-Number of players: two (more possible)
-Playing time: 1 hour
-Cards: two standard packs, preferably with the same back, each reduced to 32 cards by the removal of all 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s. It is possible to buy Bezique packs (sometimes called short or Piquet packs) together with markers (scoring boards).
-Ranking: Ace is high, 10 next, and thereafter in regular order (A, 10, K, Q, J, 9, 8, 7). Suits are equal.
-Deal: When cutting for deal, cards are ranked as above. The two packs are shuffled together and are dealt successively in packets of three, two and three, each player thus receiving eight cards. The remaining cards are stacked face down to form a stockpile. The top card is then turned over beside the stock. The suit of the exposed card is the trump suit for that hand.
Bezique in its modern form is of French origin, although it was probably developed from an earlier game of possibly Italian or Spanish antecedents. Pinochle, very popular in the United States, is a younger relative.
Object of the game
To score points by collecting certain combinations which are then declared. There are also bonuses to be gained. The first player to reach a predetermined number of points, traditionally 1000, is the winner.
Bezique is a trick-taking game; however, winning tricks is less important than scoring combinations. The game has a strong element of chance but skill is well rewarded.
Elder leads and thereafter the winner of a trick leads to the next trick. There is no obligation to follow suit: the second player may put down any card. A trick is won by the player of the highest trump card or, failing a trump, the higher card of the suit led.
The winner of a trick has the right to declare any combinations held, but may only score for one combination per winning trick. A declared combination is placed face up on the table in front of the player. The player scores the combination, takes the rick and picks up the top card from the stock, The loser then takes the next card from the stock (so that both players’ hands are restored to a total of eight cards), and the winner leads to the next trick. Declared cards form part of a player’s hand and may subsequently be played to tricks at any time.
Certain combinations can be converted to higher combinations; others cannot. For instance, a royal marriage may subsequently be converted, on the winning of a trick, into a sequence; but a royal marriage may not be declared if either card has already been declared in a sequence. If a declared combination is subsequently broken up by the playing of one of the cards to a trick, it cannot be reformed by latter adding a like card. Cards declared on the table may subsequently be used in a different combination, but this combination can only be scored on winning another trick. For example, if a royal marriage is broken up, three like cards may be played from hand to form a quartet with the remaining court card. A player who declares two combinations on the same turn, scoring one of them, may, on winning a further trick, score the second combination.
The 7 of trumps (“dix”) – there are of course two – has a special role. Whoever holds or draws a 7 of trumps may declare it for 10 points, and the first to do so may exchange it for the turn-up card. If the turn-up card is a 7 of trumps the dealer scores 10 for it before play starts.
The winner of the 24th trick draws the last card in stock and the loser takes the turn-up card. Bother players then take their exposed cards into hand and the last eight tricks are played out, but to new rules. The second player must follow suit if able, and must win the trick if able. (When identical cards are played to a trick the lead player wins it.) The winner of the last trick scores bonus 10 points. Players then count brisques won (each Ace or 10 won in tricks) and score them. If, however, a close finish is pending, players may score brisques as they acquire them.
Bezique markers (shown in the image below) are properly used to keep the score, but pencil and paper will do as well. Table 1 shows the various scoring combinations and their values.
Bezique: scoring combinations
|Bezique (Queen of Spades & Jack of Diamonds)||40|
|Double bezique ([Q of spades & J of diamonds] twice)||500|
|Royal marriage (K & Q of trumps)||40|
|Common marriage (K & Q of non-trump suits)||20|
|Four Aces (any suits)||20|
|Four Kings (any suits)||20|
|Four Queens (any suits)||20|
|Four Jacks (any suits)||20|
|Sequence (A, 10, K, Q,J if trumps)||250|
|Dix (each 7 of trumps)||10|
|Brisques (each Ace of 10 won in tricks)||10|
Tips on how to win
Don’t be in a hurry to declare combinations in the opening stages: it is often better to keep your hand concealed. For the same reason, play from the table if you have declared cards. Trick-taking is not important until the second phase of the game approaches, when winning tricks may deprive the opponent of declaring. Low cards are the best discards. A quartet of Aces, since it may be possible to marry the Kings off later. In the end play, a void suit is an advantage. Plan to trump your opponent’s brisques.
(If you have long trumps draw the opponent’s by playing them out.) Note that a brisque makes a different of 20 points to the score, the same as a marriage.
An example of Bezique
-Elder: A of diamonds, 10 of diamonds, 10 of spades, K of clubs, Q of hearts, Jack of diamonds, 8 of spades
-Younger: A of hearts, A of hearts, A of spades, 10 of hearts, 10 of clubs, 9 of clubs, 9 of spades, 7 of hearts.
-Turn-up: J of clubs
Elder leads 8 of spades. Younger captures with 9 of clubs and takes the top card off the stock, Elder taking the next card. Younger now leads. At the end of the 24th trick Elder has scored 80 for a quartet of Kings, 60 for a quartet of Queens, 40 for a royal marriage (total 180), and captured four brisques in tricks. Younger drew both 7 of clubs (20 points) and replaced the J of clubs (the face-up card) with the first one. Younger also had a quartet of Aces (100) and a bezique (40) for a total of 160 and five brisques.
The hands at this stage were as follows:
-Elder exposed: K of clubs, K of clubs, Q of clubs, Q of spades
-Elder concealed: A of clubs, 10 of diamonds, 8 of clubs, 7 of clubs.
-Younger exposed: A of hearts, A of spades
-Younger concealed: A of clubs, A of diamonds, 10 of clubs, K of hearts, Q of clubs, K of clubs.
Younger won the last trick and leads A of clubs hoping to catch one of the elder’s kings. Elder follows suit with 7 of clubs, Younger now leads 10 of clubs, with the same hope, but Elder discards 8 of clubs. Younger now leads A of hearts to draw a trump. Elder obliges and follows with the A and K of trumps in succession, taking Younger’s Q and J. Elder now leads Q of spades, hoping to take the last trick with the K of trumps; a forlorn hope since Younger knows Elder is void in hearts and therefore leads the K of hearts to draw Elder’s K of clubs. Younger wins the last trick (10 points). In the play-off Elder captured two brisques and Younger five. The final tally is therefore Elder 240, Younger 270.
There are many Bezique variants, of which Rubicon Bezique is the most popular. Four short packs are used. Nine cards are dealt, either singly or in groups of three. There is no turn-up; the first marriage (automatically royal) determines the trump suit. The 7s have no special role.
Bezique combinations are scored with four additions: triple bezique (1500 points); quadruple bezique (4500 points); sequence in a plain suit (150 points); and carte blanche (picking up a hand without court cards: 50 points). A player claiming carte blanche scores a further 50 points every time a card is drawn from stock until a court is drawn.
Unlike in Bezique, identical combinations can be reformed provided that at least one card has been played to trick. The last trick of the game is worth 50 points, but brisques are not scored except to break a tie. If the loser fails to reach 1000 points (the rubicon) the winner scores the two totals added together and the bonus for game (500) is doubled.