Königrufen with a Dummy

This three-player version of the Austrian Tarock game Königrufen was proposed by Clas Broder Hansen of Hamburg in 2012 and adapted by Markus Mair of Innsbruck who published rules on his website as Königrufen zu dritt − mit fliegendem/fixem Strohmann in 2014. This page, written by John McLeod , is based on our interepretation of these rules used successfully for some three-player games in Oxford during the 2020 lockdown.

Königrufen is a game with many local variants and house rules. Almost any of those variants can be played by three people in this dummy format.

The dealer deals four hands of 12 cards as usual. Three hands belong to the active players and the fourth to an imaginary dummy player sitting to dealer's left. The dummy hand remains face down and unknown during the bidding. It is turned face up after the talon exchange (if any) and immediately before the round of announcments.

The bidding, talon exchange and announcements proceed exactly as usual except that the dummy hand's turn is skipped. The dummy cannot bid or announce anything. However, the dummy's partner can make announcements (such as pagat ultimo) on behalf of the dummy in their own turn. In a negative contract with individual Kontras, only the human opponents of the declarer can Kontra, not the dummy hand.

When the dummy is turned up its cards are organised by suit and rank. Throughout the play, the dummy's cards are played by the 'guardian'.

When the play is two against two (because a King was called that was not in the talon), the dummy's partner is the guardian. So if the called King is in the dummy the declarer is the guardian, and if the called King is in an active player's hand, the third active player who is declarer's opponent is the guardian.

When the play is one against three (because the contract is one that is played alone such as Dreier or Bettel, or because the called King is in the talon), then the guardian is whichever of dummy's partners is the first to play to the first trick. So if Forehand is the declarer the player opposite the dealer is the guardian, but if either of the other players is the declarer then Forehand is the guardian.

The play proceeds anticlockwise as usual, the dummy playing a card to each trick in its turn according to the normal rules. So the guardian will play twice to each trick, one card from their own hand at their turn and one card from dummy's hand at dummy's turn. When the dummy wins a trick the guardian must lead a card from dummy to begin the next trick.

Note: In the case of a Solorufer where the called King is not in the dummy, even though the partnerships may not be clear the guardian will be established during the first trick. Suppose South is dealer, so that West is the dummy. East leads to the first trick, North plays a card and now it is the turn of the dummy, West. The possibilities are as follows:

  • If North or South is the declarer and East holds the called King, East must declare that they are the partner, in which case the third player must be the opponent, who becomes the guardian and plays a card from the dummy.
  • If North or South is the declarer and East does not hold the called King, East is the guardian and must play from dummy. Although this shows that East is an opponent, it will not be clear initially whether the third player is the partner holding the called King or another opponent with the called King in the talon.
  • If East is the declarer, North must declare the called King if held, in which case South is the guardian and plays from the dummy.
  • If East is the declarer and North does not hold the called King, North is the guardian and plays from the dummy. The called King may be either with South or in the talon: this is initially unknown.

A score is kept for each of the four players. The dummy has its own score and the dummy's profit or loss is shared equally among the other players at the end of a session.

Although in contracts with a declarer the same player remains guardian throughout the hand, in a Trischaken the guardian role changes from trick to trick. Forehand is the guardian for the first trick, and thereafter the winner of each trick is the guardian for the next trick. When the dummy wins a trick, the same guardian leads a card from dummy to the next trick.

It works best to use a method of scoring for Trischaken whereby the two players with the most points pay the two players with the least points. Often the dummy will take the most points, which results in an uninteresting zero score if you play a version where only the player with most points loses.

In summary, the order of events in each hand is:

  1. Deal.
  2. Bidding.
  3. Call a King if the contract requires it.
  4. Declarer exposes and/or takes cards from the talon and discards if the contract requires it.
  5. The dummy is exposed and sorted.
  6. Round of announcements and Kontras.
  7. Play the cards.
  8. Score.


Hansen and Mair also allow for a variant in which the geographical position of the dummy is fixed. Dummy can never be Dealer or Forehand, so if for example the dummy is in the North position, when East deals West will be Forehand. We have not tried this version. In principle it seems as though it would be less fair than the version where the dummy is always to dealer's left as there may be some advantage or disadvantage in always playing immediately before, immediately after or opposite the exposed hand.

It is possible for two players to play with two dummies. We have not tried this. If an active player calls a King that is in the other active player's hand, then the cards are thrown in and redealt. Note that in any contract with talon exchange, the declarer will know exactly what is in their opponent's hand, while the opponent may be uncertain which cards the declarer has discarded. Jean Maillard suggests that dummy and active players should alternate - i.e. if the active players are North and South the dummies will be East and West. Obviously the dealer's opponent will be Forehand. In a Trischaken, each player controls one of the dummies.

Last updated: 20th March 2022