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Ultimate Guide to King Albert Solitaire

These days, playing card games like Rummy or Classic Solitaire online is simple and free, opening many players to variations of classic games they have never heard about before.

King Albert might not be as well as well-known as Classic Solitaire, or Patience, but it remains a fascinatingly challenging variant of Klondike solitaire. Though how it came to be named King Albert is not certain, it is speculated to be named for King Albert I of Belgium, who reigned during the unfortunate period of World War I when Belgium was heavily occupied and ruled by Germany.

At any rate, King Albert is aptly named if for no other reason than that players will certainly feel the plight of Albert I. The low likelihood of winning a game has earned it the moniker of “Idiot’s Delight.” There are two other solitaire variants that share this derisive nickname, Perpetual Motion and Aces Up.

Though King Albert is difficult for beginners to win, it is also easy to understand. For this reason, as with any so-called “Idiot’s Delight” version of solitaire, it can be an enjoyable way to pass longer stretches of time. Of interest might be the concept of sharing a game of solitaire—that is, taking turns with friends to see who can be the first to win a game. A mastery of the game’s mechanics will eventually yield a much higher chance of winning.

The Rules of King Albert

After the deck is shuffled, nine tableau piles are laid out down. Each tableau has an increasing number of cards, so that the first has one card, the second has two cards, and so on all the way up to the ninth tableau with nine cards. Seven leftover cards remain in a reserve. All 52 cards of the deck should be face up, and the four foundations begin empty.

The goal of King Albert, as with many solitaire variants, is to initially get the aces to the foundation piles and to build these foundations up in suit to Kings. So, for example, an Ace of Diamonds must be followed by a Two of Diamonds, a Three of Diamonds, and so on. Once a card is placed onto the foundation, it cannot be removed.

Meanwhile, tableaus are built down in alternating colors. Thus, a Five of Spades could be followed by either a Four of Diamonds or a Four of Hearts, for example. Only one card may be moved at a time, and only the top card on the tableau may be moved, although it can be moved anywhere at any time within the given rules.

The seven reserve cards may be used for either tableaus or foundations, and any card may be placed on an emptied tableau pile. However, the reserve cannot be refilled with other cards, even if all seven reserves are depleted.

How to Play King Albert

King Albert has a reputation for being very difficult, and on average players will start out winning only about 10% of the time. Like many variants of solitaire, however, keen observation, a little planning and a lot of patience go a long way. In fact, some claim that once the mechanics have been mastered, it is possible to win one in four or even one in two games. Of course, that winning one in four games is a victory does speak to how difficult it can be at first.

The first thing to bear in mind about King Albert is that it is an open game since all cards do face up. As with any open game, players can strategize in various ways, aiming to build up foundations, build down tableaus, or focus on creating empty spaces. Focusing heavily on the latter is critical, since multiple cards cannot be moved simultaneously.

Thus, it is important to clear out tableaus whenever possible, so that a single card may be moved to the empty space to uncover a needed card. Then, the card may be moved elsewhere. It is also possible, of course, to move multiple cards to an empty tableau one at a time, although players will need to be careful not to accidentally dig themselves too deep.

A common mistake when playing King Albert is to place cards from the reserve into empty tableaus. There is no reason to do this, as any card at all may be moved from a tableau to an empty tableau. Furthermore, players should only move cards from the reserve whenever absolutely necessary, as cards cannot be returned to the reserve. Ideally, cards from the reserve should only be placed in the foundations unless it is an absolutely necessary card to unlock a sequence.

It is also best to build foundations evenly in King Albert, as this keeps an even number of cards of all suits in the tableaus. This makes it easier to transfer cards back and forth across the tableaus, rather than getting stuck with values that are far off from each other.

So long as the above concepts are followed carefully, a player should be able to empty one tableau relatively soon. By carefully using this empty tableau to chip at the remaining tableaus, either great progress will be made in evenly filling the foundations, or a second tableau will open. It does not matter which occurs, although it is critical if only one tableau has been emptied to try to keep it empty.

Ultimately, by following this strategy and using the reserve cards either only to fill the foundation or when absolutely necessary to move tableau cards when there is no other option, a player will have a great chance of winning.

The common reasons that players do not win include needlessly playing reserve cards, failing to keep an empty tableau empty, and placing any eligible card in the foundation immediately. As with any solitaire game, rushing to the goal is not advisable. In a sense, King Albert is not much harder than other solitaire games, it’s simply less forgiving of mistakes. For this reason, patience and careful planning pay dividends.

Origins of King Albert

While many claim that King Albert is anything from the most difficult to the most enjoyable form of solitaire, interestingly enough, very little is known about the origins of the game. Because it is likely named after King Albert I of Belgium, who reigned from 1909 to 1934 and during the first World War, it was likely created around this time.

While any other speculation into the origins of the game is just that, speculation, it is likely that the game was either named in celebration of King Albert or in honor of his struggles, as the game is indeed difficult.

In general, King Albert was well-loved by his people and many across the world, as he refused to use his troops in battle in hopes that negotiations and peace treaties could spare their lives as a matter of conscience. Additionally, he spent much of his post-war tenure promoting modern reforms such as suffrage.

Thus, it seems likely that the card game’s name is either a clever acknowledgement of King Albert I’s struggles, or simply named after the beloved monarch by either Belgians or their allied troops. As stationed troops often passed time with card games, it is very possible that the card game developed during World War I.

King Albert Strategies

Unlike many other forms of solitaire, there is no one trick to winning a game of King Albert. Instead, patience and careful planning are critical, much as in a game of chess. Practicing the ability to plan several moves in advance is very helpful.

That said, it is also possible to make major mistakes that could quickly ruin a game. Players who are familiar with Classic Solitaire, for example, have a tendency to quickly fill an empty tableau. In Classic Solitaire, there is little risk to this, and in fact it is often advantageous. That’s because in Classic Solitaire, multiple cards can be moved simultaneously, whereas in King Albert this cannot be done.

Instead, King Albert players should opt to leave tableaus empty whenever possible so that they can move a single card out of their way and into the tableau in order to uncover a needed card. Then, as soon as possible, that card should be moved back out of the empty tableau.

Players accustomed to Classic Solitaire will also often play cards from the reserve deck without thought when playing King Albert. Again, the forgiving nature of Classic Solitaire makes this inconsequential or even advantageous. Because the reserve cards can be played any time and at any place, they are best kept separate until absolutely needed. Given that only a single card can be moved at a time, real estate is key, and having cards spread out, including all seven in the reserve, helps immensely.

Lastly, players should avoid filling the foundation too soon. In other forms of solitaire, it’s easy to uncover needed cards, but in King Albert, as only one card may be moved at a time, it is far too easy to have wide spreads in numbers on the foundations and tableaus. This means that, for example, if one foundation is all the way up to a 9, and the rest are at 3’s and 4’s, all those cards in the 9-pile are not able to be played in the tableaus, hindering maneuverability.

Of course, the ultimate strategy is to have patience and carefully think through all the above points before making a move!

King Albert Terms

The terms behind King Albert are shared with many of the terms of classic solitaire, sometimes called Patience:

  • Cells: This is any place that you can move a card to (unlike in “Free Cell,” you cannot move a card anywhere in King Albert)

  • Fanned: The placement of piled cards overlaps but they are visible

  • Foundation: Squared cards that are placed in ascending order, starting with the Ace in King Albert

  • Reserve: The leftover cards, sometimes simply referred to as the “deck,” where building is not allowed but these cards can be played at any time

  • Squared: Building cards on top of each other, as in the foundation; contrast this to fanned cards

  • Tableau: The seven descendent columns of fanned cards where most playing takes place

When it comes to building cards in ascending or descending order, the terms “by suit”, “by suit sequence”, “by color”, and “by alternating color” are used. Obviously, sequence refers to numerals and suits refers to whether a card is a spade, club, diamond or heart.

Terms used during a game include:

  • Available Cards: Any cards that can be played, which in King Albert are the top cards (IE, uncovered cards) in a tableau and reserve cards

  • Released Cards: Cards that were previously covered

  • Suitable Cards: Cards eligible for placement

  • Base Cards: Cards at the base of a tableau or foundation

Variations of King Albert Solitaire

King Albert is itself a variation of Klondike, and of course Classic Solitaire. It is also closely associated with two other variations that share the moniker of “Idiot’s Delight” for being notoriously difficult, Aces Up and Perpetual Motion.

  • Classic Solitaire: Sometimes called “Patience,” this is the Solitaire most are familiar with, and features cards that can be moved virtually at will, including in groups

  • Klondike: The most common variation of Patience, it features cards spanning seven tableaus of ascending number; e.g., the first column has one card while the last has seven

  • Aces Up: A very unique Solitaire variant that involves dealing four cards from a reserve simultaneously and moving the higher of a paired suit

  • Perpetual Motion: Sometimes called Narcotic, this variant involves four columns and cards dealt in fours, as in Aces Up

King Albert FAQ

Here are some of the most asked questions about King Albert solitaire:

  • Are jokers used in King Albert solitaire?

No, as with most solitaire games, the joker is not employed. However, the joker is useful as a replacement for a missing card.

  • Are some King Albert games unwinnable?

Yes! Technically, games are about as possible or impossible as Classic Solitaire, but the challenge of King Albert makes winning a game notoriously difficult.

  • Can cards be removed from the foundation?

In classic King Albert games, cards can only be moved from the reserve and the tableau. However, variations obviously exist, and players are free to set their own rules.

Final Thoughts on King Albert Solitaire

Those looking for an excellent challenge, or to play competitively with others to see who can win first, will greatly enjoy King Albert solitaire. Like chess, it is easy to learn and difficult to master. These days, playing anything from Rummy to Playing King Albert online is free and easy!