Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

February 25, 2014

Closing In

Martin Tompa

Sunday, March 18, 1945
93 Priory Road
Hampstead, London, England

The Old Parsonage
Nant y Gors
Llangyfelach, Glamorgan, Wales

My dearest Phyllis,

We went to see Anyu today, in shifts, Apu from 2:00 to 4:00, me 2:00-3:00, Tibor 3:00-4:00. I could not see the doctor, but spoke to Sister, who sounded very gloomy and pessimistic, but said she had not been there when they operated and does not really know. The doctor came at 4:00, so I did not see him but Tibor and Apu did. He said it is the mastoid bone near her ear. He opened the bone and cleaned it out. It appears that the tumor is not growing and, according to the X-ray, it has not attacked the bone. It would be great if it were so; we were all going about thinking the worst.

The doctor says Anyu will have to be there for 7 to 10 days more. Anyu says she would like to see you ever so much, but that you should not come back just on her account. Of course, we should all like to see you (me not least of all). We could borrow a crib for Elizabeth.

I don’t think we should quite disregard the V-2 rockets. They have slowed down in the last few weeks, but only yesterday one struck on Finchley Road, just half a mile from our house. Because these missiles travel faster than the speed of sound, there is no warning before the explosion, unlike the earlier V-1 buzz bombs. And what an explosion this was! I was at home with Tibor: the sound was deafening, and a moment later it felt as though the whole house shook. If it had been any closer, there could have been serious damage to our house, but fortunately nothing bad happened to us.

The reason we are optimistic about the rockets coming to an end soon is that Germany has hardly any place within striking distance of London from which to launch them. Almost all of France, Belgium, and Netherlands has been liberated by the Allies. A week ago, U.S. troops crossed the Rhine River at Remagen, putting them well into western Germany. In the meantime, the Soviets have liberated much of Poland and Hungary, capturing Budapest. The jaws of the vise are closing on Nazi Germany, and the war truly cannot last very much longer.

Well, Lovey, let me know whether and when you are coming. There is no need for you to come just to look after Apu and me. It would be more if Anyu comes out. I am not sure whether she will want to come to stay with us, but I think she will, and it would do both her and Apu good. She did not say about that, but did say that she would like to see you very much.

When yesterday’s explosion hit Finchley Road, Tibor and I were playing cards. For your entertainment, here is one of the more interesting deals we played.

Unseen cards:
♣ —

Hans’s cards:
♣ K

Trump: ♣J
Stock: One face-down card
Game points: Tibor 3, Hans 4
Trick points: Tibor 20, Hans 43
On lead: Tibor

What a ragged collection of losers I held! The only good features of my hand were trump control and a higher trick point score. Tibor led his K. How would you have played? I will record my thoughts on a separate page, in case you want to think about it before reading on.

With many kisses to you and both of the little sweeties,
your Hans.

© 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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