Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

August 31, 2013

Fortitude (solution)

Martin Tompa

It’s very difficult to practice fortitude and restraint when you’ve not taken a single trick and the stock is nearly exhausted, particularly for a 7 year old boy. But do you recall the first thing to consider when following to the last trick before the stock is exhausted? That’s right, even though Peti could trump this trick and get on the scoreboard, he should first consider what will happen if he ducks. The reason is that he will draw the face-up trump and it’s therefore much easier to see what the position will be one trick later.

But even if he’s going to duck, his first decision is what to discard. In today’s deal, it will either be Q or ♣K. Can you see, or at least fear, what will happen if Peti discards the “cheaper” Q? His ♣AK opposite Jancsi’s ♣TQ should set off fearful alarms in your head. This will be the position one trick later if Peti discards Q, with Jancsi still on lead:

Jancsi: (57 points)
♣ TQ

Peti: (0 points)

♣ AK

Jancsi will now lead either a spade or heart in order to throw Peti in. Peti can cash as many winners as he would like, but eventually he will have to open up the clubs and let Jancsi win his ♣T and 1 game point.

No, it should feel like a relief to you to jettison that ♣K as quickly as possible. The ♣K is an endplay liability, and you should feel happy to get rid of it, even if it gives Jancsi an extra trick point. This will be the position if Peti discards ♣K on Jancsi’s J:

Jancsi: (58 points)
♣ TQ

Peti: (0 points)

♣ A

From this position, Jancsi can still throw Peti in by leading a heart or club, and Peti will be forced to open up the spades. But that’s okay, because Jancsi’s spade trick will only bring his trick point total to 65, not quite enough to win. Peti just has to make sure that he retains a trump when he leads Q so that he can regain the lead and take the remaining tricks and 1 game point himself.

It takes fortitude to duck trick 5 when you’ve taken no tricks. On the other hand, there is something satisfying about letting your opponent get to the brink of 66 and then sweeping the win away yourself.

Incidentally, Jancsi would have done better at trick 5 to lead K instead of J. Peti could not have afforded to duck this card, because then either the club or spade endplay would have given Jancsi enough trick points. But we can’t be too hard on 8-year-old Jancsi for not working through this difficult endgame. Or perhaps K was in fact still in the stock rather than in Jancsi’s hand, and I haven’t credited him with enough wisdom.

© 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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