Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

September 5, 2013

High Stakes

Martin Tompa

Sunday, November 24, 1919
Zalaegerszeg, Hungary

c/o Lenke Darbusch
Grinzinger Allee 7/32
Vienna XIX, Austria

Dearest Anyuka,

How are you? What are you doing? You have not written for so long. A circus, Circus Colosseum, came, director János Czája. We shall go today at half 8 o’clock, we already have the tickets.

Sending many kisses to his loving Anyuka,
her loving son:

My dear Vilma,

Isn’t it sweet that Peti addresses his letter to you as Anyuka, “Little Mommy”? Sometimes he calls me Apuka, “Little Daddy”.

The boys are well and happy and growing. Every day, after they walk home from school, Jancsi teaches Peti what he learned in mathematics that day. Peti absorbs it all and, as a result, is far ahead of his own class. Peti’s teacher is having trouble keeping him challenged.

Unfortunately, my own news is not as happy. I received a notice of dismissal from my county position this week. The clerk was happy to inform me that this was a result of our involvement with Hungary’s communist government, though I have no doubt it is retribution for our religion as well.

We will manage somehow. I still have a few private patients here in town, and there is the money that we saved.

In the bigger picture, I should not complain. Life has become much, much harder for some of our friends than it is for us. Admiral Miklós Horthy’s National Army has come to power and taken control of Budapest. You know what that lot is. Their themes are anti-Semitism, Hungarian nationalism, the destruction of Bolshevism, and frightening the population into obedience. The National Army’s pogrom has become known as The White Terror, a twist on what was called The Red Terror of Kun’s communist government.

Here in Zalaegerszeg, just in the past month, Horthy’s gangs publicly hanged two Jews, Szymon Kossevitzky and Moshe Hochstein. I did not know them well, but it is an atrocity that cannot go unnoticed. A concentration camp has also been built right here in Zalaegerszeg for the purpose of detaining citizens suspected as security risks. Many Jews are interned because of their past roles in the communist government.

We miss you, my dear Vilma. Life would be so much easier to bear if we could all be together again. But this is no time for you to return home.

I do not wish to think or write about these dark events any longer. To end on a happier note, let me tell you that my brother Jozsef visited us yesterday for dinner and cards. He and I played Schnapsen while the boys watched and asked questions. For your entertainment, here was the most interesting position I saw:

Unseen cards:

♣ A

My cards:

♣ TQ

Trump: J
Stock: 1 face-down card
Game points: Jozsef 5, Me 7
Trick points: Jozsef 14, Me 46
On lead: Me

Jozsef had exchanged the J for K, so I knew one of his cards. But consider the number of other high trumps he might have held! My position looked dire. What would you have done? I will write my thoughts on a separate page, so that you can think about it yourself before turning this page over.

Sending many kisses,
your loving husband:

© 2013 Martin Tompa. All rights reserved.


blog comments powered by Disqus

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.


Getting Started

Links for Schnapsen and Sixty-Six

Links in German

Links in Hungarian

Recent Columns

Sidestep a Few Landmines, Sep 2
Two Last-Trick Problems, Jun 27
More Extremes of Luck, May 21
Grasping at Straws, Apr 4
A New Scheme for Remembering Cards, Mar 23
As Luck Would Have It, Sep 9