Estimating the difficulty of a Spidew Solitaiwe hand (continued)

Everything seemed to be going well until Parson hit an unpleasant snag. Four dreaded kings turned up simultaneously after dealing the third row from the stock. And there was no chance to turn over another face-down card without the help of boop.

Parson laboriously noted the identity of all face-down cards he managed to uncover so far. He decided it was best to start afresh and determine how best to prepare for the four kings in round 3.

“Boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop”, says Parson.

All cards magically return to their starting position.

At long last Parson is able to enter a critical endgame with only 20 face down cards. Despite having one suit removed and an empty column, Parson knows he’s in trouble. One more bad card would imply a certain loss without the help of “boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop”. Parson glances at his watch (displaying his stats) and suddenly realises he doesn’t have a lot of Move left. Maybe the liberal use of boop isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

He sighs with relief after turning over a much needed Ten of Spades in Column 1. With luck on his side, Parson has no trouble untangling the remaining cards and winning the game (albeit with only 3 Move remaining). The Dwagon Spidew collapses to the floor, as though mortally wounded. Parson does the same, but more through relief and sheer exhaustion instead of being mortally wounded.

“You have done well,” says the Monkey.

“Thank you,” replies Parson.

“Unfortunately, you are not a Doctow of Spidew Solitaiwe.”

“But, but … I worked my boop off for three booping hours. I earned my victory! True, I used boop too much and was lucky to not run out of Move but …”

“Boop is not the problem,” replies the Monkey. “The problem was your hand was Too Easy.”

“You. Are. Boo. Ping. Kidding. Me,” grunts Parson. He could explode any minute now (if you excuse the terrible cliche).

“As soon as you exposed all the cards, I did some complex calculations in my head and determined an expert should win two games in fifty. To become a Doctow of Spidew Solitaiwe you need to win a hand with an estimated win rate of zero games in fifty”.

“So … does that mean I was doomed as soon as I dealt the starting hand?”

“Yes and no,” replies the Monkey. “You are not a Doctow of Spidew Solitaiwe but at least you are still alive, unlike the many skulls and skeletons that are barely a distance of 1.5 metres away from you.”

Finally Parson could take it no more.

“70,70,70,70,70,70,70,85,85,85,85,85,85,85,85,67,67,67,67,67,67,67,75,75,75,75,75,75,75,75!” shouts Parson. He remembers the Monkey’s warning about swearing three nano-seconds too late.

The Dwagon Spidew suddenly springs to life and lunges towards Parson. The Spidew thrusts his fangs into Parson’s face. What happens next is not pretty.

THE END

Estimating the difficulty of a Spider Solitaire hand (continued)

Continuing from last week, our task was to evaluate the probability of winning the following starting layout.


I find the best indicator of probability of winning is “playing the hand out”, either manually or getting one of my animal friends to do it, such as Ninja Monkey.

For instance, I might attempt to win the game without boop but during the course of play I have a chronic shortage of Nines and lose badly. I would then examine the starting layout and say to myself “okay, now I understand why I got a shortage of Nines.” The point I am making is that it’s much easier to identify potential problems after playing the hand out. Conversely, I might be able to clear two suits before dealing the second row of cards and guess the game is extremely easy.

In our example above, we can check there are three guaranteed turnovers at the start. The middle row from the stock has four kings, but I still managed to win without boop. However, during the mid-game I estimated a loss was almost certain. For this reason, I would estimate the game to be “maximum difficulty” or close to it. Unfortunately, this assessment is hard to convert into a number.

Fortunately, Ninja Monkey can help me out here. He can simply simulate his improved strategy. Essentially his strategy involves optimising the guaranteed minimum evaluation score given the information provided by face-up cards – and it is good enough to win random deals some of the time (i.e. not ridiculously close to zero). Ninja Monkey’s assessment may not be accurate (his strategy still has serious flaws) but at least we get a “quantitative” estimate (probability of winning) rather than some qualitative 83,72,73,84.

It turns out Ninja Monkey could win 2 trials out of 50. To be honest, I was expecting zero wins from 50 attempts (of course the win rate should be non-zero given enough attempts since I did manage to win).

I believe a player should be awarded a Doctor of Spider Solitaire if he can beat a hand without boop even though Ninja Monkey estimates a win rate of 0/50 with his guaranteed minimum evaluation score algorithm

Six Degrees of Wikipedia

Well that was quick. One of my Scrabble friends pointed out “Six Degrees of Wikipedia” is a thing and therefore it is relatively straightforward to find a path from Philosophy to Spider Solitaire. Although my friend thinks it is cheating, he certainly demonstrated knowledge of something I wasn’t aware of. Therefore I am happy to grant my friend the title of Great Grand Master of Spider Solitaire – except I just realised I should change the title to “Doctor of Spider Solitaire” which is a brilliant pun on “Doctor of Philosophy” 🙂

Unless somebody can find a path from Philosophy to Spider Solitaire without the explicit use of Six Degrees of Wikipedia within the next two weeks, my Scrabble friend will earn the title of S. S. D. Potential SSD candidates also have to explain how they got there and prove it wasn’t dumb luck.

For reference below is a screenshot of Six Degrees of Wikipedia. Good luck!