Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

December 15, 2013

Nowhere To Go

Martin Tompa

Wednesday, September 21, 1938. Sopron, Hungary. Peter and Tibor sit on a hard bench in a jail cell. They are playing cards, because there is nothing else for them to do. This is the second jail in which they find themselves within the span of a few days.

One month earlier, on August 20, a young SS Sergeant named Adolf Eichmann oversaw the opening of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Vienna, whose mission was to increase the pace of forced emigration. Peter’s and Tibor’s deportation procedure might have otherwise dragged on for months, but Eichmann’s office demanded efficiency.

Thus, on September 15 the German security police arrested Peter and Tibor and deposited them in the Rossauer Lände Prison in Vienna, where they were detained for a few days awaiting deportation. At dawn on September 19, two police detectives escorted Peter and Tibor on a train to the Austrian village of Loipersbach im Burgenland on the Hungarian border. The detectives marched them on a path to the Tauscherbach stream. There they were told to cross the foot bridge over the Tauscherbach into Hungary and never return. Tibor had not yet graduated from high school and Peter had lost his actuarial job. All they were allowed to bring out of Austria were the clothes they were wearing and 10 German Reichsmark; all their other savings and worldly goods were confiscated. Their Hungarian passports still had not arrived, so they were forced to travel on without the necessary papers.

Peter and Tibor walked the 8 kilometers to the Hungarian town of Sopron, where they exchanged their German Reichsmark for Hungarian Forint in order to buy tickets for the train to Budapest. Because they had no papers, the money changer denounced them to the Hungarian police, who came onto the train and arrested them for crossing the border illegally. Late on the same day that they had been escorted out of the Vienna jail, they were back in another town jail, where they were to remain until they could prove their Hungarian citizenship.

This is now their third day in the Sopron jail, awaiting the arrival of citizenship papers. Peter and Tibor are immersed in their game, which is just as well because it has taken their minds off their bad fortune. Their immersion has also made them oblivious to the small audience of other prisoners watching them curiously.

Unseen cards:
♣ AT

Peter’s cards:
♣ —

Trump: J
Stock: One face-down card
Game points: Tibor 7, Peter 7
Trick points: Tibor 36, Peter 7
On lead: Peter

As Peter contemplates his cards and reviews the cards still missing, he worries about his low trick point score, about Tibor having trump control, and about the whereabouts of the T. How should Peter 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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