Psellos
Contemporary Development With Functional Programming

The Schnapsen Log

The Schnapsen Log is a series about the card game Schnapsen, and how to play it like a master. Schnapsen is the national card game of Austria and Hungary. It is very similar to the German game Sechsundsechzig (Sixty-six). These games are popular throughout Europe, where they go by various regional names, including Snapszer, Snapszli, Hatvanhat, Mariagen-Spiel, Mariáš, Santase, Tute, and Exinta-exi. Schnapsen is easy to learn, requires only one other willing player (or a computer program, always willing), is quick and fun to play, and is full of interesting strategy.

My goal in this series is to teach you everything you need to know about the strategy for winning Schnapsen. I will present thought-provoking situations that arise commonly in Schnapsen, in a manner very similar to the daily newspaper’s bridge or chess columns. Here are a few of the most recent columns. Check out the archives for older columns.

Remembrance

Martin Tompa
April 6, 2014

Sunday, August 24, 1947. Cookham, Berkshire, U.K. Peter and Liesl sit with Hans and Phyllis at their dining room table. The dinner dishes have been cleared and washed and the children are in bed. Peter and Hans are in the middle of a game of cards, of course. Liesl and Phyllis alternate between watching and chatting. This visit is the women’s first time together, and fortunately they have gotten along famously.

As Peter studies his cards, deciding what to lead next, he abruptly looks up and says, “Hans, when we were out walking earlier, you said something about showing me a letter from Uncle Jozsef.”

“Ah, right,” Hans agrees, putting his cards down on the table. “I thought you might like to see what he wrote when Apu died last year. Would you? Let me go look for it.”

While he is gone, Peter explains to Liesl that Uncle Jozsef is Apu’s…

A Ragged Endplay

Martin Tompa
March 24, 2014

We are going to take a break from our ongoing story for today’s column. I was delighted last week when two students from my course on Probability and Statistics sent me a very interesting endgame position. Rather than studying for the final examination, they had been playing Schnapsen together for fun. Today’s column features their endgame.

You are once again playing against the Maestro when you find yourself in the following position…

Reunion

Martin Tompa
March 16, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 1947. Southampton, U.K. After five long days at sea aboard the Queen Elizabeth, Peter and Liesl walk a little unsteadily down the gangway with their luggage. Liesl remembers departing England aboard a similar ship, destined for her new life in New York, exactly 7 years earlier when she was only 20 years old. But that is another story. As they descend today, Peter scans the welcoming crowd on the pier for faces he might recognize. After a frustratingly long time, he spots his younger brother Tibor waving and grinning broadly, and then sees Hans next to him. Peter points them out to Liesl, and the two of them make their way down and through the crowd to the waiting brothers.

Peter puts down his suitcase. He and Hans grasp each others’ shoulders, smile slightly, and then embrace. As they disengage, Hans says, “Do you know how long it has been since we last saw each other? Eleven years! That was the last time I visited Vienna. I was 25 and you were 24.”…

About the Author

Martin Tompa

Martin Tompa (tompa@psellos.com)

I am a Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where I teach discrete mathematics, logic, probability, design and analysis of algorithms, and other related courses. I have always loved playing games. Games are great tools for learning to think logically but, more important, seem to me an integral part of happy family or social life. I will be delighted if game-players, parents, teachers, and students find this series fun and useful.

My excitement about Schnapsen was rekindled by playing against an iPhone program called Master Schnapsen/66 written by two friends at Psellos. Set to play at its “Master” level of difficulty, this program is one of the two most formidable opponents I have found. It comes up with surprising and brilliant plays, and I have learned an enormous amount of Schnapsen strategy by playing with it. Nearly every deal in this Schnapsen Log arose during those hours of playing with Master Schnapsen/66.

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Getting Started

Links for Schnapsen and Sixty-Six

Links in German

Links in Hungarian

Recent Columns

April
Remembrance, Apr 6
March
A Ragged Endplay, Mar 24
Reunion, Mar 16
Peace Blooms, Mar 4
February
Closing In, Feb 25
Close Quarters, Feb 17

Archives

2014
2013
2012