Game on (21 Sep, 2021)

Continuing from last time …

Bart suggested the (modified) Orange plan fg,ij,ig,jg. Furthermore he gives continuations “bh,bh,bg” and “ch,dh,ch”. But it seems most unlikely that the next turnovers will not change anything (unless it’s something idiotic like two Kings). Remember that cards can be “semi-useful” even if they don’t increase our minimum guaranteed turnovers. SA likes Brown’s suggestion of “ij,if” to expose that nice Club Eight residing in Column 9. I assume this is tongue-in-cheek but I agree that would be one of the better cards we can hope for.

With the vote tied 1-1, I will use my Spider Solitaire app as a tie-breaker. If the first card in column 1 is red (black) then I go with Bart (SA), since red (black) is close enough to orange (brown). Bart’s plan it is.

(move fg,ij,ig,jg), Ten of clubs.

Text version:

(five) 3c-2s-As-2s

(four) 7c-6c-5d-6d

(five) 2h-4c

(four) 9c-3d

(four) 9s-2c

(three) Kc

(three) Jd-Js-Td-9s-8h

(three) 7d-6s-5s-7s

(two) Tc

(four) Kh-9c

Cards in stock = 40, Cool Mates = 9, Stooges = 3

Brown: A decent card, giving us an extra turnover and in-suit build.

Red: Yes, the second Ten allows a turnover in Columns 4 or 5. Clearly Column 4 is better, saving the precious Three of Diamonds as well as building in-suit.

White: I’m not sure why the captain played “jg”. At least that move is reversible and there is no penalty for playing unnecessary moves.

Green: BTW, Dark Green tried to rot13(shpx) things up last time. I just realised his suggestion of turning over column 1 is actually illegal.

Black: That’s right but for some reason we let it go. Perhaps someone was hoping Dark Green would continue to make mistakes – then we would call him out with stronger evidence that he really is one of the Stooges.

Purple: Going back to the cards in front of us, I see three turnovers in Columns 2,3,4. Therefore something like “bh,bh,bg,cg,dg,cg,di” unless we get more good cards and change our mind.

Disclaimer: I only got ‘C’ in Year 10 Art.

Orange: We should also consider the possibility of not taking our minimum guaranteed turnovers for some other long-term gain. However, I’m not seeing anything special in this position. Therefore “bh,bh,bg”, look at the next card and then decide.

Dark Blue: It is unfortunate our turnovers occur in the left-most columns which contain many face-down cards. But I don’t see any other way to achieve three turnovers. I’m with Orange. At least our game state remains flexible with good chances of getting at least one extra turnover.

Pink: There may be other move orders such as “bh,bh,ch,dh,di” that give three turnovers. I’m sure Bart Wright or SA could come up with other possibilities.

Dark green: It’s a pity we didn’t go with Brown’s suggestion, keeping the Ten of Diamonds in Column 6 instead of Column 7. The Ten of Clubs would have given us two extra turnovers instead of …


Yellow: Yes, I agree Dark Green is venting but at least he didn’t recommend to build in-suit with “ji” 😊

On the bright side, nobody dropped the S-bomb but the team camaraderie still needs a bit of work. This is certainly not something I would tolerate in an actual workplace. And someone should remind the team that not all jokes are funny. I won’t mention any colours – they know who they are.

Digressions aside, how would you continue here? Choose one of the following options (in order of increasing effort):

  • Give a sequence of moves, finishing as soon as you turn over a single card.
  • Assume that after the above sequence you turn over in column X. Choose any straight flush (e.g.  8-7-6-5-4 of Hearts) and call it Y. Assume the next card in column X belongs to Y. Give five different continuations, one for each card in Y.
  • Ditto, but with any straight flush of length 9 (instead of 5)
  • Ditto, but with any straight flush of length 13, i.e., a complete suit.

Game on (18 Sep 2021)

Continuing on from last week.

We deal another row of ten cards. Let’ see what the players have to offer:

Text version:

(five) 3c-2s-As-2s

(four) 7c-6c-5d-6d

(five) 2h-4c

(four) 9c-3d

(four) 9s-2c

(three) Kc-Td

(three) Jd-Js

(three) 7d-6s-5s-7s

(three) 9s-8h

(four) Kh-9c

Cards in stock = 40, Cool Mates = 9, Stooges = 3

White: We can get a turnover in Column 4 or Column 5.

Brown: Turning over Column 9 with “ij,if” is more flexible since it does not commit to building 4-3 or 3-2 off-suit.

Red: Goodie, we get more Spades! We have 7-6-5 in the single column, even though they are out of order. Pity about the duplicated Twos and Nines.

Blue: There is a turnover in column 2: “bg,bg,bi”. We also build in-suit with 6-5 of diamonds.

Purple: But that blocks Column 9. We need to turnover column 9 first – then we can turn over column 2.

Dark Green: Don’t forget Column 1. We can build in-suit with 4-3 of Clubs as well as turnover a card.

Black: There is another hidden option. First shift the Eight of Hearts to column 10, then we can turnover column 2 without blocking column 9.

Dark Blue: Red has good intentions – it is always wise to keep in mind the big picture. Unfortunately, the Spade suit has a long way to go. Now is not the time to focus on building a complete suit. I think it is wise to start by computing minimum guaranteed turnovers. I see at least three turnovers.

Green: I can’t improve on three. Now it’s a matter of working out the correct order of moves.

Yellow: I like Brown’s suggestion of Column 9. Only three more cards and we get an empty column!

Orange: BROWN IS SUS. Of the thirteen ranks, Queen is the only one unseen. Surely it is wiser to play “fg” first to free a King before turning over Column 9. Otherwise, we would lose a turnover if a Q appears.

Pink: DARK GREEN IS ALSO SUS because he wants to expose an Ace. Unlike Texas Holdem, Aces and Kings are not your friends in this game.

As usual, the team drops at least one S-bomb as soon as we reach a non-trivial decision.

  • Which plan do you like the best? Feel free to suggest your own plan if you don’t like any of the above suggestions.
  • You can nominate any of the coloured tokens to execute the plan. You can also nominate yourself – but then you must give a specific move sequence!

Game on (16/Sep/2021)

Returning back to the game …

Bart has suggested db, since only column 8 has three face-down cards and “hasn’t been kinged”.

Schistocerca went in more detail, proposing to take all three turnovers at once with the move sequence “db,ia,gh” – conditional on the assumption that no useful cards turn up and causing us to reconsider. Let’s see what Inaslov’s Random Number generator has in store for us:

(move db), Nine of clubs.

Black: The captain has decided to take multiple turnovers, presumably to speed up the game – unless we get some useful cards. I agree. The opening round doesn’t leave much opportunity for an expert player to shine.

(move ia), Nine of spades

Dark Green: Our second bad card in a row.

Red: rot13(Sbe shpx’f fnxr)! You don’t need to vent your frustration at every bad card!

(move gh) Jack of diamonds

Dark Blue: I was thinking perhaps ca instead of ia. The advantage is apparent if the next two cards were Ace and Three. Admittedly the chances of that are remote. But we cannot ignore the fact column 8 … I mean column 9 has fewer face-down cards than column 3.

Purple steals a chance to glare at Dark Blue while White is not looking. At least nobody dropped the S-bomb despite three bad cards in a row, so the team has done something right.

Pink: But the captain has decided otherwise and we must respect his decision. In any case our only legal move is to deal a new row of cards.

Yellow: Unless any of the Stooges wants to move the Ace of Spades onto the Two of Hearts. No takers? Okay let’s deal!

White gives Blue the honor of dealing the next round of cards. He is pleased to see everyone has had a chance to contribute something to the opening round.

Game on (14 Sep, 2021)

Yellow: “I know there are some Stooges among us – but what is the purpose of this rule?”

Red: “They are in cahoots with Mr Inaslov – who wants to destroy us from within. Inaslov knows that every time we botch a game of Spider Solitaire then our morale will diminish. Eventually we will perform badly at our daily tasks and things will quickly turn to rot13(fuvg)”

Pink: “Sneaky fellow that Inaslov. I never like those filthy Russians …”

White: “Hey! There’s no need for that kind of discrimination. We should be grateful that none of us are judged by the colour of our skin.”

Damn, thought Yellow. I guess I’m not using Sludge as a nickname for Brown any time soon.

Brown: “Does that mean we either need to win this Spider Solitaire hand or eject all the Stooges?”

Green: “That’s correct. In other words, there are two ways to win.”

Orange: “But there are also two ways to lose. If we eliminate too many Cool Mates so they no longer have a majority against the Stooges then it’s game over. Therefore, random guessing is not a viable strategy.”

Dark Blue: “Wait a minute. This sounds very interesting but how do I know that Red and Orange are not Stooges?”

Purple: “Maybe GREEN IS SUS. Making a notation error on the fourth move – come on! It’s probably a coded message to send signals to another Stooge.”

Dark Green: “Why does everyone pick on me?”

Blue: “Purple was talking about Green, not Dark Green”

White was deep in thought. Although not the technically strongest player, he was well-known for his Project Management smarts among the White-skin community. This was easily one of the most dysfunctional teams he had ever managed. At this rate they would be lucky to string together three turnovers without someone dropping the S-bomb that rhymes with “bus”. On second thoughts, this could be exactly what White was hoping for – if he was one of the Three Stooges.

Black: “Again we digress. We should concentrate on the cards in front of us. In any case it is not our job to eject players. That’s the responsibility of our team captain – Bart Wright, Schistocerca Americana, or whoever happens to be reading Spider GM’s blog on the day.”


To be continued …

Game on (12 Sep, 2021)

Continuing from last week …

Blue moves “hi” revealing the Seven of Diamonds.

Purple moves “bg” exposing the Seven of Clubs. He is pleased to see another in-suit build and there are still four turnovers.

Yellow makes the next trivial decision: “fb”, the only in-suit build – and exposing the King of Clubs. Dark Green lets out an audible sigh.

The Cool Mates are off to a good start with the first three moves being in-suit builds, but now we are faced with a non-trivial decision.  The King of Clubs was perhaps not the greatest, but at least none of the Three Stooges have perpetrated any Fajor Muck-ups. Let’s see what suggestions the players have to offer:

Red: 65 of Spades onto the Seven.

Dark Blue: I see nothing wrong with that. In the early stages of the game, the obvious move is often the best move.

Pink: I like “ia”, hoping to clear out column 9.

Dark Green: “ca” is also possible.

Blue: DARK GREEN IS SUS! Column 3 has five face-down cards but Column 9 has only four. We all know the importance of getting empty columns early.

Brown: DARK GREEN IS NOT SUS. My chess tutor once said it is important to identify all candidate moves before evaluating any of them. Full credit to Dark Green for suggesting a move that nobody else had mentioned so far.

White: We can also move the Five of Diamonds onto the 7-6 of Clubs.

Yellow: Or “db”. The notation is pretty handy for anyone who knows the first ten letters of the alphabet or better 😊

Purple: Yes, “db” is reasonable. Even if the next card is an Eight we don’t lose a turnover because we still have a spare Seven in Column 8.

Orange: That’s a good point. Whereas if we shifted either Deuce onto the Three, we would lose a turn-over if the next card is a Four of any suit.

Green: I vote Red’s option of “hg”. Using the same logic, we don’t lose a turnover (unless we get two Eights). That also starts digging in a column with only four face-down cards.

Black: You mean “gh”. In any case, we need some good cards soon. Only an A,3,4,8,T,Q will give us at least one extra turnover. Slightly under 50% I think, but the math is left as an exercise for Purple 😊

Over to you. What move would you recommend here?

Let The Game Begin

Bart wanted to Mulligan. Schistocerca wanted to play.  With the vote 1-1, I decided to flip a coin as a tie-breaker: Heads we mulligan, tails we play. If the coin somehow balances on its side, then I get to choose.

Heads it is – we take the Mulligan.

Before we count minimum guaranteed turnovers, in-suit builds or move any cards, I would like you to meet the players.

There are a number of strong players in this group but some of the others are a bit rot13(fuvg) – and that’s being generous. Fortunately, the readers (Bart, Schistocerca Americana, and anyone else who joins in mid-game) play the role of captain. Barring trivial decisions, these players can only make suggestions and it’s up to the captain(s) to evaluate these suggestions and choose the optimal line of play – or suggest their own 😊

“Two of Spades onto the Three of Clubs” squeals Yellow.

“YELLOW IS SUS!” shouts Dark Green.

“I was joking,” replies Yellow. “Of course, we all know that if I rot13(shpx) up the first move then I would get ejected faster than you can say At First Blush Our Brilliant But Incredibly Nasty Sudoku Elicits Rude Word From Simon! (7)”

Confused looks from half the team (who have obviously never heard of Cracking The Cryptic).

“We have four guaranteed turnovers,” says Pink. “Dark Purple, you’re the mathematician. Is that better or worse than average?”

“The expected number of turnovers is 3.97,” says Dark Purple. “Therefore 4 is above average. But you can also crunch the numbers and say the median number of turnovers should be between 4 and 5, therefore 4 is worse than average”.

“But we digress,” replies Black. “The difference is small. I would be more swayed by other factors, such as number of in-suit builds, number of Aces and Kings … and don’t forget to calculate outs i.e. probability of getting a good card and increasing our minimum guaranteed tur-.”

“Obviously we start with <hi>” says Blue.

Everyone agrees except Yellow and Pink. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for the team to teach Yellow/Pink the standard notation for moves with columns represented by letters a-j reading from left to right.

Blue gets the honor of making the first move. He shifts the Ace of Spades onto the Deuce of the same suit, revealing the …

“I hope it’s not a King,” says Dark Green.

“<sarcasm> always the cheery one </sarcasm>” says Red.

To be continued . . .

A new game – with a difference!

This is probably not a good idea, but I wanna start a “new game with a difference”. Standard Four-suit Spider Solitaire, sans rot13(haqb) and there is a second win condition which will become apparent in due course. Not gonna spoil this obviously, but I can mention that (i) some basic cultural literacy is assumed and (ii) if you are familiar with the usual quirky humour in this blog, you will not be disappointed 😊

The game shall be played on Microsoft Windows at the “Four-Suit Random” setting. Here is our start position:

We have four turnovers, two of which are in-suit. But we also have an Ace and King showing. If given the choice, would you take a Mulligan or play the hand?

If you take the Mulligan do you want Master difficulty (between expert and GM) or random?

Six point rating scale (continued)

Last week we had the task of evaluating other players:

I gave an example video of someone beating 4-suit Spider without rot13(haqb).

Here are the results from a six-point scale of One-Bone-Bonne-Bonnet-Bullet-rot13(ohyyfuvg). Or for the linguistically-non-cunning among you, there is also One-Two-Three-Four-Five-Six.

 Schistocerca AmericanaScholar Bart
DifficultyBullet (5)Bullet (5)
SkillBullet (5)Bullet (5)
PresentationBonne (3)Bonne (3)
OverallBonnet (4)Bullet (5)

I agree the players are at beginner level. Certainly enough elementary errors to justify Bullet (5). But I guess it could be worse. For instance, Joe Bloggs might upload a vid claiming he won without rot13(haqb), but in actual fact he uses rot13(haqb) frequently. Maybe JB uploaded the wrong vid by mistake, or it was One Of Those Days His Brain Went Psycho And Farted. In any case, I’ve seen plenty of fonumental muck-ups that would make Andy Griffiths’ Bum proud.

To borrow a phrase from Schistocerca Americana … I digress 😊

This is the reason Bart and Americana avoid giving a rating of rot13(ohyyfuvg) (6) for skill – and I agree.

I also agree the presentation level is average. I am certainly not a professional you-tuber so I’m not gonna be too critical. I have a number of decent videos (unrelated to the Royal Game) but happyharvey0 probably has some skill set that I don’t possess. Bonne (3) it is.

Bart and Americana agreed on everything, except for overall score. Americana points out happyharvey0 is probably a much better player six years later. He may certainly well be, but I’ve seen my fair share of Chess and Scrabble players who simply refuse to improve no matter how long they play. It is quite possible that happyharvey0 was aiming to beat hardest difficulty in record time, and therefore mundane matters such as spending bone – uh, I mean two – more seconds looking for in-suit builds instead of off-suit builds is beneath his dignity!

Schistocerca Americana gave another vid:

His ratings are difficulty = bullet (5) , skill = bonnet (4), presentation = bonne (3), overall = bonnet (4).

The skill level is similar, and this player doesn’t have the excuse of trying to beat the hardest level difficulty in record time. I won’t go through every suboptimal play in excruciating detail but the main points are:

  • When you reach a “trivially winning endgame” you should be playing moves quickly and confidently. If you see an in-suit build, just take it without thinking. As long as you maintain at least one empty column to prevent nasty accidents, you can hardly go wrong.
  • In the opening stages a good player should be able to immediately count minimum guaranteed turnovers and in-suit builds, as though it were second nature (as a chess analogy, if you give an experienced player a certain game state, he she or it can immediately deduce which side has a material advantage, what pieces are under attack, whose King is in greater danger etc). A good Spider Solitaire player should be able to whiz through the opening moves without hesitation and without obvious errors.
  • I assume if Joe Bloggs has to stumble his way through the opening and endgame, there is no way he can play a decent middlegame. Therefore, I did not examine the middlegame with my usual scrutiny.

In hindsight, I probably should have stated this is to be an objective evaluation, and there is no need to apologise if you find the player is Awesome in other respects, such as speaking Indonesian, playing a decent game of Zuma Deluxe, or having more subscribers than the Grand Master himself!

I agree that it’s hard to find good videos of someone playing a decent game of Spider Solitaire Four-Suit. Perhaps it’s up to Bart, Americana and I to start a new club of “Generation Sans-Z” players.

Bad puns aside, may all your builds be in-suit and all your long-term plans come to fruition! On second thoughts, if all your builds were in-suit you could probably win without any long-term planning. Whatevs 😊

This week’s homework

If you didn’t get the Andy Griffiths’ Bum reference, do a google search. If you are already familiar with the reference then lucky you – no homework before the next blog post 😊

The six-point rating scale for evaluating other players

Hitherto we have focussed on improving our own game. Now is the time to turn the concept on its head and critique the play of others. Bwahhahahahahahaahahah 😊

If you’ve ever tried to improve at Spider Solitaire, no doubt at some point in your life you attempted to google search videos of other players plying their wares and (preferably) winning at the end. You probably also noticed that not everyone can reach the lofty heights of GM Jan Gustafsson killing it in Banter Blitz, crushing various chess players online while simultaneously trash-talking about irrelevant TV shows and what-not. I’m sure there are decent Spider Solitaire players out there, but that obviously doesn’t imply they know how to make high-quality videos.

Here is an example video of someone beating 4-suit Spider without rot13(haqb):


For the following questions we will use the following six-point scale:

Part I

On a scale of 1 to rot13(ohyyfuvg) how would you rate

  • The difficulty of the hand (1 = hardest)
  • The strength of the player (1 = strongest)
  • The quality of presentation (1 = best)
  • Overall score (1 = best)

IMPORTANT: Do not attempt to justify your answers. This is intended as material for future blog posts. In other words, Now Me doesn’t wanna steal the thunder from Future Me.

Part II

Search for other videos of someone winning at the four-suit level without rot13(haqb). To avoid confusion the following requirements are specified:

  • Must be four suits
  • No rot13(haqb) – except for correcting obvious mouse-slips that don’t reveal face-down cards by accident.
  • Must win – no glory for a near miss, even if the hand is ridic difficult 😊
  • The complete game-play must be shown (e.g. no skipping the boring bits)
  • Do not play more than one hand.
  • A video is not DQ’ed for lame music, terrible jokes, swearing at every bad card or clumsy attempts at rick-rolling.

Answer the same four questions in Part I. If you found multiple videos, answer these questions for at most two videos with highest overall score only. Again, do not attempt to justify your answers.

FUN FACT: a bonne is a French term for nursemaid or housemaid.

Playing with Undo – Post Mortem

As the Tokyo Olympics draws to a close, so does our foray into the world of playing Spider Solitaire with undo privileges.

To be honest, I am not really a fan of playing with undo (with one important exception, which I assume the assiduous reader of this blog knows by now). It reduces the game to an exercise in long-term calculation and almost every hand is winnable. In some sense it plays a lot like Freecell, and it is well known Freecell is almost always winnable. Schistocerca Americana agrees that Four-Suit sans Z-key is indeed the Cadillac of Solitaire Games.

The hand was originally intended as an exercise in obtaining cheevos, but it soon became clear we would struggle from the beginning just to win the hand. After conceding a humiliating defeat, I changed this hand into an exercise in playing with undo. I was hoping this hand would provide a challenge – precisely because I lost badly without undo privileges.

With undo, the hand was probably not too hard, given we got an empty column before having to deal any cards from the stock. There were no special tricks required other than careful book-keeping with Excel Cheatsheet and keeping an eye for opportunities to remove complete suits.

Going back to the game state below: suppose we somehow managed to reach this position without undo (and hence no knowledge of unseen cards). If we tried to turn over all cards in column 8 we would get quite the scare – it’s still a win, but it would be pushing way beyond our comfort zone given we have four suits removed and three empty columns. For this reason alone, I would estimate this hand to be extremely hard sans undo. It’s obviously winnable but one would probably need to play a number of sub-optimal moves and get lucky.

I should also thank SA for his wonderfully silly digressions and forays into binge-playing Microsoft Spider Solitaire in the name of Scientific Research. However, I am not sure why he believes 10/15 equals 40 per cent – but to be fair I’ve seen worse brain farts on Cracking the Cryptic. In any case SA definitely has what it takes to become one of the top players sans Undo. If there ever were a massive Zynga Spider Solitaire tournament and Zynga were a reputable game company then SA has got it made 😊

As of next week, the U-bomb is back to being a rude word again and will be censored via rot13.