Game on (11 July 2021)

Continuing from last week, we had the task of removing the Heart suit after dealing the third round:

Schistocerca Americana has somehow transmogrified into Schrodinger Americana, simultaneously obtaining a score of ten and zero for the same question. It could be ten if you count effort, or zero if you count accomplishment. But unless we specify effort or accomplishment and force his score to be one or the other, his score will remain in a quantum state.

To be more specific, SA gave a detailed sequence of moves but forgot the first row of cards had already been dealt – and therefore (practically) every move after the first deal was illegal.

With neither SA or BW giving a detailed solution, I will satisfy myself with general considerations. After the third deal every card in Hearts is easily accessible, either in the tableau or stock. By easily accessible I mean we don’t have a stupid situation such as a beautiful run from King to Deuce in a single column and that pesky Ace hidden behind three Kings in a row in the designated rubbish column. Therefore, we can probably luck our way into a solution without looking ahead too much. The diagram below shows an example game state. I have not given a detailed sequence of moves. All that is really required is to arrange matters so that you can easily recover an empty column after dealing a fresh row of ten cards.

Well, we have our Heart suit. In the process I have discovered our score never goes below zero. But we still get +100 points for removing the Hearts (and I made an extra in-suit build thus bringing the score down to 99). Of course I do not claim these moves are optimal in the context of winning the whole game (instead of a single suit). But here we are.

By now, the assiduous reader will know what goals we should be aiming for and/or what traps to avoid. So I will ask the vaguest question possible – how would you continue from here?

In case you haven’t noticed, I have highlighted the next row in the stock corresponding to the game state with Score = 99. Hopefully Schrodinger Americana can transmogrify back into his usual self and avoid repeating the same mistake!

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