A Strategy for Winning Klondike Solitaire

As discussed in Reasons For Getting Stuck in Klondike Solitaire, most games are not winnable because of the inability to turn over all the cards in the tableau due to potentially problematic situations. Therefore, the main guiding principle in trying to solve a Klondike Solitaire game is to (I) move face-up cards and streaks in the tableau to flip over face-down cards. A second principle is to (II) focus on turning cards over in tableau columns with the largest number of face-down cards since potentially problematic situations are more likely to occur there. (A) The deck should be used to address (I) as much as possible. To better understand these ideas, an illustrative game may be of use.
     It is almost always the case when a card in the deck becomes available that could be placed on a card in the tableau that one should not move it there unless it assists in a process that will lead to the turning over of a tableau card. Placing a card of a given color and number from the deck onto the tableau without this purpose can generate new or aggravate current potentially problematic situations by occupying a spot that a card of the same color and number in the tableau needs. It is also useful to retain cards in the deck that could be moved to tableau or foundation for the purposes of “manipulating the deck” to assist in (I). “Manipulating the deck” means to remove cards from it to reach one or more cards that will allow a tableau card to be flipped over. As an extreme example of (A), aces generally should not be moved from the deck and placed on the foundation unless they help in (I), e.g., there is a two-of-clubs facing up on a tableau column and an ace-of-clubs appears in the deck, or a three-of-hearts is facing up buy itself on a tableau column and the ace and two of hearts can both be placed on the foundation. Aces can usually be put on the foundation later. An exception to this rule occurs when the ace is near the beginning of the deck and one is “afraid” that if it is not placed on the foundation that it might be difficult to do so later. If the latter were true then keeping the ace in the deck would not help with its “manipulation.” As another example of (A), one should use the cards in the back (later part) of the deck to assist in the removal of hidden tableau cards before using those in the front (earlier part) of the deck.
     Basically, after flipping through the deck so that one knows all the cards in it, one searches for ways of placing one or more cards from the deck so that a card or streak of cards can be moved from one column to another in the tableau thereby flipping over a face-down card in the tableau. If a series of cards in the deck are needed and they do not occur in the 3rd, 6th, 9th, etc. position then the deck needs to be “manipulated” by placing some cards from it onto the tableau or foundation to get at those cards. Cards in the back of the deck that are in a position which is a multiple of 3 (that is, they require no deck manipulation) should be played first before cards or series of cards in the front of the deck.
      The first few cards of the deck can also be potentially problematic. For example, suppose the first three cards where ten of diamonds, ten of hearts and nine of clubs. Then, the nine of clubs cannot be moved to the tableau because the red tens are “buried”. It is still possible (but not too likely) to be able to build a club foundation up to the eight of clubs to remove the nine of clubs, and this is the only way to solve this solitaire game.
     Here are some other ideas:
1. Avoid building up one suit a lot in the foundation compared to the others. If one does this, it usually gets harder to flip over cards in the tableau of a color opposite to the “long” suit in the foundation.
2. When one card can be put on either of two cards on the tableau, choose the one that causes suit alternation: For example, suppose one wants to put the seven-of-diamonds on the tableau and there are two streaks: (ten-of-spades) /(nine-of-hearts)/(eight-of-clubs) and (nine-of-diamonds)/(eight-of-spades). Then put the seven-of-diamonds on the latter streak. (Look at the card above the one on the tableau and match its suit.) The reason for doing this is subtle and its benefit does not happen often: Sometimes to flip over a card on the tableau, one has to build foundation piles. For example, suppose two piles in the tableau involve (five-of-clubs)/(four-of-hearts)/(three-of-clubs)/(two-of-hearts) and the other involves (four-of-clubs)/(three-of-hearts)/(two-of-clubs) and suppose the only way to remove the five-of-clubs (and flip over the card beneath it) is to construct a pile from the ace-of-clubs to the four-of-clubs in the foundation. Then, having the ace-of-clubs and the ace-of-hearts in the foundation allows one to do this. If, in these two streaks in the tableau all four suits were involved, then foundations piles in all the suits would be needed to remove the five-of-clubs, and this is usually more difficult.
3. If one has a choice of moving a streak from the tableau column onto another streak to flip over a tableau card or to place a card from the deck onto that same streak, one should almost always do the former, which is simply follow principle (I). A possible exception is when the deck is almost “stuck.” If placing the deck card on the tableau frees the deck up to make available cards that assist in (I) then it is usually better to place the deck card on the tableau. If the deck will become potentially fully stuck by not placing this deck card on the tableau, it is generally better to move the streak in the tableau hoping that the flipped card will help to “free up” the deck.
4. If a card facing up in the tableau is not needed to assist in flipping over tableau cards then it can be placed on a foundation pile without any negative consequences. An ace facing up in the tableau is a trivial example. Another example is when the foundation has stacks of spades, hearts and diamonds from ace to two. If the three-of-spades is on the tableau, then it can be placed on the spade pile in the foundation with no negative consequences. On the other hand, it might not be a good idea to place the three-of-hearts on the foundation pile (if it is not a single card in a streak so that its removal would not flip over a face-down tableau card). It the two-of-clubs is later turned over in the tableau then this three-of-hearts would allow the two-of-clubs to be moved to flip over the tableau card beneath it. Also, if the two-of-clubs is in the deck, then it might be necessary to place it on the three-of-hearts to “manipulate the deck.” The idea in this paragraph also applies to the last card in the deck. In the example in this paragraph, if the last card in the deck were the three-of-spades, then one should move it to the foundation.
5. If there are no face-down cards in a tableau column then no effort should be made to remove the cards in that column. The left-most card in the tableau at the start of the game is an example. The only time it is worth it to move such a card is when a king is facing up in a tableau column or when there is a king in the deck which can be used (perhaps in conjunction with other deck cards) to move a streak in the tableau thereby flipping over a face-down tableau card.
6. Although there are exceptions, if two cards of the same color and “number” from the deck can be placed on a tableau card, it is better to play the earlier one because it “changes the deck” more. [This assumes there are no “useful” cards in the back of the deck beyond the two cards in question – otherwise “useful” cards should be played first to flip over face-down cards in the tableau.]
7. Always flip through the deck completely without doing anything at the beginning of a game because the information gleaned can be useful in making decisions as to what one should initially do to help flip over face-down tableau cards.
     In summary, (I) The main effort should be to get tableau face-down cards flipped over especially in columns 7 and 6, or in columns with the most number of face-down cards (principle (II)). (A) Generally only put a deck card on the tableau if it supports (I). The deck should be “manipulated” by placing cards from it onto the tableau or foundation only to support (I).


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