Contemporary Development With Functional Programming

The Schnapsen Log

December 15, 2013

Nowhere To Go (solution)

Martin Tompa

The first thing Peter always considers, when on lead to the last trick before the stock is exhausted, is closing the stock. He thinks about this for a minute and then lays his hand face up on the bench.

“Here’s what I am going to do, Tibor,” he says. “I have only 7 trick points and I probably don’t have trump control. But I’m going to close the stock anyway, because my three aces and marriage should provide some compensation. The way I am going to overcome my trump handicap is by forcing you to trump a diamond. I will start off by leading my A, and then how things proceed will depend on whether you have the T or not.

“Let’s suppose first that you do have it, which is most likely. That trick will bring me to 28 trick points, and then I’ll declare the marriage for 48 and lead the queen, which will force you to trump. You are then endplayed by a counterforce: you cannot force me back, because outside of the trump suit you have only tens and aces, and trumping one of those with my A would give me at least 69 trick points. Your only other option would be to help me pull trumps by leading K, after which I can cash either of my other winners for enough points. Do you agree so far?”

“It sounds right to me,” Tibor replies. “But in fact I don’t have the T.”

“Well, then, that brings us to the remaining case,” Peter continues, “when T is in the stock, and I know your hand exactly so you may as well lay it down.”

Tibor: (36 points)
♣ AT

Peter: (7 points)
♣ —

“You will trump my A with your T for 57 trick points. And, even though I only have 7 trick points, you are counterforced anyway! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hand in which a counterforce play was possible with so few points. Because what can you do? If you force me to trump by leading ♣T, that brings me to 28 trick points. I will then lead A, catching your T and bringing me to 49. And then my marriage does the rest.

“If you don’t lead a club, then you lead either T or K. It doesn’t matter which one, because I will pull the other immediately. Those two tricks will bring me to, let’s see, 7 + 21 + 15 = 43 trick points, and the trumps will be gone. I can then declare the marriage for 63 and lead either partner, because they’re both winners.”

Tibor claps in appreciation for what his brother has just done. A murmur runs through their small audience. Most of the prisoners watching don’t understand what just happened, but they do know it’s nothing that’s ever happened in this jail before.

© 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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Recent Columns

What's in the Stock?, Dec 5
Schnapsen in Abstract Games Magazine, Oct 24
Know Your Opponent, Sep 19
Grab the Brass Ring, Jul 3
The Last Trump, Jun 11
Planning To Win the Last Trick, Dec 26