Skat games


Skat (the A is long, as in "Ah!") has been Germany's national card game for nearly 200 years. In fact, it is not so much a game as a national institution. Though comparable to Bridge in depth and variety, it is essentially a classless game, beingplayed as enthusiastically in homes and pubs as it is played seriously in clubs and tournaments under the aegis of the German Skat Federation. There are thousands of local Skat clubs and annual national tournaments are held. Worldwide tournaments are organized by the International Skat-Players Association, to which are affiliated local associations in Australia, Belgium, the Bahamas, Canada, Germany, France, Namibia, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, South Africa and the USA.

I learnt Skat many years ago while supposedly studying German at university and it has been my favorite card game ever since. (Apart from those of my own invention)

How does it go

Skat is a trick-taking game for three, played with a 32-card pack containing no cards lower than 7. The cards may be either French-suited (clubs, spades, hearts, diamonds)or German-suited (acorns, leaves, hearts, bells). Each player gets 10 cards and the other two go face down to form the skat. An auction determines who will play alone against the other two. The highest bidder becomes the soloist and chooses the trump suit (if any). The soloist's aim is not to win a majority of the 10 tricks played but to capturea majority of card-points contained in won tricks. For this purpose each Ace counts 11, Ten 10, King 4, Queen 3, Jack 2, Nine-Eight-Seven zero each. There being 120 card-points available in all, the soloist must take at least 61 of them, which can be contained in as few as two tricks. The skat belongs to the soloist, who may (but need not)choose to take it into hand and make any two discards before play. Other bids are also possible.

Skat in Britain

Regrettably, if understandably, Germany has barely influenced the British card-playing repertoire until recently, and it is only since 1997, when it featured as a competitive event in the first Mind Sports Olympiad, that British Skat enthusiasts have begun to come out of the closet. A British Skat Association (BSkA) dedicated to promoting this wonderful game was formally launched at a tournament held at Oxford in March 2001, organized by Nick Wedd, John McLeod and me. We hope eventually to affiliate to the International Skat-Players Association and take part in international tournaments. Meanwhile, we hold several tournaments a year, mostly in London, with a view to encouraging beginners and enabling existing players to gain more experience. Though competitive, they are very friendly events. All you need to participate is at least sufficient knowledge of the rules to have played already, however badly as the case may be. We play a form of the game (Synchron or duplicate Skat) which ensures that you play mainly against others at approximately your own level of competence and experience.

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