Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

February 26, 2013

Where’s the Endplay? (solution)

Martin Tompa

You cannot win this deal by taking the last trick without getting to 66 trick points, because by that point Peter will have taken his AQ and A and will have plenty of points himself. An easier way to see this is by remembering that there was a marriage declared earlier in the deal: if any marriage has been declared and the stock is exhausted, one or the other player must reach 66 trick points before the deal is over. The reason is that the trick point total in this case is at least 140.

In today’s deal, in order to reach 66 trick points yourself you need to take a trick with your T. This means that Peter must be forced to open up the spade suit via an elimination play, throwing him in with a diamond.

You cannot throw him in immediately, without eliminating his trump, because in that case he can use ♣J as a safe exit card. If you cash two rounds of trump, thinking that you need to eliminate your trump entries before the throw-in, Peter will foil your endplay by discarding his Q on your second trump, leaving you on lead in this position:

Peter: (34 points)

♣ —

You: (65 points)

♣ —

You got close to 66, but from here Peter will take all the remaining tricks. When you are holding Tx opposite your opponent’s interleaving Ax and you want your opponent to open up this suit, you cannot give your opponent an opportunity to discard from this suit. This makes these elimination plays more sensitive than the situation when you hold Ax opposite your opponent’s interleaving Tx. In the latter case, your opponent usually cannot afford to discard from this suit and bare the ten, even if given the opportunity.

We’ve now seen that you cannot pull either zero or two rounds of trump before the throw-in. We’d better try pulling just one, enough to eliminate Peter’s ♣J as an exit card but not enough to give Peter the opportunity to jettison Q. If you pull one round and then exit with Q, Peter will be on lead from this position:

Peter: (48 points)

♣ —

You: (59 points)

♣ Q

You haven’t eliminated your last trump entry before the throw-in. Do you need to worry that Peter will exit with K instead of opening up the spades? No, luckily for you, trumping K would bring your trick point total to exactly 66, so Peter has no safe exit. The best he can do is cash his A, after which either of his remaining leads will give you enough trick points.

It is enlightening to compare today’s problem with one that we encountered earlier under the same title, “Where’s the Endplay?”. The hands are exactly the same, but the solution is entirely different. The only difference in the positions is that, in today’s problem, the starting trick point totals are higher, due to a declared marriage. This simple change alters the winning line of play dramatically.

© 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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