Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

April 20, 2014

New Arrival

Martin Tompa

Sunday, September 18, 1949. Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A. Peter uses his key to unlock the apartment door and holds it open for his younger brother Tibor, who enters with a suitcase in hand. In the living room, 10-month-old Frank, unnerved by the entrance of a stranger, scrambles to be picked up by his mother. Liesl carries Frank toward the door and gives Tibor as much of a hug and kiss as she can with a baby in the way.

“Welcome to New York, Tibor!” she exclaims to her brother-in-law. “How was the sea voyage from England?”

“Long and boring,” Tibor replies with a smile.

“We are so happy that you decided to do your studies here at NYU,” Liesl continues, “and that you accepted Peter’s invitation to move in with us. This is Frank, the newest addition to the family. Let me introduce you to my parents.” She turns toward the older couple sitting together in the living room and makes the introductions.

Liesl’s mother excuses herself to go into the kitchen and put the finishing touches on dinner. The meal is a wonderful Viennese affair that reminds Tibor of his youth. Tibor compliments Liesl’s mother on this and she, in turn, is delighted to see Tibor enjoying her cooking. Many family stories are exchanged during dinner. When everyone has eaten enough, the dishes are cleared and Peter brings out the cards. He and Tibor haven’t played together for a few years, and they are both happy to return to this favorite activity.

After a few deals, Tibor finds himself in this position.

Unseen cards:

♣ A

Tibor’s cards:

♣ K

Trump: ♣T
Stock: 1 face-down card
Game points: Peter 2, Tibor 2
Trick points: Peter 20, Tibor 17
On lead: Tibor

The trick point scores are low, and there isn’t a single card in Tibor’s hand that he is happy about leading. What is Tibor’s best play? 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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