Pile Up and Beehive -- Building in Ranks

There are only a handful of solitaires in which cards are packed on the tableau by rank.  In a couple of these, packing by rank is only a means to an end. David Parlett's Curds and Whey is essentially a one-deck variation of Spider; it allows packing on the tableau in rank, and also downward in suit; the object being to form four complete suites (sequences running from king down to ace in suit).   In the two games we describe in this article, cards are packed on the tableau in rank only, the object being to form thirteen sets of four.  Both of these games are available in Solitaire Virtuoso.

Pile Up is one name for an excellent open solitaire I have never seen in a book, though there are a fair number of computer versions. 
Among the computer versions still available are Maurice Abraham's Patience Pack (where it is called Pile Sort), a freeware package of 120 games and puzzles first published in 1994 (the current version 8.0, written in 2005, still runs under Windows 7).  Pretty Good Solitaire calls the game Fifteen Puzzle: not a particularly good name, as this solitaire is unrelated to the well-known sliding block puzzle popularized by Sam Loyd (fifteen numbered pieces in a 4x4 grid, which have to be arranged in order by sliding blocks into the one space in the grid).

In Pile Up, the entire deck is dealt out in a tableau of 13 columns of 4 cards each, with two empty columns.
  It is usually presented as thirteen fans of four cards each, with two empty spaces, the fans and spaces being arranged in a 3x5 array.  I prefer to have 15 parallel columns, so that it is easy to see which piles have room left.  In Pile Up a card may only be moved onto a card of the same rank, or into an empty column.  Each column can hold a maximum of four cards, so the first play must be to one of the two empty columns.   The object is to form thirteen quartets of the same rank; completed quartets are not discarded. 

52923 start

Let's play through a deal, number 52923, from Solitaire Virtuoso.
Usually the player wants to move, if possible, three (or even on occasion four) cards of the same rank to one of the two empty columns, trying to keep one column empty as much as possible.  Often there are no ranks with three available cards, so we try to find a pair which will expose two more playable cards.  In this case moving the two aces to the first empty column will uncover a queen and a three, both of which can be played on.  The moves are notated, as in other column-packing games, using an extension of the standard FreeCell notation.  The columns are numbered 1-9 and A-F, and each move is specified by giving the starting and ending columns.  So moving the ace of diamonds to the first empty column (this can be done quickly by right-clicking the AD) is denoted 5E.  Moving the ace of clubs onto the ace of diamonds is DE.   We now have three queens free, and we can see that the fourth is in column C; if we can find places to put the seven of spades and nine of diamonds, we can get the four queens together.   We move all three queens into the last empty column, put the ten of diamonds on the ten of hearts, complete a quartet by putting the queen of hearts on the other three queens.  Note the automatic recording of the solution.

52923 a few plays along

Now we could regain a space by putting the nine of hearts on the nine of spades, but we can also clear column 2 if we can find a place for the two tens.  We can put them in column 9 if we can move the two jacks, so we put the nine of spades onto the nine of hearts, move the two jacks onto the jack of spades, the two tens onto the ten of spades, and the ace of spades and nine of clubs onto their respective piles.  Now we have an empty column again, and four clean piles (columns with cards all of the same rank).  We can also move the three of hearts onto the three of clubs and complete the quartet of nines with the nine of diamonds.  Sequences of plays like this are not hard to visualize with practice.

52923 -- 15 moves

We can now clear column 3 by putting the sixes in column 2 and the twos in column 8; look for opportunities to clear columns with only two ranks in them whenever possible.   We also move the six of clubs and jack of diamonds onto their corresponding columns.  You should always move free cards onto clean piles whenever possible, unless you have no empty columns and can create one by moving all of the cards from a clean pile onto another column.  We also move the five of diamonds onto the five of clubs, uncovering the ten of clubs and setting up another set of maneuvers.  If we move all four tens into the empty column 2, and the eight of spades into the eight of diamonds, we can clear column 4 by putting the two sevens onto the seven of diamonds, the three of spades on the three of diamonds, and the five of hearts on the five of diamonds.  But instead of moving the five of hearts, we put the two fives from column 1 onto it, and we can instead clear column 7.   We're almost finished now:

52923 -- almost finished

If we move all four threes (from columns 5 and A) into the empty column 7, we can clear column 6 (king of spades to column 1, four of diamonds to column 5; finish three quartets with king of clubs, ace of hearts, and six of hearts).  The last three quartets are easy -- all four twos to an empty column, then finish the eights and fours).  Our completed solution is:

52923
 5E DE 2F CF DF 42 C4 CF DC 9D
 29 2E 2C 85 8C 32 38 32 38 12
 1D B1 93 B3 AB 49 4A 14 71 7B
 79 74 57 A7 51 65 61 6E 62 86
 A6 B8 A5 B5

Like many open solitaires, Pile Up has a very high win rate with expert play. I have been able to win 98% of a block of 100 Solitaire Virtuoso deals given enough attempts, though I have only won about 1 in 3 on the first try (and without undos). I'm also working on a second block, with 87 solved so far. There is plenty of skill involved; I would rate this as one of the best open solitaires.

Beehive is a storehouse game rarely seen in books; my only source is a book on card games for children, Joseph Leeming's Games and Fun With Playing Cards (1980 Dover reprint of the 1949 original).  It is also rare as a computer game: until recently, I had only seen one version, no longer available, by NZP Games (their website no longer exists, but my 2005 copy of the game still runs in Windows 7).   10 cards are initially dealt to a storehouse (only the last card is face up; others are turned face up as they are uncovered).   Six cards are dealt, one each, to six columns to start the tableau; the remaining 36 cards form a stock.  The stock is dealt, three at a time as in Canfield or Klondike, to a waste pile (NZP and Leeming both specify that the stock be dealt with only one card at a time visible, but I find games using the Canfield deal more strategic if you spread each group of three).  If the top of the waste matches any of the tableau piles in rank, it may be moved there, uncovering another waste card.  When the stock is exhausted (possibly after dealing one or two leftover cards as a group), the waste can be turned over (without shuffling) and redealt, as many times as necessary.  When the fourth card of the same rank is moved to a tableau column, the quartet of four cards are discarded, and the empty column can be filled at any time with a card from the storehouse or waste.  Leeming specifies that an empty column must be immediately filled from the storehouse, or from the top of the waste after the storehouse is empty.  But the game is also more strategic if a column may be left empty (NZP and Solitaire Virtuoso both allow this).   The object is to form and discard all 13 quartets of the same rank.   NZP uses a storehouse of 16 cards, but the game is probably too hard that way.  There is now a good version in BVS Solitaire, with the same 10-card storehouse specified in Leeming.    Solitaire Virtuoso uses a 13-card storehouse as a default; this can be changed to any value between 7 and 16.

Beehive is a good game for practicing strategic manipulation of the stock pile, which may help in other games (such as Canfield or the three-at-a-time version of Klondike: Robert Abbott's site has a discussion of how to use this strategy in playing Klondike).


Copyright 2015 by Michael Keller. All rights reserved.  This file was revised on May 12, 2015.