Game on (21 January 2021)

This is the position from last time

We asked the following questions:

  • What is the longest “straight-flush” we can obtain if we weren’t allowed to turn over any more face-down cards? (for instance 7-6-5-4-3-2 of Hearts would be of length six).
  • Can we guarantee three empty columns if we weren’t allowed to turn over any more face-down cards? Obviously these would be columns 2,4,6.
  • What is the minimum number of guaranteed turnovers?
  • What is the minimum number of guaranteed in-suit builds? Of course, if we get enough in-suit builds then completed suits might suddenly materialise by weight of sheer numbers 😉 More often than not, players have to earn them especially at the Four-suit level.

Let’s start with the easy one. Three empty columns is indeed achievable. We can clear columns 4,6 with five moves. We can then shift the Eight of Spades onto the Nine of Hearts and rearrange the 9-J-T-8 onto the Queen of Spades.

Minimum guaranteed turnovers is also easy: just take our three empty columns and then drill down column 3 like a madman.

Now we come to the more difficult question of longest straight flush. I believe there are some “professional” Spider Solitaire programs that do “card tracking” automatically, but the Microsoft Windows version ain’t one of them: Let’s take all four suits and thirteen ranks and record whether it appears face-up at least once in the tableau.

Assuming the noble Spider GM hasn’t goofed, I get the following:

We can immediately tell a run of 12 cards is available in Clubs. Unfortunately the cards are scattered in many columns and I believe it is not possible to obtain a run from King to Deuce, even if we were willing to trash our game state in every way possible. Yes, we get three empty columns, but it will cost two of ‘em just to shift the Eight and Two in column 5.

I can get a run of J-T-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2 in Clubs, but no better. If you do see a way please give me a heads up 😊

What this does mean is it ain’t necessary to consider other suits. From the tile-tracking above no suit other than Clubs can beat a run of ten, even if we were allowed to yank them from underneath the Kings.

If you’re one of the Awesome People you may remember we had a beautiful run of Clubs much earlier in the game, but for some reason that got scrambled up as we were desperately fishing for our first empty column. Now we have no problems with three empty columns, but the run of clubs is gone. Oh well, them’s the breaks. Perhaps we did not play optimally in previous rounds. That’s water under the bridge if you excuse the numerous cliches.

Finally we look at in-suit builds. An experienced player can tell that column 8 offers many possibilities for  tidying up: 8-9 of Hearts, 8-9 of Diamonds, J-T of Clubs and so on. Column 5 doesn’t offer many in-suit builds. There’s 9-8 of Clubs, but K-Q of Clubs isn’t actually possible. The only real benefit of digging Column 5 is two Victory Points for the longest straight-flush. And there are other ways to achieve VP. For instance, largest army or building lots of cities and settlements – no wait, I’m getting mixed up with Die Siedler von Catan. My bad. In any case we can improve our chances by keeping all options in mind and resist going all-or-nothing on the Clubs.

I won’t compute the maximum number of guaranteed in-suit builds here. If your OCD is worse than mine then you are more than welcome to compute this in your own spare time, but for now let’s focus on winning the game 😉

The observant player may have noticed I did not ask for the best play last time. This is because it took quite a bit of effort to evaluate this game state. Now that we have done some analysis, it is time to decide on the best play.

(I noted that Bart has already thought about the best play from a previous post. The above may prompt him to change his mind … or not)

How would you continue here?