side counts the value of the cards it has taken. Aces and tens are worth 10, and everything else counts 0, so there are 80 points in the pack. The side with more points wins. If each side has taken 40 points, the side which took the last trick wins.

  • If the winners took 40-70 points, they score 1 on the scoresheet.
  • If the winners took 80 points, but not all the cards, they score 2, and the losers are said to be kopasz (bald).
  • If the winners took every trick, they score 3, and the losers are said to be csupasz (naked).
The first team to score 5 or more points, over as many deals as it takes, wins the game. For a longer game, you can agree to play up to 10 points.

Software and Servers

You can download a freeware Zsíros program from Thanos Card Games.

Zsir is a free Android app with which you can play Zsírozás against your smartphone.

You can play Zsír on line against computer or human opponents at the Hungarian UltiNet site and at its English edition Rummy Network.