Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

January 5, 2014

In the Nick of Time (solution)

Martin Tompa

Tibor puts down his hand face-up on the table. “There is not much point keeping our hands concealed if we know each other’s cards. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.” Hans nods and puts his hand face-up on the table too.

“Since you have the trump advantage,” Tibor explains, “I’d better start by forcing you to trump with my J. You will then be on lead from this position.” Tibor removes one card from each of their hands to show the new position:

Hans: (52 points)

♣ A

Tibor: (14 points)
♣ —

Tibor continues. “If you force me back with your ♣A, I’ll force you once more with my remaining spade, and you will be thrown in, forced to open up the hearts. What else can you do besides forcing me back? You cannot open up the hearts, because I’ll pull your trump and take the rest of the tricks. The only other possible lead for you is your trump. That will put me back on lead in this position.” He removes the trumps to show this position:

Hans: (52 points)

♣ A

Tibor: (27 points)
♣ —

“Now we get to the really interesting part,” Tibor says, “with the trumps all gone. It took me a little while to visualize this position and see my way out of it. You see, I cannot endplay you in hearts from this position, so I’m going to have to open up that suit. That means that I cannot get to 66 trick points, so somehow I have to take the last trick. I could do that by leading Q here, except that you would get to 66 yourself by cashing your ♣A. No, the interesting thing is that my only winning play from this position is to cash my K before opening up the hearts. That K squeezes you nicely! You cannot discard a heart, so you are forced to give up your menacing ♣A. Now it is safe for me to lead Q, and I will win the last trick and the game with my A. By the way, you get to 65 trick points when you win the heart trick, almost enough, but not quite.”

Hans claps his young brother on the shoulder. “Beautifully played, Tibor! Your play of the K is a squeeze without the count, meaning that you have to give me the lead after the squeeze card is played. I don’t think I have ever seen this particular type of squeeze before, a squeeze without the count in order to win the last trick. It’s reminiscent of the tempo squeeze, which has those same properties, except that you need a trump for a tempo squeeze. Peter was right, you have become a very strong and creative opponent.”

Tibor beams at this compliment from his brilliant older brother.

© 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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