Game On/Short Story (7 Feb 2021)

“Oh I love trash!”, sings Oscar The Grouch. He is especially proud of the ever-growing stacks of cards in columns 1, 5, 9 and 10.

“But what is so good about the ever-growing stacks of cards in columns one, five, nine and ten?” asks Grover.

“Well,” replies Big Bird. “The more cards you have in those columns, the less you have in others. So it is easier to get spaces in columns 2,3,4 or 8. “This is why Oscar likes his trash piles”.

“That is true,” replies Grover. “But we did not get a good deal. We can not get more than one empty column.”

“But I want to know what’s the best move!” cries Elmo, who is clearly impatient with the discussion about how best to proceed.

Count Von Count walks in, together with a couple of human guest stars – today they happen to be Bart and George.

“Before we can work out the best move,” begins Count von Count, “we need to count the cards!”

Count von Count gets all the children to name the cards, starting from the left-most column and working towards the right. As the kids eagerly announce the rank of each card, Bart draws a tally mark next to the corresponding symbol.

“King! … Queen! … Jack! … Six! … Five! … Four! … King! … Queen! … Jack! … Ten! … Nine! …”

It takes a while, but Bart eventually ends up with the image below. Meanwhile, the others are busy contemplating whether it’s possible to remove a complete set of Clubs.

“We can do it!” shout the Bad Idea Bears. “We can remove a complete set of clubs!”

“Not so fast,” says George. “That would cost us our only empty column.”

“Besides,” adds Bart, “You ain’t welcome here, you’re from the wrong crowd.”

“Awwww” groan the Bad Idea Bears. They reluctantly leave the playing hall.

 It seems a better plan is to partially complete the Club suit and wait for better opportunities. If for instance we find the other Ace of Clubs, then we need not shift the Three in column 1. Or if we expose the second Club King then we could look forward to a new card more useful than the Eight of Spades.

“We should turn over a card in column 7,” says Big Bird.

“I agree,” says Count von Count. “There are four Tens unseen and that would give us two empty columns.

“Yes,” says Spider GM. “It is more important to take the card in column 7 than to remove the Club suit. Now it’s just a matter of working out the detailed sequence of moves.”

Spider GM is pleased that all his students are contributing to the discussion.

“Don’t forget,” says Count von Count, “that we are aiming to win this game with a score of 1000 or better. I believe we have played 143 moves so far.”

“Finally!” cries Elmo, as we start to move some cards around.

We reach the following position and are about to reveal what will probably be the most important card in the history of Four-Suit Spider Solitaire. If it’s a Ten then we’re in business.

And the final card in column 7 is … the Two of Hearts. It’s not the best card – then again it certainly isn’t the worst.

We now reach an all-too-familiar endgame scenario. We can easily get back a space in column 7, but we can’t turn over a new card. Fortunately there are still 10 cards in the stock, else it would be game over. How would you continue?

3 thoughts on “Game On/Short Story (7 Feb 2021)

  1. Sesame Street? On top of Sherlock Holmes? I guess it livens things up a bit. I will note that counting is notably less tedious if you can type “A-K” to enter the cards of a whole run rather than typing them individually.

    Hey, I think my solution here was pretty close to yours, for once! The details might be different here and there, but no rabbit came out of a hat! — this time.

    I’d say things are pretty frozen up here. We’ve already done most of what there is to do, naturally, as only one card has changed. We’ve been delaying things to see what that mystery card was, and it didn’t change much so we can continue our plan. I would move the jack from column 2 to the queen to its right. I would move the queen of clubs run onto the rightmost king, and put the two of clubs onto the three — without that we will get indigestion if some unfortunate card lands on that two of clubs. This lets us clear clubs if the other ace shows up. We now have 4 atomic things in columns 2, 4, 7 and 8. 98 of spades, 3 of spades, 2 of hearts, and 87 of diamonds. Are they the things we want in the spaces? It’s good that the deepest cards (9, 3, 2, 8) are all different. Using my imperfect knowledge of move counts, I might replace that 2 of hearts with the ace of hearts (2 of hearts onto the open 3 in column 6), as there are still two new 2s that could come up to receive an ace, while there are no new 3s to receive the 2. They both have two higher cards that are free in the current layout. I would definitely do it if we weren’t counting moves.

    If we are not counting moves, I would put the 2A of spades from column 5 onto the 3 in column 4. The reasoning is that we might need to put an out-of-suit 2 on the open 3, and if it is in the column we are trying desperately to clear (4 in this case), that could hamper our progress, while it is less harmful in the garbage column 5. (This is another advantage of the 2-ace swap above — the ace of hearts cannot need to receive anything, of course, while the 2 of hearts could.) My guess is that with counting moves it is not worth it.

    Maybe if you looked through each rank that could come up you could find something slightly better, but I doubt it would be worth the extra moves to create it. I can’t see that making any irreversible move to put something into a space is worth it, as we lose a chance to recreate our empty column.

    One nice thing about the last deal of the five is that you tend to get better luck (in a sense). The ranks tend to even out, because there aren’t that many cards left. We’re dealing roughly half of them, and the other half are still hidden. Our chances of getting a couple tens go up quite a bit.

    I have no idea if 143 moves so far is good, bad, or indifferent. I don’t know how much we need to worry about that.


    1. Hi Bart, If you are familiar with Frank Stewart’s Bridge column the humour is even worse. It also features the occasional Sherlock Holmes and on the very next day you might see the Queen of Hearts boasting how she is the most powerful card in Wonderland and no Ace or King dare ever capture her. Maybe if she gets ruffed by a lowly Three of Spades that might teach her a lesson in humility but I’ve yet to see that happen.


  2. Master T you said, “We now reach an all-too-familiar endgame scenario” As I look at this arrangement I can only say that it has an Organizational Factor much higher than what I would have produced. My average all-too-familiar endgame scenario is more chaotic than this. Nicely done, Sir, to get us to here.

    Going forward I have little to offer: Complete the club run and set up three atomic columns while attacking (j) seems like the proper mix to me.

    (dj, fj, ed, ge, ae, ag, aj, jc, jg, jf,)

    We could do four atomics but this seems like too good a chance to attack (j)

    We could hook up the 6-5 oh hearts with the 7 in (i) but I think better to not add another layer below the three treasured turnovers in (i)


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