Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

February 20, 2013

An Unusual Capture (solution)

Martin Tompa

With trump control and your three aces in hand, you should certainly be thinking about closing the stock. The 2 game points you would gain, if successful, would be enough to win the current game.

The problem is that your three aces may not fetch you quite enough trick points. If Peter is holding both missing jacks and K, your aces will add only 41 trick points to your current 23, for a total of 64. It seems that you might have a problem if either T or K is the remaining card in the stock. Is there anything you can do to win the deal in those cases? Let’s visualize the situation if you close the stock with (say) T still face-down in it.

Peter: (20 points)
♣ A

You: (23 points)
♣ K

Do you see a way to eke out a few more trick points from Peter? If not, think about it before reading on.

If you could induce Peter to lead hearts, you would capture both heart tricks, which would give you enough points. This calls for an elimination play. Play out your A and A to eliminate Peter’s safe exit cards:

Peter: (20 points)

♣ A

You: (51 points)

♣ K

Now throw Peter in with ♣K. He will have nothing left to lead other than a heart, and you will win both heart tricks.

Will this play also work if some card other than T is in the stock? If any of the three missing hearts is in the stock, this same elimination play is guaranteed to capture either K or T with your A, and that will give you enough trick points. (If it’s J in the stock, it’s not actually an elimination play, in the sense that Peter is not endplayed, but you capture his K nonetheless.) If the card remaining in the stock is either J or ♣A, the situation is even easier: Peter will have to discard J when you lead either A or ♣K, and then will discard K on your A to give you enough trick points.

The only bad case for you is if K is in the stock. In that case, your A and A will fetch Peter’s two jacks and you will be left on lead in this position:

Peter: (20 points)

♣ A

You: (49 points)

♣ K

There is nothing you can do here, and you will end up a little short, with only 64 trick points.

Putting this all together, your expected gain is ⅚(+2) + ⅙(−2) = 4/3 game points. Can you hope to do better by leaving the stock open? Probably not. With the stock open, it is very difficult to prevent Peter from crossing the 33 point threshold, no matter what you lead.

© 2013 Martin Tompa. All rights reserved.


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About the Author

Martin Tompa

Martin Tompa (

I am a Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington, where I teach discrete mathematics, probability and statistics, design and analysis of algorithms, and other related courses. I have always loved playing games. Games are great tools for learning to think logically and are a wonderful component of happy family or social life.

Read about Winning Schnapsen, the very first and definitive book on the winning strategy for this fascinating game.


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