Winning at Accordion

Brought to you by Semicolon Software, makers of Solitaire Till Dawn.

[Before you start] [The Strategy] [Summary]

Accordion is an interesting solitaire because it is different, a refreshing change from the usual games of fanned-out piles alternating red-black or following suit. I played Accordion for twenty-five years and never won a single game. (This gave me a deep appreciation for its other name, "Idle Year"!) But it turns out that there is a strategy for Accordion that can result in winning as many as one game in three. It's not easy; Accordion is still a game requiring very careful thought. But you can win, and here's how.

Before you start

You'll need a copy of the sample game; click here to download it. You'll also need Solitaire Till Dawn to play the sample game; click here to download it. Make sure you have version 2.1 or later because earlier versions don't have a move counter. The latest release is version 3.0. The upgrade is free to registered owners of any earlier version.

If you don't know how to play Accordion, see the Rules for Accordion before going any further. If you don't know how to use the Undo and Redo commands to watch a sample game being played, see Using the Sample Games. If you see a word that's unfamiliar to you, you can probably click it to see its definition. Now you're ready to start!

The Strategy

Start each game of Accordion by laying out all 52 cards, each in its own pile. (In a future version of Solitaire Till Dawn, we may add a special command to do that for you automatically. For now, the easiest way is just to repeatedly press command-D.) In the sample game we start at move 50, just after all the cards have been laid out.

Now examine the cards in the bottom row. We are looking for several cards of the same rank, clustered near each other and near the end of the layout. In this game, the obvious choices are the 8's, because all four of them are very near the end of the layout. (In this game we were lucky; far more often, the best you can do is to find three such cards near the end, with the fourth somewhere back toward the beginning. And sometimes you won't be even that lucky.)

The cards you've selected -- the 8's in this case -- are called the sweepers. Your strategy is to try to get the sweepers to the very end of the layout, and keep them there. Once you've managed that, you'll be moving the sweepers on top of the other cards as you go, using them to "sweep up" all the rest. Never cover a sweeper with anything else, not even with another sweeper! Of course, we'll break that rule at the very end when we try to get all the cards into a single pile, but until then the rule should not be broken.

Let's start playing. Select Redo or press command-R to see the next move: the K of Spades jumps to cover the K of Diamonds. (We are now at move 51.) This is the first of a series of moves designed to get the sweepers collected at the very end of the layout. Moving the King gets it past the 8 of Clubs. Next we would like to jump it over (not onto!) the 8 of Spades; but there's no way to do that yet. Similarly, none of the other cards that are behind the 8's can be moved (except by breaking the rule and covering one of the sweepers). So we'll work with the cards that are a little ways ahead of the sweepers for a while, to see if we can get some new targets for the laggard cards to shoot for.

Our next moves have that goal in mind, to find places for the K of Spades, 7 of Diamonds, and 6 of Hearts to move to. By moving the 4 of Spades a couple of times, we are able (at move 53) to move the 10 of Hearts. At move 54, the K of Spades is now in range of the 4 of Spades, and we could move it there, jumping it over the 8 of Spades and getting it ahead of all the sweepers. And we will -- but first it seems wise to jump the 8 of Clubs onto the 2 of Clubs; if we wait until after we move the King, it will be too late. So at moves 54 and 55, we move the 8 of Clubs and then the K of Spades.

Now (move 56) we have only the 7 of Diamonds and 6 of Hearts to worry about. The 7 isn't very difficult to handle now: two quick moves, and then we can jump the 7 over two 8's and onto the A of Diamonds.

And now (move 59) we have only the 6 of Hearts to deal with. This one may be difficult, because it is now in back of all four sweepers. It can't jump over all of them at once. We'll have to maneuver a Heart or a 6 into the middle of the sweepers, so that the 6 of Hearts can use it as a stepping-stone to get out in front. The 10 of Hearts is the likeliest stepstone because it is nearest; so we now start looking for ways to jump the leading sweepers over that 10, to get it into range for the 6 of Hearts. This means we need to jump the 8 of Spades and 8 of Clubs onto some other Clubs and Spades; therefore we must find a way to bring some near.

As is often the case in Accordion, there's no obvious, easy way to do this. To accomplish it we must first move away from our goal. The K of Spades and the 3 of Clubs are the obvious targets for the 8's, but they are out of range and the intervening cards have no place to go. So we must begin by moving one or both of the 3 and King even farther away, in order to eventually bring them near again. The next series of moves accomplishes this, and at move 65 we find that both the black 8's have acceptable targets. We now move both of these 8's, leapfrogging the 10 of Hearts, and now at last the 6 of Hearts can be jumped to the 10 and away from the end of the layout. And this places the 6 very neatly in front of the 8 of Hearts, so we can let that 8 gobble up the 6.

We're at move 69, and at last all the sweepers are in a neat group of four at the very end of the layout. Now we can begin sweeping. In the next series of moves, see how we move the sweepers onto the piles just ahead of them, keeping the sweepers at the back as much as possible. If we can't move a sweeper, we move something else instead, until we reach a point where we can move a sweeper. It doesn't much matter whether we move the sweepers or other cards; what matters is that the sweepers stay at the back.

Sometimes we find that we have to move a sweeper ahead, jumping it over other cards. This happens almost immediately in this game, at move 70 when the 8 of Clubs leaps ahead. But see how in the next couple of moves we gobble up the cards that the 8 of Clubs jumped, and again collect all the sweepers at the back.

As you watch the sweeping in this sample game, try to think ahead and guess what the next move should be. It isn't always the most obvious move. Having a good set of sweepers does not guarantee that you'll win the game; you must still be clever about the moves you make. Look for ways to move the non-sweepers that will make it easier to bring the sweepers up behind. For example, at move 85, we jump the 10 of Spades onto the 2 of Spades. It's tempting next to move the 8 of Hearts onto the A of Hearts. But that would leave us unable to sweep up the A of Spades. Instead, see how we move the A of Spades onto the 10, then the A of Hearts onto the A of Spades, and then finally the 8 of Hearts onto the A of Hearts.

At move 90, stop and look things over for a minute. We are near the end of the game, and if we were lucky, we could just keep sweeping along and have an easy win. But we're not so lucky; thoughtless play at this point will cost us the game. When you're down to about a single row of cards, as we are now, you must pause and think through the rest of your moves very carefully indeed. (If you're not too proud to use it, Solitaire Till Dawn's unlimited Undo feature comes in handy here, allowing you to try different approaches until you find one that works.)

It is tempting to just jump the 8 of Diamonds onto the Jack, and then the 8 of Clubs onto the King. If we do, we'll lose. You probably won't see why unless you think ahead very carefully, or unless you try the moves to see how they come out. Accordion is tricky near the end of the game, and you have to be careful. To win, we must set things up first: jump the K of Clubs a couple of times to the very first pile, then bring up the 8 of Hearts; move the J of Diamonds to enable the 8 of Clubs to cover the 4; now the 8 of Diamonds can gobble up the Jack.

At move 97, we have five piles: the K of Clubs in the first pile, the 8 of Clubs next to it, and the remaining sweepers behind the 8 of Clubs. Cover the King, and only sweepers are left; then it's trivial to finally let the sweepers cover each other until only one remains. We have our win!

In some games (though not in this one) you'll find that you can and must cover one of the sweepers earlier. We have told you throughout this article that you must not do that, but there are times near the end of a game when it's okay. If, for example, there are no more Clubs left, then it's okay to cover up the 8 of Clubs by moving another 8 onto it. You don't need your Clubs sweeper if there are no longer any other Clubs for it to sweep up.

And once in a while, in a really tricky end-game, you may have to cover a sweeper before all the rest of its suit are gone. You'll cover the rest of its suit with non-sweepers of the same rank. You'll probably resort to this extreme only when you can find no other way to win.


Every game is different. In this game, we were lucky to find a great set of sweepers right away, right at the back of the layout. In other games, you'll have to settle for three or even two sweepers for most of the game, and they may not start out so near the back.

Remember that the goal is to end up with just three or four piles, all with the same rank; then you can easily pile them all up to win. That's why you must never cover a sweeper until you're sure you won't need it any more. You don't need a sweeper when it is the last visible card of its suit, or when you're sure you can cover the remaining cards of its suit without its help.

Expect your games to be more difficult than this sample game seemed. Usually it's harder to achieve a win. Don't get frustrated when you lose! Unless you're much better at this than we are (certainly possible -- it took us 25 years to win our first game!) you won't win more than about one game in three no matter what. And while you're learning the strategy, you probably won't win even that many. Accordion is a tough game to win, but with thought and practice you can do it!

If you have any new tips for our collection, please write to us! We'll add your tips to this page and sign your name to them.

Copyright 1996, 1997, 2000 by Semicolon Software. All rights reserved.
Last modified March 5, 2000