Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

October 25, 2013

Brains and Brawn

Martin Tompa

Monday, March 14, 1932. Vienna, Austria. Hans and Peter’s game is interrupted when Apu enters the apartment from his dentistry next door to talk with them. The whole family is now home. Anyu is cooking and their young brother Tibor is busy with his homework. Apu appears agitated.

“One of my patients just informed me that there was some violence at your Technische Hochschule today,” Apu says to Hans and Peter. “Do you know what happened?”

“Yes, Apu, we heard about it,” Hans replies to his father. “Neither of us saw it, because we were in our classes at the time, but we heard afterwards. A gang of Nazi hooligans beat up some local Jewish men just behind the Chemistry building. One of them had to be taken to the hospital and was in serious condition.”

“Oh no!” Anyu bursts out.

“Were the Jews students?” Apu asks.

“No, apparently not, from what we heard,” Peter answers. “They were locals who live nearby.”

“Then why did it happen at the Technische Hochschule?”

“It’s not the first time, Apu,” Hans tells his father. “These hooligans drag Jews onto campus because they are safe from the police there. You see, the university has its own laws, and Vienna police are forbidden to enter the campus without prior permission from the university administration. The Nazis know this and take advantage of it.”

“It’s the White Terror that plagued Hungary twelve years ago, all over again,” moans Apu. “This is what we came to Vienna to escape! You boys promise me that you will keep clear of such danger.”

“Yes, Apu,” they chant in unison. “We are there only for our studies, nothing else,” Peter affirms.

What was happening there in Vienna was an echo of events happening next door in Germany. The previous day had seen the first round of German presidential elections. The three candidates were President Hindenburg, an extremist from the Nazi Party named Adolf Hitler, and a communist named Ernst Thälmann. The communist did poorly, but Hitler garnered one-third of the votes and was due to face Hindenburg in a runoff election next month. The Nazi Party had more seats and more votes in the German Reichstag parliament than ever. The Nazi Party’s success was a direct result of the misery that had been caused by the Great Depression. The Nazis pointed blaming fingers alternately at Hindenburg and at the Jews, and they promised jobs and money. The suffering German citizens believed them.

Hans and Peter, youthful and optimistic, shrug off all the depressing news and return to their game. “It was your lead, Peter,” Hans says.

Unseen cards:
♣ —

Peter’s cards:
♣ K

Trump: ♣J
Stock: One face-down card
Game points: Hans 2, Peter 2
Trick points: Hans 14, Peter 47
On lead: Peter

Peter reviews the unseen cards in his head and notices the strange symmetry of the suits, with lots of TQ combinations unseen and a fistful of kings in his own hand. How should he proceed? 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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