Accordion (card game)

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A patience or solitaire game
Alternative namesThe Idle Year, Tower of Babel, Methuselah, Leapfrog
DeckSingle 52-card
Playing time5 min[1]
Odds of winning1 in 100[1]

Accordion is a patience or card solitaire using a single deck of playing cards. It is so named because it looks like accordion pleats, which have to be ironed out.[2] The object is to compress the entire deck into one pile like an accordion.[3][4]


The name Accordion comes from the appearance of the layout as it alternately grows and shrinks during play. It was originally called The Idle Year and alternative names occasionally encountered include Tower of Babel and Methuselah.[5] It is called The Idle Year because "with a well-shuffled pack, it will require about that length of time to accomplish it."[6] Presumably the same logic applies to Methuselah. It may be the same game that the Italians call Qui Sace (Who Knows?).[7]


Rules for The Idle Year are published by William Brisbane Dick in 1883 and by "Tarbart" in 1905. Dick's rules are strict: a packet must be moved if possible and, if there is a choice, it must be moved to its nearest neighbour. Tarbart's rules are lax: a packet that can be moved need not be and judgment should be exercised as to whether to play it or not.[6][8]

The game recorded by Wood & Goddard in 1940 as Tower of Babel allows a player the choice of whether to play an available packet to its left-hand neighbour or to the third packet to the left, but does not say if a player can continue dealing without moving.[9]

The name Accordion appears in the 1950s, Culbertson and Goren allowing a further deal before deciding whether or not to move a packet.[10][11] Parlett equates Accordion with Idle Year, Methuselah and Tower of Babel, but insists that a packet must be played if it can, leaving any choice between the 1st and 3rd packets to the left to the player.[12] The game has been included in numerous compendia in recent decades, usually under the name Accordion.


The cards from the entire deck are spread out in a single line.

A pile can be moved on top of another pile immediately to its left or moved three piles to its left if the top cards of each pile have the same suit or rank.[13] Gaps left behind are filled by moving piles to the left. The player is not required to make a particular move if they prefer not to.[14]

Here is an example:

5 of spades 6 of spades 10 of diamonds 5 of hearts King of clubs

Here, either 6 or 5 can be placed over the 5. These are the only allowable moves.

The game is won when all cards are compressed into one pile.

Originally, cards were laid out one at a time, and it was only allowed to place a new card when no moves were available. As the game is exceedingly difficult to win that way, the rules listed above were adopted.[15]


Other eliminator games in the style of Accordion appeared a decade later in the 1890s:

The Queen and Her Lad is first recorded by Mary Whitmore Jones in the 3rd series of her Games of Patience (1892). One pack is used. The Q is laid down as the "commencing card". The J is put at the bottom of the stock which is played singly to the right of the Q. One or two cards may be discarded if they lie between two others of the same suit or rank; however, if two are "pushed out" they must also be of the same suit or rank as one another. If, in adjusting the line, three or four pairs come together in succession between two cards of the same rank or suit, all the intervening cards may be pushed out. The patience is out if the "Queen and Her Lad" can be united at the end, but this is described as "very difficult".[16][a]

Royal Marriage where the aim is to reduce the entire deck to King and Queen of the same suit, these being placed at the start and end of the layout at the beginning of the game.[b]


The odds of winning have been estimated as being around one in a hundred,[20][21] which they explained meant that the win rate was very low.[22] Given how difficult it is to achieve this when cards are dealt one at a time, Alfred Sheinwold suggests in his book 101 Best Family Card Games (ISBN 0-8069-8635-2) that it may be considered a win when there are five piles or fewer at the end of the game.

The best chance of a successful game comes by identifying 4 cards with the same rank that are close and near the end of the layout at the start of the game, and to try to move these four "sweeper" cards together in a group towards the front of the layout, not covering them with other cards until the end of the game.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In 19th century style, she calls it 'The Queen and Her Lad Patience'.
  2. ^ First recorded by Hoffmann (1892)[17] and subsequently by many others include Morehead & Mott-Smith (1949, 2001)[18] and Parlett (1979).[19]


  1. ^ a b Morehead & Mott-Smith (2001), p. 57.
  2. ^ "Accordion" (p.13) in The Little Book of Solitaire, Running Press, 2002. ISBN 0-7624-1381-6
  3. ^ Walter B. Gibson (23 October 2013). Hoyle's Modern Encyclopedia of Card Games: Rules of All the Basic Games and Popular Variations. Crown. pp. 381–. ISBN 978-0-307-48609-7.
  4. ^ "Accordion" (p.11) in Card Games by John Cornelius, Parragon, 1998. ISBN 1-86309-571-3
  5. ^ "Accordion" (p.12) in Little Giant Encyclopedia of Games for One or Two, The Diagram Group, 1998. ISBN 0-8069-0981-1
  6. ^ a b Dick (1883), pp. 51–52.
  7. ^ Bernard (2012), p. 92.
  8. ^ "Tarbart" (1905), pp. 25–26.
  9. ^ Wood & Goddard (1940), p. 256.
  10. ^ Culbertson (1957), p. 342.
  11. ^ Goren (1961), p. 449.
  12. ^ Parlett (1979), p. 183.
  13. ^ "Accordion" (p.7) in Card & Dice Games by N.A.C. Bathe, Robert Frederick Ltd, 2004.ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  14. ^ How to Play Accordion,
  15. ^ Icelandic Oratorios, or How I learned to play (the) Accordion
  16. ^ Whitmore Jones (1892), pp. 22–23.
  17. ^ Hoffmann (1892), pp. 14–15.
  18. ^ Morehead & Mott-Smith (1949), pp. 66–67.
  19. ^ Parlett (1979), p. 183.
  20. ^ "Accordion" (p.309) in Bicycle Official Rules of Card Games by Joli Quentin Kansil (ed.), 1999. ISBN 1-889752-06-1
  21. ^ "Accordion" (p.202) in Hoyle's Rules of Games (3rd edition) by Philip D. Morehead (ed.), 2001. ISBN 0-451-20484-0
  22. ^ Icelandic Oratorios, or How I learned to play (the) Accordion