Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

January 3, 2014

Eye of the Storm

Martin Tompa

Friday, September 1, 1939. Munich, Germany. Apu and Anyu wait anxiously near the announcement loudspeaker in Munich’s central train station. They have been in the station for a few hours, ever since their train arrived at dawn.

As another garbled announcement begins, Anyu cocks her head and grabs Apu’s arm. “That could be it,” she whispers excitedly when it is over. “Train from Bologna, track 7.”

There is no need for them to rush to the track with their luggage, because the station is strangely empty for a Friday morning. By the time they reach the track, the train is pulling in. It screeches to a stop and Tibor is one of the few passengers to step down to the platform. He spots them and gives them a broad smile, and now they do rush to embrace him.

“It has been much too long,” Anyu murmurs in his ear as she hugs him. She looks her youngest son up and down.

“I’m sorry to rush you two,” Apu interrupts in a low voice, “but our next train departs in a few minutes from track 11. We still have a long way to go to Ostend. I’d like to get through Germany as quickly as we can. Let’s board and then talk on the train.”

Once on board, they find a compartment to themselves, slide the door closed, and settle all their luggage and themselves. When the train pulls away from the platform, Apu is the first to speak.

“Let’s hope the remainder of our trip goes as smoothly. Did you have any problems, Tibor?”

“None at all,” replies Tibor. “The trip from Riccione was like clockwork. I thought there might be trouble with German Customs, but he only glanced at my passport. In fact, ever since crossing into Germany at the Brenner, I noticed that the trains and stations and roads have been strangely empty. It’s eerie!”

“Yes, we had exactly the same experience!” Anyu exclaims. “On our way from Vienna I said to Apu that it felt as though we were traveling through the eye of a storm. Yet less than two weeks ago Peter traveled through Germany in the opposite direction and told us that German troops were on the move everywhere he looked. What is going on? I have a very bad feeling.”

After another hour of talking and exchanging stories from the past five months’ separation, Tibor stretches and proposes a game of cards to pass the time. “Why don’t you play with Tibor for a while, dear?” Apu suggests. “I am going to try to sleep.”

So Anyu and Tibor play a few games. At one point, Tibor finds himself in this situation:

Unseen cards:
♣ —

Tibor’s cards:
♣ A

Trump: J
Stock: One face-down card
Game points: Anyu 3, Tibor 5
Trick points: Anyu 33, Tibor 25
On lead: Tibor

Tibor reviews how the deal progressed to this point. Anyu declared the diamond marriage the previous trick, and neither player had exchanged the trump. Tibor worries about his pitiful trump holding. How should he proceed? When you think you have a good plan, you are welcome to read my analysis.

© 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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