Sunday, July 6, 2014

Flash Intuitive Quiet Moves

Finally had the time and inspiration to conjure this post up :) I am going to share with everyone something general in Othello midgame positions yet also particularly specific in various scenarios. 

Chapter Zero: The Big Idea

More often than not, players play in two ways. 

One, is a more offensive, objective-driven manner, creating their game or shape on the board, the way they see the game would pan out. Players with this style, would try to gain access to key positions for creating patterns which they know would give themselves an edge to keep them in their own comfort zone. A simple instance would be a player always trying to feed others unbalanced edges because they know unbalance edges are susceptible to wedges and attacks.  

The second way would be a more responsive solution whereby players just counter punch opponent moves as they see fit. This is a more active and responsive strategy and I see players like Ben Seeley from America (known as foompykatt on playok) and Lai Meng Joo (this guy keeps changing his nicks on playok so often, it is hard to keep track, but if you see a nick online with about 1900-2200 range rated with funny words or phrases with a "0" (Zero) replacing a letter "O" where it should be, then it is most likely him). As much as I am still a learner from great players like themselves, I would like to give players an insight on such a way to play. 

In the Basic Class, we had established that a quiet move is defined as a move that flips disc in generally one direction and is up against a continuous row or column of your opponents' discs. Applying that idea, it would not be hard to deduce that with every move your opponent makes, it could "open" up new moves or unpoison certain positions for you to play a possible quiet move. With this idea, I named this concept the Head and Tail Theory

Chapter One: The Heads and The Tails

In order to aid people's memory to this way of thinking, I named it the head and tail theory with each row, column or diagonals people flip on the board emulating black and white rows snaking across the board. 

A simple example would be the following:

If White makes a move to A5 for example, I would call the last move that White made being the "Head" while the entire row that white has created from A5 to G5 would be a continuous row to be targeted by the opponent. G5 would then be the "Tail" of this "White Snake" created. Usually every move in Othello means flipping a couple of discs in a certain direction. In this case, White has flipped three discs to the left direction in the 5th row. 

The Head and Tail theory comes in that for every action at the head, there would be a possible reaction at the tail end of the row created. (sorry if it sounds like Newton's Third Law).

In this case, the square at the end of this row created would then be H5 which according to the theory would be the targeted square to play. While the use of the Head and Tail theory to derive quiet moves in a quick intuitive manner is tempting, one must always remember that it applies both ways. So before one decides to make the move H5 here, you would have to check whether you are opening up any easy moves for your opponent as well. 

After Black plays H5 (being the Head), it forms a continuous diagonal of discs from E2 to H5 with E2 being the Tail. Since there is a square at the tail end of this "Black Snake", D1 would be the direct reply for White. Knowing this, giving your opponent an easy response almost immediately would not be wise. 

Thus, if we conclude that the direct reply to H5 is not favourable, we should analyse other quiet moves that have opened up due to White's A5 move as the action of "unpoison-ing" moves does not always act in the main direction that your opponent has flipped discs. 

From personal experience in playing 1-minute blitz games, when one is short of time, there is always a need to "pounce" on the first quiet move I see in order to prevent a loss due to time loss. The flashes on the above diagram depicts those quiet moves. 

However, in order to do this, it is important to have a quick eye to identify quiet moves, and this head and tail theory would be able to help you quickly locate at least one of those moves. But most of the time, in OTB (on-the-board) games, one would have ample time and to efficiently identify such quiet moves would also be highly essential in order to make decisions.

One may ask, why is B3 a quiet move when it flips discs in two directions; both horizontally and diagonally. Reflecting on my incomplete and vague definition of quiet moves, I refer to the book written by Tetsuya Nakajima on his definition of quiet or good moves. Nakajima defines (if I interpreted his book correctly with my entry level of Japanese), that a quiet move or good move would be one that flips only discs that are surrounded by existing discs on the board as well as does not open up any new moves that are useful to the opponent. Playing B3 would flip a total of four discs in two different directions, of which, D3, C4, D5 are discs that would be surrounded by existing discs on the board, not opening up new moves to the opponent. While C3 which has also been flipped has only one adjacent square to B2 which poses minimal threat to Black if White were to play it.

I would say Nakajima's definition of quiet moves are even more precise. By observing the discs that you may flip with each prospective move, you would be able to tell in general if it was good. 

While of course there are many more things to consider in deciding if a move was ideal, a "Head and Tail" theory would give players a quick guide to locate at least one response that would not be all that bad. By observing which is the row or column that your opponent has just flipped, one would be able to identify what I like to call flash intuitive quiet moves almost immediately.