Happy New Game – Round 3

Summary of round 2 can be found here

Initial Position:

xxxxx6d5c9c8dJd8c/Kd4c/xxxx8hKc8h7h6h5d4c3c2c0s/x3h2hAh6s5s7d/Jd0d9d8d6c/xxx6dKsJc0c9c8sQd/xxxx3h2cAcJs0c2d/xxxKhQhJh0s9s8s6s5s4c3s4s/xxxKs9h/xxx3d2d5h

Checksum: (11 + 2 + 14 + 7 + 5 + 10 + 10 + 14 + 5 + 6) + 2*10 + 0*13 = 104

Monkey Recommends: ic,ac,je,jh

Actual play (date = 19/Jan, score = 459): ed,ef,df,jf,jb → Qh

Spider GM comments: Monkey reasons that even if we refuse the empty column there is still a turnover in column 4 – and hence the same minimum guaranteed turnovers (it’s either one or the other since there is only one Seven and two Sixes).

Monkey Recommends: ic,ac,ce,ji

Actual play (date = 21/Jan, score = 452): ic,ji → 4d

Spider GM comments: A few more good cards and the Dow Jones Happy Star Index could reach stratospheric heights before we know it. Game on!

Monkey Recommends: ae, hd, gh, cg, bj, gc, jf

Actual play (date = 23/Jan, score = 450): ???

Spider GM comments: Not sure if this decision counts as trivial – there are a lot of options to consider. We also need to think about our overall game plan, and let’s not forget to Mind That Stupid Gap in column 8 😊

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.

Happy New Game – Round 2 Summary

Moves can be found here

An interesting round. We managed to clear all face-down cards in columns 2 and 5. But our distribution is terrible with a severe deficiency in Vitamin Q and Lucky Sevens. Still, a lot can change with the next ten cards and games are rarely mathematically lost before the last deal.

Bart has done an excellent job in maintaining the histogram of all ranks and performing some wacky and wonderful calculations. Note that one bad game does not an accusation of biased RNG make – especially considering we won the previous game involving Red Blue and Green. In any case, expert-level play is more than number crunching, Excel Spreadsheeting and inventing terms like Dow Jones Whine Index. Hopefully the next round will give Bart the opportunity to showcase his improving skills.

Unfortunately, IM Bug has had a serious accident and won’t be contributing much to the remainder of this game. I will not elaborate on the details – that task is up to IM Bug if he so chooses.

Digressions aside, Bart is playing reasonably well, although it’s admittedly hard to rot13(shpx) things up when our options were limited throughout all of rounds 1 and 2.

Round 3 coming soon – watch this space 😊

Final Position of Round 2

Happy New Game – Round 2

Summary of round 1 can be found here

Initial Position:

Xxxxx6d5c9c8dJd/xx2d7h/xxxx8hKc8h/x3h2hAh6s5s3c/xxx6h0c/xxx6dKsJc/xxxx3h2cAcJs0c/xxxKhQhJh0s9s8s6s5s4c0d/xxxKs2c/xxxx9d8d8sKd

Checksum: (10 + 4 + 7 + 7 + 5 + 6 + 9 + 13 + 5 + 8) + 3*10 + 0*13 = 104

Monkey Recommends: “ha,dh,bc,ef,bh”

Actual play (date = 10/Jan, score = 479): ha,dh,bc,bh

Spider GM comments: Even the monkey isn’t tempted by the in-suit build of “id” 😊 Let’s accept our two turnovers and be grateful that every rank now appears at least once 😉

Monkey Recommends: “gb,bf,eg,ab,ec”

Actual play (date = 12/Jan, score = 475): ef,ec → Jd (trivial)

Spider GM comments: This illustrates an interesting phenomenon: there are many “idle moves” involving Jacks and Tens but only one constructive course of action. With no penalty for irrelevant moves it is no surprise that Monkey’s RNG dawdles around for a bit before eventually finding the turnover.

Monkey Recommends: gb,ed

Actual play (date = 12/Jan, score = 473): ed → 5d (trivial)

Spider GM comments: looks like we guessed right with dh,bh instead of bd. Go Team! 😊

Monkey Recommends: ec

Actual play (date = 12/Jan, score = 472): ec → 4s (trivial)

Spider GM comments: Finally Monkey has mastered the art of Not Wasting Time!

Monkey Recommends: eg,be

Actual play (date = 12/Jan, score = 471): ef,be → 3s

Spider GM comments (in his best Adelaide Metro voice): Please Mind The Gap: note that it is illegal to spend the empty column to turnover column 8, since the Seven of Spades is missing.

Monkey Recommends: bd,hc,dh,ib,hd,cd,ch,ge,eg,bh,jb,hc,ge,ch,fe,eg,jg,hc,jf

Actual play (date = 14/Jan, score = 469): bd,jb,jf,ja → 3d

Spider GM comments: I must admit that monkey’s suggestion is extremely useful if you’re an experienced programmer trying to sanity check for illegal moves. Go Monkey! 😊

Monkey Recommends: “ge,hj,id,dh,eg,ae,ga,ag,hc,ea  + ch,ge,eg,ae,hc,dh,hd,ga,ag,ea + ge,ch,eg,ge,hc,dh,eg,ae,ga,ag + deal”

Actual play (date = 16/Jan, score = 465): hj,ih,hc,dh,ae, deal

Spider GM comments: Okay I stand corrected. The Three of Spades was not a good card after all ☹ How much tidying up are you willing to perform before the next deal?

Final Position

Here is the final position. IM Bartacus has a list-minute opportunity to sanity-check I haven’t goofed anything up and it’s okay to deal a new row of cards.

Final Position of Round 2

Happy New Game – Round 1

Summary of round 0 can be found here

Initial position:

xxxxx6d5c9c/xx2d5s/xxxx8hKc/x3h2hAh6s/xxx6h5s8d/xxx6dKs/xxxx3h2cAcJs/xxxKhQhJh0s9s8s6s/xxxKs4c/xxxx9d8d8s


Oops, I forgot to add the spoiler blocker before posting!

Monkey Recommends: “ib,ea,ed,dh,hd, bd,db,bd,bh,dh, hd,dh,hd,dh,hd, dh,hd,dh,hd,dh, hd,dh,hd,dh,hd, dh,hd,dh,hd,dh, deal”

Actual play (date = 8/Jan, score = 484): bh,ea,ed,ih, deal

Spider GM comments: Let’s see how resilient you are when dealing with bad breaks in life 😊

Final position of round 1

Final Position

Happy New Game – Round 0

Firstly, apologies for delaying this game by a few days, but I really really really wanted to start things off with a terrible Spider-GM joke. I’m sure you would agree it was worth the wait 😊

Here is the initial position. A promising start, but experienced players know that things can quickly turn sour at some point in the hand. Good luck!

Previous Moves

Initial position:

Xxxxx6d/xxxxx2c/xxxxx9s/xxxxx8d/xxxxQh/xxxxTs/xxxx3h/xxxx8s/xxxxAh/xxxx9d

Stock = 50

Checksum: 6 + 6 + 6  + 6 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 50 = 104

Monkey Recommends: “cf”

Actual play (date = 31/Dec, score = 500): hc → Kh

Spider GM comments: I will use the score to “index” different game states over time. For instance, score=500, 499, 498 instead of decision = 1,2,3 etc. Note that score is not necessarily decreasing by 1 each time.

Monkey recommends: “cf”

Actual play (date = 1/Jan, score = 499): eh → 6 of Hearts

Spider GM comments: At this early stage my primary concern is the formatting issues. In particular I want the reader(s) to focus on the following question: “do you foresee any potential problems if I follow the same format as the previous Among-Us game?”

Monkey recommends: cf

Actual play (date = 3/Jan, score = 498): cf → 8h

Spider GM comments: If this were chess, the game would immediately be drawn due to the triple repetition of monkey recommending the same move. Bad jokes aside, I have added the dates as requested by IM Bartacus (the date indicates when I asked the question of how to continue)

Monkey recommends: bg

Actual play (date = 4/Jan, score = 497): dj → Jh (trivial)

Spider GM comments: This is the problem I mentioned earlier. Monkey only cares about the worst case scenario when all turnovers are useless – therefore bg and dj were considered equivalent.

Monkey recommends: dh

Actual play (date = 4/Jan, score = 496): dh → 5s (trivial)

Spider GM comments: Okay, at least the monkey is not totally hopeless.

Monkey recommends: da

Actual play (date = 4/Jan, score = 495): da → Ac (trivial)

Spider GM comments: Pass

Monkey recommends: ib(!)

Actual play (date = 4/Jan, score = 494): db → 3h (trivial)

Spider GM comments: Rot13(sbe shpx’f fnxr)! I might need to take a closer look at my Python code ☹

Monkey recommends: bg

Actual play (date = 4/Jan, score = 493): bg→ 2h (trivial)

Spider GM comments: At least I managed to fix the bug … I think …

Monkey recommends: fh

Actual play (date = 4/Jan, score = 492): ib → Ks

Spider GM comments: A choice of two in-suit builds – and Monkey reminds us we still have the turn-over in column 6 😊

Monkey recommends: ae, ea, gd, bg

Actual play (date = 6/Jan, score = 491): bd → 5c

Spider GM comments: No comment

Monkey recommends: fh

Actual play (date = 6/Jan, score = 490): fh → 6d

Spider GM comments:  pass

Monkey recommends: af, fe, bf

Actual play (date = 6/Jan, score = 489): be → 2d

Spider GM: I thought there were only two legal options but Monkey proves me wrong. But they were equivalent anyway 😊

Monkey recommends: deal

Actual play (date = 6/Jan, score = 488): (a1=e1), deal

Spider GM: I assume we’re dealing a new row unless someone can find a miniscule advantage in shuffling the black Fives around columns 1/5/6 – EDIT: Bart did find a “miniscule advantage”, so the Fives have been swapped

Final Position

Monkey Want To Play!

Having described the Monkey Algorithm in some detail, I think we are now ready to play a new hand. This will be a standard game: (1) no rot13(haqb, erqrny be erfgneg), (2) nobody gives a rot13(sylvat shpx) how many moves are required to win and (3) no partial victories for e.g. removing 1 suit and having two empty columns at one stage.

This will be similar to our last hand except we would be guided by the Ninja Monkey instead of Two Wise Blobs Plus One Impostor. That means we get to focus entirely on the Spider Solitaire and none of this rot13(fghcvq fuvg) about working out who is the impostor. NM will suggest a move sequence (or “moveblock” if you want to use the technical term) and you get to laugh at how hilariously bad it is before coming up with your own suggestion. I will still use spoiler-blockers since you never know if my best friend will come up with some genius manoeuvre in a sticky situation.

The game will be played on the standard Microsoft Windows implementation. The Leapfroglets version alluded to previously does not allow games to be saved, which would be

awkward for purposes of this blog.

IMPORTANT

If you think I picked the wrong time of the year to start a new game then I am perfectly happy to delay for a week or two – but please let me know ASAP. I am well aware that there is life outside of the realm of card games. For instance, I just discovered that a group of Awesome People made a brilliant video series based on Among Us in Real Life so I could binge-watch that instead 😊

Post-Mortem Analysis – Round 5

Link to Round 5 is here

Link to PMA Round 4 is here

This is a critical point of the hand. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a lot can change when 10 cards are dealt simultaneously instead of sequentially. Moreover, once the stock is empty the effects of a bad draw can be catastrophic, or we could come up golden and reach a position where it’s virtually impossible to lose (unless all three blobs were impostors) – or it could be somewhere in between.

In this case, we got an excellent draw. The main point in these situations is not to panic at the sheer number of cards in the tableau. Careful analysis shows we can indeed remove one full deck of cards (including the Diamonds that have already been removed) regardless of the permutation of unseen cards. It’s not necessarily the best course of action, but at least we have a fallback if analysis reveals nothing better.

All three blobs wanted to “delay” this decision by not turning over any cards – and I believe IM Bartacus and IM Bug chose the wrong plan. They ended up in the following situation:

If we ignore the fact the newly turned over card in column 2 is a K of Spades, then we have three suits removed and two guaranteed turnovers. Now let’s look at Blue’s suggestion: “id,ai,ai,hi,hf,ha,ei,ea,gi,gj (h12=i8)” leading to this position:

This is much better. We can play fe,df,jd,jh,ie,fi,cg,cb,ci,(e7=h7),bi,ei,be,(b1=h6) to reach this position with four suits removed and also two guaranteed turnovers

No wait – in the actual game we get three suits removed and THREE turnovers. We weren’t allowed to count the fact the newly turned over card is a King of Spades (giving a home for the Queen in column 7) but we can count the fact we turned over something in column 2. This means Blue’s suggestion was not clearly superior to the actual continuation, and the team had every right to believe Blue was the impostor. Rot13(SHPX SHPX SHPX SHPX SHPX SHPX SHPX SHPX SHPX!!!!!).

Blue thought he was being clever, by using the Queen of Hearts in column 8 instead of column 6 (indeed using the Q in column 6 would be egregiously bad) but this turned out to be a miscalculation. To be more specific, the actual game continuation achieved one more guaranteed turnover at the expense of one more suit – and this is a good trade-off because the biggest danger of losing this game is if the next 2 or 3 cards are bad. There is little danger of losing because we removed too few suits.

In case you didn’t follow all of the above the TLDR version is rot13(Fcvqre TZ shpxrq hc).

In the endgame, Blue insisted on clearing the mess in column 8 early to avoid column 8 becoming a problem later. This is a good general principle:

KNOWLEDGE BOMB: From a position of strength, it is often wise to identify a “difficult task” and get it out of the way before it becomes a problem later (remember the dangers of one-hole-no-card).

The situation Blue wanted to avoid was this one:

This image is from the back cover of Steve N Brown’s excellent book “Spider Solitaire Winning Strategies”. When I saw this image, I immediately recognised it for what it was – most probably thanks to playing far too many games on a Spider Solitaire server that I am convinced is biased. If Steve played on that server, I would bet my Ph. D. thesis he would not have written the words “this game could have been won if only a little more care had been taken”.

Unfortunately for Blue, this knowledge bomb turned out to be unnecessary – the simple plan of turning over everything outside Column 8 was sufficient, even if the impostor were allowed to call the remaining face-down cards in column 8. My calculations say that ten columns in the tableau is just barely enough to get the job done (and I fully trust IM Bartacus and IM Bug are more than capable of reaching the same conclusion) and the actual cards were nowhere near the worst-case scenario. With winning reduced to a mere formality, Blue had no chance to redeem himself. He tried to inject a little humour by rapping in the Iambic pentameter but it was all in vain.

In summary, a great game with both Team Good and the Impostor having legitimate chances to win until the very end. IM Bartacus and IM Bug navigated most of the traps but let a few bad ones through, and the position looked desperate at one stage. But we managed to pull everything through in the end – until Blue had an absolute brain-fart, miscalculating a critical decision at the start of round 5 and giving IM Bartacus a good reason to believe Blue was the impostor. IM Bug tried to salvage the situation by explaining that “1 impostor” was written in red font and therefore the impostor should be Red. But my Random Number Generator app would have none of that and Blue was declared the impostor anyway on the tie-break. In the end, honours were shared with Team Good winning 100VP out of a possible 200.

Post-Mortem Analysis – Round 4

Link to Round 4 is here

Link to PMA Round 3 is here

Link to yet another silly story is here

At first sight, the situation looks desperate: With two Kings popping up on columns 8/9 we are most definitely not swapping the ladies on those columns any time soon. But what’s lost on the swings can be made up on the round-abouts if you pardon the terrible cliché, and we suddenly find Spades are looking promising.

We also took care to “almost-expose” the Ace of Hearts in column 3. Although exposing Aces is usually undesirable, we might be close to completing Hearts, so a reasonable compromise is to have the Ace buried by only one or two cards.

This highlights one of the necessary skills for the improving player – the ability to change gears when necessary instead of stubbornly sticking with the wrong plan. Our game plan should be “Spades or bust”. We have every card except the Jack. Moreover, we can arrange these cards into two columns: one for the KQ and the other for T98765432A. Team Good finally gets some luck from the tableau with some useful cards in column 10. The critical decision arrived at “Score=419”.

Spades are looking promising

Red suggested “jf” on the basis that (1) it avoids exposing another Ace and (2) if we get our million-dollar card then we still get to remove Spades. The big hole in Red’s suggestion is if we get a bad card then our “almost-Spade-suit” is separated into three columns, which is a lot worse than only being separated into two columns. Hence Team Good correctly went with “0xcbdbafad”. No wait, Spider is played with 10 columns, not 16. I meant to say Team Good correctly went with “cb,db,af,ad”. It is much more important to set up Spades than to be scared of an extra Ace. Poor Red probably needs to sneak through just one more bad decision to regain control of the hand, but Team Good isn’t giving an inch. Any game involving blobs from Among Us is not for the faint-hearted!

With no more turnovers available, 17 face-down cards in the tableau seem daunting, but experienced players know that if we can catch a lucky break or two, everything can quickly collapse with victory to the good guys. Oh yes, having one suit already removed definitely helps!

Post-Mortem Analysis – Round 3

A short but highly eventful round. The card gods saw fit to give us Three Turnovers. The card gods also saw fit to give us the Three of Diamonds, enabling us to remove the Diamond suit. Unfortunately, they also threw in that nasty logical disjunction operator instead of the logical conjunction that Spider players and mathematicians so dearly love. To put it in layman’s terms, we were able to take three turnovers or remove diamonds, but not both.

The interesting part of this round was Red suggesting we not remove Diamonds and keep flexibility, thus effectively backtracking on what he said the previous round. As I mentioned earlier, a lot can change after 10 cards are dealt simultaneously instead of sequentially. And indeed, all the signs are pointing to the Diamond suit: we received the Three of Diamonds and plenty of Jacks. Hence the Queen of Diamonds in Column 4 is suddenly a good card. Also, we are nowhere near completing any other suit and the number of cards is dangerously high, so there is little chance we could progress without removing Diamonds.

In the end, we turned over only bad cards in the tableau, achieving only 2 turnovers instead of a guaranteed minimum of 3. But it’s not all doom and gloom if you pardon the terrible cliché. Clubs and Hearts are starting to look promising. It would have been nice if we could “swap the ladies” in columns 8 and 9 but this turned out to be not quite possible.

KNOWLEDGE BOMB: in the latter stages of the game, it’s often wise to think about “how can I progress after getting the next turnover or empty column” rather than “how can I maximise the chances of getting my next turnover or empty column”. In the context of our current game, I would be happy to accept a Backgammon doubling cube centred at 2, despite turning over only 2 cards in Round 3.

After reading the comments, I got the feeling the readers may have cottoned on to the fact Red is the impostor. What should Red’s game plan be? Should he start playing innocent and hope the game will rot13(shpx) itself up by natural causes?  Or is it necessary to sneak just one more bad decision through? I guess a true impostor would have already memorised the official blockchain of suggestions and start thinking about how to convincingly pin the blame on Blue or Green. But as the purpose of this blog is to help improve the reader’s skill at Spider Solitaire I have mainly focussed on that – so the Among Us component plays second fiddle if you pardon the terrible cliché!

Before dealing a new row, the team decided to add the move “cb”. Technically this should not have been allowed but I was willing to let it slide. But it is a good sign that my readers are paying attention to “the little details” since this is exactly what is needed to improve to IM level or beyond.

And the less said about that Spider-GM joke, the better 😊

Final position of Round 3