July 11, 2012

The Armenians Play Bazaar Blot


The Armenians Play Bazaar Blot

Along with the awakening of nature, in Armenian men is awakened an irresistible desire to play Blot. Yet, if nature ripens fading in bleak November and December, the Armenians’ love towards Blot ‘ripens and ripens’. No matter whether it is a stuffy summer day or a freezing to the bone December evening, an Armenian man will always find time and place to play Blot.

Bazaar Blot is a 32-card trick-taking game derived from the French popular card game Belote the rules of which were first published in 1921. Games closely related to French Belote are played throughout the world. Thus, in Bulgaria it is known as Bridge-Belote, in Greece –Vida, in Cyprus – Pilotta, in Croatia-Bela, in Saudi Arabia – Baloot, in the Republic of Macedonia –Belyot. The lion part of these games have almost the same rules, yet Bazaar Blot played only in Armenia, and Baloot played in Saudi Arabia are slightly different.

Actually, the name of the card game itself, Bazaar Blot, already suggests certain resemblance between the game and an Oriental market. This resemblance is manifested in the noise and bids made by the players. Unlike the other versions of Belote, during Bazaar Blot players make bids, saying ‘Diamonds-10 ’, ‘Spades-9’, etc., i.e. the player who says ‘Hearts-15’ should get more than 150 points to win the trick, otherwise his team loses. The number of tricks is not limited, but the number of points for the winning of the game is 301 exactly.
Armenians playing Blot

Amazingly, this card game has its own ‘word stock’ which comprises such words as ‘terz’ (perhaps derived from a French word ‘tierce’), ‘quansh’ (I don’t believe), ‘kapuyt’ (probably derived from a French word ‘capote’ that has become pronounced ‘kapuyt’ (blue in Armenian) during decades), etc.

Not only words of Blot are quite special, but the general atmosphere during the tricks and Armenian men’s attitude towards the game as well. Under no circumstances can Blot be considered merely a card game, since for 'the experts' of this famous game it is a ritual that should be performed almost always in the same way. 

First of all, the ritual requires a comfortable place frequently outdoors, with a table and at least 4 chairs. The ritual without spectators is nothing, that's why the crowd gathered near the players watches the tricks, often upset, rarely amazed, and tries to be of any help prompting this or that player. Gradually, the play does become a bazaar where everyone speaks but says nothing and everyone listens but hears nothing.

On the one hand, Bazaar Blot is a leisure activity called to entertain people. On the other hand, it is a craft requiring attention, intellect and good memory for card counting during the tricks.

Frankly, Bazaar Blot might be labeled as an ‘obsession’ but never as a gambling, because the Armenians don’t play it for money. In case of this game, several bottles of beer or a treat including delicious Armenian barbecue can be at stake. Of course, the winners don’t take the beer won and go home; or the barbecue is not tasted by the winners only. On the contrary, play can be developed into a feast which all the players and spectators will take part in.

Eventually, Blot may be presented as an embodiment of our nation’s nature. It is played by clever and hot-blooded Armenians, who always long to prove their being the best, always take risks no matter whether those are calculated or not. Armenians win or lose but do it in such a way that the whole neighborhood learns about it.

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