It was developed in France in the seventeenth century from the game piquet and gained its greatest popularity in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century. Perhaps the most famous proponent of the game was Winston Churchill, an avid player and early expert of Six-Pack, or "Chinese," Bezique. There is some evidence that the English writers Wilkie Collins and Christina Rossetti were also enthusiasts.
Bezique was sometimes mispronounced "Bisicles" in French, meaning eyeglasses. Binocles also meant eyeglasses, and this pronunciation (and minor rule variations) evolved into Pinochle. Two-Handed Pinochle and Two-Handed Bezique are almost identical.
Since the nineteenth century the game has declined in popularity, though Two-Handed Pinochle, a game virtually identical to Two-Handed Bezique, is still played in the United States of America. Bezique variants Six-Pack Bezique and Rubicon Bezique are also played and are more popular than the basic Two-Handed Bezique.
The basic game of two-handed Bezique is described below. A Two-Handed Bezique deck is a 64-card deck consisting of Ace through 7 of each suit twice. The players cut for deal, with the higher card having preference. The rank of the cards in cutting, and in play, is A, 10, K, Q, J, 9, 8 and 7. Eight cards are dealt, by three-two-three, to each player with the next card being placed face up between the two players to indicate the trump suit. The remaining cards, known as the "talon" or "stock", are placed face down beside it. Should the turn-up card be a 7 the dealer scores ten.
The non-dealer leads any card from hand and the dealer may then play any card (note the normal requirement to follow suit if possible does not apply to Bezique). If second player chooses to play a higher card of the same suit or any trump, that player wins the trick. If the two cards played are the same (for example, two 9), the trick belongs to the first player. Once played, tricks are placed face down by the player who wins each trick. The holder of the trump 7 is entitled to exchange it for the turn-up card at any time when on lead, scoring 10. The holder of the duplicate trump 7 also scores 10 when it is played.
The winner of each trick declares (if possible) one meld face up on the table and marks points for it, takes a card from the top of the stock and then leads to the next trick. The other player draws the second card from the stock but may not declare a meld. The game proceeds until the stock is exhausted, at which point 8 more tricks are played to exhaust the players hands. Finally, brisques are scored.
The game is usually played as first to 1000 points.
|Seven of trumps turned up, played or declared||10|
|Winning last trick (before the final 8 tricks)||10|
|Common Marriage (king and queen of any plain suit) declared together||20|
|Royal Marriage (king and queen of the trump suit) declared together||40|
|Bezique (Q and J) *||40|
|Double Bezique (both Q and both J) *||500|
|Four Jacks (in some variants must be one of each suit)||40|
|Four Queens (in some variants must be one of each suit)||60|
|Four Kings (in some variants must be one of each suit)||80|
|Four Aces (in some variants must be one of each suit)||100|
|Sequence of five best cards of the trump suit--ace, ten, king, queen, knave||250|
|Brisques--aces or tens in the tricks won by either player, each||10|
or Q and J if either of the other two suits is trumps *
A card played to a trick is no longer available for game play. It is taken by the winner of the trick and placed face down on a separate pile. At the game's conclusion, each player counts the number of brisques (aces and tens) they have won in tricks. Each of these is worth ten points.
A player can "declare" a meld only after winning a trick. The winner of each trick is entitled to score one meld (or several melds, depending on local rules) laying the cards forming it face upwards on the table. If the cards exposed show two combinations, both may be declared but only one may be scored until another trick is won. Thus, having K, Q and J, scores 40 for Bezique with 20 to score after the next trick is won.
Once a card has been melded it cannot be used again in the same combination, but it may be used for a different type of meld. For example the Q, once married, cannot be married to the other K but it may be used as part of four queens and as part of a sequence if it is of the trump suit. Also a card which has been declared may not be declared again in a combination of an inferior order, for example if a king and queen have been declared as part of a sequence, they may not be used subsequently in a marriage (though the reverse is allowable).
The declared cards, though left face upwards on the table, still form part of the hand, and are played to subsequent tricks at the discretion of the holder.
When no more cards are left in the stock, the method of play alters. No further declarations may be made and the only additional score now possible is for brisques in the remaining tricks, scored by the winner of the trick.
The mode of play for these last eight tricks is according to normal Whist rules in that each player must now follow suit if possible, with the additional constraint that they must win the trick if possible, by playing a higher card or by ruffing.
Bezique is not generally perceived to be a difficult game, though remembering the possible meld combinations and scoring can be confusing for the complete novice. There are also a number of small rules, such as the high ranking of cards with a face value of ten, the ability to swap sevens with the trump card and so on, that beginners should keep in mind.
Once the general pattern of playing a trick, declaring a meld (if any) and then drawing a new card from the talon is established in the mind, the player should then focus on tactics.
A step-by-step guide to playing the game, with the novice in mind, is provided in this section.
Required are two packs of cards and a sheet of paper and pen to collate scores. (As an aside, special Bezique counting boards were made at the height of the game's popularity but mostly these are rare now, though some can be found in antique markets.)
Take the packs of cards and remove all cards with a value below seven, along with the jokers or wildcards. Remaining should be the cards with the numerical values of seven through to ten, the face cards and the aces.
Shuffle the two packs together.
A cut is made. The player with the highest valued card is given the privilege of dealing.
In both the cut and the game player, the value of the cards from highest to lowest is as follows:
Ace, 10, King, Queen, Jack, 9, 8, 7
Deal three cards to the opponent, three cards to the self, two cards to the opponent, two cards to the self, three cards to the opponent once more and finally, three more cards to the self. (In other words, it is in a pattern of 3, 2, 3.)
The remaining cards are placed in a stack or talon in the middle of the table. One card from the talon is turned over and placed face up. This card designates what the trump suit will be. If the dealer turns over the seven as the trump card, he is awarded ten points.
In a variation of the game, if a player finds he has no face card in his hand (A, 10, K, Q or J), he or she can declare "carte blanche" and receive 50 points from the opponent. All cards must be shown to the opponent to claim these points. This is not a standard rule of two-player Bezique but is allowed in some regions.
The non-dealer may lead any card. This card is placed face upwards on the table The dealer must respond by playing a card. If it is a card of the same suit but has a higher value or any card of the trump suit and the leading card is not of the trump suit, it wins the trick. If it is a lower or equal card of the same suit or a card of any other suit bar the trump suit, it loses.
Whoever wins the trick takes the cards and places them in a separate pile. These cards play no further part in the round. They are only used for counting brisques at the very end of the round.
Note that there is no obligation to follow suit or to trump in this part of the game.
The only time a player would have a strong motivation to win the trick is when there are aces or tens being played or the player has a meld they wish to declare.
The winner of the trick has an opportunity to present a meld by declaring his combination and placing them face upwards on the table. They are still part of his hand but must remain on the table in view of the opponent until played in later tricks.
Only one meld can be declared per trick won. Scores for these are written immediately. The list of melds and their scores are listed in the table above.
Note that a card used in one meld cannot be played in the same meld later on. For example, a king of clubs married to a queen of clubs cannot later be married to the second queen of clubs. However, it can be used for a sequence of four kings as this is a different meld. Were both the other king and queen of clubs to be presented, the first king and queen could be part of the marriage.
A special meld declaration involves the seven of trumps. It is not placed on the table with the others. Instead, it can be swapped for the upturned trump card. The second seven of trumps can also be declared in this way.
The winner of the trick draws from the talon once they have declared their meld. The loser then also draws a card from the talon, thus maintaining eight cards in their hand at all times at this stage of the game. If no melds are can be declared by the winner of the trick, the cards are drawn immediately.
Whoever wins the trick then leads first in playing the next trick.
The winner of the final trick draws the last card from the talon, whilst the loser takes the upturned trump card. The final eight tricks are played in this way:
a.) From now on, the player must follow suit and play a higher card then the leader if they can. If they cannot follow suit, they must trump to win the trick. If they cannot follow suit or trump, they can only then play any other card.
b.) Melds cannot be declared in this part of the game.
c.) The winner of the final trick is granted ten bonus points.
After the last trick is played, each player gather the cards they have won and counts the number of aces and tens. Each of these is worth ten points. This number is added to the total score already earned from the various melds the player has declared.
Traditionally, the first player to reach 1000 points wins, which normally involves an average of three to four rounds being played. However, a different target figure may be agreed upon before play begins, such as the first person to reach 2000 points.
If a player is found to be holding more than eight cards at a time, his or her opponent is awarded 100 points.
Failing to draw a card after a trick in "phase one" of the game incurs a penalty of 10 points to the opponent.
If a player "reneges" by failing to take a trick or follow suit where possible in "phase two" of the game results in the player losing all remain tricks, forfeiting these cards to the opponent.
Ruleset by A/S Carl Stender. København