David Parlett on Germany's national card game Parachute down
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Part 1 : Introduction

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, being played 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 organised 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 favourite card game ever since. (Apart from those of my own invention.)

DP at Skat, Cambridge, 2003
DP at Skat
  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), as illustrated here.

German and French suit symbols

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 capture a 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  

GB club Jack 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, organised 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 or rustily 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.

  Links and further information  

Other Skat WWW sites, software and on line games:

British Skat Association
Information about past, present and future events.
German Skat Federation
The official organisation for the game in Germany. Information about clubs and tournaments, a shop for Skat equipment, and the official rules.
The Pagat Skat page
Rules of play and lots more besides
R. Somerville
Playing-card sales, for national and regional varieties of cards for Skat and other games
International Skat Players' Association
The ISPA promotes Skat and organises tournaments in many countries, and runs the world championship.
The Skat home page
An introduction to Skat, some advice on tactics, club and tournament information (mainly USA based), and Skat software to download.
Michael Fischer's Cutesoft Page
Skat and Schafkopf computer programs can be downloaded from here.
Rasche's Skat Program
English-language version available for Windows and Macintosh.
Gunter Gerhardt's XSkat
A free Skat program for Linux and Macintosh OS X computers. Single player, LAN and internet games are supported.
Kurnik Online Games
Game Desire
Two Polish games sites including a free on-line Skat game
Here you can get the program Skat24 enabling you to play against computer opponents or over the Internet. Also a program for Offizierskat (the two-player game).
Here you can play free and without registration against many real-life players around the world. International visitors are highly welcome. Schafkopf ("Sheepshead") also available on the same basis.
Enables on-line play of Skat, Synchron (Duplicate) Skat, and Ramsch.
Skat 2010, Skat 2095, Skat 3000
Skat programs for Windows and DOS. Skat 2095 has animations by Uli Stein (CD and shareware versions)
Skat Club 2000
An on-line Skat club affiliated to the Deutsche Skatverband.

For the rules of German Skat (as distinct from American) in book form, see any of my currently available titles:

The Penguin Book of Card Games (New edition 2008)
The Oxford A-Z of Card Games (2004), or
Teach Yourself Card Games (2003). This one includes illustrative deals and advice on play.

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