Archive | March, 2011


15 Mar

The card game Tysiacha (Тысяча), meaning “one thousand”, is a popular three-player game in Russia and Eastern Europe that combines complex card play strategy with a unique scoring system. Play with a twenty-four-card deck containing only nines up to aces, with the following card values:

Nine: 0 points; Ten: 10 points; Jack: 2 points; Queen: 3 points; King: 4 points; Ace: 11 points

Marriages: ♠ = 40; ♣ = 60; ♦ = 80; ♥ = 100

Each hand, deal seven cards to the three players and place three in the centre in a prikup (Прикуп). A player with a hand worth fewer than fourteen points may elect to order the cards to be shuffled and redealt. The player to the dealer’s left bids 100 automatically. Bidding continues clockwise and bids must be incremented by at least five points if one chooses not to pass. Nobody may bid more points than it is possible for them to make even if it is presumed that they will win every trick and convert every marriage they have in their hand. If a player passes, he must pass for the rest of that round of bidding; if two players in a row pass, the winner of the bidding becomes the declarer.

The declarer may pick up the talon. He reveals the talon to the other players if the winning bid was higher than 100 and then he passes one card face-down from his hand to each of his opponents. If he so desires, the declarer may then choose to increase his bid to any higher multiple of 5. He leads to the first trick, and the winner of the previous trick leads to the next trick. A player must follow suit if able; otherwise, he must play a trump card (see below) or, if he has no trump cards, he may play any card. The card order in determining the winner is A-10-K-Q-J-9. Cards that are not of the suit led cannot win a trick (unless they have been made trump)

If a player has won the previous trick — meaning that this cannot be done on the first trick — he may announce that he has the queen and king of a single suit and he is then awarded the appropriate number of points (consult the marriages point guide above). In order to do this he must lead either the queen or king to the next trick. A player must have the relevant cards in his hand when he makes the announcement; if he has lost them over the course of the hand, he has lost the chance to announce the marriage. Once this has happened, the suit the marriage was declared in becomes the trump suit. A hand may well be completed without any trump suit existing, or it may progress through all four as they are replaced by new marriage announcements. A player unable to follow suit must ruff (play a trump card) if he is able to do so, and trump cards will always beat non-trump cards in determining the winner of a trick.

Apart from marriages, player score points by winning tricks. For the players who were not the declarer, their score is calculated by adding the points found in all the tricks they won using the scoring list above to the marriages they scored, then rounding it off to the nearest five. For the declarer, the same method is used however the number of points he may earn is limited by his bid. If he fails to make his bid, his score is reduced by the value of his bid, no matter how close he came to making it.

If a player has a score between 880 and 1000, a box is drawn round his last score and he is said to be on the barrel. Whilst on the barrel, a player scores no points unless he wins a hand’s bidding with a bid of at least 120 points and makes it, in which case he wins. It is impossible for him to earn any points when he is not declarer or when he is declarer with a bid lower than 120. If he has not achieved this within three hands his score is reduced to 760 and he is no longer on the barrel. If a second player reaches the barrel while one is already on it, the first player’s score is reduced to 760 points and he leaves the barrel. If multiple players reach the barrel in the same hand, all players on the barrel are knocked off and their score is made 760. If a player exceeds 1000 points by skipping scores of 880 or more (such as by earning 200 points while on 800), he can win without being on the barrel.



13 Mar

The perfect cupcake recipe is an elusive creature. We might watch it from time to time, but never could we catch it. These cupcakes a relative – third cousin, once removed.

Simple Cupcakes

200g unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup caster sugar

Up to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

2 ½ cups self-raising flour

½ cup milk

Heat the oven to 180°C or 160°C for a fan-forced oven (355°F / 320°F). Line a muffin pan with paper cases. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl until light and yellow. Add the eggs one by one, combining them completely. The mixture will take on a mushy, curdled appearance at this point. Add half of the milk and sift in half of the flour then stir them with the mixture. Do the same with the rest of the milk and flour. Spoon the batter into the muffin pan and bake for around fifteen minutes or until golden; the length of time required to cook the muffins will depend on their size. Leave them for a couple of minutes before removing them and allow them to cool before adding icing.

For the icing, combine icing sugar with a little butter and a small amount of milk or hot water. Flavouring, food colouring, vanilla, cocoa solids and similar substances can all be added. Alternatively, combine butter with as much brown sugar as does not quite stop the mixture from separating into pieces then add instant coffee or cocoa. This will produce an illiquid topping that does not set. This recipe takes about half an hour to make and makes at least 24 small- or medium-sized cupcakes.