Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

May 16, 2012

Forcing the Issue (solution)

Martin Tompa

Of the six unseen cards, which ones do you suppose are in Peter’s hand? Could he have all three cards TK and ♣A? It’s quite possible. But if he does, you cannot stop him from winning this deal however you play. Those three cards will add 25 trick points to his current 31, and you will contribute at least 17, which is plenty for him to win. Anyway, with all those tricks, why would he be fooling around with diamonds? You will have to assume that one of those three key cards is in the stock. And that answers the question of why he’s fooling around with diamonds: he has all three remaining diamonds in his hand and he wants to set up T as a winner.

Now, exactly which of those three key cards is in the stock? It’s impossible that he decided to close the stock with two diamond losers and also missing the master trump T. In fact, he’s unlikely to be missing K either, or else he would fear that you have KQ and have trump control. It must be ♣A in the stock, and this was the position when he closed the stock:

Peter: (31 points)

♣ —

Your cards: (29 points)
♣ T

Clearly you will win his J lead with K and not A, but what next? The only other winner in your hand seems to be A. If you cash it, that only brings you to 49 trick points and you can then give up, because he will take the last three tricks and accumulate 78 trick points.

No, it is imperative that you attack his trump suit immediately by leading one of your black tens. This will force him to trump, shortening his trump suit to one card. When he leads Q to knock out your A, you must attack his trump suit again with your remaining black ten. This will force out his last trump, and your lowly Q will now be the master trump to win the last trick. Will he have gotten to 66 trick points? His only tricks will be the two trumped black tens, containing 34 trick points, so he will fall 1 trick point short of 66.

In bridge, your play is called a forcing defense, because every time you are on lead you force him to trump. You must start immediately and, if you do, the timing of these forces works out so that eventually you have more trumps than he does and you seize trump control. We have actually seen a forcing defense once before in an earlier column. In that deal the stock was exhausted, and the purpose of the forcing defense was to maneuver to win the last trick. Now you know a name for the play. It is often the key to gaining trump control in the endgame.

© 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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