How Can I Win This Game? (Alternative version)

It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining and he had plenty of spare time on his hands. True, there was the small matter of a chemistry assignment due tomorrow, but that could always be done after dinner. A perfect time to play some more Spider Solitaire.

The play had started well, but things started to sour when four Kings appeared in the third deal. The fourth deal brought no luck either with no face-down cards unable to be exposed. Resigned to his fate, Joe Bloggs reluctantly dealt the last row of ten cards and surveyed his prospects.

How can I win this game? Joe asked himself.

There was some good news: an empty column (or “hole” as he liked to say) was available in the ninth column. And he could turn over a card in Column h. But at this stage of the game Joe realised he would need a good miracle or three to win.

“What is the best card I can hope for in Column h?” Joe asked himself.

This brings him to the bad news: there would be plenty of calculation to look forward to, and given the stock was empty any mistake, no matter how small, could be fatal.

Suddenly Joe Bloggs spots a bird staring at him through the window.

She’s been wallowing in the mud for way too long. Don’t ask me why.

Joe Bloggs briefly considers giving the poor thing a nice warm bath.

“Oink oink,” says the bird.

“87,72,65,84 84,72,69 70,85,67,75?” replies Joe Bloggs.

Through his peripheral vision, Joe Bloggs notices a flock of shiny pigs floating in the air. Thirteen of them shift into the foreground and form the shape of a happy face. After winking at Joe Bloggs, they chase each other in circles for a good half-a-minute. Then they gradually accelerate until whoosh – they shoot up towards the sky!

“Oink oink,” repeats the Bird.

Joe Bloggs stares at the bird again. Perhaps she is trying to tell him something, but he can’t work out exactly what. His chemistry assignment? That wouldn’t make much sense.

Joe studies the cards again. He soon notices that every card in the Spade suit is visible in the tableau. An Ace in column 5 or 6, Deuce and Three in column 6, Four-Five in column 8 and so on. Perhaps it is possible to remove a complete suit of Spades with the correct sequence of moves, regardless of the permutation of face-down cards. Not likely, given they were scattered all over the place, but perhaps his best shot anyhow.

“Aha,” says Joe Bloggs, after some thought. “The correct move sequence is <bg, id, ih, ia, jf, dj, cd, ch, jd, cj, d2=j1, hc, hc, fg, fd, fh, fa, d1=f1, f2=h2, hc, cj>”

Joe Bloggs executes the move sequence <bg, id, ih, ia, jf, dj, cd, ch, jd, cj, d2=j1, hc, hc, fg, fd, fh, fa, d1=f1, f2=h2, hc, cj> and whoosh – he triumphantly slaps the Spade Suit onto the foundations!

True, his position was still very bad after removing the suit of Spades but no matter. He had already won the war: thanks to this hand his skill had improved considerably and the actual result of this game was rendered moot.

All pigs fed and ready to fly

“It’s been an excellent year,” said the Chief Executive Officer. All the staff members are beaming with pride.

“Another month ends. All targets met. All customers satisfied. Our new team members are especially eager and enthusiastic.”

Everyone laughs as the CEO reaches the final slide of his Powerpoint Presentation: a picture of Santa Claus riding into the subset, but with the usual reindeer replaced with flying pigs.

“I would like to thank y’all for the hard work you have put in,” continues the CEO. “Today will be a very special day. Every staff member will be allowed to goof off the rest of today and play as much Spider Solitaire as they want.”

The Project Manager groaned inwardly. As if he needed to be reminded of his failure at that blasted game, especially at the 4-suit level. His significant other could boast a win rate of 20%. He was lucky to obtain half that rate, even with the help of 85,78,68,79.

Despite the many years of tutelage from his wife, the Project Manager was unable to see the board as a whole, especially with two decks of cards. The game was way too complex, especially considering that exposed cards were not necessarily always in descending sequence and half the cards were face-down.

Hang on he thought to himself. Maybe if he organised a team of players instead of a single person then the chances of victory would increase. Divide and Conquer, if you excuse the cliché. At least that would give him an advantage over his significant other. She always played solo.

“I know the feeling,” said Team Player 1. “I’m reasonably ok at Freecell and we all know Klondike is boring, but I really 83,85,67,75 at Spider.”

Team Player 2 can only nod in agreement. He only learnt how to play the game a week ago.

“We need to approach the game systematically,” said the Project Manager. “It’s tempting to rush in and play the first move that springs to mind but I think if we can work as a team it will be better in the long run.”

Team Players 1 and 2 nod in agreement


“So here’s the plan,” says the Project Manager. Team Player 1 will focus only on columns 1-5 and expose as many cards as he can. Team Player 2 will handle columns 6-10. When both of you are stuck I want you to report your progress, and I will take things from there.”


“I only turned over one card,” says Team Player 1. “I need a Five, Eight or Queen from Team Player 2 … or an unlikely Deuce-Three combination”.

“I got two cards,” says Team Player 2. “I need a Deuce, Ten or King from player 1.”

“Excellent,” says the Project Manager. “Jack of Clubs onto the Queen of Hearts.”

They expose a Deuce of Clubs.

Team Player 1 is more than happy to shift the Ace of Clubs in-suit onto the Deuce in column 5. Unfortunately Team Player 2 has nothing else to report.

“This is going well,” says the Project Manager. “Ace of Hearts onto the Deuce, in suit!”

<<several moves later>>


“I think we’re in trouble,” says the Project Manager.

“Why is that?” asks Team Player 2.

“There are only two rounds left in the stock,” replies the Project Manager. “According to my Gantt Chart, we should have only 18 face-down cards remaining. But we’re not even close.”

“We got a good deal this round,” offers Team Player 1. “At least my half of the board is good. I can build in-suit with the 9-10 of diamonds, then build in-suit again with the 2-3 of diamonds without any help from Team Player 2.”

<<several moves later>>


“Well that was 83,72,73,84” sighs the Project Manager.

It’s all over but the groaning. The Project Manager catches the next bus home and reflects on his crushing defeat. He can’t remember having a less productive day at the office.

“Hi Hun, I heard the good news from your work colleagues …”

“Ngrrmph,” replies the Project Manager.