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Sharp Nullo

A four-player partnership trick avoidance game also known as Reverse Whist, contributed by Hans Peter Ahlbach .

Unlike in Whist the objective of this game is to take as few tricks as possible.  The fundamental innovation is that neither side gets better or worse cards than the other side, since they bid on the same open cards, and the bidding determines who gets which cards. The game is always played without trumps.

Like Whist or Bridge it is a game for 4 players, who form partnerships of 2, partners facing each across the table (North and South against East and West). A standard card deck of 52 cards without Jokers is used. The cards rank in the order: Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, but the direction depends on whether the game is played uptown with the King highest and the Ace lowest, or downtown with the the Ace highest and the King lowest.

To begin the game the card deck is shuffled and dealt into two sets of 26 cards, called right and left. The turn to deal passes clockwise after each hand. There are always just two players who take part in the bidding: the dealer's left-hand opponent and the dealer's partner. For example when South deals the bidders are West and North. The two sets of dealt cards are placed side by side in front of the two bidders and arranged face up by suit and rank.

The two bidders secretly write down their bids for the deal. Each must write down four bids, representing a number of tricks from 0 to 12 for each of the four configurations: uptown right, downtown right, uptown left and downtown left. For example, if a player writes a bid of 4 for downtown right, he undertakes that if his team plays the left cards with downtown ranking, they will win not more than 4 tricks.

Each bidder adds up his four bids and they announce their totals. The bidder with the lower total wins the bidding; if the totals are equal the player to dealer's left wins the bidding. The winner of the bidding now reveals his four bids, and the losing bidder selects which of the winner's four bids will be played as the contract.

Now each of the two bidders picks up their 26 cards: the winning bidder takes the set of cards nominated in the contract and the losing bidder takes the other set. The bidders privately divide their cards in whatever way they wish into two 13-card hands, keep one hand and give the other to their partners, without showing the cards to the opponents. All four players look at the 13 cards they are holding and memorize them, after which everyone passes their hand across the table face down to their partner, and that is the final distribution of the cards. Thus everyone knows their own hand and their partner's, but not the distribution of cards between the opponents.

The contract player chooses which of the four players must lead to the first trick, and the hands are played out (clockwise) in 13 tricks, according to the normal rules of whist without trumps. That is: any card may be led; the other there players in clockwise order must play a card, following suit if possible and otherwise playing any card they choose; the trick is won by the highest card of the suit led according to the uptown or downtown ranking of the contract; the winner of each trick leads to the next.

If the number of tricks won by the bidding team is less than or equal to the contract, the bidding side wins the deal. If the bidding side take more tricks than the contract specified, their opponents win the deal. (There is no extra score for over- or undertricks, so the play can end as soon as one side has won enough tricks to make the outcome certain.) The game is won by the first team that wins two consecutive deals.

Note. If the teams win alternate deals, the game could theoretically go on indefinitely. If the game has continued for 4 or more deals without a result, then after any hand, either of the two players due to bid in the next deal may declare the game a draw. A draw can only be declared before the cards for the next hand are dealt.

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Last updated: 13th August 2013