Jass is a Swiss tradition. However, we haven’t invented the game. Nevertheless, Jass is still popular with young and old, who particularly enjoy playing it while sitting on sunny terraces and puffing away on a cigar. Today, we will teach you the traditional “Schieber” rules, the history of Jass, and how to choose a fitting cigar.
It is a wonderfully warm fall afternoon. Two couples just took their seat on the terrace of a tavern. There is a Jass carpet, writing tools, and a deck of 36 cards ready on the table. “Ok, Mara,” says Michael to his spouse, “Today, we will introduce you to the tradition of Jass.”
Jass – the basic rules
“There are different Jass variants. However, we will show you the traditional “Schieber” variant,” says Michael. He explains, “This kind of Jass involves two teams, each made up of two players who sit across one another on a table. Thus, you have the honor to join me today,” winking at Mara. The Swiss-German cards have four suits, “Rosen”, “Eicheln”, “Schilten”, and “Schellen”. The Swiss-French cards have Hearts, Clubs, Spades, and Diamonds. Each one consists of nine cards. The Ace is the highest, and the 6 is the lowest in its suit. In Jass, one player plays one card, then the other three players must also play one card with the same suit as the first player (in a counterclockwise direction), provided they have such a card. The player who played the highest card matching the first player’s suit gets to take all four cards. “These four cards form a trick,” Michael explains. The person who secures the first trick gets to start the next round. The game continues until all nine tricks are played. Each card has a different value. “The aim is to score as many points as possible as a team.”
To trump and take
“Ok, let’s begin.” says Mara. “Hold your horses,” says Sonja, while Michael lights a VILLIGER ORIGINAL-KRUMME Junior. “What is the issue?” Sonja takes the cards and searches for the
“Schilten-Under” and the Schilten 9. “When playing “Schieber”, only one person per game (nine tricks) may decide a trump suit,” explains the passionate Jass player. All cards in this suit have three times the value of the other cards. For example, if “Schilten” is trump, but an “Eichel” card is played, you can still play a “Schilten” card and win the trick. “Why did you look for the “Under” and 9 cards?” Mara asks. “The “Under” is the highest card of the trump suits. After that comes the 9, the so-called “Nell”, followed by the Ace, et cetera,” explains Sonja. “Anything else?” asks Mara.
Declaring, pushing, “Obenabe” and “Undenufe”
“Yes, three more things,” explains Sonja. Meanwhile, Hannes lights up a VILLIGER PREMIUM No 7 Sumatra, drawing delightfully on the mildly spicy cigar. “The cards are always shuffled and dealt by one player after the other in a counterclockwise direction,” explains Sonja. The player to the dealer’s right is told to “announce” and can then nominate the trump suit. However, you can also choose to play without trumps, and play the “Obenabe” bid instead, in which case the suit played per trick is the strongest. Or you choose to play the “Undenufe” bid. Then, you’re also playing without trumps, and the cards rank in reverse order, i.e., the 6 is the strongest card per suit, and the Ace is the weakest. “Got it, and why is this Jass variant called “Schieber”?” asks Mara. “Because the player who has to declare the trump can also pass the privilege to their partner if they have a mediocre hand, allowing their partner to choose their best trump,” says Sonja, who now finally shuffles the cards and then deals each Jass player nine cards in batches of threes.
“May I light a cigar now, as well?” asks Sonja. “Yeah, sure, I recommend a VILLIGER KIEL Junior,” Michael chimes in again. He offers her one of the mild cigars with the legendary mouthpiece. “After all, this one looks just like the cigar the “Schilten-Ober” puffs,” says the aficionado. “What’s more, this classic has been produced since 1907 and is therefore almost as old as Jass.” Hannes, Sonja’s partner, now chimes in to add: “Well, let’s get this straight: Card games have been around longer than cigars because card games originated in Korea and China in the 12th century. Two centuries later, they made their way to Europe via the Silk Road and the sea route. However, Jass itself was only introduced to Switzerland by Protestant mercenaries in the last third of the 18th century. “Its Dutch origins are reflected not only in the Jas – that is, the Jack, as the trump “Under” is also called – but also in the Nell (9 of trumps),” he proudly shares his knowledge.
Coiffeur, Differenzler, Bieter & Co.
As Mara and Michael are already playing a Jass match in the fourth round – that is, taking all nine tricks – Mara asks, somewhat embarrassed: “Now that I’ve got the hang of the “Schieber”, can we have a go at a slightly more difficult Jass game?” However, Hannes shakes his head: “Don’t rush things, my dear: The first team to reach a score of 1000 points wins the “Schieber”. Plus, there’s no harm in gaining more experience. So you know when to play which card, thereby indicating to your partner for which suit you are holding a particularly strong hand.” However: “Next time, we’ll be happy to explain “Weisen”, the other Jass variants, like Coiffeur, Differenzler or Viehhändler, the different luck factors, and that you can play Bieter with just three players, for example, or Molotov with eight or even more players.”