Mahjong Solitaire Classic

Classic Mahjong solitaire is an addictively fun game with a simple set of rules. With the goal of matching pairs of tiles from a unique playing board, each game presents a new challenge to the player. The click-clack of the moving pieces, and the unique designs that they’re embossed with, make it an artful, relaxing way to pass the time. 

Drawing from a 19th-century Chinese game, Mahjong solitaire classic takes the ‘around the table’ set up of its ancestor and transforms it into a game for solo play. That said, there are plenty of variations therein, some of which revive that competitive spirit. Let’s look at how to play classic Mahjong solitaire.

How to Play Classic Mahjong Solitaire 

Mahjong classic solitaire is played with 144 tiles differentiated into six suits: dots, bamboo, characters, winds, dragons, seasons and flowers. 

For the purposes of our game, these suits won’t matter. Instead, pay attention to the individual designs of each tile. Each design will have an identical pair.


To set up a game of classic Mahjong solitaire, shuffle your tiles and arrange them into a formation with at least four tiers. You can do this however you like, but for classic Mahjong solitaire we use variations of the ‘turtle’ formation. Here’s how you can do this with physical tiles.

How to form the classic or ‘turtle’ formation

  • Raise an 8×8 rectangular pyramid with five tiers. Orient the tiles so that it is taller than it is wide.
  • Look at the top and bottom rows of the rectangular base. Add two more tiles to either side of them. 
  • Look at the left and right sides of the rectangular base. Starting from the middle, create a new column of four tiles on either side.
  • Starting from the middle, create another column on either side – this time with just two tiles.
  • Add a final column from the middle, with just one tile. You’ll notice you’ve made two triangles.
  • Crown the right hand triangle with a final tile.

How to win a game of classic Mahjong solitaire

Our online classic Mahjong solitaire games are already set up on your behalf, so you can start matching pairs right away. Matching a pair means that it can be removed from the board. A game is won once all pairs have been removed.

Rules of Classic Mahjong Solitaire

Simply identifying matching pairs would be one way of passing the time, but it doesn’t make classic Mahjong solitaire much of a challenge. 

Two tiles can only be paired if they are free. This means that aside from being an identical match, they also follow two specific characteristics.  

  • Rule 1: For a tile to be free, it must not have any tiles in the tier directly above it.
  • Rule 2: For a tile to be free, it must not be positioned between two tiles horizontally. 

What happens if I run out of moves?

Because of the randomized nature of the board (remember that you shuffled the tiles before laying them out) it is possible to run out of moves. It’s up to you what to do if this happens, you can either stop the game and start again completely, or reshuffle the remaining tiles and create a new formation.

How is classic Mahjong solitaire scored?

Classic Mahjong solitaire is not always scored, but lots of online versions of the game, including ours, like to include a scorecard that raises by a point each time you make a pair. We’ve also included a bonus based on the amount of time it takes you to complete the game. 


From these two simple rules, an entire game is made; one which can be approached strategically. Here are some top tips for classic Mahjong solitaire success.

Mahjong Solitaire: Classic Top Tips

  • Direct your attention to the top tiers first. Remember that pairs can only be made if there are no tiles directly above them, so flattening the board will free up your options.
  • Always plan ahead. Think about how making new pairs can free up the tiles around them. Try to maximize the number of tiles you’re freeing with each move.
  • Take your time. Remember that you’ll be scanning the entire board for available moves. Speeding through the game might be good for the clock, but it’ll undermine your strategy. 

Different Ways to Play

There are plenty of different variations to classic Mahjong solitaire, including a competitive variant in which you take turns to make pairs. The player with the highest number of pairs at the end of the game wins.

The layout itself has countless variations to keep the game interesting. So long as your formation has at least four tiers to it, you can experiment with as many different arrangements as you’d like.

How to Play Classic Mahjong Solitaire Online

You’ll find a free classic Mahjong solitaire game available on our website, complete with a timer, a scorecard and plenty of interesting pre-set formations available.

So go ahead and start matching those tiles, and enjoy a few moments of tranquil bliss of classic Mahjong solitaire. Click clack!


Is classic Mahjong solitaire the same as Mahjong?

Classic Mahjong solitaire and Mahjong are in fact different games with entirely different rules. They’re similar in that they use the same set of decorated tiles. A key difference is that classic Mahjong solitaire is a single player game, whereas traditional Mahjong is competitive.

How does Mahjong relate to solitaire? 

Solitaire is a term for a family of patience games which can be enjoyed by a single person, derived from the French word for ‘solitary’. Classic Mahjong solitaire borrows the term to describe a solo game played with Mahjong tiles. In fact, like solitaire, it can also be played with playing cards.

How do you win at classic Mahjong solitaire?

You win a game of classic Mahjong solitaire by pairing up matching tiles and removing them from the board. You can pair up tiles so long as they are not trapped under another tile, or sandwiched between two tiles horizontally. Once no more tiles are on the board, a game is won.

Is classic Mahjong solitaire a hard game to play?

Classic Mahjong solitaire is a challenging game. However, the opportunity to reshuffle the board once you’ve run out of moves means that every game has the possibility for you to win, unlike conventional solitaire.