Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

Schnapsen Log Archives

Columns for July, 2012

Group Theory and Random Sampling

Martin Tompa
July 3, 2012

I am going to break from our normal format for today’s column, in order to tell you about a very interesting scholarly article by Florian Wisser, a Ph.D. student at the Vienna University of Technology.

Wisser’s goal is to show that methods from Artificial Intelligence can be used to design the world’s best Schnapsen-playing computer program. He has already made remarkable progress toward this goal with a program whimsically named Doktor Schnaps. At the time of this writing, I have played 132 games against the good Doktor, and I can report that it is a very intimidating opponent! Wisser hasn’t yet found anyone who can beat Doktor Schnaps in 50% of games played, which is a great achievement, given how difficult it is to design programs that play such games of strategy at expert levels….

How Much Help Can You Expect?

Martin Tompa
July 8, 2012

You are back at home, playing against your sister Emmi again. Your clever Uncle Hans has come to visit and has been watching over your shoulder. You take this as another sign that Hans likes you better than Emmi, which makes you happy. As he’s kibitzing, the following situation comes up at trick 2….

All the Aces

Martin Tompa
July 13, 2012

Your game against Uncle Hans continues, when you find yourself holding all four aces in the following interesting and very symmetric position…

To Duck and Not to Duck

Martin Tompa
July 17, 2012

Your Uncle Claudius has now claimed the seat across from you, with Uncle Hans kibitzing once again. You haven’t played against Claudius in quite a long time. You hope you can make Hans proud on this deal. It’s going to be tough, because you haven’t collected a single trick yet….

Avoid the Ducking Ruff

Martin Tompa
July 22, 2012

“All right, Hans, all right,” says Uncle Claudius. “We get it now. The way I played that last hand, I should have lost to your ‘ducking ruff’ play. Well, then, how should I have played the hand?”

“I’m glad you asked,” replies your clever Uncle Hans. “Let’s set up the hands again, but this time from your point of view, Claudius.” Hans rearranges the cards on the table to recreate the situation at the beginning of trick 5….

As Luck Would Have It

Martin Tompa
July 27, 2012

Peter’s friend Lore has joined the two of you for a cozy afternoon at your favorite daytime hangout, the Café Abeles. Today’s special is Linzertorte and, of course, lots of hot coffee and cards. You are preoccupied with the fact that you haven’t yet scored a single game point against Lore, though in the back of your mind there is also the concern that Peter will get the last piece of Linzertorte….

Trump Entries

Martin Tompa
July 29, 2012

Peter has taken Lore’s seat to play against you at the Café Abeles. Lore looks on, when she is not too busy surreptitiously nibbling at Peter’s last piece of Linzertorte. You sip your coffee and contemplate your situation….

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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Recent Columns

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