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.

New Arrival

Martin Tompa
April 20, 2014

Sunday, September 18, 1949. Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. Peter uses his key to unlock the apartment door and holds it open for his younger brother Tibor, who enters with a suitcase in hand. In the living room, 10-month-old Frank, unnerved by the entrance of a stranger, scrambles to be picked up by his mother. Liesl carries Frank toward the door and gives Tibor as much of a hug and kiss as she can with a baby in the way.

“Welcome to New York, Tibor!” she exclaims to her brother-in-law. “How was the sea voyage from England?”

“Long and boring,” Tibor replies with a smile.

“We are so happy that you decided to do your studies here at NYU,” Liesl continues, “and that you accepted Peter’s invitation to move in with us. This is Frank, the newest addition to the family. Let me introduce you to my parents.” She turns toward the older couple…

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…

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
New Arrival, Apr 20
Remembrance, Apr 6
March
A Ragged Endplay, Mar 24
Reunion, Mar 16
Peace Blooms, Mar 4
February
Closing In, Feb 25

Archives

2014
2013
2012