Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

January 3, 2014

Eye of the Storm (solution)

Martin Tompa

Tibor’s immediate concern is that Anyu could trump anything he leads and then run the rest of her trumps. Tibor would have to contribute at least two kings and a jack, 10 trick points, to those three trump tricks, which would be enough when added to Anyu’s 33 plus the value of her ATQ. This means Anyu would gain 2 game points.

Tibor thinks a little longer and then shows his hand to Anyu, saying, “My only chance is that some trump is still face-down in the stock. I’m going to hope that’s the case and close the stock; that makes my play a desperation play. I’ll then cash T; I know you have the K because you showed that marriage. Then I’ll exit by leading K. Even assuming the lowly Q is the trump in the stock …”

“I don’t have the Q,” interjects his mother, showing Tibor her hand.

“All right, then, when I exit with my trump, you will be on lead in this position.” Tibor rearranges the cards on the little train table.

Anyu: (48 points)
♣ —

Tibor: (39 points)

♣ A

“You are endplayed in this situation. If you cash your T, I will discard K, giving you 62 trick points, and I will take the remaining tricks for 73. If you instead lead a spade, I will take both spade tricks for exactly 66.

“Of course, my play would fail if you had all 3 trumps in your hand already, because we saw that you got to 62 even missing one of them. There are 5 possible cards that could be face-down in the stock, because I know you are holding K. Any of the 3 trumps face-down is a success for my play. That means that my expected gain by closing is ⅗(+1) + ⅖(−2) = −1/5 game point. Since this expectation is negative, I actually expect to lose a little per hand in the long run, but that’s better than losing 2 game points by not closing. And it’s not a bad result at all for a desperation play!”

“I have such clever sons!” Anyu gushes.

Notice that Tibor’s play is actually also an elimination. If Q is still in the stock, it is crucial that he cash T to eliminate Anyu’s safe exit card before endplaying her with a trump. If instead Tibor played his trump first, Anyu would win the trick and exit with her K, leaving Tibor on lead in exactly the same diagrammed position above, because the order of the heart and diamond tricks has just been reversed. Interestingly, Tibor is endplayed in that position if he is on lead, because he is the one who has to open up the spade suit.

© 2014 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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