Okay, fine.  So maybe you will beat my score at windows xp solitaire.

A few weeks ago, I posted this piece as an open challenge to the competitive Windows XP solitaire community.  I was confident that my score was unbeatable, and would assure me a lifetime of glory and renown.  Little did I know that within two weeks, I would receive the following e-mail:

Dear Chris-

http://www.theneonninja.com/solitaire/
yes, I HAVE beaten your scores... multiple times over. and over. and over and over again.

Eric Sahlstrom

Yes, the screenshots don't lie.  I've been dethroned by Eric Sahlstrom, a plucky young southpaw originally from Portland, Oregon.  Eric is destined to become a giant in the sport.  For the first time ever, here is his story.

Eric entered this world on a stormy night in Portland, Oregon, born the son of a lumberjack father and an oilman mother.  His schooldays were typical.  He was taunted mercilessly by the other kids for his ability to make incredibly rapid clicking motions with his right index finger.

Little did his schoolmates know that it was precisely this ability that would one day make him great.

As a student, Eric was less then exceptional, excelling only in his computerized card game classes.  An easily distracted youth, he had several brushes with the law.  Well, one really, when he was pulled over by a policeman for allegedly making an obscene gesture.  Eric pointed out that it was night, and the cop couldn't possibly have seen Eric's middle finger, raised or otherwise.  He got off with a warning, and a very slight sense of distrust for authority.  Just a little bit of distrust, mind you.  Nothing serious.

Sahlstrom drifted into manhood little knowing the greatness of his gift.  As an adult, he grew to resemble a thinner, clean shaven, much less highly strung version of Dom Deluise.  Eventually, through many twists and turns, the sure hand of fate brought Eric to a mindless job doing tech support for a software company. This magical combination of boredom and access to a computer was Sahlstrom's first encounter with what was to become his life's calling.  For it was during his not infrequent down time at this job that he first played solitaire.

For the first time in Eric's life, he felt truly alive.  Gone were the cares and frustrations of the workaday world.  Gone was the boredom, and directionless career wandering.   Gone also was the slight (remember, it's very slight, as I mentioned) distrust of authority figures.  There was only Eric, and fifty two cards that needed to be put in the right stacks, in order.

After hours and hours of solitary practice, Eric slowly realized his gift.  His score improved on a daily basis.  He was not yet great, but he didn't suck that bad, either.  Everything changed a few weeks ago, though, when Eric discovered what has come to be known as the Sahlstrom Technique.

Turns out, if you right click on the cards, rather then left clicking and dragging them, the cards move to where they're supposed to be, only much faster, or something like that.  I'm not exactly sure, but he explained it to me, and I think it has something to do with right clicking.  Personally, I had no idea you could do that.  Huh.

Overnight, "Eric Sahlstrom" was on the tip of every tongue located in the mouth of every person who takes Windows XP solitaire seriously.  Sahlstrom became an instant legend.  Yes, I said it... a legend.  A legend among Windows XP solitaire enthusiasts.

I know I'll never beat his score.  Not now, not ever.  And I have a feeling he's only going to get better.

So what will become of me?  For one thing, I'll never play Windows XP solitaire again.  Too many painful memories.  Nor will I play Minesweeper or Windows XP hearts, since they're both stored in the same folder on my computer as solitaire.  No, I'll probably just return to my day job as the third highest ranked international chess grandmaster in the world, and always dream about what might have been.

And what of Eric?  He's training now, and can't be reached for comment.  But I have a feeling we haven't heard the last of this plucky, corn fed southpaw from the wrong side of the tracks in Portland.

If I know Eric (and I don't, not at all), he's acutely aware of the fact that there is always a number one higher then his current best score. And he's going to keep playing.  Eric is a born solitaire champion, and unless I miss my guess, he'll keep playing until he runs out of numbers.

Chris Messick is a co-founder of Supermasterpiece.com.  Check out more of his writing here.