Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

The Schnapsen Log

November 28, 2018

Complete Information (solution)

Martin Tompa

Tibor: (34 points)

♣ J

You: (26 points)
♣ A

Stock: Exhausted
Game points: Tibor 7, You 7
On lead: You

It seems unlikely that you can accumulate 66 trick points, since you can win ♣A, K, and one of your two tens, but probably not both: if you pull Tibor’s last trump in order to cash T, you will have to open up the diamond suit and you won’t win any diamond trick. Therefore, your only hope of winning is to keep Tibor from accumulating 66 trick points while winning the last trick yourself.

Do you remember the rule of thumb for winning the last trick? You lead out your losers, retaining your winners to regain the lead. In this case, you have two obvious losers (T and Q) and two obvious winners to regain the lead (♣A and K). Because you are on lead, this makes the outlook promising: you knock out one of Tibor’s winners, he knocks out one of yours, you knock out his last winner, and you retain one more winner to regain the lead and win the last trick.

But what will happen if you lead a losing diamond? Tibor will win it, cash another high diamond (reaching 34+11+10+4+3 = 62 trick points), and force you to trump by leading J. This leaves Tibor with the only trump and he will cross the 66 point threshold with it. So the obvious play won’t work.

The other possibility is to coerce Tibor to open up the diamond suit. The only entry into his hand is by leading T for him to trump. If you do that immediately, he will exit by leading his Q rather than opening up the diamonds. So you must first eliminate his exit card by cashing K. This seems counterintuitive, since we were trying to preserve your winner K as an entry back into your hand. How will you be able to recoup this valuable entry you have given up? Let’s continue and see what happens.

After you have cashed K and led the T that Tibor trumps, he will be left on lead from this position:

Tibor: (46 points)

♣ —

You: (33 points)

♣ A

Tibor has lost a tempo and, with it, lost one of his two diamond entries. This compensates for the loss of your K entry. The best he can do from this position is to retain his A entry and lead J instead, which you win with T. You then lead your remaining diamond and win the last trick with the ace of trumps, scoring 1 game point.

In this line of play, notice that your actual second entry is the surprising T instead of K. It’s an unusual elimination play. Normally a successful elimination play gives you an extra trick that puts you over 66 trick points. But in today’s deal, the elimination play provides you with an extra entry while keeping your opponent from reaching 66 trick points.

© 2018 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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