Friday, May 25, 2012

Intermediate Class Chapter Three

Edgeplay and Tempo

As mentioned in basic class chapter two, besides the theory of centralisation, there is also an equally important theory which is the one on edgeplay. Edgeplay is arguably one of the hardest part of the game. Deciding whether to give up and edge or keep an edge always puzzles many novice players seeking to climb to a higher level. Of course, in order to improve, one must clearly understand these related principles as much as possible.

Before we begin, we need to first define good and bad edges.

Diagram 3-0

In order to judge whether an edge is balanced or unbalanced, one would need to observe the discs on the edge based on the two center axes marked by the red double headed arrows shown in Diagram 3-0 above.

For example, the top edge would be an unbalanced edge for Black with 3 discs on the left of the vertical center axis and none on the right.

Another example, the bottom edge would be a balanced edge for Black with 3 discs on the left and right of the vertical center axis.

Furthermore, the left edge would be a prospective 4 disc balanced edge with 2 discs above and below the horizontal center axis.

Lastly, the right edge would be a 5 discs unbalanced edge for White with 3 discs on top of the horizontal center axis and 2 discs below the same axis.

In essence, to detemine whether an edge is balanced or not, one only needs to observe the discs on each side of both the horizontal or vertical axis. Like a weighing scale, if you have the same number of discs on each side, it would be balanced. If not, they are unbalanced edges.

Generally, balanced edges are better than unbalanced edges because unbalanced edges are susceptible to attacks such as the wedge and stoner techniques covered in the chapter before.


Defending an Edge

Starting from a very basic form of edgeplay would be about defending an edge.

Diagram 3-1
The first board on the left of Diagram 3-1 shows how White has just played D8 to approach to capturing the bottom edge. If Black takes E8, it would be a move that threatens to take control over the edge since it can approach to the prospective C8 next.

Thus, in order to defend the edge and retain control of the edge, White would have to follow up with F8 as shown in the center board of Diagram 3-1. The result is then shown in the third board on the right of Diagram 3-1 where White has control of the bottom edge marked by the blue double headed arrow. White is said to have defended its edge here.

Let us now take a look at what happens in the alternate scenario should White choose not to take F8 and defend its edge. This brings us to the concept of tempo.

Diagram 3-2
The first board on the left of Diagram 3-2 shows the result if White chooses not to take F8 to defend the edge, but rather selects playing C3 instead. This opens up an opportunity for Black to control the edge to C8 since White has given up the right to move by playing C3 instead of controlling the edge by F8. Also, the move to C3 by White opens up an easy centralising move for Black to F4. Thus, C3 should be clearly problematic for White.

After White decides not to play F8, but rather, to play C3, it is said to lose one tempo to the edge. Furthermore, when Black decides to take C8, White will have to make one more move to the exterior and "consume" more of its opponents' frontier or surface discs. This would result in White losing up to two moves worth of frontier discs which could prove as a costly mistake of not willing to grab edges.

Moving on to the center board of Diagram 3-2, there is a pressing need for White to change D6 into its colour because White would not want to give Black an easy move to F4 and also to prevent Black from forming a nice balanced edge to the bottom of 4 discs.

Finally, Black would follow by G8 in order to protect the edge below. Although this edge is momentarily unbalanced, Black can look to change the D6 disc into Black so that he or she can balance the edge by playing B8 in the future. This prospect is possible because C7 is a White disc.

Therefore, as general rule to safeguard tempo, when your opponent plays a move to the edge or approaches an edge you are controlling, there is a need to first consider taking the edge that he or she is feeding you. Should the edge be unfavourable to you (an attackable unbalanced edge), then you should avoid taking it and consider other options.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Intermediate Class Chapter Two

Intermediate Techniques: Wedge and Stoner Traps

In order to continue improving, it is highly essential for one to learn more advanced techniques such as the wedge and stoner traps.

The Wedge
Diagram 2-1
The following diagram shows a typical example of what would happen if you as a novice player with some techniques learnt, plays against one of your counterparts who is a maximiser (one who likes to grab edges and flip many discs at the start of the game). In this Diagram 2-1, we see that Black is left with no more "safe" options and is forced to play into either X-squares or C-squares which are dangerous since they would give your opponent corners.

However, is Black really sure to lose from here? Think again.

Diagram 2-2
From the first board of Diagram 2-2 on the left, the first we need to note is that White has two unbalanced edges. One on the bottom and one to the right of the board. These unbalanced edges are definitely weak points of White's game that Black could make use of.

On the second board, G8 would be one move that Black could play in order to perform what is called a sacrficial wedge. When G8 is played, the black disc on G8 threatens to take the A8 corner. Thus, White must defend it by taking the H8 corner. In this case, Black would have sacrificed the H8 corner to White.

However, after White has played the H8 corner, the shape shown in the third board on the right shows how H7 is an opening that Black could play and wedge in between the H8 corner and the unbalanced H column of discs that White already has on the board. If Black plays H7 here, it is interesting to note that White can no longer change or flip the H7 disc and that Black would be able to play and capture the H1 corner on its next move.

Black can be said to have sacrificed the H8 corner in order to wedge into H7 in exchange of the H1 corner. Also, in this case, once Black has capture H1 corner, it can also look to capture the A1 corner next. Essentially, it has sacrificed one corner for two corners which is definitely a great deal for Black.

This techinque is one of a more intermediate endgame technique that one could learn. It would prove very useful against players who like to grab edges.

The Stoner Trap
First played by John Stoner, the stoner trap is another technique one would need to be well versed in. Once executed correctly, the one who wields the stoner trap usually ends up winning the game due to the number of moves one could gain from playing it.
Diagram 2-3
Diagram 2-3 above shows a standard example of how a stoner trap can be executed by Black playing G7. In order to successfully execute a stoner trap, one must fulfil the main three conditions:
1) Momentary Diagonal Control
2) Access to the Attack
3) Poisoned Discs of your Opponent

Diagram 2-4

The first key here is to maintain this momentary diagonal control along C3 to G7 after the G7 move is made into the dangerous X-square shown here in Diagram 2-4 on the right.
This diagonal control move (with the whole diagonal being only the discs of your colour) sets up the stoner trap for Black because there is no way that White can immediately take the corner to H8 since it does not have any access to it at the moment.
Thus, G7 would be setting up the first condition of the three as the momentary diagonal control.

Diagram 2-5
After G7 is played, it is natural that White will try to capture C3 so it can target the H8 corner next. Thus, C2 or B3 may be played by White here. In this example, B3 is played.
The next move is the main attack move of the stoner trap which is F8 marked by a black cross here. Of course, the most important condition to meet here would be the access for Black to attack. The crucial disc here is F6 which gives Black access to F8 in order to launch the corner attack to A8.
To complete the stoner trap, this step is crucial to be executed successfully so the access to the attacking square at F8 is important.

Diagram 2-6

The first board on the left of Diagram 2-6 shows the shape after Black has attacked White with F8 move threatening to take the A8 corner. The natural response here for White would be to play G8 in order to flip the F8 black disc into white so that White can prevent Black from taking the A8 corner. However, by playing into G8 White will also flip the G7 disc because of the G5 and G6 poisoned discs. The result is shown in the second board on the right. If White chooses to play G8, Black would be able to take back the corner of H8 it originally offered to White by playing G7 and also at the same time get A8 corner next. Essentially, Black would be able to obtain both corners at the cost of nothing this way. Thus, White must not respond with G8 here.

The main reason why G8 could not be played is because of the third condition, which is having poisoned discs of your opponent along the vertical axis involved (in this case column G). In order to give White this "painful dilemma", you must make sure that these poisoned discs stand when executing the offense at F8.

Diagram 2-7
The first board on the left of Diagram 2-7 shows (after the discussion above) how White is left with no choice but to settle by playing the H8 corner. At least this way, White would be able to secure one stable disc which is H8 itself. The result is shown in the second board on the right.

Over here, Black will have to immediately follow by taking the A8 corner since White is already threatening to play G8 in order to secure the bottom edge. Thus, Black must take A8 now. This would be something similar to a wedge in a sense that there has been a one-for-one exchange in corners.

Although there has been an exchange in corners for both parties, what White has gained through the process is just the H8 corner which is the only stable disc it gained. On the other hand, Black has managed to gain not only the A8 corner, but also majority of the lower edge which consists of 6 stable discs!
Now which colour would you prefer? Most certainly, one who wants to win the game would prefer Black. Looking further ahead into the game, the 6 stable discs that Black has gained to the bottom left would act as a very useful anchor or leverage it could make use of in the later stages of the game to flip more discs at crucial positons.
I hope this example has clearly explained how a stoner trap may be executed correctly.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Intermediate Class Chapter One


While it is possible to apply Rule Number Two from the basic class of playing group, small, inside to most centralising openings, there is always a limit to what a general guideline can provide for you. Some openings focus more on the centralising theory while others requires in depth study of the edgeplay and checkerboarding techniques.

There are perhaps close to 100 types of standard openings each with their given names. The names of these openings and their starting few moves can be found at this website: Although it is not advised for one to immediately start memorising all the openings provided there and their consequent sequences, it is always useful to have good knowledge of at least one or two openings for each colour so that you can develop your own signature opening.

In the Wzebra software, most openings are named after players who have played it first or have played very well in them. For instance, there is an opening called Tamenori which is named after the 7 time world champion, Hideshi Tamenori. However, these openings are mostly named after animals in Japan and they refer to certain openings to tiger, rabbit or snake variations. These are usually named based on the shape of the board.

We will first study the wipeout openings in order to avoid losing too early in the game and study the tougher openings later.

Wipeout Openings

There are also openings built to kill opponents who follow Rule Number Two too strictly without watching closely what would happen in at least one move ahead. These openings are called wipeout openings. The website that I have recommended above covers many possible wipeout variations. However, in real game situations, wipeout openings that can actually work to trick an opponent is far and few.

I will show here some wipeout openings I personally believe would be more likely for novice players to fall to. I will first give the entire sequence of the wipeout opening and explain the important moves accordingly step by step.

Rose (-8) Wipeout Trap

The sequence of the wipeout trap is: F5D6C5F4E7F6G5E6E3

Diagram 1-A
Following the first 4 moves of the sequence given above, Diagram 1-A shows the resultant shape. Over here, it is common for Black to play E3 in order to make a setup move to D3 or E6 to play small and group as well as to centralise his or her discs.

However, to set up the wipeout opening, one would need to play E7 which is evaluated to be (-8) by Wzebra. This sort of dispersive move will lure White to make the next move using the F5 disc.

Diagram 1-B
In this situation, it is possible that White would be considering either the G5 or F6 move. Since F6 forms a relatively more compact shape as compared to G5 which forms a more elongated shape, it is more likely that F6 will be selected over G5.

Diagram 1-C
After F6 is played, Diagram 1-C shows the final set up move that is required of Black to form a large frame by playing G5.

Diagram 1-D
Over here, after Black has played into G5, E6 becomes an obvious "hole" or gap to really jump into for playing small, group and inside following Rule Number Two that is widely known among all novice and above players. Thus, White as an unexperienced novice player may decide to move immediately into E6 without thinking much. The result is shown in the second diagram of 1-D.

As a result, Black would be able to play E3 and perform what is called a wipeout opening in order to sweep all of White's discs in one move, forming a nice Black Diamond shape in the center. Since both players are unable to play any more legal moves, both of them should pass and the game would end here.

By the rules of the game, if there are any empty squares at the end of the game, they would be awarded to the side which has more discs on the board. In this case, there are 13 black discs but no white discs. Therefore, Black would win by a score of 64-0 which is the largest margin one can win in an Othello game.

Lesson Learnt: The lesson to be learnt here is that before making your move, the minimum consideration for each move should be at least visualising 1 move ahead before you make your current move. In other words, when you plan to play a specific move, anticipate at least what your opponent might play in response to avoid moves that will immediately lose all your discs and get wiped out.

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.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

New Othello Platform on Yahoo Japan

On top of the much popular, there is a new Othello playing platform on Yahoo Japan!
The figure below shows the sample user interface.

The system runs on Flash and features an interesting checkered board as the playing board with the usual black and white discs. On top of that, there is a realistic flipping sound together with the disc flipping animation as you make each move.

Each user gets to select and even dress up their avatar in the game room. The best thing about this rating system is that you are ranked relative to the result of your first game as your first rating almost immediately. This removes the need for people to play say many games in order to climb up to a high rating immediately.

Overall, I am thinking this interface is really fun and there are a lot more active players at this site (usually 300-600) from time to time. Unfortunately, for those who do not really understand Japanese will need to learn a little bit of the language to make it convenient for you to register an account, and play games at the site of course.

Players who wish to play at the Yahoo Japan site can register an account here:

Basic Class Chapter Three

Theory of Centralisation
This chapter builds on one of the three elements covered in the previous chapter. It is namely the guiding principle of playing "Inside".

More often than not, the best moves in the opening of the game (first 8-10 moves) are moves that plays on the theory of centralisation. As mentioned before, we want to play moves inthe game such that the fewest surface discs of our colour are created.

In order to achieve this, there is a need to understand what a quiet move is.

A quiet move can be essentially defined as "a move that flips relatively fewer discs in generally only one direction (seldom more) without creating significantly more moves for your opponent". The reason why it is called a quiet move is that, it minimises the impact on the board as much as possible so you do not open many more playable dics for your opponent. Quiet moves are often desirable and are often the top few best moves.

An example of a quiet move for Black to play is B5 shown in diagram 3-A below.

Diagram 3-A
This move would be a nice quiet move which only flips one disc in one direction making it generally a quiet move at the same time it continues to retain Black's shape of group discs in the center with White's discs relatively dispersed in different areas of the board.

Another common example of a quiet move for White to play is F6 shown in diagram 3-B below.

Diagram 3-B
This move to F6 is considered as a quiet move based on the definition simply because it flips one disc in one direction. On top of that, the disc that was placed in F6 only flips an interior disc of E5 without flipping any discs along the horizontal or vertical axis which minimises the number of moves it creates for Black to play.

This move is also aligned with the centralisation theory by keeping a centralised shape.

Another way or guideline one could follow to quickly search for quiet moves would be to identify a major axis or row of your opponent's discs on the board in order to cut it in the center with you next move. An example is shown in Diagram 3-C below.

Diagram 3-C
The double headed blue arrow represents the major axis or the longest stretch of White's discs we can find immediately. More often than not, to centralise, we would want to cut in the center of this major axis. Thus, D2 may be an ideal move or a very straightforward move to do so by flipping only the D3 disc in one vertical direction without creating many more moves for your opponent. Black could thus, consider playing D2.

Centralisation Axes
Following the theory on centralisation, there is a need to talk about centralisation axes. As the game progresses, each play would often try to find each other's major axes as mentioned above in order to play a nice centralisation cut move, flipping as few discs as possible in each move. However, these centralisation axes would keep changing in the game since more and more squares are taken up.

To illustrate this idea, we will do a quick follow up on the situation in Diagram 3-C above in Diagrams 3-D and 3-E below.

Diagram 3-D                                           Diagram 3-E
In Diagram 3-D, it is White's turn to play. Once again, we would like to repeat the same process for centralising by first identifying the longest axis of your opponent's discs to search for opportunities to cut in the center of it. The blue arrow depicting the black major axis from D2 to D5 discs is clearly what White would choose to target almost immediately. The moves available for consideration would then be B4 and C5.

C5 is a move that flips a total of two discs in two different directions (vertical and diagonal) which by definition is not exactly a quiet move. Thus, C5 is usually not preferred. On top of that, the major axis that C5 would create is a vertical axis from C2 to C5 which has empty squares to B3 and B4 for Black to easily cut it with the next move. While one is trying to centralise, you also do not want your opponent to be able to do the same all too easily. Thus, C5 is not really the best move here which is marked by a red cross.

B4 is definitely a better choice which is marked with a black tick. The main reason for B4 is shown in Diagram 3-E. After B4 is played for White, the major axis of White is the horizontal row from B4 to F4 marked by the blue double headed arrow. In order for Black to immediately perform a cut back into the center of the entire group of discs, C5 would be its most apparent target first. However, since White has observed that Black would not be able to get C5 immediately following its move to B4, White would gladly take it. In such a scenario, where Black is pushed and wrong footed and not able to play an immediate center cut back into such an obvious "hole" or square in the middle such as C5, Black is said to be checkerboarded. This is usually disadvantageous for Black who will now need to work extra hard (by flipping some discs) in order to capture a Black disc on either axes (vertical or horizontal) so it could eventually play into C5.

Play quiet moves first and try to centralise as much as possible at the beginning of the game.

This brings us to the end of the basic class for Othello with three very basic rules to playing Othello. I hope you enjoyed it and continue to read on to the intermediate and advanced classes which will be a lot more interesting. Thank you for reading!

Basic Class Chapter Two

Chapter Two: The Three Elements
Before we move into the key ideas here, we will first have to know what are Surface/Frontier Discs. They are the discs on the board which has at least one adjacent (vertical, horizontal or diagonal) empty square that can be played to. They are called surface discs because these discs are located on the surface or perimeter of the entire growing group of discs (including both black and white) in the game.
Diagram 2-A Diagram 2-B
In Diagram 2-A above, we can see that Black has a total of 5 Surface Discs (marked by green crosses). Similarly, in Diagram 2-B it is apparent that White has a total of 10 Surface Discs (marked by red crosses). Obviously, White has a much higher number of Surface Discs. Usually, the one with fewer surface discs, especially at the start of the game is the side which is winning.

More surface discs is Bad, Fewer surface discs is Good !

The idea that is being conveyed here requires some patience from all of us to understand.

Many people think that since the objective of the game is to have more discs of their colour at the end of the game, they should grab as many discs at the start as possible. In fact, the usual strategies of this group of people is they want to grab hold of all edges as much as possible in order to flip the most discs from end to end of the board as early as possible. This usually result in them having many surface discs. In fact, one too many surface discs.

If you think in a similar manner, you might be totally mistaken. Here's the time to change that mentality! Please let me help you think a bit more here.
First of all, think back to the rules of the game. Making a move requires you to sandwich or flip at least one of your opponent's disc. In other words, your moves or which direction you are headed to play on the board is very much dependent on where your opponent's discs lay at. In order to play a move, you need to place a disc of your colour on an empty square of the board. This means you will need at least one of your opponent's Surface Discs to make a move to its adjacent empty square.
Secondly, recall Rule Number One earlier about not playing to X-Squares or C-Squares early in the game unless you are forced to do so because that might result in your opponent obtaining corners which are stable.
Thirdly, remember that only discs of your colour are adjacent to a corner of your colour are stable. This means edges without a corner of your colour next to it is anything but stable. Thus, there is no point in collecting many edges at the start of the game without being able to secure corners first.

Combining these three ideas together, we can then arrive at Rule Number Two. With fewer surface discs, you would be able to dictate more or less where your opponent must play to. You would then be able to force him to play X-Squares or C-Squares to give you corners.

A typical midgame situation with a beginner playing as White with a more advanced player playing as Black is shown below in Diagram 2-C. White is to play the next move.
Diagram 2-C
If you have not already realised, White has an overwhelming number of surface discs over here while Black has only 4. The 4 surface discs of Black are B4, B5, C2 and C3.

Looking more closely, White has only 3 choices to play while Black has many because White has so many surface discs. The 3 choices for white are namely A4, A6 and B2. All of these moves once played, will allow Black to immediately capture corners A1 or A8. More often than not, the advanced player playing Black obtaining these corners fairly early in the game will win a comfortable victory over the White player.

The reason for White's loss would be then because of him or her flipping many discs at the start of the game resulting in this situation where he or she is faced with very limited and unattractive choices.

Therefore, please remember Rule Number Two. We should always strive for fewer surface discs at the start of the game until you are able to force your opponent to give you a corner.

Here's how to do it! The Three Elements to good moves especially for the first 20 moves or so of the game are:

1) Small - By playing small I mean you should flip minimal discs per move to reduce the probability of you creating more surface discs for your opponent to play to (i.e. creating more moves for your opponent).

Diagram 2-D below shows a very common opening example of how we should consider playing small.
Diagram 2-D
Basically, White has 5 possible moves here and C2 and E7 choices flips 2 of your opponent's discs while E2, C6 or D6 are moves that only flips 1 disc each. Hence, when I say play small, I mean to select moves that flip fewer discs. So we should first perhaps eliminate C2 and E7 unless those are your intended moves to varied or planned openings. This leaves us with 3 remaining choices.

2) Group - By playing group I mean you should try to always group your discs together in a compact manner with your moves and not let your discs lie all over the board.

Looking at Diagram 2-E, we examine the 3 remaining options we are left from the previous example.

Diagram 2-E
Over here, after the remaining 3 options are examined, D6 is selected over the other 2 moves in general because of the need to play group which means trying to group your discs in a most compact manner as possible. E6 move which presses directly against the core of the whole group of discs is one that is most effective in playing group. Moves to C6 and E2 pales in comparison to D6 because they cut diagonally in a way such that it leave empty squares in between the discs which allows Black to regroup back too easily. If grouping is good, we want to only do that for ourselves, and not allow your opponent to achieve the same thing.

3) Inside - By playing inside I mean you should try to always flip discs in the inner side of the whole group of discs so that you will not be creating many surface discs of your own.

Diagram 2-F

Diagram 2-F shows that if Black plays to B5 he will only be flipping the two discs at D3 and C4. D3 and C4 are not surface discs which would create moves for White to play to. Thus, Black is said to be playing "Inside" by flipping two discs which are on the inner side of the entire group of discs. Black essentially only creates one surface disc to B5 for White to play to, which is the lowest number of moves you could perhaps create for your opponent in a single move. This sort of move revolves around the Theory of Centralisation.

Diagram 2-G
Diagram 2-G shows another way Black could play "Inside" as well. If Black chooses to play into H3 here, White will only be left with 6 choices which are the 4 C-Squares and 2 X-Squares labelled in the diagram. Thus, White would be forced to give up at least one corner after Black identifies H3 as a move that plays towards the "Inside" without creating surface discs that is playable for White in squares which are not dangerous.

Instead of centralising, this move to H3 is about the Theory of Edgeplay which could really be effective in winning games by huge margins.

Fusion of the Three Elements
In general, based on my experience, best moves in the first 20 odd moves for each player will always carry at least one of these three elements mentioned above. It is common that best moves could also be a fusion of two or all three of these elements mentioned above. Thus, it is highly crucial that one learns how to play moves that align with these three guidelines.

If you are able to fully understand these guidelines to good moves as such, you should be able to do fairly well in the opening and midgame.

[Now please try to play 10 Othello games for practice purposes.]

Do your best!

Basic Class Chapter One

Chapter One: Starting Out
There are essentially, in my opinion, 3 types of people or mindsets towards Othello. Some have no idea what Othello is and just want to know what it is, while others already know what it is and just play it for fun, and finally there is this group of passionate bunch of crazily competitive people who seek to be the best of the best in this simple yet intriguing game.

No matter which group you may fall under, the fact that you are here and reading this, means you want to know more and perhaps raise the level of you game! Me too! Cheers mate!

Okay, so now here's the deal. There are going to be some Rules that I will impose in the basic class and do make sure you take them at face value and follow them accordingly for now. These rules will certainly keep adapting as you continue to learn more about the game so please pay close attention. Explanation(s) will then be given after the rule(s) is/are stated.

Never, and I say never play into X-Squares or C-Squares at any point of the game unless you are really left with no other choice and quite essentially forced to do by virtue of the rules of the game.

The idea here is simple and clean. Corners are good, good, gooooooood! So why are they so good?
Diagram 1-A
If you observe the 4 black disc corners in Diagram 1-A above carefully, there is no way White can go around these 4 discs to sandwich it and flip it over based on the rules of the game. These discs are therefore termed as Stable Discs because they will remain as your colour throughout the whole game irregardless of how fancy your opponent's moves are.
Diagram 1-B Diagram 1-C
Looking at Diagram 1-B will tell you that discs of your colour that are adjacent to a corner (connected sideways) of your colour are stable too! Try and see if there is anyway for you to capture those black discs as a White player. Similarly, Diagram 1-C will show you that discs of your colour that are diagonally layered to a corner (follow the blue diagonal lines) of your colour are also stable! These two concepts will play a huge part in how to win a game effectively in the future.

The objective of the game is to obtain at least 33 discs of your colour at the end of the game to win. Having an early lead of a considerable number of discs surely would not hurt. In fact, the more the merrier and this can be done by obtaining corners!

Following the idea that corners are good, here is now the missing link between that idea and Rule Number One:
Diagram 1-D
Diagram 1-D above shows that if Black plays into the C-Squares or X-Squares in the game, you open up a possibility for your opponent (in this case White) to capture the respective corners by virtue of the rules of the game (needing to flip at least one opponent's disc per move). Generally, the earlier you give up a corner in the game to your opponent, the worse it gets.

Therefore, I repeat myself Rule Number One!
Never, and I say never play into X-Squares or C-Squares at any point of the game unless you are really left with no other choice and quite essentially forced to do by virtue of the rules of the game.
I really hate to impose rules to restrict anyone in their way of Othello, but if you are able to follow this number one rule closely for now, you should be able to see a difference in your games or at least be a tad difficult to be beaten now.
[Now please try to play 5 Othello games for practice purposes.]

Basic Class Chapter Zero

Chapter Zero: The Prelude
Before we begin to learn Othello, I would like to reintroduce the Othello board to you in my version of notation with some adaptations to what is currently commonly used.
Diagram 0

Beginning from the warmest colour, the RED X-SQUARES signify danger. They are commonly referred to the X-Squares in many Othello related literature and I will keep it that way in this writing. As we all know danger means something bad, we should always try to avoid it as much as possible.

Next, we have the YELLOW C-SQUARES which are a tone down from the formerly mentioned X-Squares. The reason for the tone down in colour is because C-Squares are generally less dangerous than X-Squares. Hence, given two choices between a move to a C-Square or an X-Square, one should more often than not pick the C-Square to avoid danger!

The BLACK A-SQUARES and B-SQUARES basically represents the core edges of the board and is usually highly crucial in the battle along the edges of both players which can ultimately affect the outcome of the game.

Lastly, the BLUE 16-SQUARE ZONE is commonly known as the Sweet-16 which many beginner players like to revolve their maximising theory about. In addition, the BLUE S-SQUARES represent the key sub-corners which play a huge part towards the ending part of most games.

With that out of the way, I hope all of us are now clear with the names of the key zones or squares that will be used throughout this class. Along the way, I will also introduce new terms, rules or definitions for teaching purposes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Othello Rules

1. Starting Position
An Othello game always starts off with this position shown below with two discs of each colour intersecting each other diagonally. The top right disc is always the black one from either players' view sitting opposite each other.

2. Making a Move
Black always makes the first move.

In order to make a legal move, one must first place a disc of his or her colour on one of the empty squares on the board. The disc that is being placed on the board must directly sandwich one or more of the opposing colour's disc(s) in horizontal, vertical or diagonal directions with one or more of the existing disc(s) on the board. This action is followed by flipping all sandwiched disc(s) on the board in the appropriate direction.

For example, if Black makes a move to F5, he must flip the white disc on E5 as shown on the right:

The end result after F5 is played is shown in the diagram on the right:

Thus, in the starting position, Black essentially has 4 possible legal moves as marked by the red crosses to C4, D3, E6 and F5 on the right:

By playing C4 or D3, Black will be able to flip the white colour D4 disc in the horizontal or vertical directions respectively.

By playing F5 or E6, Black will be able to flip the white colour E5 disc in the horizontal or vertical directions respectively.

The game continues with White making the next move in the same manner by playing a disc on one square of the board which one or more black disc(s) may be flipped in the horizontal, vertical or diagonal directions.

Thus, after F5 is played, White has essentially 3 possible choices as marked by the red crosses to D6, F4 or F6 on the right:

By playing D6, F4 or F6 to the board on the right, White will be able to flip the black colour E5 disc in the vertical, horizontal or diagonal directions respectively.

3. Completing the move
In order to complete a move, all of the disc(s) that are possible to be flipped must be flipped.

For example, in this case, when black disc G8 is played, Black will have to flip 6 white discs in the horizontal, vertical and diagonal directions which is a total of 18 discs.

Another example, a more exaggerated one would be as follows. when black disc D4 is played, Black will have to flip multiple discs in a total of 8 different directions. This move garners a total of 19 discs in one single move which is the maximum number of discs one could flip in one move.

The same effect is possible when moving to D5, E4, or E5 under similar situation. However, this example is merely hypothetical because the starting position already has these 4 squares filled up!

Therefore, the most number of discs you could possibly flip in a real game is still 18 discs in one move as shown in the example above.

4. Game Progression
Both players will continue to take turns and make their moves as the game progresses. In the event where one of the players has no legal moves (i.e. no discs to place on the board which can sandwich and flip at least one or more disc(s) of your opponent), he will have to make a PASS, and the other player will continue to play. In this example, since White has no legal moves, Black will get to play the last move on the A1 square to end the game.
After the move A1 has been played, White will have no legal moves. Black will also have no more legal moves (obviously because there are no more empty squares left on the board to play). The game will end when both players have no more legal moves and two consecutive passes have been made. However, if there is a legal move that either player may play on the board, it must be sounded off and played.

The final score will then be counted based on the number of discs on the board. The colour/side which has the highest number wins the game!

5. Final Scoring
There are times when both players have no more legal moves on the board while still having one or more existing empty square(s) on the board. In such cases, the empty square(s) will be counted and awarded to the side with more current discs of his or her colour on the board.

For instance, in this example shown, there are 32 black discs and 31 white discs. Black has more discs than White does and hence claims the empty square to his total score. The final score of this game would therefore, be 33-31 with Black winning the game. Basically, the score of both players in the final score reported should always add up to 64 irregardless of the shape on the board.