A Far-Sighted Play

In round 1, Team Good reached the following position. As so often happens, our options increase significantly when we procure an empty column – and so do our opportunities for mistakes.

Although we received a large slice of luck with several good cards in column 5 the game state remains deplorable. Bart chose the obvious “ef,be” to reveal the last face-down card in column 2. The problem is what do we do for an encore?

As I have alluded to several times earlier, we should be wary of the dangers of one-hole-no-card. With a glaring deficiency of Vitamin Q and Lucky Sevens it is not hard to imagine a scenario where we would be unable to turn over any cards even if we did obtain an empty column. In other words, empty columns are worth less than their usual face value in this particular situation. Let us construct a histogram of the cards that are visible so far:

We immediately see the biggest problem: only a solitary Seven is visible (mind the gap in column 8!) and we have no less than seven Eights. But the histogram doesn’t tell the full story. Close analysis of the tableau shows that most the Eights are buried under Kings. Ergo, if several Sevens appear on the next round, then we would be in an awkward spot when the Eights suddenly become essential. We should note that the shortage of Queens isn’t nearly as serious as the shortage of Eights. The difference is 5:1 instead of 7:1 and we still have one king exposed (or two if we allow the possibility of “eg,cg”). Also, if the last card in column 2 was a Seven of any suit, we would be considerably embarrassed after making the obvious play.

Going back to the diagram let us look for other possibilities. We soon notice that it is possible to turnover a card in column 10. This frees two precious Eights, so now we have a home if the next card is a Seven. In fact, we would obtain a double turnover if the next card is any Queen or Seven. Several other cards would yield a single turnover – less ideal, but at least we still get another shot at a double turnover before dealing a new row. Of course, the down-side is we dump a King into an empty column, but as noted above, empty columns are not all they’re cracked up to be.

This illustrates another general principle: when a game is going badly, we should think outside the box (terrible cliché notwithstanding) and look for opportunities to change the flow of the game, rather than letting the winning chances drift from Buckleys to Nada. And yes, the same principle applies to many strategy games, not just Spider Solitaire.

I believe Bart (and Ninja Monkey!) made an error in not turning over column 10. It may not be a serious mistake, but given that our situation is dire, the margin of error isn’t exactly great.

Fortunately, the last card in column 2 turned out to be the Three of Spades. We get our empty column back, but any Seven is no longer worth a double-turnover.

NOTE: My main concern with critiquing the play before the end of the hand is that players can receive “undeserved hints” for subsequent rounds, but I believe we have made enough progress for this concern to be rendered moot.

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