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?

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.

Game over we win! (1 Aug 2021)

Continuing from last week. We reached the following position and I gave the task of removing a fifth suit in as few moves as possible (there was no consideration given to removing all eight suits in as few moves as possible).

Bart and SA found the correct solution of eleven moves. The opening bid was 13 from Bart but after some back-and-forth they eventually Cauchy-sequenced their way towards 11, which I believe to be optimum. The moves are:

.ji, ja, dj, gj, hc, ih, id, if, id, ij, hj

 which the reader can easily verify for himself, herself or itself. By this stage the game is trivially won and there is no further play of interest.

Well done to Bart and SA for their valued input throughout the game. Today’s special reward shall be … NO HOMEWORK for at least one week, yaaay!!!!!!!!

Until next time, happy Spider Solitairing – may all your builds be in-suit and all your long term plans come to fruition!

Game on (25 July 2021)

Continuing the game from last week, we have reached this position when even my dad knows how to remove the Diamond suit on the next move.

How would you continue here?

First of all, I present Grasshopper’s solution. This deserves to be seen in full, and also illustrates how one can manipulate cards in the endgame without the help of an empty column – a fundamental skill for playing well at Spider Solitaire.

Easy stuff first, do the Dia run


Do a Club run in Col 1

Shift Heart J to Col 3

.ic (Is that a super move? Do I need to notate as such?)

Swap out Q’s Col 9&10

.ia, ji. aj

Fill void with Club K Q and cover with J from Col 2

.ia, ba

Shift Club 8 in Col 9 to Col 7, move Club 10, 9-5 and 4-2 to Col 1

.ig, ia, ca, ga

Dig out the Club A and do Club run

.ib, ci, ca

If the above is accurate we have done a Club run and have maintained our void in Col 1. If not, you can stop reading now.

Surely we have to do a Spade run next, the location of the last Dia 4 is unknown, the second Heart run has needed turnovers strewn across 5 columns and if we solve this thing my guess is hearts clear last, and lastly the Club 4 is trapped by the Dia K.

So going forward from the point of removing the Club run I should think we should set things up so that, ideally, after the last draw we can make the Spade run and have two voids.

I intentionally did not join the Dia K&Q in Col 9&10 with the idea that we needed a “Clean Queen” in Col 10 to accept the upcoming Club J from Col 1. If we are going for a Spade run next and if it is possible, we will gain a queen in Col 4, and a Club queen at that! So lets start by swapping out the queens in Col 9&10 and keeping one hand on the ZKey in case we fail in the spade run.

.ia, ji, aj

Fill the void in Col 1 with the Spade 8 from Col 3 and distribute the J 10

.ca, ci, cd

Take the last draw.

Join the Club J 10 9 then do the spade run

.da, ha, cd, hd, gd

Create some voids

.ad, ae, fb, fi, cb Three Voids

This turns out to be completely correct. But before going on, a few general considerations are in order:

It’s hard to visualise moves even with Excel Cheatsheet, but I believe it is of immense benefit to the student to practice visualising long sequences of moves. If you’re reading this blog and don’t have the luxury of having the same position in your Spider Solitaire program, one suggestion is to write down a sequence of moves, then check your answer with Excel Cheatsheet 😊

Removing complete suits is often undesirable because they “can be used as lubricant” for other cards, as eloquently expressed by Bart. For instance, going back to the initial position (score = 70) one possibility is dg,hd,ha,fh,hf,hj,gj,gh to clean up column 8 to some extent. However, the tesuji of not removing a suit is much rarer when playing without undo.

Going back to the game:

It is trivial to determine the identity of the last two unknown cards. Of course, we remember to shift the Happy Stars of Bethlehem down a notch to indicate all cards have been dealt.

With four suits removed and three empty columns we are almost surely headed for victory. Of course, there is one particular Spider Solitaire server that taught me never to take anything for granted – but here we have no reason to suspect foul play. Let us finish off with a fun question:

  • What is the minimum number of moves required to remove a fifth suit – which could be Clubs Hearts Spades or Diamonds?

To make it slightly more challenging, try to visualise your moves without the help of Excel Cheatsheet 😊