Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

Schnapsen Log Archives

Columns for August, 2013

Who Is Endplayed?

Martin Tompa
August 4, 2013

What started as a leisurely Sunday afternoon race against your sister Emmi has turned into a marathon. Uncle Hans continues to kibitz, and a few other relatives begin gathering around to watch. The game point score is tied when you find yourself on lead in this position…

The Last Place You Look

Martin Tompa
August 11, 2013

“All right, Emmi,” you say, looking her in the eye. “This ends now.” If only your success could be as certain as your words, you think, as you look back down at your cards….

Resource Stewardship

Martin Tompa
August 15, 2013

“Well, my dears,” your clever Uncle Hans says from the kibitzer’s seat, “this game has been most exciting. But in a few more tricks it will have to end, one way or the other. I wish you both good cards.” And here are the good cards you see when you look back at your hand…

Expected Game Points and Role Reversal

Martin Tompa
August 19, 2013

Revised: August 26, 2013

There is a type of analysis that I have been avoiding until now. I must admit that I have been avoiding it partly out of mental laziness and partly out of fear of my own confusion. But it’s been nagging at me to confront it, particularly since the appearance of a recent column entitled “The Last Place You Look”. Today we’ll bite the bullet and confront this analysis together.

Here was the position analyzed in that column…

A Tale Begins

Martin Tompa
August 28, 2013

Wednesday, August 6, 1919. Zalaegerszeg, Hungary. Jancsi and Peti, two brothers who look and act very much alike, are sitting on the rough floor of their small bedroom playing cards. Jancsi is 8 years old and Peti is 7. Too young to play a game as complex as Schnapsen? For most children of this age the answer would be yes, but both are precocious and far ahead of their schoolmates in mathematics. Jancsi is particularly clever and Peti, who idolizes his older brother, absorbs Jancsi’s teaching like a sponge.

In the next room, their father Apu and mother Anyu are talking in quiet, anxious voices about the political situation, but Jancsi and Peti can hear every word they say through the open door. The Great War had ended just 9 months earlier with the defeat of Germany and her ally, the once great Austro-Hungarian Empire. The victorious powers split the empire into the two separate countries Austria and Hungary, and each of the emperor’s former subjects was required to choose citizenship in one or the other. Apu and Anyu chose Hungarian…


Martin Tompa
August 31, 2013

Sunday, August 17, 1919. Zalaegerszeg, Hungary. Apu walks in through the front door with a tired and worried expression on his face. Running out from the kitchen, Anyu exclaims, “Goodness, my darling, are you all right? A neighbor told me that the police came yesterday while I was out and took you away. I’ve been worried sick. What happened?”

“I spent the night in jail. They arrested me for communist sympathies and activities during the Kun government. I’m all right.”

“Communist activities!” Anyu explodes in disbelief. “That’s absurd. You’re not the communist.”

“Keep your voice down, please, dear,” Apu replies, trying his best to exert a calming influence on his wife. “You are right, I did nothing for the communists other than my usual medical duties for the county. It’s Jewish activities for which I was arrested…

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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Recent Columns

Sidestep a Few Landmines, Sep 2
Two Last-Trick Problems, Jun 27
More Extremes of Luck, May 21
Grasping at Straws, Apr 4
A New Scheme for Remembering Cards, Mar 23
As Luck Would Have It, Sep 9