It’s been a busy weekend – but I’m not complaining 😊
On Friday my younger brother (the one without a Fields Medal) came over from Sydney with his partner and two children. I have also taken leave from work, starting on Friday and finishing the following Friday (8th April). Someone else and his family was supposed to come along for dinner, but the Coronavirus gods decreed otherwise.
But it’s not all doom and gloom with the Adelaide Crows winning an epic showdown against their bitter rivals Port Adelaide, and my niece has shown some promising signs as an artist. Over the past few years, she’s getting pretty good with happy stars and now she is moving on to bigger and better things, including Spider Solitaire.
My younger brother and his family are leaving this afternoon. After that it’s back to round 3 of the first game in our 5-point match with a Backgammon doubling cube showing the number ‘8’ face up. No pressure!
Quite an eventful round. Despite the position rot13(fhpxvat), Hero decided to raise the stakes regardless, reasoning that Hero was already in bad shape if the probability of winning an individual hand is significantly less than 50%. With no turning back for either side, it was inevitable that somebody would end up holding a dead 8-cube that has no further effect on the match.
At least Hero managed to avoid the ignominy of not acquiring an empty column for the entire game. The club suit is looking promising and with several Eights unseen, there might be a potential space in Column 5. Still, drawing three Aces when the name of the game is not Canasta was never a good sign. Hero even sacrificed a turnover in column 3 which would have exposed two more Aces. Meanwhile Villain is enjoying the rot13(fuvgfubj), knowing that he has no more cube-decisions to make and can focus entirely on watching Hero suffer.
It’s hard to reach a dead-lost position when there are still 30 cards in the stock, so don’t write off the good guys just yet – especially considering that I’ve seen Hero come back from worse game states. Meanwhile IM Bug continues on his merry busking ways, entertaining his Spider-Solitaire-playing friends with the strains of Eights and Fives (sung to the tune of Lightly Row). And Bug will probably start adding Jacks into the mix as well.
In this document I will discuss April Fool’s Day and various other pranks. Your mission, which you must choose to accept, is to figure out what all this has to do with Spider Solitaire.
As is well known, April the 1st is the day for pulling off pranks against people who were not born with the awesome gene. When I was in High School, my Geography teacher once wrote the date as 29th of October which wasn’t even close to the correct date. At least one student fell for it. Fast forward to the last decade and I once boasted about scoring over 600 in a single game of Scrabble, but I failed to produce any evidence the game was real. There was no mention of my actual score, plenty of phonies such as ETEARIO* instead of ETAERIO and OT* (a very common two-letter phony when someone isn’t paying attention!). The best giveaway was FOOLISHLY on a triple word with only the “Y” connected to the rest of the board. Therefore, this play is mathematically impossible unless someone had eight letters on their rack without opponent noticing – not to mention FOOLISHLY is an appropriate word for any prank involving today’s date.
What makes an April 1st prank successful? I can think of the following criteria:
The prank must be “detectable” e.g. if Joe Bloggs is alert it should be reasonably easy to spot the prank.
In my Scrabble example, a switched-on person may notice the board has an abnormally large number of questionable decisions, indicating at least one player is deliberately playing below is true strength. But if the person is switched-off then that’s hardly gonna impact his Key Performance Indicators in the workplace.
We should also remind ourselves that all pranks have a use-by-date and April Fool pranks are no exception. After the initial laughs, we need some ingenuity to keep things fresh. A good analogy would be Rick-Rolling. It was “grudgingly-accepted-funny” the first time around and perhaps the second and third, but I can’t imagine any self-respecting comedian of today attempting a Rick-Roll without putting “a new twist on the theme”. One well-known example is the atrociously written high-school essay on Niels Bohr but my favourite Rick-Roll occurs in Grant Woolard’s Classical Music Mashup III, which you would have to google for yourself. Actually that was only my second-favourite. If you really really really really really really need to see my Absolute Favourite Rick Roll Of All Time then please click this link.
Our first double in the match. I’m not 100% sure if the cube decision of both sides is correct, but we’re here to learn right? 😊 After this game I definitely intend to discuss the rationale behind Villain’s decision to send the cube over.
Hero got a dreadful round with only 2 guaranteed turnovers and failed to improve before being forced to deal the next batch of 10 cards.
Actual play: (Mar 24, score = 484): fg, bf, bc, jc, jb (King of Clubs) if, ic (Two of Clubs)
SpiderGM Comments: Recall there are three basic options: (1) accept, (2) refuse and start a new game (3) refuse but play on, seeing what would have happened at the cost of slowing down the match.
SpiderGM Comments: I swear I didn’t peek at the unseen cards before doubling. That would be impossible since otherwise the score would be less than 475 with a 1-point penalty for every move or undo. In any case, that round didn’t last very long.
This was a decent round. Hero started with 3 guaranteed turnovers and managed to raise that to 12. Some delicate decision making in the middle with IM Bart and IM Bug hunting for some small edges, but to no avail. At least Hero managed to turn over every face-down card in column 7, a lasting asset to keep for the remainder of the game. No empty column yet, but real chances to get something going in the next round if the Card Gods cooperate. I should also mention both Bart and Bug are comfortable with the use of the doubling cube, and no rule clarifications were needed.
Speaking of the doubling cube, not much excitement yet with neither side coming close to a serious advantage. But every man dog and millipede knows that a lot can change when 10 cards are added simultaneously instead of sequentially.
Spider GM Comments: Not the most difficult decision (both cube and card-play) but I believe now is the best time to sanity-check there are no misunderstandings before things get interesting. If there is something you’re unsure about, please drop a comment!
Actual play: gf (trivial) → 5c
Spider GM Comments: We’ve passed the first hurdle with no rule clarifications needed about the mechanics of the doubling cube. Game on!
Actual play: gh (trivial) → 9s
Spider GM Comments: Tricky decision – do we take the in-suit build, go for the empty column or try some delaying option? 😊
Actual play (March 20th, score = 497): je,ge → 7c
Spider GM Comments: I like this play. Knowing the last card in column 7 is a Good Thing even if we don’t get the space immediately.
Actual play: hg → 0h (trivial coin-flip)
Actual play: hj → 4s (trivial)
Spider GM Comments: Given this is a 5-point match instead of single game, I am happy to speed things up with one decision per day (if something gets in the way I will let you know). Again you might wanna vote for a move sequence resulting in multiple turnovers – assuming only bad cards turn up and thus avoiding the need to reconsider.
Actual play (March 21st, score = 493): ib → Ad
< position omitted>
Actual play (score = 492): gb,hb → Qd
Spider GM Comments: Bart/Bug have already agreed on multiple turnovers assuming bad cards turn up.
Actual play (score = 490): jh (trivial)→ 3d
< position omitted>
Actual play (score = 489): jb (trivial) → 4c
Actual play (score = 487): eh,ae→ 3h
Actual play (score = 485) ad → 0c
Spider GM Comments: Hard to argue with any of these decisions. Lots of turnovers but no empty column yet …
Actual play (March 22, Score = 485): deal
Spider GM Comments: IM Bug has kindly requested we deal more Eights and Fives. The move “ea” was possible but Bug/Bart saw no advantage in doing so.
After discussion with IM Bart and IM Bug I have decided it’s best to go with my original plan of Match-to-5 but with the following difference:
If either side doubles and opponent refuses, then Hero can request the game be played out anyway to see what would have happened (obviously without affecting the actual score). This has the effect of slowing down the match (although I guess that conceding is acceptable if things turn from terrible to okay-okay-okay-it-really-is-hopeless).
Below is an “example-only” state of the match, defined by current match score, the stake of the current game, ownership of the cube and (last but not least if you pardon the terrible cliché) the game-state for the current game. In this example, Hero leads Villain 2-1 in a match to 5 and the centered cube indicates both sides have the right to make the next double. Well done if you recognise the game state was cut-n-pasted from our previous game 😊
NOTE: in Backgammon it is conventional for a centered cube to have the number ‘64’ instead of ‘1’ since no confusion is possible assuming both players are rational. If the cube actually does reach 64 in a “money-game” or “match-to-more-than-64-points” and the game is played at the local brewery then it’s heavy odds-on that at least one player is not putting in his best effort 😉
The first hand will start some time tomorrow. Good luck!
Following Ninja Monkey’s rather lame advice in our previous game and my spectacularly unsuccessful attempts at improving its win rate over the long weekend, I have decided to take things to the Next Level Of Trevor by proposing a Match-To-Five-Points. This would entail the use of a Doubling Cube, so games can terminate early if one side doubles and the other refuses. From earlier interaction with IM Bart and IM Bug, I can safely assume my readers have some familiarity with the mechanics of the doubling cube in Backgammon 😊
To be more specific, here are the rules for 5-Point-Match in Spider Solitaire:
The readers (IM Bart, IM Bug plus others) are the “Heroes” and I am the evil Villain.
The readers are responsible for making all decisions re card play. I will maintain the game state with my standard Windows Solitaire software. Both my readers and I participate in cube decisions.
At any stage of the game, either side can double. The opponent must concede (and start a new game with cube in the middle) or accept (which gives him exclusive right to make the next double). Note that rejecting a bad starting hand is equivalent to conceding a point after the Villain doubles. Obviously restart/undo is not allowed.
There are no gammons or backgammons. There is no reward for scoring more than 5 points so paying attention to the match score may be relevant.
Pretend you don’t know nothing about chouettes – we shall keep things simple!
Just to cover my backside and avoid any unpleasant controversies, I will state the following clarifications up front.
It is legal for either side to double before the first move is played. Beware that it is possible for a good start to sour. Conversely, it is equally possible to recover from a poor start with skilled play. It is usually muchharder to obtain a reversal of fortunes (in either direction) after the stock is empty!
To avoid the (rare-but-theoretically-possible) scenario where both sides wanna double simultaneously with the cube in the middle, you can assume that if I present the latest game state without explicitly mentioning the D-word then I forfeit my right to double.
If the readers do not have a clear majority for a preferred action (card-play or cube decision) then I use a random number generator as tie-breaker. Obviously, I will not use my “better judgment” as tie-breaker!
It is acceptable to concede after accepting a cube and regretting it (a typical Backgammon analogy would be the losing side resigning after barely avoiding a Gammon in a no-contact position)
To save time, a reader may wish to combine a cube decision and card-play decision. For instance Joe Bloggs may vote “Double: if Villain accepts then I play (ab,cd,ef)”. A combined decision is always split into two separate decisions, with cube-decision first. If the majority vote is against Joe Bloggs’ cube decision then his card-play decision is redirected to Tumbolia, the land of Dead Hiccups and extinguished lightbulbs. Obviously the card-play decision is N/A if the decision is “decline Villain’s double”.
Note that Villain actually gained information he was not entitled to because the Heroes gave a move sequence before Villain had a chance to accept/refuse the cube (but Villain must accept/refuse before seeing any turnovers resulting from the move sequence). For this reason, I recommend to use compound actions only when the card-play really is trivial.
I Have No Idea If This Will Work But There’s Only 1 Way To Find Out
Here’s hoping there are some Backgammon addicts out there who are willing to join in the fun along with our two IM’s. If you know your Market Losers from your Post-Crawford Game then this should be right up your alley, even if you rot13(fhpx) at Spider Solitaire. In any case, that’s what team-mates like Bug and Bart are for 😊 So, without further ado Let The Games Begin Immediately!