Original Card Games by David Parlett

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FLUNK


Not really yet another version of Bridge for three

Players 3   Cards 52   Type Tricks
Flunk is a sort of Dummy Contract Whist for three. It doesn't claim to be a form of Bridge. Three-handed Bridge is a contradiction in terms, as it lacks co-operative bidding between the partners, which is one of the two defining features of that game. But it does offer its other defining feature, namely, that of declarer's playing from dummy with a view to selecting a trump suit (or announcing no trump) and declaring a contract.
Preliminaries
A rubber is nine deals, or any other agreed number divisible by three. Each player deals in turn, and the dealer is always the declarer. Deal four hands of 13 cards each, one of them to a dummy positioned opposite the dealer. Unless you are playing at a round table, everybody will need to shift one place to the left at the end of each deal, so that each player successively deals, leads, and partners the leader, while the dummy remains always at the same side of the table. (Or you may find other ways of achieving the same effect.)
Declaring a contract
Having dealt, you arrange the dummy cards as at Bridge, examine the two hands available to you, and announce one of three possible types of contract, as follows:
High : To win a stated number of tricks, from seven to thirteen, with a trump suit of your choice, or at no trump for a higher score. Your real aim is to win exactly the contracted number. If you win fewer, you will get a negative score; if you win more, your positive score will be reduced. For example, "Eight spades" is an undertaking to win at least eight tricks with spades as trump - preferably not more, and certainly not fewer.
Low : To win a stated number of tricks, from none to six, with a trump suit of your choice, or at no trump for a higher score. Your real aim is to win exactly the contracted number. If you win more, you will get a negative score; if you win fewer, your positive score will be reduced. For example, "Four clubs" is an undertaking to win at most four tricks with clubs as trump - preferably not fewer, and certainly not more.
(If playing a low trump contract, you will naturally entrump not your strongest but your weakest suit, so that defenders will be forced to win tricks when you have run out of trumps.)
Dump : To win one or more tricks at no trump, but without capturing any cards of a specified "dump" suit. For example "Dump hearts" is an undertaking to win one or more tricks, none of which will contain any heart.
"Flunking" defined
This term needs explanation, as it affects everyone's strategy. In a "high" contract, your real aim is to win exactly the number of tricks you bid. If you win fewer, you lose. But there is no credit for overtricks. On the contrary, if you win more, you will have "flunked" and your score will be drastically reduced. The defenders may therefore decide, if they cannot prevent you from winning the number you declared, to force-feed you by making you win more tricks than you really want. The more overtricks you win, the less you score.
In a low contract, you will lose if you take more than the stated number of tricks, but if you take fewer you will flunk, and thereby score considerably less.
In a dump contract, your real aim is to win as many "clean" tricks as possible, as the more you win the more you score. If you capture so much as a single card of the dump suit, however, you lose. The equivalent of flunking is to win no trick at all, for which you score nothing.
Play
The opening lead is made by dealer's left-hand opponent and play proceeds as at Bridge or Whist.
Score
High contract : For winning exactly the number bid, score 10 points per trick, or 15 at no trump. For failing, lose 10 points per undertrick (or 15 at no trump). For flunking, you halve your score for each successive overtrick.
Example: If you declared nine clubs and win exactly nine tricks you score 90. For winning ten, you halve this to 45; for eleven, you halve it again to 22 (ignore the fraction); for twelve, 11; for all thirteen, 5 points. For winning only eight, you score minus 10 (or 15 at no trump); for seven, minus 20 (or 30); and so on.
Low contract : Scores are basically the same as above, except that they are based on the number of tricks you lose - in other words, the number taken by the defenders. For example, a bid of "Four clubs" is in effect a bid to lose at least nine. Hence, for winning exactly four, you score 90, and this is halved for each subsequent undertrick (three tricks = 45, two tricks = 22, etc). For winning more than four, you lose 10 points for each trick taken in excess of that number (five scores 10, six scores 20, etc), or 15 each at no trump.
Dump contract : If you succeed in taking no card of the dump suit, you score 30 for each trick you win. For failing, you lose 10 points for each card of the dump suit you find in your tricks. For losing every trick ("flunking") you score zero.
Slam scores : A successful high bid of 12 tricks (small slam) scores not 120 but 150 (or 200 at no trump), halved to 100 (75) if flunked by winning thirteen. A successful high bid of 13 tricks (grand slam) scores 200 in trumps or 250 at no trump.
The same scores apply conversely to low contracts. Thus a successful bid of "One" scores 150, of "None" 200.
There is no slam equivalent in the dump contract.
Game
The winner is the player with the highest score at the end of an agreed number of deals.
Comment
As defenders (the partners opposing the dealer/declarer), players may want to devise some sort of signalling on the opening lead so that the leader can suggest whether they should attempt to defeat the contract or to force-flunk the declarer. For example, if the contract is eight hearts, and you as leader have a hand good for three and possibly four tricks towards the six you need to beat it, you might indicate this by leading high rather than low. Or you could lead low to suggest that your hand is better placed to force a flunk, or a middling rank to show that you're uncertain which strategy to aim for.
Copyright © renewed 2017 by David Parlett