Vint

Introduction

Vint is a trick-taking game for four players in fixed partnerships that was fashionable in late 19th century Russia. It features bidding and a fairly complex scoring system that foreshadows some of the elements of modern Contract Bridge. There are games and rubbers, bonus scores above the line that do not count towards game, and rewards for bidding slams. Unlike Auction Bridge, the scoring in Vint rewards players for bidding higher contracts rather than just accumulating overtricks. The Russian word Vint (Винт) means 'screw': the name refers to the rotating auction with increasingly high bids, which is compared to the tightening of a screw.

This page is based on notes of a translation by Alexey Lobashev and John McLeod of the rules given in Правила игры в винт. - М.: Тип. М.Г. Волчанинова (бывшая тип. Лав-рова и К°), [The rules of the game of Vint. - Moscow: Printing-House of М.G. Volchaninov (former Printing-House of Lavrov & Co.). This book, published in 1886, is one of the very few 19th century Russian texts that gives a complete and comprehensible set of rules. There were no doubt many other versions of the game, whose rules evolved considerably in the years up to the Russian Revolution.

In Russia, Vint declined in popularity after the revolution, although a few old players continued to play it until the 1960's. However, a version of Vint survived in Finland, where it evolved further into the modern game of Skruuvi. This evolution is describe on the page Screw Whist in Finland. It also reached North America where it was played for a while in a simplified form and influenced the development of Contract Bridge in the 1920s.

Some of the notable differences of Vint from modern Contract Bridge are as follows:

  • There is no exposed dummy - each player plays their own hand.
  • Twelve passes are needed to end the auction, so a player may overcall his or her own bid even after all the other players have passed, and even pass twice before doing so.
  • Both teams score below the line for tricks won, irrespective of whether the contract succeeds or not.
  • The score per trick depends not only on the suit but also on the level of the bid.
  • There are scores for trump honours and for aces that depend on the level of the bid - these scores encourage players to choose a trump suit in which honours are held.
  • There are no doubles and redoubles, but there is a large penalty above the line for undertricks.

Players and Cards

There are four players in fixed partnerships, partners sitting opposite each other. A standard international 52-card pack is used, the cards of each suit ranking from high to low: A K Q J 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2. Deal and play are clockwise.

Deal

The cards are shuffled and cut, and 13 cards are dealt to each player, one at a time face down.

Bidding

Bidding proceeds clockwise, starting with the dealer. As in Auction or Contract Bridge, bids consist of a Level (a number from 1 to 7) and a denomination (a specific suit or notrump), the level indicating how many tricks above 6 the team will try to win. The rank of denominations from lowest to highest is spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts, notrump. At his turn a player may bid or pass. Each bid must either be at a higher level than the previous bid, or the same level in a higher denomination. There are no doubles or redoubles.

Terminology. A bid of 1 is also called a 'simple' bid and the level 1 is assumed if not mentioned. To bid for example '1 diamond' one normally just names the suit 'diamonds'. To bid 6 one says 'small slam' and the denomination, for 7 'grand slam' and the denomination.

If no one bids initially, the auction continues until all four players have passed twice. If all pass twice the hand is thrown in and the next player deals.

If anyone bids, the auction continues until all four players have passed three times in succession. In other words the final bid has to be followed by 12 consecutive passes for the auction to end. In practice players would sometimes curtail this process to save time if it seemed clear that everyone had finished bidding, but the author of the book deprecates this, as it can clearly lead to chaos.

The contract and the denomination are by the final bid. The declarer is the last and highest bidder (who is not necessarily the first player in that team who bid that denomination).

Play

The first lead is made by the player to the left of the final bidder (declarer). There is no dummy - all four hands remain concealed and players play their own cards.

The rules of play are the same as at Bridge or Whist. Any card may be led. The other players must follow suit if they can. A player who is unable to follow suit may play any card. A trick that contains trumps is won by the highest trump in it. A trick without trumps is won by the highest card of the suit led. The winner of the trick leads to the next trick.

Scoring

As in Rubber Bridge there are scores above and below the line and only scores below the line count towards game. There are five possible elements to the score: trick score, slam bonus, suit honours, aces, undertrick penalties, game and rubber bonuses. I will explain all these in that order.

Trick Score

Irrespective of whether the contract succeeds or not, both teams score below the line for tricks. The trick score is the TOTAL number of tricks won multiplied by the 'trick value'. The trick value is calculated as follows.

  • simple spades 4
  • simple clubs 6
  • simple diamonds 8
  • simple hearts 10
  • simple no trumps 12
  • each extra trick bid adds 10, irrespective of the suit.

So the trick value is 14 for a 2 spade bid, 24 for a 3 spade bid and so on.

Examples.

  • If the bid is 4 diamonds, the trick value is 38. If the bidders make 10 tricks they score 380 below the line while their opponents score 114 (3*38) below the line.
  • If the bid is 4 diamonds but bidders win only 9 tricks they score 342 below the line while their opponents score 152 below the line, but in this case the opponents will also get a score above the line for the undertrick (see below).
  • If the bid is 3 diamonds (trick value 28) but 10 tricks are made, the bidders score 280 below the line while their opponents score 84 below the line. It is the higher trick value that makes it worth bidding as high as you can.

Slam Bonuses

  • For winning 12 tricks: 500 above the line (irrespective of the bid).
  • For winning 13 tricks: 1000 above the line (irrespective of the bid).

Additionally:

  • For bidding a small slam and winning 12 or 13 tricks: 3000.
  • For bidding a grand slam and winning 13 tricks: 5000.

So if you bid a grand slam you score 6000 above the line if you make it, 500 above the line if you make 12 tricks, and no bonus if you make 11 or fewer tricks. If you bid a small slam you score 3500 above the line if you make it exactly, 4000 above the line if you make the overtrick, and nothing above if you don't make it.

Trump Suit Honours.

If there is a trump suit, the side with three or more of the five trump honours (AKQJT) between them scores above the line

  • 20 times the trick value for 3 honours
  • 30 times the trick value for 4 honours
  • 40 times the trick value for 5 honours.

It does not matter whether the honours are in one hand or split between the partners.

Aces

In all contracts, notrump and suit, there is a score above the line for the team with the majority of aces. If the teams have two aces each, the side with the majority of tricks scores for 2 aces. The score is 10 times the trick value for each ace.

Undertricks

If the contract fails, the opponents of the bidding team score for undertricks. The score is the number of undertricks multiplied by the level of the bid multiplied by 500. For undertrick scores, the suit of the bid does not matter, only the level. For example if you bid 4 spades and make only 7 tricks your opponents will score 4*3*500 = 6000 above the line for your three undertricks.

If a small slam bid fails, 3000 extra undertrick points are scored.

If a grand slam bid fails, 5000 extra undertrick points are scored.

Despite the large penalties for undertricks it could sometimes be worth sacrificing. To compensate for the penalty you may have a greater score below the line (even when the contract fails) and the bonus for your trump honours. Here is an example:

a) NS bid 3 hearts with 4 suit honours and 3 aces and take 9 tricks.

  • Trick score: NS 270 below, EW 120 below
  • Suit honours: NS 900 above
  • Aces: NS 900 above
  • NS made a net profit of 1950

b) on the same deal: EW sacrifice in 4 diamonds with 4 suit honours and win 9 tricks:

Trick score: NS 152 below, EW 342 below

  • Suit honours: EW 1140 above
  • Aces: NS 1140 above
  • Undertrick: NS 2000 above (=4*1*500)
  • NS made a profit of only 1810

Also in case (b) EW have more points towards game.

Game and Rubber

The first team to accumulate 500 or more points below the line wins the game. Note that this can happen in the middle of the play, but even so the cards are played to the end. In a close game, both teams may have more than 500 below the line by the end of the play, so the order in which the tricks were won will determine which pair reached 500 first and won the game.

A team scores a bonus of 500 above the line for their first game. As in rubber bridge, a new line is drawn so both teams restart the next game with nothing below the new line.

The first team to win a second game wins the rubber and scores a bonus of 1000 (instead of 500) above the line.

So as in Bridge, a rubber can consist of two or three games. In a two-game rubber the winners of the rubber have a total bonus of 1500 (1000+500). In a three-game rubber the winners still have 1500 bonus but their opponents also have 500 for the game that they won.

The teams total all the points they won during the rubber, above and below the line, and record the difference. It is of course possible to lose money even though you won the rubber.

At the end of the rubber players change partners. Usually three rubbers are played, one with each partnership. After this the players total their wins and losses over the three rubbers and settle up according to the agreed stake. .