Anyone who decides to flick through the Guinness Book of World Records will quickly realize that such plaudits are handed out for just about anything. And our ability to come up with new world records stretches seemingly as far as our imagination will allow.
Most Eggs Crushed with the Head, Furthest Distance Cycled Backwards whilst Playing the Violin, Highest Jump of a Guinea Pig: each of these records has a place amongst Guinness’ hallowed halls. 80, 60km, and 20cm, for those curious.
What you might not know is that many World Records are achieved as part of marketing campaigns. Sure, the novel examples above are exceptions, but companies, educational institutions and even states have got in on the action. The previous president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, pursued a raft of strange and curious records, which Guinness’ dutifully bestowed upon him on completion. Many political analysts consider Berdimuhamedow to be an authoritarian, and Guinness’ association with his regime brought them under considerable criticism.
It was a little disheartening to learn that upon researching this article, because I think the pursuit of world records is a wonderful thing. At their most profound, they mark the height of human endeavor. How high we can build, how fast we can move, how much we can give. At their most profane, they reflect one of my favorite attributes about humans: the amount of effort we’ll put into something silly, simply for the entertainment of ourselves and others. Watching that man smash those eggs was mesmerizing.
So now we turn to solitaire, which has the upside of being a solitary game, and one that’s available to almost everyone. Here we should have something that’s totally meritocratic, where success is an expression of talent, dedication, and yes, the cleverness to know how to effectively cut corners. Solitaire games also have generally well-defined rule sets, something that should make extrapolating records objective and uncontroversial.
So with this lofty premise in mind, and easily definable goals to consider, it should be easy to find certifiable records on a range of solitaire feats. As you’ll soon discover, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Solitaire World Records
Fastest Game of Solitaire
Our search for answers begins on 2nd of August, 1991. Which, I assume, was an unassuming day for most. The Space Shuttle lifted off for a nine day mission. Hedy Lamaar was arrested for shoplifting in Los Angeles. But while Atlantis blasted off toward the great beyond and the actor-turned-inventor was nicked in California, solitaire history was being made. Though not quite.
According to Guinness, the fastest game of solitaire was completed in 10.0 seconds by Stephen Twigge (or alternatively, Twigg) of West Yorkshire, England on 2nd of August, 1991. It’s a rather astonishing and often cited feat. And one that’s not at all helpful.
Very little additional information is provided – even his name is spelt differently in two places on the website. But what’s pressing is that this record also refers to the board game solitaire, and not the card game.
Guinness (the record book, not the brewery), being a British organization, is referring to a marble based game known as peg solitaire in the US. In the UK, card solitaire is better known as Patience. And to pile on more etymological confusion, the Guinness Book of World Records does in fact take its name from that famous Irish brewery, as it was in part conceived by the company’s managing director at the time.
With this record filed swiftly away as a misconception, we instead have to look deeper to find the fastest time. We get closer with Guinness’ listing for Fastest Completion of Solitaire. 23rd of October 2015, by an Australian gamer called “DDoS-Dan”, and in an astonishingly rapid eight seconds. You can probably guess that this record was achieved digitally, completed using the original 1990 Microsoft solitaire application, on the ‘one card draw’ setting (meaning only one card is taken from the stock at each time).
But this record, Guinness notes, is only reliable up until the 4th of April 2017, which was presumably the date in which they verified it as the number one fastest time on the website speedrun.com. For those unfamiliar with this site, it offers services for ambitious (and breathtakingly fast) players to catalogue their completion times in basically any game conceivably possible – and beyond. And helpfully for us, each entry to the site is verified with video footage and a timer programmed to start exactly when the campaign, level, or mission begins.
Eight seconds. It is unbelievably fast. Robotically fast. So fast that, understandably, the validity of “DDoS-Dan’s” record has been called into question, with some charging the player with using exploits. It’s not an unfounded assumption, given that this is someone whose name references a (Distributed) Denial of Service Attack.
For those who perhaps haven’t heard of this infamous hacking tool, a ‘DDoS’ attack involves flooding a network with bogus requests, causing it to temporarily stop working. As an analogy, it would be like directing a huge number of fake customers to stand in line at a coffee shop, preventing real customers from making their orders. But then continuing to pump in people until the mass of customers in the confined area of the coffee shop implodes in on itself, creating a black hole that devours the café entirely. Or something like that.
The thing is, the accusations of cheating levelled at DDoS-Dan have nothing to do with the use of exploits itself. In fact, in the speed-running community (of which there is a booming one), cleverly cutting corners is all part of the fun. Often, different runs are actually separated into categories based on the particular exploits used. For solitaire however, pretty much anything goes, so long as the run itself is recorded in real time.
Still, I can’t work out how DDoS-Dan did it. But once again, this doesn’t matter. Guinness’ listing (which remember, hasn’t been updated since 2017) was bested a year ago. The usurper’s name: Bruxa, from Portugal, at an unfathomably fast 5 seconds. The notes describe the run as a ‘Hyper Ultra Super Mega EXTREME gaming moment’. We’d certainly agree. Once the game loads, it rolls along at a breakneck pace, cards being drawn from the stock and slammed onto the foundations before you have the chance to even identify their suits. Clearly, something is going on here – aside from some admittedly swift mouse action from the player.
Once again, on the premise that exploits are allowed, we can make some informed guesses as to how this score has been achieved. I will point out that this is purely speculation on my part, and part of the general fun of speed running is working out how they did it.
Let’s start at the beginning. Before the run even starts, we can see the player replacing a file in a folder buried deep in their computer system. We can assume from the other files, which include ‘klondike’ and ‘spider’, that this is where some of the settings for Microsoft Solitaire are stored.
While solitaire is a very strategic game, there is also a reasonable degree of luck involved. The way a deck has been shuffled can be of a particular advantage (or disadvantage) to a player. A commenter on Bruxa’s run has speculated that by replacing this file, the deck is forced to load into a particular order, one which requires the fewest number of moves to solve. In essence we see the speed runner putting their thumb on the scale.
The second is that well-timed clicking. You’ll notice that the player is only using their mouse to draw from the stock, whilst cards are being spirited onto the foundations without any interaction. We can infer the use of some kind of ‘auto-clicker’ here, a piece of software that is taking care of this aspect of the game on their behalf.
Of course, this is still speculation, there may in fact be more at work. Or perhaps the player moves their mouse so rapidly it is imperceptible to the human eye. Solitaire purists (if they do indeed exist) might scoff at this. But for many of us, the game is enjoyed digitally, and for those looking to beat these records, figuring out exactly how to exploit the game whilst still technically completing it is a mark of genuine computing skill, if not strategic ability.
Best-Selling Stand-Alone Solitaire Game
The premise for this record requires a little more context. ‘Best-selling’ – meaning that it’s something people have willfully purchased, and ‘stand-alone’, meaning a game that revolves exclusively around solitaire.
We’ve taken care to use the phrase ‘willfully purchased’, because this excludes games like Microsoft and Apple Solitaire, which came freely installed onto millions of machines and as such would completely annihilate the competition based on the number of players. In fact, the former game still reports 35 million active players monthly as of 2019.
It’s also worth considering the meaning of ‘stand-alone’. We can assume that this distinction is because other games might also have a version of solitaire embedded within them as a mini-game. Imagine, for instance, if the survival sandbox worlds of Minecraft, the best-selling game of all time, could be used to play games of solitaire?
But if you’re familiar with Minecraft’s massive (and frequently ingenious) redstone community you don’t have to imagine, because numerous players have built functional versions of solitaire using the game’s system of command blocks, which are analogous to a programing language.
So, according to Guinness, the best-selling stand-alone solitaire game of all time is ‘Solitaire Overload’. Released for the Nintendo DS in 2007, the game has sold more than 400,000 units as of 2012. Yes, they admit that the record needs updating. It was, after all, realized over a decade ago.
Longest Video Game Marathon for a Casual Game
Alternatively titled ‘Longest Video Game Marathon on Solitaire Blitz’ and ‘Longest Video Game Marathon for a Card Game’, this thirty-hour solitaire spree was completed simultaneously by Laura Rich and Kathleen Henkel, playing the game in London and New York City respectively. Casual in this sense refers to a genre of games that are based on often simple mechanics and have widespread appeal. Like solitaire, for instance.
If you believe this to be a catastrophic waste of time, then, first of all, it’s not your time that they’re wasting, and secondly, they managed to raise an astonishing $90,000 for charity. After their marathon came to a close on the 27th of June 2012, their earnings were donated to Water, a non-profit organization that provides clean drinking water to underserved communities throughout the world.
It was a wonderful thing to do, and with solitaire as a conduit. We’ve also got to give the concept of world records some credit here as well, for at least inspiring the idea. Doing a video game marathon for charity is one thing, but doing in to beat an existing record adds another level of appeal.
In fact, if you want to beat their record, you can actually apply to. Guinness is willing to take, and certify any applicants, for a fee.
What Other Solitaire Records Can I Beat?
You can even come up with your own records and have them verified (so long as Guinness deems them appropriate), for an administrative fee of $5. Perhaps, inspired by the example of Laura Rich and Kathleen Henkel, you’ll even embark on some charitable fundraising.
After all, world records are rarely demonstrations of pure skill. They’re often fun, even silly ideas brought to fruition for the entertainment of those around us, for ridiculous personal plaudits or for stealthily planned marketing campaigns.
And you might find that on the road towards certification, perhaps what you best enjoyed was besting your own abilities, and feel no need to display your talents, however impressive, to the world.
That said, what is the point in doing something so seemingly trivial except to have fun. Whether you want to do that under the guise of Guinness or through different means is up to you. If it makes you happy, go ahead, so long as it doesn’t harm others – 80 smushed eggs notwithstanding.