Tales from
the Loir

A Weekly Column

March 12, 2003 - La Chouine

La Chouine
Rules of the Game
by Jacques Proust
Translated by William Glover

Introduction

Chouine is a card game that is very popular in the Center-West region of France and especially in the Loir Valley. Its origins go back to the sixteenth century. The last decade has seen a revival of interest in Chouine and it has gradually conquered all classes of society. A competition called the Championship of the World is held in Lavardin, a village sometimes referred to as the most French of the villages of France.

Generalities

Chouine is a game for two players but it can also be played with three or four players. Even though the rules are the same, the manner of playing differs greatly when three or four are playing. The game with two players is by far the most common so this work will be directed toward it.

Chouine is played in a certain number of games and sets fixed in advance. The winner is the player who is the first to win the fixed number of sets. The number of games is generally fixed at five and the match continues until someone wins two sets of five games. The number of games can also be fixed at three and the match decided in one sole set.

Contrary to other games like Belote, when a card is played, the adversary is not obligated to answer with a card of the same suit unless the stack of cards on the table has been exhausted. When there are no more cards in the stack, then the adversary is required to respond to a trump card with a superior card of the same suit if available. Also, when there are no more cards in the stack on the table, if the adversary has no more cards of the suit played in his hand, he must play a trump card.

The Cards : Chouine is played with thirty-two cards including the four usual suits: club, spade, diamond and heart. The series of eight cards carrying the same emblem is called a suit. The eight cards of each suit are classed in the following order : Ace, Ten, King, Queen, Jack, Nine, Eight, and Seven. The Ace is the highest card. It beats a Ten, which beats a King, etc.

Trump Card : The dealer determines the trump card when he turns over the eleventh card and places it on the table. The trump card has a special power. It always beats any card of the other three suits. Playing a trump card is called trumping (couper). Remember that the trump is obligatory if one cannot responds to the suit played and the stack is exhausted.

The trick (l'pli) : The group of two cards played is called a trick (pli or levee). The trick is taken bay the player who wins it. Each player can at any time look at his own tricks. On the other hand, he cannot look at the last trick taken by his adversary.

Les Brisques : The Aces and the Tens are called brisques. There are eight brisques in the game.

Les Annonces : Les Annonces are combinations of cards that give a player an advantage. The have to be in the hand of one sole player.

There are five sorts of Annonces:

1. The Marriage : The Marriage is the combination in the same suit of the King and the Queen. It is worth twenty points if it is an ordinary suit and forty points if it is the trump suit.

2. The Tierce : The Tierce is the combination in the same suit of the King, Queen and Jack. It has a value of thirty points if it is in an ordinary suit and sixty points if it is the trump suit.

3. The Quarteron (or Quarante) : The quarteron is the combination in the same suit of the Ace, King, Queen and the Jack. It has a value of forty points and eighty points if it is the trump suit.

4. The Quinte (or Cinquante) : The Quinte is the collection of five Brisques (ace and ten). It is worth fifty points.

5. La Chouine : La Chouine is the combination in the same suit of the Ace, Ten, King, Queen and the Jack which the ultimate hand and the player who declares wins without playing further.

If two players have the Chouine combination at the same time, the first to declare it wins the game unless one of the Chouine combinations is in the trump suit. The Chouine combination in the trump suit always wins.

For a declaration to be valid, it must be made by the player at the same time that he plays his card. The declaration requires that the player show his cards on the table. A declaration without showing the cards is not valid. A declaration is not obligatory. A player can voluntarily hide a declaration that would inform an adversary of his tactics. A player can also concede if he sees that he is going to lose.

Value of the Cards :

The cards are assigned a numeric value as shown in the following table:
1. Ace = 11 points
2. Ten = 10 points
3. King = 4 points
4. Queen = 3 points
5. Jack = 2 points
6. Nine = 0 points
7. Eight = 0 points
8. Seven = 0 points

The Stack (Talon) : The undealt cards put in a stack on the table with the top card face up. Except for the face up card they are stacked face down on the table. It is from this stack that each player will take a card after each trick in the order described in the section called "La Partie".

The Turnover (La Retourne) : The Retourne is the eleventh card turned over by the dealer and place on the table next to the stack. This card determines the trump suit.

The Seven Trump : The seven card in the trump suit can be exchanged by the player who holds it for the turnover card. This exchange is not necessary. At anytime when there are no more than two cards in the stack, the player who is ready to throw his card first, ought to announce "Au Sept" or Seven.

THE GAME (PARTIE)

The Draw (Le Tirage) : The cards are spread out face down on the table and each player turns over a card. If the cards are of the same value, the players draw again. The player who draws the smaller card has the responsibility of dealing. This is called the dealer (Donneur).

The Shuffle (Le Melange) : The dealer shuffles the cards. They ought to be shuffled face down and in a way that the adversary can see that they are suitably shuffled. The cards should be thoroughly shuffled because certain players have a very highly developed memory for the cards. They can recall easily the composition of the tricks already played. In failing to carefully shuffle the cards, certain players can predict the cards they are going to draw from the stack and know the cards that the adversary has in his hand.

Because of this potential unfair advantage, each player has the right to shuffle the cards at anytime and without being formerly invited to do so by the dealer. The dealer has the privilege of shuffling the cards last.

Once the cards are shuffled, the dealer tenders them to the adversary to be cut. The adversary ought to duly cut the cards and not simply tap the top of the deck. To cut one must separate the deck in two parts, and then place the upper part in front of the lower part in the direction of the dealer. The dealer finishes the cut by placing the lower part of the deck on top of the upper part of the deck.

The cut ought to be made smartly, without hesitation, without disturbing the deck, and with one sole movement. The cut is no good if it is done with less than four cards or is any card has been seen.

The Deal (La Donne) : The dealer distributes the cards one by one commencing with his adversary. He should detach each card cleanly from the deck and throw it on the table face down making sure that no card is turned over.

He deals five cards to his adversary and five to himself. He turns over the eleventh card and places it in evidence on the table. This eleventh card designates the trump suit.

THE MISDEAL (LA MALDONNE) : There is a misdeal when an error or fault has been committed during the deal. There is a misdeal:
1. If one of the cards has been seen by a player to whom it was not destined.
2. If the deal has not been made according to the rules of the game.
3. If the deck of cards is incomplete.
4. If a player has too many cards or not enough.
5. If a player takes the hand of another player.

In case of a misdeal, the dealer retains the right to deal and deals again.

LA MARCHE DU COUP : The adversary of the dealer plays the first card. He throws it down on the table with the face up. Then the second player, or the dealer if there are only two players, takes his turn and throws down a card face up. All cards thrown down on the table are considered as played even if it has not yet been covered by the card of another player.

The trick belongs to the player:
-having, if the two cards played are the same suit, played the card with the highest numeric value;
-or having played a trump card;
-or to the one having played his card first if his adversary has not furnished a card of the same suit. Remember that there is no obligation to play a card of the same suit so long as there are some cards in the deck.

The player having taken the trick draws from the deck. Then his adversary draws a card in his turn. The winner of the trick gathers the played cards and plays the next card. This procedure continues until the five cards of the hand are exhausted. The role of dealing changes with each game.

En case of a competition in several sets, it is the player who, during the initial draw, drew the highest card that becomes the dealer for the first game of the second set. The role of dealing alternates as indicted in the above paragraph. In case of a playoff set, a new draw to determine the dealer is necessary.

TEN FOR THE LAST (DIX DE DERNIERE) : Commonly called dix de der, this advantage belongs to the player who takes the last trick of the game and who, during the counting of points, adds ten points to his total.

COUNTING THE POINTS (LE COMPTE) : After the last trick is taken, each player counts his points. His points include the points represented by the tricks he took and the points acquired from his announcements during the game. The one who takes the last trick adds ten points.

Practically speaking, the points that determine the winner are the points for brisques (ace and ten), the announcements and the ten points for taking the last trick. However, it is recommended that all points be counted.

Examples : Jean has announced a marriage from an ordinary suit and has taken the last trick. His tricks include:
1 Seven value 0 points
1 Eight value 0 points
3 Nines value 0 points
2 Jacks value 4 points (2 x 2)
2 Queens value 6 points (3 x 2)
1 King value 4 points (4 x 1)
1 Ten value 10 points (10 x 1)
3 Aces value 11 points (11 x 3)

To which one must add 20 points for the marriage from an ordinary suit and 10 points pour taking the last trick.

Total : 87 points.

Charles has announced a marriage from the trump suit. His tricks include:
3 Sevens value 0 points
3 Eight value 0 points
1 Nine value 0 points
2 Jacks value 4 points (2 x 2)
2 Queens value 6 points (3 x 2)
3 Kings value 12 points (4 x 3)
3 Ten value 30 points (10 x 3)
1 Ace value 11 points (11 x 1)

To which one must add forty points for the marriage from the trump suit.

Total : 103 points

So it is Charles who won this game.

In case of a tie, the game is declared null and it is played again with the same dealer.

The player who first wins the predetermined fixed number of games is the winner of the set.

PENALTIES

It is recommended that the players pay close attention during the drawing of cards from the stack. Several kinds of errors can occur:
- a player draws the card of his adversary,
- a player sees the card of his adversary,
- a player draws two cards.

Sanctions for the first error is left up to the aggrieved player who can decide that the error does influence the game and continue normally or decide that the game must be replayed. The dealer remains the same.

If the error occurs again in the same game, the aggrieved party is awarded the victory of the game and the player responsible for the error cannot appeal the decision even if it is the deciding game of the set.

SOME ADVICE FOR PLAYING WELL

It is recommended to play quick but not too fast.

A player should not lose his concentration. In order to avoid errors, take care to class the cards in your hand by alternating the reds and the blacks.

Remember the cards already played.

Train yourself to count the trump cards.

THE VOCABULARY OF "LA CHOUINE"

This vocabulary recounts the principal words or expressions used by the players of Chouine.

Adversaire : The player against which one plays.

Annonce : The combination of cards in the hand of a player.

Attaquer : To play the first card.

Atout (trump): Suit of cards which has the privilege of taking all the cards of the three other suits without consideration of the numeric value of these cards.

Avoir la donne : To have the deal.

Avoir la main (Turn) : To have acquired either by the draw at the beginning of the game, or in the course of the game from the fact a trick was won, the right to play draw and play the next card.

Belle : Third set which decides the match.

Couleur (Suit) : Term which is applied, not to the color of the cards (red or black), but to their emblem : trefle (club), carreau (diamond), coeur (heart), pique (spade).

Coup ou partie (The Game) : The group of events that occur from the cutting of the deck to the moment the last card is played.

Couper : This expression has two meanings.
1. Action prior to dealing of separating the deck of cards in two.
2. The taking of a trick with a trump card.

Dix de derniere : It is the 10 points awarded to the player who takes the last trick.

Donner (To Deal) : To distribute the cards.

Faire : Synonym for dealing.

Faire cinq points de Chouine : To make five points of Chouine means one must win five games to win the set. In order to avoid confusing beginners, we have used in this Regle du Jeu de la Chouine the word partie in the place of the word point. We have reserved the use of the word point to the accounting of points at the end of the game.

Some players use the term point to indicate a partie (game). So don't be surprised to hear a player use the phrase I am going to make five points of Chouine. This means that the player is proposing to his adversary that five winning games determines the winner.

Fournir : To respond with a card of the suit played.

Jeu :
1. The pack of 32 cards.
2. The group of cards that each player has in his hand.

Levee : Group of two, three or four cards (according to the number of players) being played each time by each of the players.

Maldonne (Misdeal) : Error committed in the course of the deal.

Manche (Set) : The group of games being played. If the first and the second sets are won by the same player, he is the winner. If each player has won a set, they settle the match by playing a third set called a belle.

Monter : To play a higher card that the one on the table.

Partie (Game): Synonym for partie.

Passer sous la table (to pass under the table) : An expression that means that a player won all the games in the set and the humiliated loser crawled under the table.

Pli (Trick) : Synonym for Levee.

Point : Unit serving to count the value of the cards and announcements. This term is also utilized to designate a game.

Retourne : Card turned over by the dealer and which serves fix the trump suit.

Revanche : New game that the loser proposes to the winner.

Talon : The stack of cards remaining after the distribution and one card turned over.

APPENDICE

LA CHOUINE FOR THREE OR FOUR : The rules for Chouine for two are applicable to Chouine played by three or four players, except as follows:

-The dealer distributes three cards instead of five and turns over the tenth card for three players and the thirteenth card for four players.

-The announcements are reduced from five to three :

1. The marriage (King and Queen of the same suit) has a value of twenty points for an ordinary suit and forty points for the trump suit.

2. Le trente is three brisques in a hand and has a value of thirty points.

3. La Chouine is the combination of King, Queen and Jack, which is the ultimate announcement.

In accounting for points, each player counts his points from tricks that he took plus the value of his announcements. As in Chouine for two, the player who takes the last trick adds ten points to his total.

The player who totals the most points wins the game. Chouine for three or four is played in one set of three or five games.

Remarque : In Chouine for three, the last two cards remaining in the stack are not drawn by the players.

LA CHOUINE DE MONDOUBLEAU : Played above all in the Perche Vendomois, this Chouine call de Mondoubleau differs essentially from the classic Chouine by the absence of last card being turned over (retourne).

After having distributed the cards, the dealer does not turn over the eleventh card which remains in the stack.

The game continues thus without a trump suit until one of the players in his turn announces one of the following combinations and thereby determines the trump suit:

-mariage, tierce or quarteron in Chouine for two,

-mariage in Chouine for three or four.

The player in his turn, who collects one of the combinations setout above, makes his announcement and the game continues from this point like the Chouine classic.

The player who holds an announcement is not obligated to declare it. The game continues without a trump suit until it is announced.

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