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Schnapsen: The Austrian Card Game That Healed a Grieving Family
Schnapsen is a card game that has a long and rich history in Austria and other parts of Central Europe. It is a game of skill and strategy, where two players compete to score 66 points by taking tricks and melding marriages of kings and queens. Schnapsen is also a game of social bonding, where friends and family gather around a table to enjoy a friendly match and a drink of schnapps.
One family that found comfort and healing in Schnapsen was the Dunlops, who lost their son Stewart in a tragic accident in 2019. Stewart was an avid Schnapsen player, who learned the game from his grandfather and taught it to his wife and children. After his death, his family decided to honor his memory by playing Schnapsen together every week, using his favorite deck of cards.
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Schnapsen helped the Dunlops cope with their grief and reconnect with each other. They found joy and laughter in the game, as well as a way to keep Stewart's spirit alive. They also discovered that Schnapsen is more than just a game - it is a way of life, a philosophy, and a culture.
In this article, you will learn more about Schnapsen, its rules, its history, and its strategy. You will also hear from the Dunlops, who share their story of how Schnapsen helped them heal and celebrate their son's legacy.
What is Schnapsen?
Schnapsen is a two-player card game that belongs to the Bézique family of games. It is similar to Sixty-Six (Sechsundsechzig), another popular game in Central Europe. The name Schnapsen comes from the German word for "shot" or "drink", referring to the tradition of drinking schnapps after each round of the game.
The goal of Schnapsen is to be the first player to score 66 points or more by taking tricks and declaring marriages (pairs of kings and queens of the same suit). The game is played with a 20-card deck, consisting of the ace, ten, king, queen, and jack of each suit. The cards have the following values:
The game is divided into rounds, each consisting of several tricks. A trick is a set of two cards, one played by each player. The player who plays the higher card of the same suit or the trump suit wins the trick and scores the points of both cards. The trump suit is determined by the card that is turned face up at the bottom of the stock (the remaining cards that are not dealt to the players). The player who wins the trick also draws the top card from the stock and adds it to their hand, while the loser draws the next card.
The History of Schnapsen
Schnapsen is one of the oldest card games in Europe, dating back to the 18th century. It is believed to have originated in France, where it was called Mariage or Bézique. It then spread to Germany, where it was known as Sechsundsechzig or Sixty-Six. From there, it reached Austria and Hungary, where it became popular among the nobility and the common people alike. Schnapsen is still widely played in these countries today, as well as in other parts of Central and Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria.
Schnapsen has also influenced other card games, such as Pinochle, Skat, and Bridge. It is considered a classic game of skill and strategy, where players have to keep track of the cards that have been played and calculate their chances of winning. Schnapsen also has a rich cultural and literary heritage, as it has been featured in many works of art and literature. For example, Schnapsen is mentioned in several novels by Leo Tolstoy, such as War and Peace and Anna Karenina. It is also played by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in one of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. Schnapsen is also a part of the Austrian national identity, as it is often associated with the Viennese coffeehouse culture and the Austrian sense of humor.
How to Play Schnapsen
Schnapsen is played with a 20-card deck, consisting of the ace, ten, king, queen, and jack of each suit (clubs, spades, hearts, and diamonds). The cards have different values depending on whether they are used for taking tricks or declaring marriages. For taking tricks, the cards have the following values:
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For declaring marriages (pairs of kings and queens of the same suit), the cards have the following values:
Name in German
Name in EnglishDiamonds ()40 points
The total value of the deck is 120 points, 80 for taking tricks and 40 for declaring marriages.
The game is played by two players, who sit opposite each other. One player is the dealer, who shuffles the cards and lets the other player cut the deck. The dealer then deals five cards to each player, one at a time, starting with the non-dealer. The next card is turned face up and placed at the bottom of the stock (the remaining cards that are not dealt). The suit of this card determines the trump suit for the round. The trump suit is the most powerful suit in the game, as it can beat any other suit. The stock is placed face down on the table, with the trump card visible underneath it.
The non-dealer starts the play by leading any card from their hand. The dealer must follow suit if possible, or play a trump card if not. If both players play the same suit, the higher card wins the trick. If one player plays a trump card and the other does not, the trump card wins the trick. The player who wins the trick takes both cards and places them face down in front of them. They also draw the top card from the stock and add it to their hand, while the loser draws the next card.
The winner of the trick then leads the next trick, and so on. The players keep track of their points by counting the values of the cards they have taken in tricks. They can also score extra points by declaring marriages (pairs of kings and queens of the same suit) when they lead a trick. To declare a marriage, they must show both cards to their opponent and announce their value. They can only declare one marriage per round, and only if they have both cards in their hand at the time of leading.
The play continues until one of two things happens:
One player scores 66 points or more and closes the stock by knocking on the table or saying "I close". This means that no more cards are drawn from the stock, and the remaining tricks are played without replenishing the hands. The player who closes must win at least one more trick after closing, or they lose automatically.
The stock runs out of cards (except for the trump card), and both players agree to end the round. This can only happen if neither player has closed the stock