Psellos
Contemporary Development With Functional Programming

The Schnapsen Log

July 5, 2013

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Martin Tompa

“Well then, Emmi,” your clever Uncle Hans says to your sister, “after that last deal, it seems to be your turn now for retribution. Show us what you’ve got.” After the first few tricks, you find yourself in this endgame:

Emmi: (36 points)
TK
J
♣ AK

You: (32 points)
J
TK
♣ Q
J

Trump:
Stock: Exhausted
Game points: Emmi 3, You 4
On lead: You

Since the stock is exhausted and you’ve developed your memory for cards, you know every card Emmi now holds in her hand. You first add up the trick points you can accumulate by cashing your trumps and J: Emmi can contribute her three low cards, so your total will come to only 58. Since there have been no marriages, that means Emmi’s total comes to 120 − 58 = 62, and it’s going to come down to who wins the last trick. You consider leading J to force her to trump, which is often the right thing to do in the struggle for the last trick. You begin to extract the J from your hand when you realize that this would give Emmi another 4 trick points you hadn’t counted, bringing her total to exactly 66. You tuck that card back into your hand.

Figuring that you’d better lead one of your other losers, you lead J. Emmi wins and immediately forces you with K, leaving you on lead from this position:

Emmi: (48 points)

J
♣ AK

You: (46 points)

K
♣ Q
J

You still can’t afford to force her with J, so you lead your remaining loser, ♣Q. Emmi wins, forces you again with ♣K, and suddenly her lowly J has become the master trump to win the last trick. You growl in frustration as she racks up another game point.

“That’s too bad, dear,” Hans commiserates to you. “You were caught between a rock and a hard place after the stock was exhausted. So many of your leads were bad for you, and for different reasons.”

“Did I have a good play at trick 6, Hans?” you ask, hoping he will say there was nothing you could have done.

“As a matter of fact, dear, you did,” Hans replies. Seeing your crestfallen look, he adds, “Sorry.”

Do you see the line of play Hans has in mind? When you think you’ve figured it out, you are welcome to read my analysis.

© 2013 Martin Tompa. All rights reserved.


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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, 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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