#
“Pinch” Tarot (*chinze*, or *taròcchi à pessigo*)

a two-handed Ligurian tarot game

Many thanks to Romano Romani from Genoa for having shared the rules of the game, and to the other players who sent us information about the variants played in their towns. Also thanks to Jonatan Kandell for helping with improving this page.

## Basics

### Deck

This game is played with a 78-card tarot deck, made up of 14 suit cards in 4 suits (hearts ♥, diamonds ♦, clubs ♣ and spades ♠ in French-suited decks; or cups, coins, batons and swords in the Piedmontese deck used traditionally), 21 trumps numbered 1 to 21, and the fool (numbered 0 in some decks). Suit cards rank, from weakest to strongest, 1 (or ace), 2, …, 9, 10, J, C, Q, K.^{[1]} Trumps beat all other cards, and rank amongst themselves according to their number, with higher numbered trumps beating lower ones. The fool is a special card, whose role will be described later.

### Hands

The game is divided into a number of *hands*, which are the phases between two subsequent deals. A game consists of an even number of hands, typically two or four, depending on how long players want to play.

### Deal

The dealer for the first hand is chosen at random. In subsequent hands, players alternate being the dealer. The dealer shuffles the deck and gives it to their opponent to cut. The dealer then takes the deck back, distributes 15 cards per player in groups of 5 cards, starting with their opponent, and places the rest of the deck (the *talon*) face down to the side.

## Card play

### Tricks

The hands of the game are made up of a number of *tricks*, which involve one player playing (*leading*) a card face up to the middle of the table and the opponent responding (*following*) with another card. The trick is won by the player who played the strongest card, who captures the two cards on the table.

### Leading to a trick

A player leading to a trick is free to do so with any card they wish.

At the start of a hand, the dealer’s opponent leads to the first trick. The winner of this trick then leads to the next trick, and the game continues in this way until players are left with no cards in their hands.

### Following suit

Players who respond to a card that’s been led must do so according to these rules:

- If a suit card was led and they have cards in that suit, they must play one; if they don’t have cards of that suit, they must play a trump; if they don’t have trumps at all, they may play any card.
- If a trump was led and they have higher trumps, they must play one; if they don’t have higher trumps, they must play a lower one; if they don’t have trumps at all, they may play any card.
- The only exception, which allows players to disregard these rules, involves the fool. Its role will be described in a section below.

### Winning a trick

The trick is won by the player who played the highest trump. If no trumps were played, the winner is the player who played the highest card of the suit that was led. The winner of the trick captures the two cards on the table and places them face down in their *capture pile*.

### Drawing from the talon

Then, if there are still cards in the talon, the winner picks up the top card from it, shows it to their opponent, and takes it in their hand. The opponent does the same.

The hand continues in the same manner (lead-respond-capture-draw) until the talon is exhausted. At this point, the players play for fifteen further tricks with the cards left in their hands. When these too have been played, the hand ends and the points are counted.

### Trick points

Players score one point every three cards that they have captured in tricks. If the number of cards they have captured is not divisible by three, a remainder of two cards is rounded up and a remainder of one card is rounded down to the nearest integer.

Additionally, the following cards, when captured, are each worth the amount of points shown below.^{[2]}

Cards | Points |
---|---|

trumps 1 and 20^{[3]} | 4 |

the fool | 4 |

kings | 4 |

queens | 3 |

cavaliers | 2 |

jacks | 1 |

other cards | 0 |

The total amount of trick points per hand is therefore 78 between the two players.

### The fool

The fool is a special card that can be played in response to any card that was led, regardless of suit. The fool may also lead a trick, in which case the opponent may respond with any card.

The player who plays the fool to a trick always loses that trick. However, they don’t lose the fool. After the trick, they place it on their own capture pile, face up and sticking out sideways. Since the player who played the fool ends up with one extra card (having effectively “rescued” the fool from a trick that they lost), they must go on to give their opponent a card from those captured in subsequent tricks in *exchange*. Once the exchange has been completed, as a reminder, the fool can be turned face down in the capture pile.

If the player who played the fool for some reason does not manage to give a card in exchange for it (that is, they fail to win any subsequent tricks), at the end of the game they must give the fool over to their opponent.^{[4]}

### Bagatto urtimo

If trump number 1 (the *Bagatto*) is played in the last trick by either player, the winner of the trick is awarded an additional 20 points. This bonus is known as *Bagatto urtimo*.^{[5]}

## Melds

Before playing their card to any trick, players may earn additional points by announcing that they hold certain combinations of cards (*melds*) in their hand. Players may announce as many melds as they want in each trick. The possible melds are:^{[6]}

Meld | Points |
---|---|

taròcchi(10 or more trumps) | 1 per trump |

gatti(fool plus trumps 1 and 20) | 10 |

family (famiggia)(4 court cards of a suit) | 10 |

four-of-a-kind (only J, C, Q or K) | 10 |

three-of-a-kind (only J, C, Q or K) | 5 |

Players are never obliged to announce melds, but any melds for which they want to score must be announced, and the corresponding cards must be shown to the opponent.

Meld announcements are made by players before they play their own card to a trick. Players may announce multiple melds throughout the game, including multiple *families* of different suits, or *four-* and *three-of-a-kinds* of different ranks. Players are allowed to use the same cards for multiple melds, i.e. they if holding 10+ trumps, including the 1 and 20, and they also hold the fool, they may announce both *taròcchi* and *gatti*.

For the meld of *taròcchi*, players must show at least 10 trumps, for which they will score one point per trump shown. Players holding more than 10 trumps may choose to withhold some of them from the announcement, in which case they will only score for the trumps shown. Note that the fool is not considered a trump and therefore it cannot be included in this meld.

If players announce *taròcchi* with a certain number of trumps, and later find themselves with even more trumps in their hand, they are allowed to announce again. Subsequent announcements will only award points for the additional trumps however, so that e.g. a player announcing 10 trumps (scoring 10 points for them) who later announces 12 trumps will only score an additional 2 points for this subsequent announcement.

The *four-of-a-kind* and *three-of-a-kind* melds can only be made up of jacks, cavaliers, queens and kings. A player may decide if they wish, for strategic reasons, to announce only a three-of-a-kind despite having all four cards to form the four-of-a-kind, so that one card remains secret. If a player announces a three-of-a-kind and later ends up having all four cards in hand, they may accuse the four-of-a-kind. In this case however, they will only score an additional 5 points for the four-of-a-kind, having already scored 5 for the three-of-a-kind.

## Scoring

The overall score is made up of *trick points* (78 points in total), a variable number of *meld points* and, if applicable, 20 points for *Bagatto urtimo*.

Scores are normally recorded on a piece of paper in a table with two columns, one per player. For each hand, players record in their own column the points they earned for melds, one per row, as well as optionally a bonus for *Bagatto urtimo*. In a final row they record their trick points. They then draw a horizontal line to mark the completion of the hand, and continue in the same way for the following hands. At the end of the game, the numbers in each column are added up to obtain the final scores.

In the score sheet, next to the meld scores, players might find it useful to write what the scores were for. The example below is for a game consisting of two hands between players A and B. In the first hand player A scored 10 points for 10 trumps, and later announced 12 trumps and scored two additional points; player B announced a *family of diamonds* and won a *Bagatto urtimo* bonus; both players scored 39 trick points. In the second hand, player A announced three cavaliers for 5 points, and then announced all four for an additional 5 points; player B announced *gatti* for 10 points; player A scored 20 points in tricks and player B scored 58.

Player A | Player B |
---|---|

10 T | 10 ♦ |

2 T | 20 B |

39 | 39 |

5 C | 10 G |

5 C | |

20 | 58 |

In this example, the final score for player A is therefore 10+2+39+5+5+20=81, and for player B it is 10+20+39+10+58=137.