Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

How To Read the Card Diagrams

Martin Tompa

When you read columns in The Schnapsen Log, you will come across diagrams that summarize everything you need to know about the current position. This page describes how to read these diagrams. Here is a sample card diagram:

Unseen cards:
♣ A

Your cards:

♣ T

Trump: J
Stock: 1 face-down card
Game points: Opponent 1, You 1
Trick points: Opponent 30, You 17
On lead: Opponent

The main portion of the diagram shows all the cards you have not yet seen (under the heading Unseen cards) and the cards that you are currently holding in your hand (Your cards). If the stock is exhausted, then the unseen cards are the cards that your opponent is holding. But if the stock is either open or closed, then the unseen cards contain your opponent’s cards plus all the face-down cards in the stock.

The card shown under the heading Trump is the card that is currently face-up on the table. If the stock is exhausted, there will just be a suit symbol under this heading with no particular card of that suit shown. Under the heading Stock is the number of face-down cards remaining in the stock.

In most Schnapsen circles, Game points are counted down from 7 to 0. We will always use this convention. In the diagram above, the game point score is 1-1, meaning that one more game point is all that’s needed for either player to win the game. This deal will decide which one of you is the true master.

Finally, there are headings for the number of Trick points each player has already accumulated (including marriages declared) and an indication of which player is On lead for the next trick.

If you are used to reading the bridge column, it might look to you in the diagram above as though your opponent has 6 cards and you have only the usual 5. Don’t get confused: the 6 cards shown in the top half of the diagram aren’t your opponent’s cards, they are all the cards you haven’t seen, either in tricks or face-up on the table, so far. One of those cards is still face-down in the stock, and the other 5 are in your opponent’s hand, but of course you don’t know which 5.

This brings us to a very important point. When you are in the heat of battle at the Schnapsen table, how will you know exactly which 6 cards you haven’t seen so far? The answer is that, in your development as a Schnapsen master, it is crucial that you get to the point where you can remember exactly which cards remain to be seen. I know, this sounds impossible to you right now. But believe me, it is not that difficult, mainly because of the very small deck used in Schnapsen. There are some powerful tips in the general strategy document that describe how to go about training your memory to perform this important trick. In the meantime, in these columns I will always tell you which cards you haven’t yet seen. When you see what wonderful plays are possible in the endgame if you know your opponent’s cards, I think you’ll be extremely motivated to work on your memory.

© 2012 Martin Tompa. All rights reserved.


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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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