Game on (3 April, 2021)

Here is the position from last time:

It turns out we cannot turn over a card without losing the empty column. We can “yank” the J-T in column One onto the Queen (or better still, shift the J-T-9 of Hearts in column Ten onto the Queen of Hearts first, but we cannot shift the off-suit 7-6-5 onto an Eight. As a general rule, one hole is not enough to shift a sequence of three cards if they are all off-suit. Well done to Bart for spotting this.

Note that we exposed the “wrong” Five last week. If it were the Five of Hearts instead of Clubs then we can turnover column 1 without losing the empty column (yank the J-T, swap the Five of Diamonds with the Five of Hearts and then we are good to go).

Bart gives four possible plans:

  • Turn over a card in column h, putting an Eight into the empty column.
  • Move the queen of Hearts directly onto the empty column
  • Move the 5-4 of Diamonds onto the empty column, then dump the Queen of Hearts onto the King
  • Dump the 6-5 of Clubs onto the empty column then build in-suit with 2-A of Diamonds.

There are many variations possible but any reasonable sequence of moves boils down to one of the above four plans. Another key decision is: do we yank the J-T from column One?

Bart prefers the third option, with the Boolean yank_JT flag set to TRUE. His exact move sequence is:

fb,af,jg,aj,fa, de,df,gd

I have a few things to say about this:

  • The move jg is illegal! We should perform jg before af. As so often happens in delicate situations: move order matters!
  • The first move should be fe not fb. This retains an extra in-suit build for no cost.
  • It will be necessary to break an in-suit build in Hearts if we are to turnover column Seven. The last move gd is therefore also illegal.

Still I think Bart has done extremely well to spot both the correct plan and value of yank_JT: even though we can’t turnover column 1 yet, we might be in a good position to do so after the next deal.

It is true that dumping the Queen directly into the empty column has an advantage over dumping the 5-4: we regain the empty column if the next card is a King or a Six. The downside is if nothing good happens then the Queen will be blocking Column 6 with only three Kings unseen. This could be unpleasant, especially with at least three face-down cards in every other column.

You may be wondering why I chose to tidy up column One now when I had an earlier opportunity to do so. The reason boils down to the following knowledge bomb from Edifying Thoughts of a Spider Solitaire Addict:

An empty column will never contain face-down cards for the remainder of the game.

Why is this important? Since column 6 will never contain face-down cards for the remainder of the game our chances of recovering an empty column are decent. It is so much easier to win back an empty column if there are no face-down cards to worry about. And once we get the empty column back, we have a reasonable chance to shift the off-suit 7-6-5 onto an Eight.

In summary, my move sequence would be “fe,de,jg,af,aj,fa,gj,de,gd”

We expose a Two of Diamonds and are forced to deal another row.

As usual, we have an interesting decision to make immediately dealing a new row of cards. How would you continue here? Are there any tesuji possibilities, borrowing a term from the game of Go (a.k.a. Baduk)? Or should we simply ask ourselves What Would Captain Obvious Do?

3 thoughts on “Game on (3 April, 2021)

  1. First, I accept all of your points from your last write-up. Not sure why I wasn’t paying attention to the order of the moves. I hope if that happened in a game I’d stop to do it right. That’s another use I make of the Z-key sometimes. If I haven’t revealed any new information and just gotten confused in my own execution of things I’ll sometimes go back. Maybe Saint Spider will send me to purgatory for that sin when I die.

    You confused me a bit by saying the first move should be fe and not fb to preserve the 4-5 diamonds together. I agree with the goal, but that’s not the key point — the key point is putting the a23 onto that 4 of spades, whether it’s in b or e. I agree it’s better in e than b because we don’t want to junk up column b.

    Next, I am baffled by “An empty column will never contain face-down cards for the remainder of the game.” I’m trying to figure out what that means, and it shouldn’t be hard given context, as in we’re talking about how a game of Spider is played. But it is. “Face-down cards” refer to the ones we haven’t uncovered yet. It could also conceivably refer to the cards we haven’t dealt yet, which are, in a sense, face down. As long as there are face-down cards in it, below the top card, a column is not empty. You could mean, “No column that contains face-down cards at this time will ever become cleared.” That would obviously imply a loss, since winning necessarily has lots of empty columns towards the end. Surely you can’t mean deal cards, since any time we deal, one of those dealt cards (that up until that moment was face-down on the stock) ends up in each column. It could mean, “No card that is currently face-down (on the board) will, after it is revealed, be placed in a space.” But that’s pretty obscure and it’s not obvious how I would use that information. So I’m mystified. You were trying to convey some useful information, and whatever it was, I am not getting it.

    Now, as to the next deal. tl;dr — Captain Obvious it is.

    The only obvious turn-over is in column b. We should do that before we even clear the space out. Moving the 10 of hearts from the space is not reversible, so in principle at least there’s a chance we’d do something else with it after we learn what card is uncovered in column b. Those 3 moves are the end of our certain plan, and all else depends on what is revealed. If it is not helpful we can reveal a second card by putting a 2 in our space, and a 7 on the 8 that we expose in column i. Column g would be appealing for that as there are only 2 more cards to uncover, and 7 of hearts on 8 is in-suit. But we can also do column a, if the card we reveal from b means that’s better. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves and we hope the column b turnover will be something remarkable and wonderful. I would pray for uncovering something like two 3s and a 9, one after another from that column.

    So, what about a more complex plan? First observation is that we have no natural home for Q, 8 or 2. In particular, we are really drowning in 2s (five of them without homes), and the only possible place to put one of them is the 3 in column h if we do some work to clear it out. To clear it out we have to move that 8 but there are no receiving 9s, so that requires using up the space. Aside from columns b and h, every other column is blocked by a 2 or a king. Sometimes we can get two turnovers when a card like the 3 is revealed, one for moving the 3 out, and the other for the 2 that we can then put on the three. And we can here, but we’ve lost flexibility in the process as well as leaving an unsuited pair of cards in our space.

    The way to get started on a more complex plan is to move the 4 from i onto the 5 in e, and then move the 7 from h onto the 8 in i. We can then move the JT of clubs onto the queen, h to j. Now it’s Hail Mary time. We put the 8 of spades in the space, move the 3 of clubs onto the 4 (in column e now), uncovering a card. Now we can put one of our 2s onto that 3. The most likely candidate is column g, but column a is also perhaps a possibility. We have at that point steppingstones for moving the 5 and 6 and can then move the 7 of diamonds. In either case, we will be putting an off-suit 7 on the 8 in the space, which look really bad. Since we used up the receiving queen, the column b turnover is no longer possible. We’ve gotten two turnovers, but neither of them allows anything spectacular. They are column h and either a or g. The simple plan also can give us two turnovers if we use up the space.

    So the best I can see is the simple turnover in column b, in 3 moves, before even reclaiming the space. My concept of “market value” comes in here a bit. The jack has to go on the one queen, but there are two homes for the 56 of clubs, and 2 homes for the ace of diamonds. If in the upcoming play we are looking for a home for a 6 or for an ace, there is still one available. It’s one other minor reason to prefer the column b plan.

    I certainly can’t see any suits on the verge of being made. Nowhere do we have even 3 cards in a row in-suit.

    Let’s see if I can get the moves exactly right this time: bj,bh,bd.


    1. Good analysis as always. And now I know where the term Zee-kee comes from (I was mainly confused because I pronounce Z the “other” way – Control-zee-kee would make it obvious but doesn’t have a nice ring to it!). You also found the Hail Mary option which was the main point of my post (a very important skill in Spider is “looking beyond the obvious”).

      Actually turning over column a is not legal, you need an extra Six 🙂


    2. In case you are unaware, I should also mention the phrase “knowledge bomb” is an inside joke familiar to fans of Cracking The Cryptic. It basically means Captain Obvious saying something like the sum of the digits from 1 to 9 is 45 (apologies if I am saying something you already know!)


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