Game on (10 June 2020)

Continuing from last week

We have two guaranteed turnovers and there are no tricks to improve that. At least we get some in-suit builds. We also have the ability to connect the K-Q-J-0 of clubs (an action we considered last week, but rejected)

<be,bc,eb,hc,ij,bi,be,fb>  Js

<je,fj> Ac

<fc,ib,ij,ih> 6d

<ig> 0s

<e2=h1, ih> 4s

<gh,gh> 7s

Our position has improved considerably. We have turned over 6 more cards and we still have two empty column and two turnovers.

You may be wondering why I shifted the King of Diamonds onto an empty column. This is an example of long-term planning: We have to shift the king sooner or later and it’s easy to do so when there are plenty of empty columns to go around. Note also the column contained an off-suit K-Q combination so if we only had one empty column then it would be difficult to shift it later. For the same reason I chose not to shift the K-Q of clubs in column ‘b’. I am essentially trying to guard against the dreaded “one-hole-no-card” scenario in the future.

I also took care to swap columns ‘e’ and ‘h’. This is because an in-suit Q-J of Hearts will be easier to shift if a King later appears at the right moment.

The question of when to dump a King onto an empty column is difficult to answer (let alone explain to someone like Captain oBVIOUS). Until you gain more experience (or epiphanies!) a good general guideline is the following:

  • If you find yourself unable to turn over a new card despite having one or more empty columns then chances are you are not taking maximum advantage from a position of strength.

Yes, there will be occasions when you have a rough start and have to fight tooth and nail just for an empty column. Then you find there is no real opportunity to avoid one-hole-no-card. But that means you never had a position of strength to begin with.

The above guideline does not refer to Kings specifically. Consider dumping a King onto an empty column when:

  • You are afraid of one-hole-no-card, or
  • You still have reasonable chances of recovering an empty column (a different empty column unless you can complete a full suit!)

Anyways back to the game. What would be your next action? (Hint: tidy up in-suit builds using reversible moves first!)

WordPress new editor

On June 1, the good folk at WordPress retired their old editor and transitioned to the new one. Not sure how many writers voted for this but if that’s the sixth level of Jumanji in 2020 then I’m not complaining.

Bad jokes aside, we have over 100 content blocks for publishing virtually any post, wider collection of block patterns, built in templates, blah blah blah blah … okay can’t say I’ve read the new specs in detail. So I’ll try to figure things out without reading the instructions … so we can align an image to the centre as usual. If you align an image to the left or right then you have surrounding text alongside it, and there are also options of wide width and full width. Give me a minute to work out what all of them do. And I think I will cheat by allowing myself to click 85,78,68,79 or Ctrl-Z whenever I do something and don’t like the results! Or alternatively I might throw my hands in the air and shout 65,72,72 70,85,67,75 73,84 it’s too hard.

Somebody mentioned changes like:

  • Like buttons appearing at the bottom of each comment
  • Videos within tweets don’t work.
  • The sidebar with the subscription function, search function, and other stuff is still there; it’s just at the bottom of the page or of the post.

Unfortunately I can’t add any meaningful comments. For one thing like buttons appearing at the bottom of each comment are irrelevant, since I very rarely get comments even for silly short stories. There seem to be other features such as “stick to the top of the blog” or “pending review” and I’m trying to figure out what’s the point of all this 83,72,73,84?

I do agree with the sentiment that WordPress likes to change the rules at the last minute, especially when the number of days between today and 1st of January 1970 is a power of a prime number and the moon is three quarters full. Perhaps someone who is more clever than I can work out the exact detailed programmatic specificity (to borrow a phrase from Kevin Rudd). One thing I noticed is that when I wanna stick a picture inside a post I often (but not always) need to save the picture as a temporary image, but the new editor seems to have solved this problem(*). Of course my sample size is very small, so I don’t wanna jinx it too much 😊

(*) but if you wanna cut and paste text and images then it won’t work. You have to do them separately.

What are your thoughts about the new editor?

Game on! (3 June, 2020)

Here is the position from last week

The first order of business is to shift the J-0-9 in Column ‘c’ onto the Q of Clubs. This illustrates the concept of “duplication vs diversification”. We already have three exposed Queens so can easily afford to use up one of them. But we don’t have an exposed Four. By diversifying we give ourselves more opportunities to reveal cards since any exposed Three can later play onto the Four of clubs. Even if we don’t expose a Three we also get the option of shifting some junk in Column ‘a’ (one empty column is not enough to shift the 8-7-6-5-4-3-2 without some “stepping stones”).

Note also that procrastination is not possible. Any legal action must spend our only empty column, so we must make the choice now: shift the J-0-9 or leave it – and all the signs point to the former.

We next shift the Jh-0s-9s-8s onto the Q of Hearts using much the same reasoning: procrastination is impossible, we build in-suit with Q-J of Hearts and again diversify, exposing a Ten. This Ten is especially useful since it gives us an option of shifting the 9h-8d-7d even if a bad card turned up.

The next order of business is to look for opportunities to “tidy up”. We have 8d-7c and 8s-7d in the first two columns which suggests it may be possible to build in-suit with 8-7 of Diamonds. It turns out this is possible, using “stepping stones” in columns ‘c’ and ‘g’. Note that we have to temporarily break up the 7-6 of Clubs to achieve this. Also observe that we can now procrastinate in column ‘a’ since it is possible to shift 8d-7d onto the Nine of Spades after using up the empty column.

At this stage the obvious choice is to shift the Two of Clubs onto the empty column, since that takes care of the last hidden card in Column ‘e’. This would improve our chances of winning back an empty column on the next round.

An advanced player might consider filling the empty column with the Q-J-0 of clubs. The reason is we already have a King of Clubs exposed, so if things go well it might be possible to exchange the Q-J-0 of Clubs with the Q of Hearts in Column ‘b’ without fear of losing the empty column. Unfortunately it is not possible to connect the K-Q-J-0 of Clubs immediately without compromising our position – no wait up, it is possible! We can shift the J-0 of Diamonds onto the Queen of Spades, then shift the Jack of Hearts plus 0-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2 of various suits onto the other Queen of Hearts, which means we are not losing an in-suit build after all. Then we dump the Queen of Hearts onto the empty column and move the Q-J-0 of Clubs onto the King.

This is a far-sighted play but does not have the advantage of clearing the last face-down card in any column. It’s close, but I vote for the simple option of dumping the Two of Clubs. We are nowhere near completing a full suit of Clubs and our immediate concern is turnovers and empty columns. The K-Q-J-0 of Clubs can wait.

Finally we should also consider shifting the Two of Hearts into the empty column and then building 3s-2c. It’s always good practice to consider every legal option and search for any edge, no matter how small. In this case, I’m not seeing it. Two of Clubs it is.

Our final action is <hi,cf,ib,a6=b1,eh>. That’s quite a lot of work for one card. And we get a … drumroll dlrdlrdlrldrdlrdlrdlr … THREE OF HEARTS, 70,85,67,75 YEAH!!!!

This is clearly one of the best cards we could hope for. Of course the game is far from winning but two empty columns puts us in a strong position. How would you continue?

The Big 104 (alternative version)

The Grand Master, the principal adviser to the King, had maintained a blog about Spider Solitaire for a whole year.

“Thank you, Grand Master, for this most wonderful blog,” said the King. “I enjoyed reading your silly stories. However I can’t claim it has improved my game tremendously so I can only offer you a small reward.”

The King gives the Grand Master a sack of wheat.

“How dare you offer such a modest reward for the world’s best blog on Spider Solitaire!” replied Spider GM. “As far as I know, I am the world’s best player of Four Suit Spider Solitaire sans boop. This is a travesty!”

“What nonsense!” retorted the King. “I have several men who can wield a mean deck of cards – or two.”

The King corrected himself at the last minute, recalling that Spider Solitaire was played with 104 cards, not 52.

The Grand Master offered to play a 30-game match against each of the top ten players chosen by the King. A 30-game match would consist of 15 games by each player, Four-Suit sans boop and whoever won more games would win the match. Spider GM offered “draw odds” to every player, meaning that if both won the same number of games it was tantamount to the Spider GM losing the match. Not surprisingly Spider GM wiped the floor with each and every one of them.

Sensing the King was utterly humiliated, the Spider GM suggested the following deal: he had to publish one blog post for the first card, twice that for the second card, twice that for the third, and so on. Once all 104 cards in Spider Solitaire were accounted for, Spider GM would enjoy 104 consecutive nights in a palace with 104 dancing girls per night. Spider GM was allowed to count the 104 articles he had already written towards the however-many-were-required needed to reach his end goal.

The King knew the arrogant 66,65,83,84,65,82,68 had a couple of blog posts lined up already, perhaps between 50 and 100, but reluctantly agreed to the bargain.

THIS IS GONNA BE WILD, the Grand Master thought to himself. He was well on the way to completing the next square, which will be marked 128.



The big 104

Hooray! I reached my 104th post in my Spider Solitaire blog after starting in May last year. Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t choose a nice round number like 100 instead of 104. Here’s a hint: Spider Solitaire is played with two decks. Each deck contains 13 ranks and 4 suits. I’ll let you do the math 😊

This blog started after I “busted” a rogue Spider Solitaire server that punished a player who accumulated too many wins. I then wrote a short story trilogy to explain my findings in language accessible to the layman and the rest, if you pardon the cliché, is history.

I try to post at least once a week. Throw in a couple of silly stories per month, plus a walkthrough of a game of Spider Solitaire with one update per week (which I am currently doing right now). There may be occasional news articles, such as Facebook’s new “care emoji” or Microsoft’s 30th anniversary of Solitaire. With 52 weeks per calendar year, it was not hard to achieve the 104-post milestone within the first year.

Not surprisingly the vast majority of likes come from my silly stories. The likers are mostly fellow bloggers who also write stories – and I have to admit they write much better than I do. So perhaps I should be the one learning from them 😊 Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of traction with the serious strategy articles, but maybe one day something might turn up. Occasionally, I get a like from something that isn’t a short story (like Actually Autistic Blogs liking my post on Facebook’s so-called Care Emoji). And yes, there is the occasional spam comment or two such as a link to a random Russian porn site.

My next milestone is 128 blog posts. Having already filled in 7 out of 104 squares in the diagram below, I’m already 6.73% of the way towards achieving my ultimate goal. Given that I enjoy playing and writing about Spider Solitaire much more than work this should be a walk in the park if you excuse the terrible cliché!


Do you have a favourite article from this blog so far? If you think this blog is generally-all-round-awesome you are allowed to simultaneously vote for every blog post 😉😉😉Please let me know in the comments below!

Game on (27 May, 2020)

Here is the position from last week:


We are guaranteed three turnovers and there are several ways to achieve this. It would be difficult even for an expert player to visualise the final state once we get the three (or more) turnovers. Obviously, much will depend on the newly exposed cards, but the following sequences should give a general feel of how the game might play out:

<ja, jc, hc, hc, bd, fb, fi>

<ja, jc, hc, hc, bd, fb, ib, fb>

<ag, ad, jg, jc, hc, hc>

<ag, dj, ed, jg, ag, jc, hc, hc>

Looking beyond the number of turnovers, we see it may be desirable to build in-suit with e.g. the 2-A of Diamonds or 6-7 of Clubs. We might wanna start a junk pile on the King of Clubs so that other columns become easier to deal with later. Or we might wanna start thinking about obtaining an empty column ASAP. And don’t forget the virtues of procrastination – the more flexible the game state the better our chances will be. So there is plenty to think about (assuming you are serious about improving your game!)


I executed the following moves. It is beyond the scope of this blog post to explain every decision in detail:

<ja,jc> Qs

<hc,hg> 4h

<hb> 3s

<da,ba,ha,ed,ea> 7d

Now that we turned over a Seven, it becomes clear to shift the Queen in column f (not column j) to expose an Eight. Of course we can improve this plan slightly by procrastination i.e. dumping the Seven onto the empty column.

<eh> 2c

<fb, fi> Qc


Things have settled down somewhat. We have an empty column, but must use it immediately to turn over a new card. We can do some significant tidying. For instance the J-0-9 in column c can shift onto one of three queens. Even though we can’t immediately turn over column c, it might become available next round. Several other shifts are possible (an exercise for the reader!). In other words, there are several plausible actions to choose from.

What would be your play here?

30th Anniversary Celebration (alternative version)

It had been 30 years since the Ninja Monkey become the first dude in the Animal Kingdom to beat Four-Suit Spider Solitaire. The affable Tim Croofs had decided to throw a massive party of Solitaire binge-playing and every monkey, his dog and literally every millipede on the planet was invited. As an extra incentive every win would be worth double the usual Experience Points.

Captain oBVIOUS was keen to try his new strategy of becoming the Grand Doctor Of Spider Solitaire. Recall that whoever has the most experience points would become the Grand Doctor Of Spider Solitaire, and the captain reasoned that all he had to do was beat enough 1-suit hands to gain as many XP as he desired.

Meanwhile, Gravelsealer Geoeyes was struggling with the 2-suit version of the game. He could win just under half the time. The dog on the adjacent table was faring even worse. It was not very smart – it could only beat one game in three.

It was not just Spider Solitaire. Several other games were being played, such as the well-known Freecell, Klondike, Pyramid and the like.

A number of dumb bunnies were playing Snap. Apparently, the Bad Idea Bears thought it would be a hilarious prank if they told them the first player to win ten games in a row would earn 10,000 experience points (and several epiphanies would occur at the same time).

Not surprisingly it was the Eagle showing everyone else how it’s done. With a 25% success rate at the four-suit level he was easily top of the Experience Points Leaderboard.

The Wise Snail arrives three hours late to the party. He signs up, and then he waits …

And waits …

And waits …

And waits …

And waits …

“Sorry,” says Captain oBVIOUS, as he taps the Eagle’s shoulder.  “You’ve got to hurry up.”

“Shush, I’m trying to think,” replies the Eagle. “This is a critical point of the hand.”

“The playing room is packed with people and animals,” continues Captain oBVIOUS. “Half of them are waiting for the organisers to print more playing cards. Thank you for your patience and underst- ”

The Eagle notices with horror that the playing room is indeed packed with people and animals and half of them are waiting for the organisers to print more playing cards. I can’t remember the last time my best student was shown up by Captain oBVIOUS.

“The room may be packed, but at least there’s no deadly virus ravaging the Animal Kingdom,” quips the Smart 65,83,83.

“You’re Not Helping,” growls the Lion, who is also waiting for a game.

“*** Sigh ***” sighs the captain. “I guess I’m not becoming the Grand Doctor Of Spider Solitaire after all. Several other players are playing non-stop and they seem to be more skilled than me.”

“More skilled than I,” quips the Smart 65,83,83.

“Oh For 70,85,67,75,83 Sake!” shout several animals in unison.


“We did it! We did it!” shouts Tim Croofs, oblivious to the numerous players as they grumble about not enough cards and too much overcrowding.



Tim Croofs and organisers high-five each other and live happily ever after.


30th Anniversary Celebration

In case you missed the news, Microsoft wanted all the good citizens of the world to unite and help break the record for most games played. Yesterday they offered double experience points as an incentive for card players over the world to kill their own productivity.

Avid readers of this blog may recall the Experience Points table for Spider Solitaire is shown below. Thus an Easy 1-suit hand scores 800 XP instead of 400 etc. Of course NaN times two is still NaN.


Apparently, this was a Facebook Live event, which featured a giveaway or three and Microsoft Solitaire’s creative director Kevin Lambert will field questions and talk about the history of Microsoft Solitaire.

I wasn’t able to participate, mainly because 22 May fell on a Friday and I still had work commitments (working remotely from home). I should also point out this event involved all games within the Solitaire family, not just my favourite Spider. Hence you can expect to see some Freecell, Klondike, Pyramid and perhaps some lesser known games.

I played a single game of Klondike (3 cards at a time) just to compare the XP gained versus Spider Solitaire and the reward for winning is only 300 XP, less than the easiest difficulty of one-suit Spider Solitaire. At least winning enabled me to get the “we did it” screen at the bottom of this blog post.

Yesterday I checked the Microsoft Solitaire Facebook page – and apparently not everything is running smoothly ☹


But such mundane matters don’t concern Microsoft as they achieved a new record for number of games played in a single day. Presumably all the good folk at Microsoft will live happily ever after.


Game on (20 May)


We start with the following moves

<ae> 0d

<aj> 5h

<ia> Kd

<fi> 0s

<ef> 2h

<ji> 0c

<hf> 4c

<hc> 8d

<fh, deal = 85J6AQ99J7>


Not much thought required here. We start with three in-suit builds, then look for other “safe” moves such as moving a Queen onto either of two Kings. We managed to turn over eight cards in round 0, perhaps a disappointment after such a promising start – but this is probably not too surprising for a Master-level hand. Of course we are careful to build in-suit with 8-7 of diamonds before dealing another round.

We deal a row of 10 fresh cards and now the fun begins. There are many possibilities to consider: what would be your action here? (remember an action is a sequence of moves that ends as soon as one or more cards are exposed).


Spider Solitaire Notation (alternative version)

The streets were littered with random animal and human body parts. An arm here. A leg there. A lizard’s tail, a cat’s paw. A pair of bunny ears to the right, an ox-tongue to the left. A human kidney, a lung. Careful, don’t step on the occasional monkey brains … uh oh, somebody even managed to lose his 68,73,67,75 after, shall we say, some rather poor decision making. The city was not exactly known for good hygiene, and a vaccine for the mystery virus wasn’t coming any time soon. But the White Bishop knew he had been one of the luckier ones. He only had a nose missing.

Despite many years of debate and discussion, there was no consensus on whether the Knight or Bishop was the stronger piece on the Chessboard so they had decided to settle things over a game of Spider Solitaire, or more precisely a series of games. It was well known the Knight could wield a mean deck of cards or two, but the Bishop felt he was equal to the challenge.

They would both play 100 games each, and whoever won more games than the other would win the match. As compensation for being wheelchair-bound, the Bishop gave the Knight odds of half-a-game. Thus, if they both won the same number of games, the Knight would be declared the stronger player.


“<ji>”, says the Black Knight.

The White Bishop obediently moves the Four of Clubs onto the Five of Clubs, exposing the Three of Diamonds.


The White Bishop moves the Seven of Spades onto the Eight of Spades, exposing the Four of Diamonds

“<ie> – oops I mean <je> … <if> … <if> … <fi>”

And on and on it went. The quadriplegic would announce his moves according to their agreed notation and his anosmia-stricken best friend would play them out. They had even mastered the lingo for supermoves, (borrowing from the simpler game of Freecell) and superswaps. When it was the Bishop’s turn to play, the Knight would only watch. Of course there would be no 85,78,68,79 for either player. All the other chessmen watched in awe, admiring the skill of both players as they navigated the good cards and bad.

< several games later >

The Knight had won 47 games out of 100. With his concentration waning near the end he probably should have won a couple extra games. But at least he didn’t have to worry about making further errors. Everything depended on the Bishop who had won 47 out of 99. The latter had reached an endgame with only six face-down cards remaining and the stock empty. At first the prelate was about to concede the game and the match, but he eventually realised he could expose one face-down card with a complex sequence of moves. But he would have to hope the newly-exposed card was good. Finding nothing better, the Bishop executes his plan and is about to turn over a card, but then pauses.

Just turn over the 70,85,67,75,73,78,71 card and get it over and done with, the Black Knight thinks to himself.

“I feel it is most unfair, for the entire match to be decided by a single card.”

“The match is very close,” replies the Knight. “I calculate the odds to be exactly 50:50. The next card will determine the outcome of the game and the match. Get a good card and even the Ninja Monkey can’t 70,85,67,75 it up with random moves. Draw a bad card and you have no plan B.”

The Bishop checks his card-tracking sheet.

“There are three good cards and three bad cards. Doesn’t get much closer than that”

“JUST 70,85,67,75,73,78,71 TURN 70,85,67,75,73,78,71 THAT 70,85,67,75,73,78,71 CARD 70,85,67,75,73,78,71 OVER so we can work out the winner and go home.”

“We both played 100 games and neither player has managed to demonstrate any statistically-significant superiority over the other,” continues the Bishop. “I don’t see any point in completing the last game.”

After some thought, the Black knight replies “All right, we’ll call it a draw.” 😊