Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

July 17, 2012

To Duck and Not to Duck (solution)

Martin Tompa

Uncle Hans picks up the cards and lays out Claudius’s hand, your hand, and the stock on the table as they were at the beginning of trick 5. “Claudius led Q here,” he says, sliding that card to the center of the table. “You say you worked through what would happen if you duck with Q, which is the only sensible card you might discard. And you found that you would lose that way. All right, I’ll grant you that. So you concluded that you should win the trick.”

“Right,” you say, sliding A out to meet Q.

Hans tilts his head and looks puzzled. “But why win the trick with that particular card?”

“What do you mean?” you ask. “It’s the only diamond … Oh. You mean I could trump the queen instead? That didn’t occur to me.”

Hans goes on. “No, it’s not a natural play to make. We’re so focused on collecting our aces and saving our trumps that we don’t think of trumping when we can win the trick some other way. But look at all the nice things that would have happened for you in this case if you did trump Claudius’s Q.” He moves a few cards around to set up the position after the trick and subsequent draw.

Claudius: (38 points)
♣ —

You: (7 points)
♣ —

“Both of Claudius’s red tens are now unprotected,” Hans continues. “You can cash your red aces and capture his tens, for 42 more points. And then your marriage would have given you enough to win.”

“Wow. That’s so much cleverer than what I did. What a fantastic way to win the trick!”

“Yes,” Hans agrees. “I call this play the ducking ruff. ‘Ruff’ is another word that bridge players use to mean trumping a trick. Of course, it’s not really ducking, because your ruff wins the trick. But it’s like ducking, because you refuse to overtake the queen with your ace, saving it for something better. There’s no ducking ruff in bridge, because you are not allowed to ruff unless you’re out of the suit led, so I had to invent a name for it. But in Schnapsen it’s legal as long as the stock is open. It’s an option worth remembering if your opponent has another card in the suit led that you can capture later.”

© 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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