Game on (8 May 2021)

Here is the position from last week

Our latest turnovers have not been good. We started with four guaranteed turnovers and only managed to increase it to five. On the other hand we did manage to find the Queen of Clubs – which means there may be some prospect of clearing the club suit (which Bart has correctly pointed out).

If you’re wondering why the Noble Spider GM has goofed, it’s because I was no longer able to connect the J-T-9 of clubs in column 4 with the 8-7-6-5 in column 10. By trying to be too clever with delaying certain non-reversible moves, I only succeeded in losing the ability to build the massive run of clubs. So maybe I shouldn’t have extolled the virtues of procrastination as per a previous post. In any case, it’s adios to our empty column, unless we get a good card.

It’s tempting to shift the Queen of Clubs into the hole, but Bart found the Wright idea (ba-dum-tish!!!) of tidying up the 8-7-6 of Spades with the moves df,ad.

There are several reasons why this is important:

  • there are three Eights unseen as opposed to one King, therefor more chances of getting back the empty column
  • The move bf would duplicate Queens in columns 7 and 8, and that also means less chances of getting back the empty column
  • The most important reason is that we want to correct our earlier mistake with the Grand Master’s Goof from last week. In other words, if we get the empty column back we get the additional bonus of building in-suit. Note that any Nine will not yield an empty column, but we would still be able to correct the Grand Master’s Goof.

There is another possibility to consider. We can build in-suit with the 6-5 of spades in columns 1 and 5. This also allows us to swap the Twos of Clubs/Spades in column 5/9, thus tidying up our club suit. Because we have committed to completing the clubs, it makes sense to extend the run by one card. The downside of course is we expose another Ace. But since there is only one Five unseen, the Six of Spades is expendable. If the card gods give us the case Five – then they give us the case Five. I’m not sure why poker players use the term “case five” but I digress.

My recommended move sequence is: ea,ef,eh,ih,ie,he,hi,fi,df,ad.

And sure enough we do get a Nine – so now I can sleep with a clear conscience even if we do manage to lose the game!

It is now time to deal the final row of cards, but I will wait till tomorrow – for no other reason than to build up the suspense 😊

Game on (2 May 2021)

This is the position from last week

This is actually an excellent deal. We get back our empty column and have no less than four guaranteed turnovers (Well done to Bart for spotting this). But before we get too excited, let us think in terms of our old friend: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Wants:

We have no problem with turnovers and legal moves. We have one empty column, and a decent chance of another if the last face-down card in column 7 is favourable. We only have to remember to clear column 6 before turning over the last card in column 7, otherwise any bad card would be rather embarrassing!

We don’t have a lot of in-suit builds – but at least we can easily obtain a number of in-suit builds in addition to those we already have. We should also check whether it’s possible to remove a complete suit. With so many face-down cards remaining we expect to hear the bzzzzzzt sound – and sure enough none of the four possible suits are close.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Wants tells us we should be looking at getting more in-suit builds and empty columns. However (as I alluded to earlier), we should not be focusing entirely on a single layer – our main thoughts are getting more in-suit builds but bearing in mind other layers e.g. (1) making sure we do get at least four turnovers (2) increase flexibility by playing non-reversible moves at the last possible moment etc.

We get the Queen of Spades. This gives us a second column but counterfeits the possible turnover in column 1 since we no longer have a spare King to access the Eight of Clubs in column 10.

We could turnover Column 2 without losing an empty column but costs a lot of flexibility since we commit to Jack-on-Queen, Six-on-Seven, Eight-on-Nine and finally Ace-on-Two. Instead I chose to turnover column 1, giving up the second empty column. Note that we should dump the 7-6-5 straight into the empty column since we can always shift the Queen of Diamonds in column 10 into the other empty column and expose the Eight, winning back an empty column. The advantage becomes apparent if we reveal an Eight of any suit. In fact we very nearly get an Eight – alas I can only count Seven pips in Spades.

We next turnover column 2, taking care to dump the Ace into the empty column. We can always get it back with the Deuce of Spades in column 5. We get the Jack of Diamonds.

We could take another immediate turn-over in column 2, but then we would lose the opportunity to exchange the 7-6-5 of Clubs and Queen of Diamonds in columns 7 and 10. Therefore we get back our empty column and exchange cards in columns 7 and 10 as described above. This is not likely to cost since there are two Sevens in columns 1 and 7.

The next card is the Queen of Clubs.

We only managed to increase our four guaranteed turnovers to a measly five. But at least we’ve managed to gain some in-suit builds as predicted. It’s time to bid adios to our empty column, assuming the next card also rot13(fhpxf). This means any last-minute tidying up that we tried to delay (to increase flexibility) must therefore be done now.

How would you continue?

BONUS QUESTION: With 20-20 hindsight, I think the Noble Spider GM has goofed. But let us pretend for a moment the Grand Master deliberately goofed to give the student an opportunity to test his or her critical thinking skills. Why do I say the Noble Spider GM has goofed?

Game on (25 April 2021)

This is the position from last week

The obvious option is gf,gc turning over a card in column 7. As usual, the obvious option isn’t always the best.

First, we can improve this slightly by building in-suit with the 8-7 of Hearts. More specifically, ig,if,gf,gi,gc does the job. To be more succinct, we can use a “supermove” and write that as if,gi,gc.

We also observe that we can turnover column 1. Although there is no empty column and all cards in column 1 are off-suit we have enough “stepping stones” to achieve this. One advantage of this is it gets a difficult task out of the way. There is a much better chance we can turn over column 7 later. Whereas if we refused to turn over column 1 then we might have to wait much longer for another opportunity.

However, this is all moot – we could just as well turn over column 7 and if nothing good happened we could still shift the Six of Hearts in column 1 onto the Seven of Hearts. So Column 1 isn’t a problem after all.

Yet another option is to turn over column 3. This avoids dumping an off-suit Seven onto the Eight in column 6, so any Nine gives us back an empty column. A severe disadvantage is it exposes two Aces. Remember that nothing can move onto an Ace, and in some cases, too many Aces can be worse than too many Kings.

Bart recommends the following:

  • Shift the Seven of Hearts in column 7 onto the Eight, remembering to build in-suit of course.
  • Move the Six of Hearts in column 1 onto the Seven of Hearts.
  • Shift the Five of Spades in Column 5 onto the Six of Spades. This allows several in-suit builds, but at the cost of exposing an Ace.
  • Take the turnover in column 7 and hope for the best.

Note that we were able to do a lot of shuffling cards despite the lack of an empty column.

Bart has also noticed that we have all cards in Hearts exposed apart from the Four. I think it’s too early to play for Hearts since we still need several good cards to reach them. For instance, column 10 contains the only Nine of Hearts and we need any King to shift the Queen of Diamonds in column 10 etc. I would rather focus on turning over cards, remaining flexible and avoid exposing too many Aces.

I like to think in terms of a “Hierarchy-of-Wants”. The diagram below isn’t exact but should suffice as a rough approximation (you can tweak this as you gain more experience). Ultimately, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact we wanna to remove complete suits, win the game and land the cheevo(s). But we need to build on solid foundations. We have only one turnover and desperately fighting for an empty column. Now is not the time to think about completing the Hearts. However, we do have some flexibility – as evidenced by the fact we had so many options for shifting off-suit cards despite the lack of empty column.

My recommended move sequence is: if,gi,gc

We get the Seven of Clubs. Bobbins. After some tidying up, we deal another round.

You may have noticed I took the trouble to shift the 4-3-2 of Diamonds on to the other Five of Diamonds. This avoids having two “free” Fives in the same column. If something bad happens to column 9 (e.g. the King of Clubs!) then we may well end up with a shortage of Fives. Still, not the most important consideration here, but I’ve lost enough games to know the importance of attention to detail.

But we digress, once again it’s time to ask ourselves how should we continue?

Game on (18 April 2021)

The obvious option is to clear all the cards in column 6 and then turn over a card in Column 2. We can improve this plan slightly by turning over column 2 first since the empty column isn’t running away regardless of the new card. Clearly the minimum guaranteed turnovers is 2.

A closer look reveals that we can obtain two turnovers in a completely different manner. We get the empty column, then dump the Eight of Spades in column 8 into column 6. This gives us two turnovers in columns 7 and 8.

Well done to Bart for finding both options.

One problem with the second plan is we will have an off-suit 8-7 in Column 6 so it will be much harder to recover the empty column. Also, the Three of Clubs is not as useful as it looks. There are plenty of Threes left in the deck and two of the Deuces are in a junk pile in Column 3 anyway. Yes, the obvious plan reveals an Ace, but we have plenty of Twos floating around. Still one can argue that in a poor position it makes sense to play for “best-case scenarios” and any Nine puts us right back in the game.

It’s hard to judge. Rot13(shpx vg). I’ll just roll the dice, or more precisely, use the Random Number Generator on my phone. RNG votes for the funky play. Funky play it is.

It’s time for the second knowledge bomb from this blog:

If you use the random number generator and lose you can at least blame the results on something other than what’s in the mirror

Knowledge Bomb from Edifying Thoughts of a Spider Solitaire Addict

We get the Ten of Spades. No turnover but at least we can use Column 4 and avoid having an off-suit 8-7 in Column 6. We get the Six of Spades, Three of Diamonds and Three of Hearts. That’s too many Threes so we don’t get our empty column back! But at least we have no more face-down cards in column 8 and from the previous knowledge bomb we know there is a fair chance of column 8 becoming a new free space in the future. At least we can get an extra turnover in column 7, but that gives us an offsuit 8-7 in column 6 – so now any Nine would be “right card wrong timing”. Them’s the breaks, if you pardon the terrible cliché.

Still, our position could have been a lot worse. How would you continue?

Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees

Having dealt three rows of cards from the stock, I think now is a good time to take stock (badumtish!) before thinking about our next moves. We don’t wanna miss the forest for the trees, if you pardon the terrible cliché.

The game state is deplorable. We have a million cards face-down and very few in-suit builds. Bart correctly points out we don’t even have a run of three cards in-suit anywhere. But at least we have an empty column and a turnover in column 2.

In the opening stages it is easy to approximate the chances of increasing our minimum guaranteed turnovers by assuming each rank from Ace to King occurs with an equal probability of 1/13. But with many cards exposed, this assumption is no longer reliable. We can still apply the usual routines of “computing outs” but we need to be careful.


We have a severe excess of various cards (Twos, Fives, Eights) and droughts (Threes and Nines in particular). The good news is once we turn over more cards, these inequalities should even out. But we need to turn over cards first!

We have some “good news” in column Three. Two useless deuces and aces are already used up, so this effectively makes a good junk pile. Basically our shortage of Threes is not as bad as it looks. Most of the buried cards are relatively useless – apart from that Three of Clubs in column Eight. Still, given our poor position, one “inefficiency” could be enough to consign us to a loss. If the Three of Clubs were at the front of column Eight instead of being buried our position would be much better.

Bart talks about “Market Value”. There are two Sevens available for the 6-5 of Clubs so Sevens are expendable. In contrast, there is only the Six of Hearts available for the 5-4 of Diamonds, so Sixes are not expendable. At least we get our hole back. We also have two Jacks that “want” the Queen in column Ten, so Queens are definitely not expendable.

If you have an incredibly good memory, you may recall that we started the game with the intention of listing a number of possible cheevos as a possible bonus. Unfortunately, we will have more than enough difficulty with winning the game, let alone pulling off a cheevo. It seems our most likely cheevo is getting someone other than Bart or George to contribute a meaningful comment, and I wouldn’t wanna bet my Ph. D. thesis on that happening any time soon!

BTW, last time, I yanked the J-T from column 1 in hopes of being able to shift the 7-6-5. My gamble was partially correct – we got our empty column back but the Two of Hearts scotched any dreams of column 1.

In the next week I will answer the question of finding the best play.

Game on (3 April, 2021)

Here is the position from last time:

It turns out we cannot turn over a card without losing the empty column. We can “yank” the J-T in column One onto the Queen (or better still, shift the J-T-9 of Hearts in column Ten onto the Queen of Hearts first, but we cannot shift the off-suit 7-6-5 onto an Eight. As a general rule, one hole is not enough to shift a sequence of three cards if they are all off-suit. Well done to Bart for spotting this.

Note that we exposed the “wrong” Five last week. If it were the Five of Hearts instead of Clubs then we can turnover column 1 without losing the empty column (yank the J-T, swap the Five of Diamonds with the Five of Hearts and then we are good to go).

Bart gives four possible plans:

  • Turn over a card in column h, putting an Eight into the empty column.
  • Move the queen of Hearts directly onto the empty column
  • Move the 5-4 of Diamonds onto the empty column, then dump the Queen of Hearts onto the King
  • Dump the 6-5 of Clubs onto the empty column then build in-suit with 2-A of Diamonds.

There are many variations possible but any reasonable sequence of moves boils down to one of the above four plans. Another key decision is: do we yank the J-T from column One?

Bart prefers the third option, with the Boolean yank_JT flag set to TRUE. His exact move sequence is:

fb,af,jg,aj,fa, de,df,gd

I have a few things to say about this:

  • The move jg is illegal! We should perform jg before af. As so often happens in delicate situations: move order matters!
  • The first move should be fe not fb. This retains an extra in-suit build for no cost.
  • It will be necessary to break an in-suit build in Hearts if we are to turnover column Seven. The last move gd is therefore also illegal.

Still I think Bart has done extremely well to spot both the correct plan and value of yank_JT: even though we can’t turnover column 1 yet, we might be in a good position to do so after the next deal.

It is true that dumping the Queen directly into the empty column has an advantage over dumping the 5-4: we regain the empty column if the next card is a King or a Six. The downside is if nothing good happens then the Queen will be blocking Column 6 with only three Kings unseen. This could be unpleasant, especially with at least three face-down cards in every other column.

You may be wondering why I chose to tidy up column One now when I had an earlier opportunity to do so. The reason boils down to the following knowledge bomb from Edifying Thoughts of a Spider Solitaire Addict:

An empty column will never contain face-down cards for the remainder of the game.

Why is this important? Since column 6 will never contain face-down cards for the remainder of the game our chances of recovering an empty column are decent. It is so much easier to win back an empty column if there are no face-down cards to worry about. And once we get the empty column back, we have a reasonable chance to shift the off-suit 7-6-5 onto an Eight.

In summary, my move sequence would be “fe,de,jg,af,aj,fa,gj,de,gd”

We expose a Two of Diamonds and are forced to deal another row.

As usual, we have an interesting decision to make immediately dealing a new row of cards. How would you continue here? Are there any tesuji possibilities, borrowing a term from the game of Go (a.k.a. Baduk)? Or should we simply ask ourselves What Would Captain Obvious Do?

Game on (27 March 2021)

This is the position from last time

The obvious play is fj,fj but Bart recommends to tidy up with eb,eh,eg,je presumably followed by fe,fe turning over a card. In fact there are several reasonable options to choose from, despite the fact we have only one guaranteed turnover. Let us look at the position a bit more closely:

After fj,fj we get an extra turnover if we expose any of the following cards: A4577TJK. Note that I count the Seven twice since that gives two turnovers.

With Bart’s suggestion we get a turnover if we expose any of the following: A47TJK. Note that a Seven is only worth one turn-over since the 6-5 in Column Two is offsuit. This would be a significant price to pay in a game that’s not going so well. Another long-term problem is we are shifting cards off column 5 but there is little chance of clearing the King of Hearts anyway – unless we get something like 8H-7H-6H-5H-4H-3H-2H-AH on the next deal. Good luck with that!

Looking for other options reveals the possibility of working on column One with ab,jg,aj,fj,fj. This allows a turnover if the next card is any of A4577TK and also guarantees the best possible  layout in column 1 even if we get a bad card in column 6. A disadvantage is we commit ourselves to shifting the Jack of Diamonds onto a Queen when we might prefer the Jack of Clubs.

Our main priority is turning over cards and empty columns.  If we get an empty column then in-suit builds will take care of themselves. With several reasonable options to choose from there is no standout play. I chose the simple fj,fj (note that jg,fg,fg is an extra in-suit build but would not result in a turnover if we get a King).

We turn over a Five of Clubs – good thing we kept that Six of Clubs free, and as Texas Holdem players are wont to say – it was suited!

We turn over the Four of Spades, and that’s our first empty column!

Unfortunately we’re not yet in a position to party hard, pretend the game is Backgammon instead of Spider Solitaire, whip out a doubling cube and look for someone willing to bet against us winning with at least one cheevo to boot. We’ve still got some work to do.

I know it sounds trite but with great power comes great responsibility. Our empty column means there are a great many possibilities to consider, and therefore more chances of choosing a sub-optimal line of play.

How would you continue?

Game on (20 March 2021)

This is the position from last week.

Bart suggests we move the Ace of Hearts to column 4, split an in-suit build by shifting the Ten of Hearts onto the Jack of Clubs, then take the turnover in column 6. Our notation would be gd,gh,fh,fh.

The reason for splitting the J-T of Hearts is to focus all our efforts into getting a free space in column 6. However I don’t like the idea of dumping so much junk into column 8. I would rather have the junk in column 10 since that already has two Kings.

Bart’s play would only gain if the next card in column 6 was a Jack. Then even if we did obtain an empty column there is a good chance we are forced to give it back anyway. That’s a lot of ifs and buts for the cost of one in-suit build and junk in the wrong column.

Still there is not much difference between the plays and our position is rather poor in any case.

Bart also briefly mentions other plays which are clearly inferior, e.g. Jack of Clubs onto Queen of Spades, forfeiting a turnover for no reason.

With nobody else suggesting a spectacular brilliancy that everybody has missed, I’m going for the simple gd,gj, turning over a card in column 7 and intending to turnover column 6 if nothing better turns up.

We get the Queen of Hearts.

This raises an interesting point. We have three “excess Kings” (i.e. unaccompanied by a Queen) in column 4,9,10. This suggests Queens may be difficult to extract in future rounds. Clearly the Queen was not the best card (no extra turnover!), but it does give us some options.

We could continue with the original plan of turning over column 6. Are there any other options to consider? Remember that the most obvious move is not always the best! How would you play here?

Game on (13 March 2021)

This is the position from last time:

An obvious option is to build in-suit with 2-A of clubs in column 3, but that is only one turnover as well as exposing another ace. A closer look reveals we can obtain two turnovers in columns 6 and 2 which is clearly far superior.

It is possible to combine both plans with cg,fg,fi but I would rather avoid that. If we played fc,fi and turned over a Deuce we would still get the turnover in column 3 anyway. So fc,fi it is.

We get Eight of Clubs and Five of Spades as our turnovers. Obviously we turnover another card instead of building in-suit and exposing a King. Unfortunately we get another Ace. We then do some tidying up before dealing a new row.

Not the greatest start to a game of Spider Solitaire, but the only bright spot is Colorful Sisters is now following my blog (unfortunately a cheevo only occurs if they contribute something meaningful in the comments section). Going back to more important matters – how would you continue here?

Game on (3 March 2021)

Recall we asked the following questions:

  • Suppose you were legally required to turn over all three four possible cards simultaneously. What would be your play?
  • Suppose after making your first move you were able to call the next card (both rank and suit). What would be your top three choices?

To answer the first question: the obvious moves are to build in-suit with the Q-J-T of Hearts and then put that on one of the Kings, followed by an off-suit J-T. The problem is that if we turn over a new Queen then we lose a turnover since our off-suit J-T cannot play onto the Q.

At this stage, it might occur to you that one can play the Q of Hearts onto a King, then add the J of SPADES and an off-suit Ten. Finally we can build in-suit with the J-T of Hearts. The difference is we only build in-suit once, but we get an extra turnover if any Queen appears. It’s not at all clear whether sacrificing a turnover like this is worthwhile, but the main point I wish to make is such a possibility exists – and you will find many more examples in your journey to Spider Solitaire mastery 😊

As for the second question, Bart correctly identified that Queen is the only rank that gains two turnovers. The best suit is clearly Spades, ensuring both turnovers are in-suit. Bart then wants the Queen of Hearts, but I prefer the Queen of Clubs since that means one of our extra turn-overs are in-suit. Bart then has Queen of Clubs as third choice, which I would agree with given he has already committed to the wrong Queen for 2nd choice 😊

Bart chose the QH because Hearts is closest to completion and exposing more Hearts will further that goal, even if some cards are duplicated (since we might need the “other” queen later). At this early stage, I don’t like committing to the “suit nearest to completion”. There are plenty more cards to come, and we might find e.g. the 9-8-7-6-5-4 of Diamonds turns up and suddenly we wish we focussed on Diamonds from the beginning. Of course if we do manage to land the Bart’s Quickie cheevo I am happy to be proven wrong.

In other words, let’s just focus on maximum turn-overs, in-suit builds and empty columns and once we have more cards in play it will become obvious which suit is closest to completion.

Well that’s enough pontification on the opening position for now. Let’s make some moves.

(eg = KH, ce = AC, ie = KD, ae=7D, fa=7C)

Well that was disappointing. We drew two Kings and an Ace, and only obtained one turnover more than our guaranteed minimum. Looks like Trevor’s Quickie isn’t happening any time soon. ☹ Note that I eschewed the Q-J of Hearts in-suit build for reasons described earlier.

So here we are, like it or not. At least the Kind of Diamonds landed on another King. How would you continue here? (HINT: consider all reasonable options before committing to a line of play).