Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Intermediate Class Commences!

Chapter Zero: Five Steps to Winning in Othello
Well, if you have read through the Basic Class and have come this far to read on to this next Intermediate Class, I would assume that you are ready and intending to take your game to the next level.

It does not take much for one to understand the concepts introduced in the Basic Class. However, when both players understand the basic strategies, there is a need to probe further. In order to become a novice or intermediate player, you need to understand the basic process of winning an Othello game.

The standard process to Winning a Game usually involves the following 5 steps:

1) Apply Rule Number One, Two, and Three from the Basic Class and centralise or minimise to a point whereby your opponent has only left perhaps 1-3 free moves.

2) Grab an edge which can also be your anchor to prevent being wiped out (losing all discs).

3) Play moves to the edge that you have obtained (edgeplay).

4) Force your opponent to have only moves to the X-squares or side squares which will give you corners.

5) Grab the corner and extend the number of your stable discs by playing (or creeping) from the sides starting from moves from your corner.

Diagram 0
It is very common to see this sort of situation played out when Black as a more advanced player plays against a beginner playing White with both players refusing to move out of the center 16 square box. In this situation, Black has successfully performed Step One and minimised pretty well in the center and limiting the options that White has essentially to only 25% of the board as indicated by the arrows. In comparison, Black has a much higher mobility to more than double of White at 62.5% of the board based on the areas Black can play to.

With more options for Black and fewer options for White, it is apparent that Black has the upper hand. However, another very important factor to consider when reading the position is also which side has to play the next move.

If White has to play the next move when he or she already has such limited options, White would be at a great disadvantage for sure. However, if Black were to play next, then the situation would be completely different because Black's next move will create more moves for White and thus increase its mobility.

Diagram 0-A                                              Diagram 0-B                                             Diagram 0-C
As the game moves on, Diagram 0-A is a possible result when White continues to try to grab all edges at the start of the game while Black continues to centralise. In Diagram 0-A, it is White's turn to play and it is shown that White has essentially 5 possible moves and just 2 safe moves (not an X-square or C-square move) marked by the green crosses.

Assuming White is really a player who likes to sweep and wrap around all the discs, B6 would be a logical choice for White. As a result, in Diagram 0-B, Black can then perform Step Two by grabbing an edge to prevent loss of all discs on the board to A6 which is also a quiet move.

After A6 by Black, it is reasonable to expect White to grab C1 as shown in Diagram 0-C with the entire row of Black discs since the usual beginner mindset is to grab the maximum possible discs at the start of the game.

Diagram 0-D                                                Diagram 0-E                                              Diagram 0-F
Diagram 0-D shows the end result after White has captured C1. Over here, what Black would really wish for is to be able to play a move to the A7 C-Square marked by the star which will result in White only having two choices to A5 or B7 marked by red crosses. Both these two moves will open two corners to A1 or A8 respectively for Black allowing Black to capture these two corners.

However, since Black has no disc along the E3 to C5 diagonal, the next step Black should do is to create an access for himself to A7 without creating many more moves for White. Diagram 0-E shows how black can easily play into H5 to cut for the disc C5 in order to access A7. At the same time, Black only releases one safe move for White to play at H6.

After White has played H6, Black can then take A7. The result is shown in Diagram 0-F which shows how White is now forced to play either A5 which will give up the A1 corner to Black or to play B7 which will give Black the corner A8. Over here, Black has successfully complete Step Three and Step Four altogether by playing edgeplay and forcing his or her opponent to give up the corners.

Diagram 0-G                                            Diagram 0-H                                               Diagram 0-I
Finally, in Diagram 0-G, Black is able to capture the corner A8 after White has played B7.

As mentioned in the Basic Class, corners are stable as well as all adjacent discs or diagonally layered discs from it. Thus, the consequent strategy for Black after it has obtained the corner A8 is to expand its influence using its strength which is the stable corner A8 in either the top direction or to the right of the board as shown in Diagram 0-H.

A typical ending result would be something like what is shown in Diagram 0-I when Black has successfully played out the edges from its corner performing Step Five. It is obvious that Black has no more worries from here on out in losing the game if Black continues to advance in the three main directions beginning from the edges.

With that, I end off Chapter Zero of the Intermediate Class on how we should go about winning a standard game. Out of the Five Steps to Winning in Othello, the easiest steps would certainly be Steps Two to Five.

The main step that really gives us all problems is Step One which involves running your opponent out of moves. The following chapters will continue to explain how to carry out Steps Two to Five correctly and effectively while the Advance Class will talk about the hardest step which is Step One.

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