Lesson 1: Focus on the Tableau


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Lesson 1: Focus on the Tableau

Solitaire is easy! Or is it? Solitaire’s fundamental rules are simple, but they amount to a demanding game experience. There are a few rules of thumb and tactics to meet the challenge successfully. One of them is today’s topic.


What Is it All About?

When talking about Solitaire, we often refer to Klondike Solitaire, specifically, without being aware of it. The reason is likely that most people got introduced to Solitaire through Microsoft’s operating system Windows – and Microsoft Solitaire follows the Klondike rules. Apart from that, Solitaire is an umbrella term for various games of the same family. But here, we are talking about Klondike!

Areas of the Solitaire Playing Field
These are the three areas of the Solitaire playing field.

Klondike employs 52 cards. They come in four suits with 13 ranks each. Some of the cards are arranged as piles in the tableau. Sometimes, the piles are also called rows. We will use the terms pile or stack to avoid confusion. The remaining cards are now the stock. When playing, you aim to sort and place all cards in the foundation. In Klondike, you will always draw and reveal a single card from the stock. You can only move it from the waste if you can legitimately place it in the tableau or the foundation. You can find more information on the game’s setup and course in our Solitaire manual.

Prioritize Freeing Cards

What seems easy at first might turn into a pitfall when attention strays. For example, many players try to get plenty of cards from the stock into the game early on.

That is only partially effective: You can already use the cards there and access them by flipping through the stock. The face-down cards in the tableau are much more important. By appending all matching cards from the stock here, you might obstruct opportunities to move cards in the tableau and, in doing so, free face-down cards or even an entire panel.

Everything is more easily understood when seeing an example, so here it comes!

Solitaire Plaing Field - Freeing Cards
You could free the highlighted cards by moving the black Two in the tableau instead of bringing the one from the stock there.

The only way to reveal the highlighted cards is appending the Two of Spades to a red Three – Diamonds or Hearts – on a different pile. As in Klondike, you are sorting red-black or black-red in alternation in the tableau.

If you add the Two of Clubs from the stock to the red Three here, it will be harder to reach the three cards behind the Two of Spades in the tableau. Now, you first need to find the Ace of Spades and place it in the foundation to get rid of the Two. Or a red Three appears elsewhere. All is not lost yet. But you are faster and likely more successful if you avoid these situations.

Should you notice such a mistake in time, you can undo a move at a time at the Solitaire Palace. You can do that as many times as you like. But beware that each undone move comes at the cost of one point.

Create Empty Panels in the Tableau

Empty panels are of tactical importance in Klondike! They are the only place to move Kings to, or rows of cards starting with a King, respectively. So, if a King is sitting somewhere in your tableau, blocking face-down cards, you should try to empty another panel to move him out of the way there.

Solitaire Playing Field - King on Empty Panels
Use the empty panel to reach the cards behind the King of Hearts.

In Klondike Solitaire, Kings are also the only cards that can move to empty panels. A nice side effect is that you cannot accidentally place another card there, wasting precious King space. Thus, you essentially only have to make sure to first place fitting Kings from the tableau instead of from the stock on empty panels.

There is a chance to get Kings in the tableau, which do not match the Queens blocking even more cards. In that case, a fitting King from the stock would take priority, of course. Otherwise, you might create a playing field with no option to move forward or backward anymore.


Our Conclusion

Do not only focus on filling the foundation as fast as possible, and instead, maintain a certain level of flexibility in the tableau. You should have fewer problems freeing face-down cards, which in turn means empty panels. And empty panels can absorb King, which makes the game go smoothly for you! By the way, a completely sorted tableau will automatically and quickly make its way to the foundation at the Solitaire Palace.

If you feel like getting even more info and advice concerning Solitaire, take a look at our list of Solitaire Lessons.