The Hole-In-One game

This is a simplified 4-suit game designed for beginners. The aim is simply to obtain one empty column. It doesn’t matter if you expose five Aces and seven Kings in the process. Any empty column means victory. The bad news is you’re not allowed to deal any cards from the stock. As usual ROT13(haqb) is not allowed.

The purpose of this game is to allow the beginner to actually win something at Four-Suit Spider Solitaire. More seriously, I think this will help the beginner improve his game by focussing on one concept at a time. As a chess analogy, suppose you wanna teach a child how to play for the first time – unless he, she or it is exceptionally gifted chances are it will be overwhelmed by the sheer complexity of the game. So we could consider simpler games e.g.

  • Pawns only: you win if a pawn reaches the 8th rank, or opponent has no legal moves.
  • Kings Rooks and Pawns only
  • Kings Bishops and Pawns only
  • To win, capture 5 enemy pawns or pieces.
  • … etc

In this way, it will most likely figure out interesting concepts by itself, e.g. zugzwang for the “pawns-only” game or the fact friendly bishops and pawns can protect each other (but rooks and pawns cannot). Although I haven’t tested this method myself (I haven’t even googled), I won’t be surprised if this method actually works.

Admittedly Hole in One ain’t the greatest pun, but “hole” refers to empty column and “one” means no help from the stock – if you need to deal the stock once before getting an empty column that’s a hole-in-two and so on. This means, for example, if an exposed Nine of Hearts is covered by another card, that other card will always be an Eight of any suit.

Here is an example game, with start and end game state shown. This game is lost because there are no legal moves left (apart from dealing another row) and we don’t have an empty column.

Some questions for the reader:

  • What are the chances of winning, assuming perfect play and a “proper” random number generator?
  • How would you go about estimating said winning chances?

Until next time, happy Spider Solitaire playing 😊

One thought on “The Hole-In-One game

  1. Au contraire, Pierre, I think it is the perfect pun surpassed only by “Void in Viens”. But not everyone has watched Seinfeld S05E11.


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