Klondike Strategy Guide for Windows Solitaire Game

Solitaire Strategy      The game of Solitaire, sometimes known as Patience, is one of the oldest known and most popular strategy card games of all time. Almost everyone in the world knows how to play this game! It is the original "bored" game played by millions of people unable to find other activities to attend to. However, after all these years it maintains its status as one of the most difficult and frustrating games to beat. But that's where we come in!

      The variation of Solitaire we'll be looking at is called Klondike. Most of you are probably familiar with this form of the game since it has been included as the default Solitaire offering on millions of computers worldwide. Wes Cherry is responsible for writing this widely-played program, but in a strange twist was never financially rewarded for his efforts (he didn't negotiate a royalty agreement). In the standard version of Klondike, unlike the Vegas version, one card at a time is turned over from the deck and a player is allowed to go through the deck as many times as they like. A player scores based on a point system that rewards cards being played to the Solitaire board (the various upcards and downcards dealt out to start the game) and to the Ace stacks a player makes during the course of play.

Nine Step Klondike Solitaire Strategy

      The Solitaire strategy chart shown below is our contribution to the game. It is meant to be read in order from top to bottom, logically because the higher the Solitaire strategy line is the more important the tip. When the guide is followed, precise Solitaire technique is displayed and optimum winning chances are presented. While digesting the chart to follow, be sure to have your favorite Solitaire program opened up and ready to experiment as you go.

ChessandPoker.com Solitaire Strategy Guide
For information on how to use the Solitaire strategy guide, see the explanation below.

1. Always play an Ace or Deuce wherever you can immediately.

2. Always make the play or transfer that frees (or allows a play that frees) a downcard, regardless of any other considerations.

3. When faced with a choice, always make the play or transfer that frees (or allows a play that frees) the downcard from the biggest pile of downcards.

4. Transfer cards from column to column only to allow a downcard to be freed or to make the columns smoother.

5. Don't clear a spot unless there's a King IMMEDIATELY waiting to occupy it.

6. Only play a King that will benefit the column(s) with the biggest pile of downcards, unless the play of another King will at least allow a transfer that frees a downcard.

7. Only build your Ace stacks (with anything other than an Ace or Deuce) when the play will:

  • Not interfere with your Next Card Protection
  • Allow a play or transfer that frees (or allows a play that frees) a downcard
  • Open up a space for a same-color card pile transfer that allows a downcard to be freed
  • Clear a spot for an IMMEDIATE waiting King (it cannot be to simply clear a spot)

8. Don't play or transfer a 5, 6, 7 or 8 anywhere unless at least one of these situations will apply after the play:

  • It is smooth with it's next highest even/odd partner in the column
  • It will allow a play or transfer that will IMMEDIATELY free a downcard
  • There have not been any other cards already played to the column
  • You have ABSOLUTELY no other choice to continue playing (this is not a good sign)

9. When you get to a point that you think all of your necessary cards are covered and you just can't get to them, IMMEDIATELY play any cards you can to their appropriate Ace stacks. You may have to rearrange existing piles to allow blocked cards freedom to be able to go to their Ace stack. Hopefully this will clear an existing pile up to the point that you can use an existing pile upcard to substitute for the necessary covered card.

      Most of the items, listed one through nine in the strategy chart, should be simple to follow for the seasoned Solitaire player. For example, strategy line one states to Always play an Ace or Deuce wherever you can immediately. Whenever and wherever you can, it is correct to immediately play an Ace to begin it's stack and to put a Deuce onto an Ace or Trey. This is something you already do without even thinking. If not, start!

      On line two (and also throughout the chart) I use the phrase "frees a downcard". The Solitaire board initially has seven upcards (face-up) on top of seven increasingly bigger stacks of downcards (face-down) for a total of 28 board cards (7 upcards, 21 downcards). When you free a downcard you are making a play or transfer that allows one of these downcards to be turned face-up, therefore putting it into play. As you can see in the Solitaire strategy guide on almost every strategy line, freeing downcards is one of the most important tools in solving the game. If you cannot do so on a consistent basis, your chances for success will be greatly decreased. Free those downcards at any cost!

      Line three also extends this logical concept with the addition that if faced with a choice you should free the downcard from the biggest pile of downcards possible. This should make sense to you immediately. If freeing downcards is so important, wouldn't it be your goal to dig into the pile that has the most of them if you can? It better be now! With these simple but highly effective strategy concepts, you now have an excellent grasp of the game and how to defeat it. But let's continue on to discover some of the finer points of this strategy guide that will help you defeat this increasingly not-so-difficult game for one and bring the win home.

Klondike Strategy Key : Next Card Protection

      An interesting term I have used in Solitaire strategy line seven on the chart is Next Card Protection. What this means is that whenever you are building your Ace stacks (playing an Ace above the Solitaire board and then proceeding to play additional cards onto it), you may sometimes be able to play many more cards to one particular stack instead of another. For example, say you have the opportunity to play the 4 of spades to the Spades Ace stack. Before you do, you consult the Solitaire strategy chart and find line seven. The first item advises against playing a card to an Ace stack unless it will preserve the Next Card Protection. This means that unless there is a spot on the board for the next lowest card below the potential Ace stack card, you should not play the card to its Ace stack. In this case there must be either another black four (the 4 of clubs) on the board, both red threes already played to their Ace stacks, or both red threes already played to the board. In all of these instances, you have protected the next card below the 4 of Spades because if a red three comes up you have ensured that it will be able to be played (you've left a "spot" open for them). This is the concept of Next Card Protection.

      It is particularly of importance to maintain Deuce Protection. This would mean that you should delay the playing of a Three to an Ace stack in order to keep the availability of a spot for a Deuce to be played to unless both the applicable Deuces had already been played or were being protected due to the other Three being available on the Board. Protect you Deuces or you'll be kicking yourself later!

Klondike Strategy Key : Playing Smooth and The 5-6-7-8 Block

      Following the chart should keep you out of trouble concerning buried (out of play) downcards, particularly strategy line number eight. When strictly followed, it somewhat limits the play of any 5, 6, 7 or 8 spot cards. In fact this is the most crucial Solitaire Strategy line on the chart. In some cases you might be scratching your head wondering to yourself, "Why can't I play my Seven of Hearts onto that Eight of Clubs?" One of the primary reasons is that a 5, 6, 7 or 8 may have to be smooth with it's next highest same-color partner in the column before it can be played (the smooth concept is also utilized in strategy line number four as well).

      Playing "smooth" means that in the example above you would only want to play (or transfer) the Seven of Hearts onto the Eight of Clubs when the Eight was resting on the Nine of Hearts. In this case the Seven would be smooth (same-suited) with it's next highest same-color partner in the column, the Nine of Hearts. If instead the Eight was resting on the Nine of Diamonds, the Seven of Hearts would not be the ideal play there (except under the other listed situations). This is because the Seven of Hearts is not smooth with the Diamond Nine (they're different suits). Accordingly, a Six of Spades could be played onto either red Seven resting on the Eight of Spades. The Six would be smooth with it's next highest same-color partner the Eight of Spades. You're keeping the "Reds" same-suited with the other Reds above them in the column and the "Blacks" same-suited with all the other Blacks.

      However, don't forget to take into account the other considerations listed in strategy line eight! For example, you would go ahead and play a 5, 6, 7 or 8 onto a column where it was not smooth with it's next highest same-color partner if the play would allow another play or transfer that would IMMEDIATELY free a downcard. This is because (as also stated in Line two) the freeing of downcards is of the utmost importance. Remember that!

      As mentioned, you should also rearrange your columns to make them smoother whenever possible, regardless of denomination. However, the reasons I have focused this strategy line specifically on the cards 5, 6, 7 and 8 are the result of much study. We discovered that when you start to play your cards from the board to their Ace stacks (particularly late in the game) it is this stretch of cards in the column that you will find the most difficulty moving cards up from if they are not smooth with one another. The 5-6-7-8 block is the "meat" of the column and if handled improperly it may cause the board to become locked (you won't be able to make a play to an Ace stack or transfer to free a card). That's why line eight is so important to this strategy guide.

      The reasons the line eight restrictions begin with 5's and end with 8's turn out to be fairly logical also. A four is allowed to be played anywhere at any time because it will hopefully catch a three, keeping the important Deuce Protection available. The reason it ends with 8's is that by the time you've reached the nines in the column, you will have more than likely already have uncovered most if not all of the downcards on the board and at that point you will not have to worry about the remainder of the column being smooth. You'll just be clicking towards the card waterfall! Just keep the other cards smooth when you can and you'll be fine.

Klondike Strategy Key : King Plays

      For all of the other strategy lines, the concepts we provide are straight-forward and simple but let's go over some of the King plays just to quickly clarify some points. When you "clear" a spot for a King, it means that you have played or transfered out all the cards in the column. There are no cards left there! And according to strategy line five you shouldn't clear a spot unless there's a King IMMEDIATELY waiting to occupy it. This means that you don't want to clear a spot just because you can. There must be a King waiting to occupy it, either via a transfer or play from the deck. You may also clear a spot when you have gone through the deck at least once and know that the premature clearance won't affect you.

      Solitaire strategy line six goes even further in suggesting that you should only play a King that will benefit the column(s) with the biggest pile of downcards, unless the play of another King will at least allow a transfer that frees a downcard. This means that if the upcard on the seventh column at the beginning of the game is a 9 of Diamonds, you would want to play the King of Diamonds or the King of Hearts to an open spot instead of the King of Spades or Clubs. The reason is that the Red Kings will allow the greatest chance of the 9 of Diamonds to be transfered off the biggest downcard stack since the next cards on one of them would be a Black Queen (Spades or Clubs), Red Jack and Black Ten which would gladly accept the Red 9 at that point. A quick way to remember which King would be correct is that Kings and Jacks are Odds, and Queens are Evens.

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