The importance of move order

Every player knows that building in-suit is more desirable than off-suit. When we build off-suit then (at least in the first few moves) most of the time we are effectively “losing an out”, assuming our goal is to expose as many cards as possible. For instance, if we move a Ten onto a Jack then a Queen is no longer a “good card”. There are a number of exceptions: for instance moving a Queen onto a King does not lose an out for obvious reasons J and if we have e.g. a Two and a pair of Threes then again we avoid losing an out. Once all the “easy moves” are exhausted we have to choose carefully.

Consider the following position. What would be your play here?

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We have three guaranteed turnovers with 9-8 and 6-5-4. For simplicity let us ignore the fact we have duplicate Fours and Eights. Clearly we won’t move the Four onto the Five as that will bring us down to two guaranteed turnovers. Hence the choice is between 9-8 and 6-5.

Let us pretend that we have to make two moves before exposing any face-down cards. For instance, we might move 9-8, then 6-5 then turn over the cards underneath the Five and Eight. Or we might move 6-5, then 5-4 then turn over the cards underneath the Four and Five.

Observe that in the first case we have lost two outs since Tens and Sevens are not as good as before (even though they are still good). But in the second case we only lose one out (the Seven). Therefore the correct move is 6-5. Well done if you chose this move.

Roughly speaking, making two moves before exposing face-down cards corresponds to a worst-case scenario when a useless card comes up (e.g. an Ace). If a decent card came up then we might reconsider. For instance, after moving 6-5 we might expose a Two and then we must choose between 5-4, 2-A or 9-8.

As a general rule, building a long off-suit sequence of cards means you generally have more “safe moves” before you start losing outs. For instance if you had 3-4-5-6-7 within the first ten cards then playing 7-6 loses an out, but then you can build 6-5-4-3 within the next three moves without losing any extra outs. Of course the fickle Spider gods might eventually give you an Eight and an empty column, when you are still unable to move the 7-6-5-4-3 onto the Eight – but that’s beyond the scope of this post.

Until next time, happy Spider Solitaire playing!

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