Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

October 7, 2013

Shifting Allegiances

Martin Tompa

Sunday, November 13, 1921. Vienna, Austria. Hans and Peter are playing cards, but sitting at the dining room table this time instead of in their customary spot on the bedroom floor. While playing, they listen with interest through the open door to the living room, where Apu and Anyu discuss politics and family plans.

“We have committed ourselves to a life in Vienna, haven’t we?” Apu asks his wife, who is busy feeding baby Tibor.

“Yes, I think so,” Anyu replies after a moment of thought. “I do not see things improving for us in Hungary any time soon. But what has that to do with your difficulty finding patients here?”

“I think each of us is at a disadvantage as Hungarian citizens here,” Apu continues. “As foreigners, the boys will have a more difficult time gaining admission to preparatory school and university. And I compete for patients with a multitude of other foreign doctors in Vienna, when the good Austrian citizen much prefers to be seen by a good Austrian doctor.”

Anyu asks, “But what can we do about it? Two years ago, when everyone was forced to choose between Austrian and Hungarian citizenship, we chose Hungarian. In retrospect, it would have been better to have chosen Austrian citizenship, but who could have foreseen what would happen to us in Hungary?”

“I do have a plan,” Apu replies. “With last week’s news about the Burgenland, residents of its towns will now become Austrian citizens.” In accordance with the peace treaties of Saint-Germain and Trianon, signed at the end of the Great War, the small state of Burgenland on the border between Austria and Hungary had finally been turned over from Hungary to Austria the previous week. This had been delayed by months of turmoil and unrest in the region.

Apu continues with his plan. “With the right paperwork, we can claim that our Hungarian citizenship was due to our family’s affiliation with the tiny Hungarian village of Rétfalu, called Wiesen by the Austrians, in the Burgenland. There is so much confusion in the Burgenland right now that no one will notice a few more residents. I thought I would travel to Wiesen tomorrow and see to it. I’m sure a few of the new gold Kronen, in the right hands, can purchase the necessary domicile certificate.”

Hans nods knowingly to Peter and returns his gaze to the cards in his hand. This is the position:

Peter: (26 points)

♣ AQ

Hans: (41 points)
♣ K

Stock: Exhausted
Game points: Peter 5, Hans 5
On lead: Hans

“How many gold Kronen would you wager on this deal, Hans?” Peter inquires. “Things look bad for you. I have trump control and an established side suit.”

“Ah, but I have the lead,” Hans counters.

What will Hans do? When you think you have a good plan, you are welcome to read my analysis.

© 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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