The continual spread and growth in popularity of whist during the last few

years has been remarkable in many respects, and the changes that have taken

place in the tactics of the game have amounted almost to a revolution. The

good old days, when such simple maxims as "second hand low, third hand high,"

were sufficient for the average player have passed away, and a person now

requires months of careful training before he can acquit himself decently,

even in a social game.

In 1889 there were only two teachers in this country, and the only paper

that ever referred to the game was the _Boston Herald_. To-day there are

several teachers in every large city and no fewer than forty-two newspapers

have regular whist departments edited by some skilful player or well-known

author. A quiet rubber in the home circle or at the club was then the extent

of the player's ambition, but now teams of experts travel hundreds of miles

just to play a single match of forty-eight deals against a rival club. All

the large cities have annual tournaments to decided the supremacy of the local

clubs; State associations have been formed all over the country and valuable

trophies are played for every week; the American Whist League holds its annual

congress for the discussion of the laws and the play for championship honors.

This organization has upon its lists nearly 20,000 members and publishes an

official organ devoted exclusively to the interests of the game.

The increase and concentration of attention upon any subject naturally

tend to develop it in various ways, and among other things to increase and

complicate its nomenclature. The technical terms in use at the whist table

ten years ago were few and easily understood, but to-day they are so numerous

that none but the expert undestands them all. THE SUN continually receives

letters like the following, asking for an explanation of certain phrases which

are used in connection with the published analyses of illustrative hands:

TO THE EDITOR OF THE SUN--_Sir:_ While I have played whist for a number

of years and have become very much interested in "around the Whist Table," as

published in THE RUN, there are many words applied to the game of which I do

not comprehend the meaning, and beg to ask if you will kindly advise me what

is the technical meaning for 'finesse,' 'guerrilla.' 'led his own singleton,'

'ruff,' 'cross-ruff,' 'tenace and minor tenace,' 'potential tenace,' 'force,'

'leading spades to an honor,' 'twice guarded jack,' 'top of nothing,' &c.

"These expressions have a meaning incomprehensible to me, and I

acknowledge my ignorance in the hope that you will be good enough to explain

them, as I am honestly endeavoring to obtain a thorough knowledge of the

fascinating game of whist.

"W. A. R., RAHWAY, N. J."

The foregoing letter gives a long but far from complete list of the terms

which confuse the novice at the whist table. One of the most common

difficulties with the beginner is to grasp the meaning of the terms used in

describing particular combinations of cards. Even experts are not thoroughly

familiar with many of them. It should be observed that whenever a number is

mentioned it embraces all the cards in the suit spoken of, whether any

particulars are added or not. A few of the more common forms of such

expressions are: "Ace fifth in spades." "Ace to five hearts." "King third

in diamonds." "Queen jack to four clubs." In each of these the figure

expresses the total number of cards in the suit. "Ace fifth" means that the

ace was the fifth spade. "Ace to five" does not mean that the player held the

ace and five other hearts, but that the ace belonged to the combination of

five cards in the heart suit. "King third" means that there were three

diamonds, of which the king was the best. There were only four clubs,

including the queen and jack. If a person speaks of having four spades to an

honor, he means that one of his spades was the ace, king, queen or jack, but

that he did not hold two of those cards.

Combinations of high cards, when spoken of without regard to the total

number in the suit, are divided into two classes, sequences and tenaces, and

these again are further distinguished according to their rank. Although,

properly speaking, a sequence must be composed of a series of at least three

things next in value to one another, the word is used in whist for two only,

such as king and queen, because there is no word in any language that

expresses the idea of two things next to each other in rank. A head sequence

is the ace, king, queen, sometimes called the "tierce major." The "quart

major" is the ace, king, queen, jack.

If the sequence is of inferior rank, it is named after the highest card.

"A tierce to the queen" means a series of queen, jack, ten. There are also

"intermediate sequences," such as jack, ten, nine in a suit, which also

contains the ace and deuce. The cards of a sequence are sometimes spoken of

as "indifferent cards," because one is as good as the other for trick taking

purposes. Many persons think when an indifferent card is spoken of it means

one of no value. Cards of equal value, if not actually the highest of the

suit, are never spoken of as tierce majors, but as the three "best" cards. If

the ace of spades has been played and you hold the king, queen, jack, you have

not the tierce major, but the three best spades.

"Tenaces" are a continual stumbling block to the beginner, on account of

their variety. The word has nothing to do with ten and ace, although many

persons imagine so. The "major tenace" is always the best and the third best

of the unplayed cards of a suit; the ace and queen if the suit has not been

touched. The "minor tenace" is the second and fourth best, the king and jack

in an unplayed suit. When we speak of the "double" major tenace, the ace,

queen, and ten are always meant, but the cards composing the simple major and

minor tenaces may vary every time the suit is played. If a suit has been led

once or twice, the queen and seven may become the major tenace, while the

minor tenace may be the nine and four. It is not necessary to state exactly

what the cards were if you are explaining a position at the whist table, the

idea of advantage being distinctly conveyed by the statement that you held the

major tenace over a given player.

"Potential tenaces" are combinations that will become tenaces after a

certain intermediate card falls. The ace and jack form a potential tenace,

because they become the major tenace if either the king or queen falls. The

king and ten form a potential tenace, becoming the minor if the queen or jack

falls; the major if ace-jack or ace-queen fall.

The French players do not use the word tenace, but call all such

combinations _fourchettes_. The word expresses the idea of a fork, the space

between the prongs representing the missing cards of the sequence. English-

speaking players make quite a distinction between tenace and _fourchette_, and

insist that the tenace must always be at the top of the suit, whereas a

_fourchette_ is a combination in one hand of the cards immediately above and

below the one played by the right-hand adversary. If you hold ace-queen and

the player on your right leads a small card, you hold major tenace, but not

_fourchette_. If he leads the king you hold _fourchette_, because the card he

plays fills the space between the prongs of your fork. _Fourchettes_ may be

of any rank. The eight and six are _fourchette_ over the seven at any time,

but they will not be major tenace until all the cards in that suit above the

eight have been played. _Fourchettes_ are sometimes composed of cards widely

separated. The queen and seven, for instance, will be _fourchette_ over the

jack if the eight, nine and ten have been played.

"Imperfect _fourchettes_" are forks with a prong missing. If the player

on your right leads a queen and you hold king-ten you have an "imperfect"

_fourchette_ because the jack is not in your hand. The king and ten would not

be an imperfect _fourchette_ over the jack, however, because the higher card

must be the one immediately above the one led by the player on your right, or

it is not a _fourchette_ at all. Good players always "cover" with

_fourchettes_, whether perfect or not.

"Covering" is putting on a higher card than the one led or played, but

not the best of the suit. If the player on your right leads a ten, and you

hold ace-jack and deuce, you "pass" if you play the deuce; you "cover" if you

play the jack, and you "win" if you play the ace.

Many persons confuse the terms "honors" and "court cards." Honors are

the cards that rank highest in the game being played. In whist there are four

honors--ace, king, queen, and jack; in bridge whist the ten is included. The

court cards are the three in each suit that have pictures--the king, queen,

and jack.

The ace is almost invariable an honor in card games, but is never a court

card. When players "court honors" at whist they refer to honors in the trump

suit only. The ace is the best card of any suit, but a player may speak of

having the best of the suit without meaning the ace. He refers to the best

card which is still unplayed in that suit. The same is true in speaking of

the second best, for it does not matter whether the card was the king or the

four, the idea conveyed being simply that some player still held a better card

in that suit.

When a person speaks of holding the second best "guarded," he means that

even if the player with the best of the suit were to lead it he could not

catch the second best, because it was accompanied by a smaller card. A

"twice-guarded jack" means that it would take three leads to catch it. A

twice-guarded queen cannot be caught if led up to, because the two guards can

be played to the ace and king, leaving the queen the best of the suit. If one

player has the queen and his partner the jack, and either of those cards is

twice guarded, the other once only, it is impossible for the adversaries to

catch them both, no matter how they play.

The player left with the best card of any suit is said to "command" that

suit, and the French call such cards "masters;" but when the command is

against him he is said to hold a "losing card." If a person tells you he had

two "losing spades," he means that if he got the lead he would lose two spade

tricks. A "losing trump" is the only one remaining unplayed. There are some

special terms applied to the trump suit. "Weak trumps," for instance, mean

that the player has not enough of them to justify him in refusing to trump

"doubtful" tricks. Any trick is doubtful to the second player when the card

led is not the best and he does not know whether his partner or the third hand

will win it. "Strong trumps" are usually four or more, and such strength

usually warrants passing doubtful tricks and greater freedom in finessing.

In addition to these terms there are quite a number which refer chiefly

to the strategy of the game, such as "finessing," "ruffing," "forcing,"

"underplay," &c. "Finessing" is trying to win a trick without giving up the

best card you hold in the suit. If your partner leads a small card and you

hold ace-queen and others, you "finesse" when you play the queen, and the card

you finesse against is the king, which you hope is not on your left. When a

person finesses "deeply" he is finessing against more than one card. To play

the ten with the ace in your hand would be a deep finesse, as there are three

cards which will win the trick, any one of which may be on your left.

Finesses are usually made by the third hand, sometimes by the second. If

the leader tries to win a trick with a card which is not the best of the suit

it is called "underplay," if he holds the best card himself. If you have the

king, jack, and ten of a suit of which the ace has been played, and have

reason to believe that the queen is on your left, it is an underplay if you

lead the ten in the hope that the second hand will not put on his queen.

"Forcing" is compelling a player to do something that he does not want to

do, usually making him trump a suit when he is very anxious to keep his trumps

for leading. If he will not trump it is called "refusing the force." Common

usage has extended the term to cases in which you lead a suit for your partner

to "ruff," not with any intention of forcing him against his will, but in

order to gain tricks. Some players call this "ruffing your partner," as

distinguished from "forcing" him when he does not want to be forced. When two

partners alternately trump different suits it is a "cross-ruff," or "saw."

Some persons deliberately play for a ruff by leading "singletons," or

"sneaks." These are suits containing one card only, which is led for the

special purpose of ruffing the second round. Persons who habitually lead such

cards are called "guerrillas," because it is not considered legitimate warfare

to make a practice of leading sneaks, although some persons prefer such an

opening to leading away from single honors, or opening suits in which they

hold a tenace.

If a player leads a suit which is very weak, but is not a singleton, it

is called the "top of nothing," because the suit contains no possible trick

and the lead is intended to warn the partner to keep that suit quiet. In the

old days these were called "forced leads," because players did not like to

make them; but modern investigation has completely dispelled that prejudice,

and one never hears of forced leads now. If these weak leads are cards as

high as the jack, ten or nine, they are called "strengthening cards," because

although they are of no practical trick-taking value to the leader, they may

be useful in giving the partner a good finesse. When the partner refuses to

play his best card on such leads it is called "ducking." If you lead a ten,

second hand plays queen, and your partner will not put on his ace, he is said

to "duck the trick." His object is to win the second round and then force


There are quite a number of other technical terms used in whist, most of

which refer to special plays. The "Bath coup," for instance, is holding up

the ace and jack of a suit in which the adversary leads the king, so that you

may remain with the major instead of with the minor tenace. "Unblocking" is

giving up high cards in a suit in which you have reason to believe that your

partner has more cards than you have. The object is to get out of his way and

let his small cards win tricks. The "Blue Peter" is the call for trumps:

playing a higher card before a lower when no attempt is made to win the trick.

"Establishing" a suit is getting all the higher cards out of the way of

smaller ones, which so become the best. "Bringing in" an established suit is

getting into the lead and making the small cards of a suit after the adverse

trumps have been exhausted: this is usually accomplished by means of "re-entry

cards," which are the master cards in other suits, or the "long" trumps.

"Echoing" is holding up the smallest card of a suit until the second

round, so that your partner may know you have four. This is usually confined

to the trump suit. "Bumblepuppy" is playing whist without any knowledge of

its fundamental principles of in defiance of them.

Those who play bumblepuppy are usually spoken of as "duffers." A "coup"

is a brilliant stroke or play; something out of the ordinary run of whist

tactics. The "grand coup" is trumping a trick already won by your partner.

"False cards" are those played with a view to deceive the adversary as to the

location of the command of a suit. "Piano hands," or "aeolians," are those in

which there is no opportunity for brilliant play and out of which players of

widely different ability would make the same number of tricks. "Post mortems"

at whist, sometimes called "If-you-hads," consist chiefly in pointing out to

the partner what he might have done if he could have seen through the backs of

your cards.