Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

November 23, 2013

Precarious Position

Martin Tompa

Thursday, July 8, 1937
16, The Grove
Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales

Dresdnerstraße 80/9
Vienna XX, Austria

Dear Apu and Anyu, dear Peter, dear Tibor,

I hope that this letter finds you all well. I regret to tell you that I have had some unsettling news here this week. I’m sure you will recall that, one year ago, I received a letter from the Austrian Legation in London informing me that the Mattersburg District Administrative Authority in Burgenland discovered I did not in fact have a legal connection in Wiesen and that my Austrian domicile certificate was therefore invalid. Because of this, they demanded that I return both my Austrian passport and domicile certificate. That forced me to reclaim Hungarian citizenship and obtain a Hungarian passport.

All that is old news. But yesterday I received a letter from the Under Secretary of State in the Aliens Department of the Home Office in London, stating that I cannot continue to work in the National Oil Refineries here in Swansea, and that I must leave the United Kingdom! This came as a shock. Perhaps it is still a consequence of losing my Austrian passport, under which I emigrated. I don’t know.

I sent a rather long reply today in which I put my case before the Under Secretary, trusting that it will be dealt with on its merits. I told him that I lost my Austrian citizenship and therefore cannot secure employment in Austria. I then said I am legally Hungarian but have not lived in Hungary since I was a child, so I am not fluent enough in the Hungarian language to carry out my profession as an analytical chemist. In addition, I declared that I am Jewish, and Hungary’s anti-Semitism could prevent me from obtaining any employment in that country at all. I requested to be allowed to continue living and seeking employment in the United Kingdom. I can only hope that they will reconsider their decision, because I cannot now imagine my life elsewhere.

It is discouraging how much difficulty we have all had because of problems with the Wiesen domicile certificates.

I will close this letter with something lighter and more entertaining. I have taught my sweetheart Phyllis how to play Schnapsen, and she is picking it up very nicely. Here is a deal we played yesterday evening after dinner. In our usual tradition, I will pose it as a puzzle for you to work out.

Unseen cards:
♣ KQ

Hans’s cards:

♣ AT

Trump: J
Stock: 5 face-down cards
Game points: Phyllis 2, Hans 1
Trick points: Phyllis 65, Hans 13
On lead: Hans

You can probably imagine how Phyllis came to have 65 trick points in just the first two tricks. At trick 1 she declared the trump marriage and led Q, on which I discarded ♣J. At trick 2 she declared the spade marriage and led Q, which I won with T. I told you that she is picking up the game nicely: she put me in a very precarious position so early in the deal! If Phyllis would win this deal while my trick point score is so low, the game would be over, and she needed only one more trick point to win.

What would you do in my place? I have written my analysis on a separate page so that you can answer before reading on.

With love and many kisses,
your Hans.

© 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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