Life So Short, the Craft So Long to Learn

Schnapsen Log Archives

Columns for February, 2014

Change of Hands

Martin Tompa
February 2, 2014

Friday, September 10, 1943
93 Priory Road
Hampstead, London, United Kingdom

2044 Colonial Avenue
Bronx, New York
United States of America

Dear Peter,

Thank you very much for your letter of August 25. All of us enjoyed reading it and hearing your news, as we always do. We are delighted to hear about Liesl, the charming Viennese bookkeeper you met at your…

Rules of Engagement

Martin Tompa
February 13, 2014

Friday, September 24, 1943. New York, U.S.A. Peter and Liesl leave work in Manhattan’s financial district together, squeeze onto a crowded local uptown subway at Fulton Street, and travel ten short stops to 28th Street. From there they walk a few blocks across town, arm in arm, and arrive at the Marble Collegiate Church, a Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in the heart of Manhattan. The church is nearly 100 years old, a relic by American standards, and already quaint. They walk up the steps and Peter removes his hat and holds the door for Liesl.

Once inside, they find the assistant pastor, a Reverend Charles Haulenbeek, whom Peter recognizes from services. This tall, young man smiles warmly and asks, “How may I be of assistance?”

Peter speaks for the two of them in his Hungarian accent, getting to business immediately. “I am Peter Tompa, and this young lady is Liese Feiks. I have been a member of this church a short time, since coming…

Close Quarters

Martin Tompa
February 17, 2014

Friday, June 30, 1944. London, U.K. It is late evening. Anyu, Hans, and Tibor sit on hard wooden chairs in their Anderson shelter and talk quietly. Apu is lying on one of the bunk beds, unsuccessfully trying to sleep. He occasionally moans softly. From outside they hear the periodic characteristic noise of a German V-1 “buzz bomb”, a pilotless rocket launched from the coast across the English Channel and equipped with a 1900 pound warhead. The first thing you hear is a buzzing from the rocket’s pulse engine, sounding something like a giant insect. When the engine cuts off there are a few moments of silence, and then the explosion on impact. Some of the explosions are frighteningly near and deafening.

More than two million Anderson shelters, the type in which they now sit, have been distributed in the U.K. The quarters are cramped: corrugated metal boxes six feet high and six feet long, rounded at the top and buried in the ground to a depth of four feet, designed to accommodate up to six people. They offer some protection from blast…

Closing In

Martin Tompa
February 25, 2014

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…

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
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More Extremes of Luck, May 21
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As Luck Would Have It, Sep 9