Game On (13 June 2021, Alternative Version)

“I think I have discovered the secret of playing well at Four Suit Spider Solitaire,” says the Cat. “I can win about 99% of the time.”

“How is that possible?” asks the Wise Snail. “Our best player is the Eagle, but she can only win about half the time”

“Well, there are many secrets to winning about 99% of the time,” replies the Cat. “The first secret I will like to talk about is minimum guaranteed turnovers. Expert opinion says on average you should have just under 4 guaranteed turnovers if the cards are dealt randomly. But I think it should be significantly higher.”

“How do you make it higher?” asks the Elephant.

“Let me show you,” replies the Cat. The Cat quickly deals another hand. The initial state is shown below:

“Yes. This is a good example,” says the Cat. “Observe that we start with two Jacks and one Queen. Ignoring the other cards for now, most experts will say this is worth one turnover – either the Jack of Hearts or Jack of Spades can move to the Queen in column Three. Most players will choose the Jack of Hearts for obvious reasons.”

“So far so good,” says the Lion.

“Now I want everyone to close their eyes,” says the Cat. “The Wise Snail will count to fifty and then everyone can open their eyes again.”

“Now I have two turnovers: I have superimposed both the Jack of Hearts and the Jack of Spades onto column 3 revealing two cards in columns 7 and 9.”

“This is revolutionary!” says the Dumb Bunny. “I wonder why nobody has ever thought of this before. I like it!”

All the students nod in agreement with their eyes wide shut. The Cat continues to move some cards around. Meanwhile the song I’m A Believer by Neil Diamond can be heard in the distance. Yes, The Singing Monkeys don’t have the best voices but my students are used to that by now.

At last, the Wise Snail reaches fifty and everyone can open their eyes.

“Cat is sus,” says Purple. “As far as I can tell, there are only eleven cards exposed. The Cat has made a solitary move: Jack of Hearts from column 7 to column 3, revealing the other Queen of Hearts.”

“Yes, it appears I have only made a single move,” replies the Cat. “But I also know that column 9 contains King of Diamonds beneath the Jack of Spades. Column 7 starts with Jack of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, Two of Diamonds, Seven of Clubs. Moreover, it is possible to get an empty column – ”

“But how would you know all this?” asks Orange. “You must have cheated!”

“And remember,” yells the rot13(fzneg nff), “the first rule of Spider Solitaire Club is you do not play with undo. The second rule of Spider Solitaire Club is you DONOT … play with undo!”

Purple immediately calls a meeting. A plurality vote is held and all twelve colours from Among Us decide that Cat is indeed sus.

“Sorry I’m late – hey rot13(jung gur shpx?)” I say. It takes me less than three nano-seconds to observe the Elephant has grabbed the Cat with his trunk and is about to hurl the poor thing in the direction of The Singing Monkeys. It doesn’t take long for my students to explain what happened.

“I know I normally don’t play with undo,” I state matter-of-factly. “But I wish to remind you that playing with undo was absolutely necessary for me to publish my paper on Spider Solitaire. And without this paper, I wouldn’t be maintaining this blog – which you are all part of.”

It’s a process, but I am able to eventually convince the Elephant to release the poor Cat. Also, in future when I am late nobody is allowed to give impromptu lessons during my absence.

Nobody ever hears from the Cat again. On the very next day, an unpleasant rumour starts spreading: the cat has somehow been poisoned. Unable to confirm any details, I can only assert that she is simultaneously dead and alive.

The End

Playing with 85,78,68,79

Time for another lesson. I deal a new hand.

 “What is the best opening move?” I ask my students.

“Move the Nine, column 6 to column 7” says the Lion.

Uh oh, Bad Idea Bear #1 is misbehaving again. Apparently he wants Ninja Monkey to teach him how to make 70,65,82,84 noises with his armpits. I walk towards BIB #1 and Ninja Monkey, leaving my other students to study the game state in my absence. I give them a stern warning, but some sixth sense tells me everything will somehow turn out okay – as it always did in the past.

“Column 8 instead of column 6 would be better,” says the Elephant.

Stunned looks from the rest of the class.

“How … could that possibly be better?” I ask.

“Just … h- had a hunch,” stammers the Elephant

“Wait a minute,” I reply. “Columns 6 and 8 are the Nine of Clubs and Spades, respectively. Column 7 contains a Ten of Diamonds. There is no logical reason to favour clubs or spades – may as well toss a coin.”

I know the Elephant ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed if you excuse the cliché. Bad Idea Bear #2 is trembling nervously.

“Hang on,” I say to BIB #2. “Did you not tell the Elephant to commit the cardinal sin of Spider Solitaire? Do you remember the first two rules of Spider Solitaire Club?”

“I forgot the rules,” says the Dumb Bunny. “What were they again?”


“The First Rule of Spider Solitaire Club,” I say tersely, “is you do not 85,78,68,79 any moves. The Second Rule of Spider Solitaire Club is you DO NOT 85,78,68,79 any moves.”

“But didn’t you use 85,78,68,79 yourself?” asks the Smart 65,83,83.

I am completely baffled – until the Smart 65,83,83 shows me a paper titled “Random Walks: an application for detecting bias in Spider Solitaire programs.” With my name on it.


“Okay. 85,78,68,79 is allowed. But I want you to record the identity of every card – so Ninja Monkey can evaluate its difficulty. Don’t forget Monkey knows how to (occasionally) win at the four-suit level”.

The Elephant, Ninja Monkey and Bad Idea Bears breathe a collective sigh of relief, and the Smart 65,83,83 is the hero for today – and so we maintain our perfect record of no student ever being expelled from my classes. Oh well, just another average day in my teaching career.