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The Schnapsen Log

April 4, 2022

Grasping at Straws (solution)

Martin Tompa

Concealed cards:
KJ
K
♣ Q
AJ

Your cards:
AQ
TQ
♣ T

Trump: K
Stock: Open, 1 face-down card
Game points: Tibor 4, You 5
Trick points: Tibor 53, You 20
On lead: You

The key question to ask yourself is the location of the ace of trumps. If Tibor has it in his hand and you leave the stock open, he will win this trick with it whatever you lead and win 2 game points right there. On the other hand, if he has the ace of trumps and you close the stock, the best you can do is to cash your three big cards. How many trick points will you accumulate? In the best case, J is still in the stock and you will get to 20+11+4+10+4+10+3 = 62 trick points. Tibor will trump the next trick with A, arrive at 67 trick points himself, and you will lose 2 game points.

This means you have no choice but to assume that A is the last face-down card in the stock and you are looking for a desperation play. Here is what the hands look like in this case:

Tibor: (53 points)
KJ
K
♣ Q
J

You: (20 points)
AQ
TQ
♣ T

Do you see what to do? Take a minute and work it out.


First, you close the stock, because you don’t want Tibor to trump this trick and draw A from the stock. With the stock closed, we already saw that you cannot reach 66 by cashing all your winners. You must find another trick, and that means an elimination play that will coerce Tibor to lead spades for you. Cash ♣T and T to remove Tibor’s safe exit cards. This leaves you on lead from this position:

Tibor: (53 points)
KJ

♣ —
J

You: (47 points)
AQ
Q
♣ —

Now you throw Tibor in by leading Q and he has no choice but to yield the last two spade tricks to you. Your trick point total will be 47+11+4+3+2 = 67 and you will win 1 game point. Provided A really is still in the stock.

© 2022 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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Recent Columns

September
Sidestep a Few Landmines, Sep 2
June
Two Last-Trick Problems, Jun 27
May
More Extremes of Luck, May 21
April
Grasping at Straws, Apr 4
March
A New Scheme for Remembering Cards, Mar 23
September
As Luck Would Have It, Sep 9

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