Zole

Introduction

Zole, also known by the diminutive Zolite, is a Latvian point-trick game for three players, related to the German game Schafkopf. The Queens, Jacks and diamonds are permanent trumps. In each deal a player can volunteer to play alone against the other two, and try to take more than half of the card points in tricks.

Players and Cards

There are three active players. Normally, one player, the bidder, will play alone against the other two in partnership. It is possible for four people to take part in a game, in which case the dealer deals to the other three players and takes no further part in the play, but counts as an opponent of the bidder for the purpose of scoring.

The twos, threes, fours, fives and sixes are removed from an ordinary 52-card French-suited pack. In all suits but diamonds the sevens and eights are also removed, leaving 26 cards, fourteen of which will become trumps.

All Queens, Jacks and diamonds are trumps, ranking from highest to lowest as follows:

Q-Q-Q-Q-J-J-J-J-A-10-K9-8-7.

In each of the three non-trump suits, clubs, spades and hearts, there are just four cards ranking from highest to lowest:

A-10-K-9.

Note that for the purpose of following suit and winning tricks, all Queens and Jacks count as belonging to the trump suit (diamonds) and not to the suits printed on them.

The cards have point values: Ace=11, Ten=10, King=4, Queen=3, Jack=2, other cards (9, 8, 7)=0. The total number of points in the pack is 120.

Deal and play are clockwise.

Deal

The dealer shuffles the cards, gives them to the player on the right to cut, and then deals a packet of four cards to each of the three active players, starting with the player to the dealer's left and continuing clockwise, then a talon of two cards face down to the table, and finally a second packet of four cards to each active player. The players now have 8 cards each.

The turn to deal passes to the left after each hand.

Bidding

Starting with the player to dealer’s left, each player in turn has a single opportunity to pass or to offer to play either an ordinary game, making use of the two-card talon, or a Solo (“Zole” in Latvian) playing with the cards as dealt without using the talon. In either case the bidder undertakes to win more than half the card point, at least 61, playing against the other two players in partnership.

If playing an ordinary game, the bidder picks up the talon, without showing the cards to his opponents and discards any two cards from the resulting 10-card holding face down. The point value of these two discarded cards counts for the bidder.

If playing a Solo, the bidder plays with their original 8-card hand. The two talon cards remain unseen until the end of the play and their value counts for the bidder's opponents.

If all three players pass, a game of galdiņu (table) is played, in which there are no partners and the aim is to take the fewest tricks (not necessarily the fewest points). An alternative, if agreed in advance, is to play the game with pools (see below) in which case when all pass the cards are thrown in and the next player deals.

Play

The player to dealer’s left leads to the first trick. Thereafter the lead to each trick is made by the winner of the previous trick.

A player on lead may lead any card. The next players must follow suit if they are able; if they have no card of the suit that was led they may play any card, a trump or a card of another suit as they see fit. There is no obligation to head the trick.

The trick is won by the highest ranking card of the led suit if no trumps have been played in the trick. If trumps have been played then the highest ranking trump in the trick wins.

Surrender

Declarer has the right to surrender any time before the lead to the third trick. In this case the hand is scored as though the declarer took 31-60 card points. A defender may offer to surrender at any time this is binding on the other defender, but the declarer can choose whether to accept the surrender (scored as though the declarer took 61-90 card points) or can insist the game be played out in the hope of taking 91 or more points.

Scoring

At the end of the play each team counts the card points in its tricks, adding the two cards of the dealer's discard to the declarer's tricks in an ordinary game or the talon to the opponents' tricks in a solo. The declarer then pays or receives a number of stakes to or from each opponent according to the number of card points or tricks taken as follows:

declarer opponents ordinary game solo
all tricks no tricks receive 3 from each receive 6 from each
91 or more 29 or fewer receive 2 from each receive 5 from each
31-60 60-89 pay 2 to each pay 5 to each
30 or fewer 90 or more pay 3 to each pay 6 to each
no tricks all tricks pay 4 to each pay 7 to each

If all three players passed, then the player taking most tricks pays two stakes to each other player. If two players tie for most tricks, whichever of them has more card points pays the other two. [In the rare case where the card points are tied as well, I suggest that the two players with most tricks each pay 2 stakes to the third player.]

Pools

In this version of the game there is a supply of tokens representing pools. During the game, there may be collective pools represented by tokens in the centre of the table and personal pools represented by tokens in from of the owner of the pool. Each pool is worth three stakes. A personal pool represents a debt and the owner will pay three stakes to the eventual winner of that pool. A collective pool is jointly owned, so when it is won the opponents of the winner each have to pay 1 stake for the third of the pool for which they were responsible.

At the start of the game and until there is a deal in which everyone passes there are no pools.

If all three players pass, there is no play. One token representing a collective pool is placed in the centre of the table, the cards are thrown in and the next player deals.

If there is at least one pool anywhere on the table and the declarer loses a game, then in addition to the usual payments, one token representing a personal pool is placed in front of the unsuccessful declarer.

If a declarer wins while there is a pool on the table, then one pool token is removed. In order of priority:

1. If the winning declarer has a personal pool, one personal pool token is removed and there is no extra payment (by winning a game the declarer is absolved of that debt).
2. If the winning declarer has no personal pool, but there is a collective pool, one collective pool token is removed and each opponent pays one extra stake to the declarer.
3. If the winning declarer has no personal pool and there are no collective pool, then one personal pool token belonging to one of declarer's opponents is removed and that opponent pays three extra stakes to the declarer.

Variations

Four players
If there are four players the dealer receives no cards and takes no part in the play. Some play that the dealer pays or receives the same amount as each of the declarer's opponents: others play that the dealer takes no part in the scoring.
Small Solo
Some allow a bid of 'small solo' (mazā zole). This outranks an ordinary Solo, and the declarer undertakes to lose every trick. The talon cards are not used and remain unseen. The player to dealer's right leads to the first trick as usual. If successful the declarer receives 6 stakes from each opponent; if not the declarer pays 7 stakes each.

References

The Latvian Zole Wikipedia page is mainly based on the description in the book Kāršu spēles by Emanuel Lasker (Rīga, 1931).

Another description and some information about tournaments is available at Zolmaniem.lv.

This page is maintained by John McLeod, john@pagat.com   © John McLeod, 2019. Last updated: 31st October 2019

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