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The Schnapsen Log

March 7, 2013

To the Brave Go the Spoils (solution)

Martin Tompa

You are in a difficult and precarious situation. Closing the stock is out of the question. If Peter already holds A and ♣KQ, he can win whatever you lead with A and declare his marriage to win 2 game points. Even if A is still in the stock, he must hold K and the club marriage. Therefore, if you lead one of your red tens he can trump it to reach 51 trick points and then declare the marriage for 2 game points.

What if one of the club marriage partners is still in the stock? Would Peter still be inclined to trump your lead of T with his K, without the marriage in hand? Let’s look at it from his point of view assuming, for concreteness, that ♣Q is the marriage partner that’s face-down in the stock:

Peter’s cards:
♣ AK

Unseen cards:
♣ Q

Trump: Q
Stock: 1 face-down card
Trick points: Peter 37, You 29

Will Peter trump your lead of T? He should, because it guarantees that he will win 2 game points. This trick brings his trick point total to 51. Cashing his A brings in 13 more trick points, for 64, so all he needs is 2 more trick points. If he were to draw ♣Q from the stock, that would give him the marriage and 84 trick points. And if not, then you must be holding ♣Q and he can cash ♣A for a total of 78 trick points.

Now that we’ve gone through Peter’s thought process when he’s missing a marriage partner, you can see that he should even trump with his K if you lead your lowly J (or win with it if you lead J). He is guaranteed to end with at least 70 trick points and secure his 2 game points. The easiest way to see this is that your jack is worth 8 fewer points to him than your T, and we just saw that he ends with at least 78 trick points if you lead T and he trumps with K.

We’re running out of possibilities for you to lead. Let’s recap. You’re going to lose 2 game points if Peter holds A and ♣KQ. You’re going to lose 2 game points if one of the club marriage partners is in the stock. That means that your only remaining hope is that A is in the stock. In that case, you want to win this trick, cross the 33-point threshold, and draw A yourself. The only sure way to win this trick is to lead T. Peter will discard K, you will each draw a trump from the stock, and you will be on lead in this position:

Peter: (37 points)


You: (43 points)
♣ —

From this position, all that is left is a race for trump control. You must force Peter to trump before he forces you to trump. There are many sequences of plays that will accomplish this for you. Perhaps the most straightforward is to pull one round of trump with A and then force with J. That puts Peter on lead in this position:

Peter: (43 points)


You: (57 points)
♣ —

Peter is out of trumps and the rest of the tricks are yours.

So be brave and plunk down your T on the table as though you know it’s a winner. This is another example of a desperation play. It’s your only hope of winning 1 game point instead of losing 2.

Incidentally, if you were paying close attention, you will have noticed that there is one case I didn’t consider: if one of the club marriage partners is in the stock and you lead T. You can see now that there is no reason to consider what will happen in that case, because you’re going to lead T anyway.

© 2013 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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