1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Skat

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SKAT, a game of cards, much played in central and northern Germany. It is generally supposed to have been invented about 1817 by an advocate of the name of Hempel in Saxe-Altenburg. There is, however, some reason for believing that the game is of much earlier origin and was played by the Slav inhabitants of Saxe-Altenburg long before that date. In the home of the game of skat (Saxony and Thuringia) the old German single-ended cards are usually employed, while in north and south Germany French cards are ordinarily used. The German cards are thirty-two in number and of four suits,—Schellen (bells), the equivalent of diamonds; Roth (red), hearts; Grün (green), spades; and Eichel (acorn), clubs. The eight cards of each suit are the seven, eight, nine, ten, Wenzel or knave, queen, king, ace. This arrangement denotes at once the value of the single cards, each following card being higher in value than the preceding; i.e. hearts are higher than diamonds, spades than hearts, and clubs (the highest colour) takes spades, hearts and diamonds. Again 8 takes 7, 9 takes 8 and 7; but the knave (called Wenzel or Unter) is an exception (see below).

The game is played by three persons; where four play, the dealer takes no part in the play though he shares in the winnings and losings of the opponents of the player. The cards are dealt from right to left—or (as skat players say) in the direction the coffee-mill is turned. After the cards have been shuffled and cut, the dealer first deals three cards to each player, then four and again three, laying aside two cards (the skat). Each player has now ten cards in his hand, which he arranges in suits. The Wenzel or knaves occupy a peculiar position. They are not regarded as colour cards, but are essentially trumps and take all other trumps. The player sitting to the left of the dealer is “first hand,” and if he himself intends to make a game, invites the others to declare theirs, or if he wishes to reserve all rights to himself, simply says “Ich bin vorn”—“I have the lead,” and then his next neighbour on the left has to offer a game. If this neighbour holds such cards as to give him no prospect of winning he passes, and his neighbour to the left has the right to offer a game. If he in his turn passes, then the first hand is at liberty to determine the game or declare “Ramsch” (see below). But if the first neighbour thinks he can risk a game, he offers one. If the first hand reserves this game (see above “I have the lead”), either because he intends to play it himself or to play a higher game, the second hand must go higher or pass, i.e. renounce a game, and then his neighbour to the left has the right to offer, and if he again passes and does not offer a higher game than that which the first hand intends to play, the latter determines the game to be played.

The usual games in skat are the following. First the simple colour game, which is, however, seldom played by skat enthusiasts. The player has here the right to take up the skat, and to determine the suit of the game; but here the rule is that the colour must not be lower in value than that of the game offered, though it may be higher. For instance, if spades are offered, the player cannot take hearts as trumps, though he may take clubs, because they are higher in value than spades.

Next to the colour game comes “tourné,” the player turning up one of the skat cards, the suit of which becomes trumps. If a knave be turned up the player may announce “grando.” Then comes the game of “solo,” where the player declares which suit shall be trumps, and the skat remains intact. The highest “solo,” still higher than clubs, is “grando.” In this game only the four knaves are trumps. If the hand playing grando thinks he can make all the tricks, he declares open grando—i.e. shows his hand. If in open grando a single trick be lost, the player loses the game. If one of the players holds such cards as to enable him to force his opponents to take all the tricks, he can declare nullo. But here the game is lost if even a single trick falls to the player. In nullo, the knaves are regarded as colour, i.e. are not trumps. Nullo can be played open, if there is no probability of the player taking a single trick. Simple nullo counts higher than diamond solo; open nullo comes after clubs solo. In Ramsch, which takes place when none of the players will risk a game, each player takes (as in whist) all the tricks he makes—but only knaves are trumps—and the loser is he who makes most points. The value of the individual cards given in figures is as follows. The seven, eight and nine count nothing, the knave counts 2, the queen 3, king 4, ten 10 and ace 11 points. This gives the value of the whole game as 120 points. The game is won if the player gets one above the half of this sum, i.e. 61. The hand that does not make 30 is “Schneider,” that is “cut,” and “Schwarz” (black) if he does not make a single point.

Skat is almost invariably played for money, and the calculation is made thus. Every game and every suit have a set value:—

Colour game   3, 4, 5 and 6, according to the suits.
Tourné 5, 6, 7, 8 and 12 (the last the grando).
Solo 9, 10, 11, 12 and 16 (grando).

These figures are increased by the number of “matadores.” Suppose a player of club solo holds all four knaves and the ace and ten of clubs, he has a game with 6 matadores. By matadores is accordingly meant an uninterrupted sequence, e.g. from the knave of clubs down to the seven of trumps. If the player has then all four knaves and all the cards of the trump suit in his hand (or in the skat), he has a game with 11 matadores. But if a single card is missing in the series, only the matadores of higher value than the missing card count. If, for instance, the knave of hearts is missing, the game in question has only 3 matadores. To the number of matadores is added 1 if the game is simply won, 2 if won with Schneider (cut), and 4 if the opponents are Schwarz (black). Thus, if a spade solo with 5 matadores is won with Schneider, the winner makes 5 + 2 × 11 = 77 points.