Contemporary Development With Functional Programming

The Schnapsen Log

May 31, 2012

On the Brink of Defeat

Martin Tompa

It’s Thursday evening, so we know where to find you. You’re playing the weekly tournament at your club, the Black Eagle. The tournament is always exciting, with lots of tables of Schnapsen going on, but it’s not relaxing. Particularly when you are losing badly to your arch-enemy Itell Reding, as is happening right now.

Your initial cards:
♣ —

Trump: K
Stock: 9 face-down cards
Game points: Itell 1, You 6
Trick points: Itell 0, You 0
On lead: You

Itell is looking pretty smug in his neatly trimmed beard and red velvet cap, with only one game point left to win the match and knock you out of the tournament. You are determined to pull back from the brink of defeat and show him who’s the master.

This looks like a promising starting hand. You declare your spade marriage and lead Q. Itell wins with A and you draw the unpromising ♣Q from the stock. He casually exchanges J for K and continues your led suit with J. You win with T and draw T from the stock. You could probably now cash K, the last remaining spade, but instead you lead J with the hope of setting up T as a winner. Itell obliges by winning A and you draw ♣T from the stock. With a smirk, Itell leads K and announces, “It’s very kind of you to lead into my aces. I’m happy to keep returning your suit.” You win the trick and pick up Q, the last diamond, from the stock, bringing you to this position:

Unseen cards:


Your cards:
♣ TQ

Trump: J
Stock: 1 face-down card
Game points: Itell 1, You 6
Trick points: Itell 27, You 46
On lead: You

Clubs and trumps haven’t been touched yet, though you remember that Itell holds K in his hand. The situation looks decidedly bleak for you: you’ve picked up no more trumps since the initial deal, and trump control seems to reside in your enemy’s hand. “Stop stalling,” Itell says in his oily tones. “It’s time for me to send you home.”

Can you pull back from the brink? When you think you have a good plan, you are welcome to read my analysis.

© 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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Recent Columns

What's in the Stock?, Dec 5
Schnapsen in Abstract Games Magazine, Oct 24
Know Your Opponent, Sep 19
Grab the Brass Ring, Jul 3
The Last Trump, Jun 11
Planning To Win the Last Trick, Dec 26