Asszorti

Introduction

Asszorti is a Hungarian game for three players that incorporates elements of Preferansz and Tarokk but is simpler than either. From Preferansz it inherits the three-player format where the final bidder plays alone with the objective of winning at least six tricks. The lone player has the advantage of selecting the trump suit and of exchanging some cards with the talon to improve their hand. As in Tarokk the four bids 3, 2, 1 and 0 ('hand') correspond to the number of cards the lone player can take from the talon. Also from Tarokk comes the option of announcing extra feats which can succeed or fail independently of the basic game. In Asszorti there is only one such announcement - arrivázs - which is a commitment to win all of the last three tricks. As in Tarokk, the scores for the basic game and announcement if any can be independently doubled, redoubled, etc.

So far as I can tell, all published descriptions of Asszorti are ultimately based on a single source, the book Ulti, Tarokk és néhány kis játék (Ulti, Tarokk and a few minor games) by József Pais (Budapest, 1990). Asszorti is one of the 'minor games' which the book's introduction implies are traditional Hungarian games that had not previously been described in print. In 1998 Anthony Smith produced a summary English translation of the rules, and David Parlett further summarised this for the 2000 edition of his Penguin Book of Card Games. Several subsequent publications are based on Parlett's account. In the course of this process some details of the game were lost or misinterpreted. On this page I give the original rules of the game based on the description by Pais. In addition to the rules, Pais's book provides several pages of advice on bidding and play and some example deals.

Players and Cards

Asszorti is played by three people using a French-suited pack of 36 cards, the cards in each suit ranking from high to low A, K, Q, J, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6. The pack can be made by removing the 5's, 4's, 3's and 2's from a standard 52-card pack.

Deal and play are clockwise.

Deal

The first dealer is chosen by any convenient method. The dealer shuffles, the player to dealer's right cuts and the dealer deals clockwise starting with the player to the left, first a packet of 3 cards to each player, then a packet of 3 cards face down in the middle of the table to form the talon, then the rest of the cards in packets of 2 at a time, so that each player has a hand of 11 cards.

After the hands have been bid, played and scored, the turn to deal passes to the left.

Bidding, Talon Exchange

Players speak in clockwise order, starting with the player to dealer's left. The possible bids in ascending order are "3" (három), "2" (kettő), "1" (egy) and "hand" (kézből). A bid is an offer to win at least six of the eleven tricks, playing alone against the other two players as a team. The final bidder's hand can be improved by drawing cards from the top of the talon and discarding an equal number of cards, after which the bidder chooses the trump suit. The number of cards drawn cannot be more than the final bid, "hand" indicating that the bidder will play without using the talon. A player who does not wish to bid says "pass" and cannot re-enter the auction.

Jump bidding is not allowed. The first player must either pass or bid "3" and if the first player passes the second player has the same options. After a bid of "3", the next player who wants to bid can only say "2", and so on. If there is more than one bidder there are further rounds of bidding to determine who is willing to bid highest. A bidder whose first turn to speak was earlier than the latest bidder does not bid higher but either says "hold" (tartom) to equal the previous bid or passes. Later players then make the next higher bid or pass. For example if the players in order are A, B and C and C has dealt the bidding might begin:

A B C
3 pass 2
hold --- 1
?    

B does not get a bid in the second round having already passed. A can now say "hold" or "pass". If A passes, C becomes the lone player. If A holds C can bid "hand" or pass leaving A to play. If C bids "hand", A either holds to take over the bid or passes leaving C to play. That ends the auction.

Another example:

A B C
3 2 1
hold ?  

Since A has held the 1, B must now either bid "hand" or pass. If B passes C has the same options. If either of them bids "hand", A must decide whether to hold or pass.

When two players have passed, the third player becomes the declarer and announces the contract - 3, 2, 1 or hand - which must be equal to or higher than the final bid.

If the first two players pass initially, the dealer cannot pass but automatically becomes the declarer and can announce any of the four contracts.

Note. The auction could be simplified by allowing jump bids and specifying that the contract must be equal to the final bid, rather than only permitting minimum bids and allowing the declarer to switch to a higher contract after the auction. This would not materially alter the game. The practice of prohibiting jump bids and allowing the declarer to increase the contract later is inherited from Preferansz and maybe also influenced by Tarokk, where jump bids have conventional meanings promising that the bidder holds particular cards.

If the contract is 3, 2 or 1, the declarer draws that number of cards from the top of the talon without showing them to the opponents, and then discards an equal number of cards (possibly including one or more of the cards that were picked up). The discarded cards are placed face down on top of the unused portion of the talon. If the contract is 'hand' the talon is not used and remains face down.

Chosing Trumps, Arrivázs and Kontra

After specifying the contract and if appropriate drawing from the talon and discarding, the declarer chooses the trump suit or to play without trumps and may also undertake an arrivázs, which is a commitment to win the last three tricks.

The declarer announces this by naming the trump suit if any - hearts (kőr), diamonds (káró), clubs (treff), spades (pikk) or no trumps (szanzadu) - optionally followed by "arrivázs". For example the declarer says "szanzadu" to play just a basic game without trumps or "káró arrivázs" to play with diamonds as trumps and undertake to win the last three tricks. Opponents of the declarer are not allowed to announce arrivázs.

An opponent of the declarer who thinks that the basic game (játék) or an announced arrivázs will fail can double the score for it by saying kontra. The scoring of the game and the arrivázs are independent. If the declarer announces arrivázs an opponent can double either the game (saying "kontra játék") or the arrivázs (saying "kontra arrivázs") or both.

As soon as any kontra is said, the three face-down cards of the talon and/or discard are turned face up for all to see. Since the declarer's discard must be placed on top of the talon, it will be clear in the case of a contract of 2 or 1 which card(s) the declarer discarded and which were left unseen in the talon. At this point if arrivázs has been announced but only one component (game or arrivázs) was doubled initially, either opponent can now say kontra to the other component.

If there has been a double, the declarer can respond with a redouble (rekontra). If both the game and the arrivázs were doubled the declarer can redouble either, both or neither.

In the event of a redouble, the partner of the opponent who initially doubled that item can now double again, saying szubkontra. It is not allowed for the same opponent to say both kontra and szubkontra to the same item.

In the event of a szubkontra the declarer can double the item again saying hirskontra and either opponent can respond with a further double mordkontra. So mordkontra multiplies the original score for the item by 32.

Note. 'Arrivázs' is a phonetic Hungarian spelling of the French word 'arrivage', meaning arrival. So players dedicated to playing Asszorti in English could announce it as 'arrival'.

Play

Declarer's right-hand neighbour leads any card to the first trick. Each trick is won by the highest trump in it, or if it contains no trumps by the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of each trick leads to the next.

Players must follow suit if they can. A player who has no card of the suit led must play a trump if possible. A player with no trumps and no cards of the suit led may play any card. There is no obligation to beat the cards previously played to a trick.

If the talon was turned face up as a result of a kontra, it should be turned face down again at the end of the first trick. The winner of the first trick is responsible for doing this.

To save time the declarer may claim to win all the remaining tricks or concede all the remaining tricks. To claim the remaining tricks, the declarer's hand is displayed face up. Either opponent may dispute the claim, in which case the play must continue with the declarer's cards exposed. If the declarer loses any trick after the claim, all the tricks played after the claim are awarded to the opponents.

If the opponents win all the remaining tricks as a result of a concession or a failed claim, the remaining tricks are given if possible to an opponent who has already won a trick. This can affect the scoring in the case where the declarer has won 6 tricks before the claim or concession, if the result is that the tricks are divided 6:5:0 between the three players - see below.

Scoring

The side that takes 6 or more of the 11 tricks wins the basic game. The amount won depends on the contract as follows:

Contract: 3 2 1 hand
with trumps 2 4 6 8
no trumps 4 8 12 16

If the winning side takes 7 or more tricks, the 7th trick and each subsequent trick scores half as much as the basic game.

For example in a contract of 2 with trumps, the declarer would win 4 points for taking 6 tricks, 6 points for 7 tricks, 8 points for 8 tricks and so on. If the declarer won only 5 tricks the opponents would win 4 points for their 6 tricks. If the declarer took 4 tricks the opponents would win 6 points and so on.

These scores are doubled, redoubled etc. if kontra, rekontra etc. was said to the basic game.

For example if the declarer plays a contract of 1 in no trumps, kontra, rekontra and szubkontra are said to the basic game and the declarer takes 7 tricks, the declarer wins (12+6)×8=144 points.

Exceptionally, if the declarer wins 6 tricks and tricks divide 6:5:0, a single opponent winning all the other 5 tricks, then the the basic score for the contract is deducted from the amount the declarer wins for the basic game. This deduction is not affected by kontras.

For example if the contract is 'hand' with a trump suit, there is no kontra, the declarer takes 6 tricks and a single opponent takes the other 5 tricks the declarer wins nothing (4-4=0 points). If kontra and rekontra were said the declarer wins 12 points (4×4-4).

The score for arrivázs is 8 points in a trump contract and 16 points in a no trump contract. To win these points the declarer must announce arrivázs before the play and win all of the last three tricks. If the declarer announces arrivázs and loses any of the last three tricks the opponents win these points. There is no score for an unannounced arrivázs.

If the declarer announces arrivázs in a trump contract and wins the last three tricks without using any trumps in those tricks, this is known as an idegen arrivázs (which might be translated as a 'foreign arrival') and the declarer scores 16 points for it instead of 8. It is not possible to announce an idegen arrivázs - the declarer simply announces an ordinary arrivázs and clears all the trumps before winning the last three tricks. There is no such thing as a lost idegen arrivázs - if the declarer announces arrivázs, clears all the trumps in the first 8 tricks, but then fails to win all of the last three tricks, this just counts as an ordinary failed arrivázs and the declarer loses 8 points.

If kontra, rekontra, etc. were said to an announced arrivázs then the score for it is doubled, redoubled, etc. If an idegen arrivázs was made, that score is doubled accordingly.

The score for arrivázs is completely independent of the score for the basic game. It is possible to win one and lose the other.

The two opponents are rewarded or penalised equally for all wins and losses by their team. If the declarer wins x points, each opponent pays x to the declarer. If the declarer loses y points, the declarer pays y to each opponent.

Further examples:

  • The declarer plays a "hand" contract with diamonds as trumps and announces arrivázs. Kontra, rekontra and szubkontra are said to the basic game and kontra to the arrivázs. The declarer wins the basic game with a 6:5:0 split of the tricks but the arrivázs fails. Declarer wins 40 points, made up of (8×8)-8=56 for the basic game less 2×8=16 for the arrivázs.
  • The declarer plays a contract of "3" with spades as trumps and announces arrivázs. There is no kontra. The declarer wins 10 tricks, winning the last 3 tricks with hearts. The declarer scores 22 points made up of 2 for the basic game, 4 for the overtricks and 16 for the idegen arrivázs.

There is no fixed length for a session and no target score. The session ends by mutual agreement, maybe after an agreed number of deals or at an agreed time.

The players may either pay in coins or chips after each hand or the scores can be recorded on paper, in which case at the end of the session players win or lose in proportion to the difference between their scores.

This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2020. Last updated: 29th January 2020

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