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Spider Solitaire Easy Hard Wins


Intro


Some very strange things can happen while playing the game of Spider Solitaire.
It can deliver a victory out of what appears to be a certain loss, or it can snatch what looks like a certain victory away in a single deal of the cards.
In the actual game example below, things obviously were going exceedingly well, even before the first initiated deal.

Easy Hard Wins - Figure 1
Easy Hard Wins - Figure 1

The Problem


In the screenshot, to say that the game was going well in the round before the first initiated deal would be a vast understatement. I've had few games ever go this well this early.
Rarely is it possible to complete a build before the first deal, at least when playing with all four suits and not undoing moves. Yet, I'd managed to build a suit of spades and even to flip 40 hidden cards.
So, what's the problem here? Well, it's been my experience that whenever things go unusually well in the opening round or two, it's very common for things to go awry. Experience has taught me to be very careful in such situations.
I've never ever lost a single game of Spider Solitaire in which I've managed to turn all 44 hidden cards, although I've come within a whisker a time or two. It seemed pretty much a given that I'd soon turn the remaining 4 hidden cards. My streak was on the line. I've seen many times what can happen, and I was quite concerned.

Potential Problems


In the screenshot, there are 50 cards still to be dealt. With the hidden cards, it makes 54 cards yet to come into play. That's a bit more than half of the cards. That's a lot. It's not the hidden cards that worried me. The problem was the five 10-card deals yet to come. Potentially, that could mean 50 breaks in rank to deal with, although normally it's a few less.
Often what happens when things are well ordered early is that with each successive deal, more and more disorder creeps into the layout. And then, after the final deal, winning becomes a severe challenge. And here there were 5 deals to foul up the order.

My biggest worry was the King. He often causes havoc, blocks access to many cards, and is well known for stubbornly resisting displacement. Or, a flurry of Aces could be just as bad, with fewer locations where runs could be moved.
In fact, any rank could potentially be a problem. Either an excess or deficiency of any particular rank could prove fatal. It's not all that unusually for two, three, or even more of the same rank to come out in that same deal. (I've had four Kings dealt in the final deal.)

The Play


I could say that it was a hard-fought game that went down to the wire. But actually, it was one of the easiest victories that I've even had and all without undoing a single move.
Fortunately, the cards fell favorably for me this time. Next time I might not get off so easy.

Another Example


That game turned out to be easy all the way through. But here's an example of what often happens.

Easy Hard Wins - Figure 2
Easy Hard Wins - Figure 2

In this game, I'd managed to turn all 44 hidden cards prior to the first initiated deal, a rare event for me. At that point, 7 of the piles were single-suited runs, and not one of them was headed by a King. Just prior to the third deal, I'd completed two builds and 8 of the piles were single-suited runs not headed by a King. It looked like an easy victory.

Now, considering the 8 good chances to vacate a pile, one would expect it to be very easy to vacate at least one column following the deal. But, no, what happened can be seen in the screenshot. (Notice how three Kings can out in the deal.)
The best that I could manage was to move the Queen of hearts and the Six of Spades. This left just 2 piles with a single-suited run that might be vacated after the next deal. That's a huge change from 8 in a single deal.

In this game, fortunately for me, the fourth deal, although not terrific, was enough to recuperate and easily win the game. If the fourth deal had been just a little worse, I might well have lost the game. It would have all came down to the final deal.
So yes, early easy games can hard to win. Normally, if the player doesn't take the win for granted and is careful, they can win such games, but sometimes it takes quite a bit of hard work.

Addendum


For anyone who might be interested in the boring details of the remainder of the featured game, here they are.
The King of hearts comes out in the first deal, lucky for me. I turned the remaining 4 hidden cards and managed to build hearts. No kings came out in the second deal. I did, however, manage to build diamonds. At that point, there were no Kings on the tableau and five yet to be seen.
The third deal brought out the King of hearts and the King of spades. The first King could not be placed, but I did build spades. To no surprise, deal four brought out the remaining three Kings. Not to worry. By the time of the fifth deal, with four builds completed, the piles were almost perfectly ordered, with all four remaining Kings heading their own pile.
After the fifth deal, there was little to do but connect the dots.

Steve N. Brown
I hold a master's degree in mathematics. As well as solving difficult math problems, I've always enjoyed playing games of strategy because they challenge me to think. So, when Spider Solitaire became popular around the turn of the century, it was very easy for me to get hooked on the game. At that time, there were no good books on how to play the game and the online advice was also very poor. So, I learned how to play the game on my own through experimentation, careful observation, and an awful lot of practice. One thing led to another and, eventually, I wrote a book on the topic: 'Spider Solitaire Winning Strategies'.


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