Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

Schnapsen Log Archives

Columns for October, 2013

Shifting Allegiances

Martin Tompa
October 7, 2013

Sunday, November 13, 1921. Vienna, Austria. Hans and Peter are playing cards, but sitting at the dining room table this time instead of in their customary spot on the bedroom floor. While playing, they listen with interest through the open door to the living room, where Apu and Anyu discuss politics and family plans.

“We have committed ourselves to a life in Vienna, haven’t we?” Apu asks his wife, who is busy feeding baby Tibor.

“Yes, I think so,” Anyu replies after a moment of thought. “I do not see things improving for us in Hungary any time soon. But what has that to do with your difficulty finding patients here?”

“I think each of us is at a disadvantage as Hungarian citizens here,” Apu continues. “As foreigners, the boys will have a more difficult time gaining admission to preparatory school and university. And I compete for patients with a multitude of other foreign doctors…


Martin Tompa
October 19, 2013

Saturday, April 19, 1930. Vienna, Austria. As is their long custom, Hans and Peter are playing cards at the kitchen table while their mother Anyu cooks. The rich smell of paprika in the steamy air makes this a most pleasant spot to play. They have not lived in Anyu’s sister’s apartment for years now: Apu and Anyu have their own apartment not far outside Vienna’s central Ringstraße, with a neighboring apartment for Apu’s dentistry practice.

Hans is 19, studying physics in his first year at the Technische Hochschule, Vienna’s University of Technical Sciences. Peter is 18, two months away from graduation at Hans’s alma mater, the Alt-Hietzinger Bundesgymnasium, and maintaining the family reputation for mathematics and science at this preparatory school.

“Where is Apu?” Peter asks his mother. “He was gone when I got up this morning.”…

Brains and Brawn

Martin Tompa
October 25, 2013

Monday, March 14, 1932. Vienna, Austria. Hans and Peter’s game is interrupted when Apu enters the apartment from his dentistry next door to talk with them. The whole family is now home. Anyu is cooking and their young brother Tibor is busy with his homework. Apu appears agitated.

“One of my patients just informed me that there was some violence at your Technische Hochschule today,” Apu says to Hans and Peter. “Do you know what happened?”

“Yes, Apu, we heard about it,” Hans replies to his father. “Neither of us saw it, because we were in our classes at the time, but we heard afterwards. A gang of Nazi hooligans beat up some local Jewish men just behind the Chemistry building. One of them had to be taken to the hospital and was in serious condition.”

“Oh no!” Anyu bursts out….

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
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More Extremes of Luck, May 21
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A New Scheme for Remembering Cards, Mar 23
As Luck Would Have It, Sep 9