Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

Schnapsen Log Archives

Columns for January, 2014

Eye of the Storm

Martin Tompa
January 3, 2014

Friday, September 1, 1939. Munich, Germany. Apu and Anyu wait anxiously near the announcement loudspeaker in Munich’s central train station. They have been in the station for a few hours, ever since their train arrived at dawn.

As another garbled announcement begins, Anyu cocks her head and grabs Apu’s arm. “That could be it,” she whispers excitedly when it is over. “Train from Bologna, track 7.”

There is no need for them to rush to the track with their luggage, because the station is strangely empty for a Friday morning. By the time they reach the track, the train is pulling in. It screeches to a stop and Tibor is one of the few passengers to step down to the platform. He spots them and gives them a broad smile, and now they do rush to embrace him.

“It has been much too long,” Anyu murmurs in his ear as she hugs him….

In the Nick of Time

Martin Tompa
January 5, 2014

Saturday, September 2, 1939. Skewen, South Wales. There is a gentle knock at the door. Hans can hear voices outside and he opens the front door wide. Standing on his doorstep, dressed for travel, are Anyu, Apu, and Tibor. Hans has not seen any of them for three years, since he last visited Vienna. His initial look of surprise turns into a wide grin.

“Well then, you made it!” he exclaims. “Welcome to the U.K.!” He puts his arms around Anyu first, and hugs and kisses each of them in turn. “Come in, come in. Let me help you with those bags.” Once inside with the front door closed, Hans calls into the sitting room in English, “Sweetie, come out here and see who has arrived.”

A young woman comes out and Hans introduces his fiancée Phyllis to his family, both in German and in English. When the greetings are done and they are all seated comfortably, Phyllis goes into the kitchen to make tea and the questions finally begin….

Last To Go

Martin Tompa
January 11, 2014

Friday, May 3, 1940
Hotel Excelsior
Ciudad Trujillo
Dominican Republic

50 Bryn Road
Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales

Dear Hans and Phyllis, dear Anyu and Apu, dear Tibor,

I have finally succeeded in escaping the continent, a mere year and a half after we first started trying in Budapest! I am safely in my new…


Martin Tompa
January 20, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 1941
The Old Parsonage
Nant y Gors
Llangyfelach, Glamorgan, Wales

Calle Arzobispo Portes #7
Ciudad Trujillo
Dominican Republic

Dear Peter,

I am afraid that today’s letter will not be filled with cheerful news….

As the Door Closes

Martin Tompa
January 26, 2014

Friday, December 12, 1941
2044 Colonial Avenue
Bronx, New York
United States of America!

The Old Parsonage
Nant y Gors
Llangyfelach, Glamorgan, Wales

Dear Hans and Phyllis, dear Anyu and Apu, dear Tibor,

After more than three years of planning and applying and waiting, in…

Homework on Expected Values

Martin Tompa
January 31, 2014

We are going to break away from our ongoing story for today’s column only. I am once again teaching a course on Probability and Statistics, using Schnapsen as a running example of applications of Probability. It’s been fun teaching Schnapsen to a large group of students who had never encountered it before.

In the course, we are just up to the topic of expected value now, so it seems appropriate to give them a homework exercise that involves expected game points. Today’s column is that homework exercise. This means that I won’t be posting my analysis until one week from now, when the homework will be due. A similar homework exercise appeared as a column last year.

You have just started a new game against the Maestro. On the very first deal, you reach the following interesting position…

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