Playing with 85,78,68,79

Time for another lesson. I deal a new hand.

 “What is the best opening move?” I ask my students.

“Move the Nine, column 6 to column 7” says the Lion.

Uh oh, Bad Idea Bear #1 is misbehaving again. Apparently he wants Ninja Monkey to teach him how to make 70,65,82,84 noises with his armpits. I walk towards BIB #1 and Ninja Monkey, leaving my other students to study the game state in my absence. I give them a stern warning, but some sixth sense tells me everything will somehow turn out okay – as it always did in the past.

“Column 8 instead of column 6 would be better,” says the Elephant.

Stunned looks from the rest of the class.

“How … could that possibly be better?” I ask.

“Just … h- had a hunch,” stammers the Elephant

“Wait a minute,” I reply. “Columns 6 and 8 are the Nine of Clubs and Spades, respectively. Column 7 contains a Ten of Diamonds. There is no logical reason to favour clubs or spades – may as well toss a coin.”

I know the Elephant ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed if you excuse the cliché. Bad Idea Bear #2 is trembling nervously.

“Hang on,” I say to BIB #2. “Did you not tell the Elephant to commit the cardinal sin of Spider Solitaire? Do you remember the first two rules of Spider Solitaire Club?”

“I forgot the rules,” says the Dumb Bunny. “What were they again?”


“The First Rule of Spider Solitaire Club,” I say tersely, “is you do not 85,78,68,79 any moves. The Second Rule of Spider Solitaire Club is you DO NOT 85,78,68,79 any moves.”

“But didn’t you use 85,78,68,79 yourself?” asks the Smart 65,83,83.

I am completely baffled – until the Smart 65,83,83 shows me a paper titled “Random Walks: an application for detecting bias in Spider Solitaire programs.” With my name on it.


“Okay. 85,78,68,79 is allowed. But I want you to record the identity of every card – so Ninja Monkey can evaluate its difficulty. Don’t forget Monkey knows how to (occasionally) win at the four-suit level”.

The Elephant, Ninja Monkey and Bad Idea Bears breathe a collective sigh of relief, and the Smart 65,83,83 is the hero for today – and so we maintain our perfect record of no student ever being expelled from my classes. Oh well, just another average day in my teaching career.


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