Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

October 21, 2012

Where’s the Endplay? (solution)

Martin Tompa

This feels like one of those hands where you should be able to throw Katharina in by leading Q so that she has to open up the spade suit for you. But the throw-in seems to keep slipping from your grasp. If you have any trumps left in your hand when you lead Q, Katharina can use K as a safe exit card. And if you have drawn two rounds of trumps, Katharina will discard Q on the second round, leaving you on lead in this position:

Katharina: (20 points)

♣ —

You: (59 points)

♣ —

From here, Katharina will win all the remaining tricks.

No, there is no throw-in available to you, which means that you cannot win a trick with T. This in turn means that you cannot possibly reach 66 trick points. Your only chance at a positive result is to win the last trick.

But how can you win the last trick, when you have only your 2 trump tricks and Katharina will win the other 3 tricks? The key is a tempo endplay. Remember how that works? You have to lead your losers, retaining your winners to regain the lead. But you have to avoid leading the suit where Katharina has more cards than you do. In this instance, that suit is diamonds.

Suppose you ignore this advice and begin by leading your loser Q. Katharina will win and return K for you to trump. This will be the position, with you on lead:

Katharina: (34 points)

♣ J

You: (55 points)

♣ Q

A spade lead by you will be followed by a club from Katharina, leaving the last spade trick for her.

No, you must avoid leading diamonds, because a tempo endplay can only work if Katharina is forced to open up her long diamond suit herself. That way, she cannot use her A as an entry to her hand. You don’t want to lead clubs either, because those two trumps are the two entries back to your own hand.

You want to lead losers, and those spades, as we have seen, are both losers. So do what doesn’t come naturally if you’re thinking about a throw-in: open up the spade suit yourself, and do it happily. It doesn’t matter which spade you lead. Suppose you lead J and Katharina wins the trick with Q. She doesn’t want to waste her A entry, nor her A entry, so she will probably lead ♣J. You win this with ♣T. (♣Q works equally well, but it’s hard to break the habit of cashing in big cards.) That puts you on lead from this position:

Katharina: (25 points)

♣ —

You: (53 points)

♣ Q

When you next exit with your losing T, Katharina is endplayed, forced to cash her A. This is the moment of the tempo endplay, when Katharina loses a tempo by cashing a winner that she hoped would be an entry back to her hand. Your remaining trump wins the last trick and the deal.

© 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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