Basic

Good Morning, Good Afternoon and Good Evening! Wherever you may be reading this from, I would first like to thank you for taking the time to read my humble views in how to learn the basics of Othello.

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.


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.

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.

EXPLANATION:
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!
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.]

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.

RULE NUMBER TWO: 
More surface discs is BadFewer surface discs is Good !

EXPLANATION:
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!

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.


RULE NUMBER THREE:
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!

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