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jasonb

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Registered: Jan 3, 2010
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Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 21, 2010, 10:09 PM

Pente for Dummies
I am by no means a Pente expert, that's why I feel well suited for writing this guide. There are plenty of strategy guides in this forum written by players who have much more experience and talent than I do. My intent is to write this from a beginner's perspective. I will build on this as I learn and welcome comments or suggested improvements. Most of these tips were shared with me by other players on this site whom I respect and greatly appreciate for the time they spent helping me.

Rules
Players take turns placing their stones on the intersecting lines of the board. The first play is always in the center of the board. The object of the game is to either get 5 stones in a row (vertically, horizontally or diagonally) or capture 5 of your opponent's pairs. Captures are made by surrounding 2 of your opponents' stones (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally) with 2 of your stones. A player's stones cannot be captured by moving in-between 2 of their opponent's existing stones.

Tournament Rule: The first player's 2nd move must be at least 3 intersections away from the center of the board. The tournament rule is designed to make the game more fair for the second player. Even with this rule in place, player 1 still has the advantage. When playing rated on this web site, the tournament rule is enforced, however it is common practice for the players that frequent this site to use the tournament rule on non-rated games as well. So, if someone asks you to use this rule, you will know why.

Initiative
Having the initiative basically means you are forcing your opponent to react to the threat of you winning; for instance open 3s, open ended 4s, or a 5th pair capture. The person that is in control of the game for the foreseeable future is the one with the initiative. If you don't have initiative, try to take it from your opponent. If you have it, keep it, even if it means giving up a pair or two.

One way to take initiative is to block your opponent's 3 and set yourself up for a 3 at the same time.



Slow Down

Before making your move, figure out what your opponent's best move is. Also determine what the other player's best defense will be to the move you are about to make. A common mistake I make is to get tunnel vision and focus on my objective rather than what is going on with the rest of the board. Make sure you look at the WHOLE board before every move.

Here is a handy checklist shared by Snow White:
- Check your opponent's last move. Ask yourself - why did they move there? Whats the plan?
- Any threats that I need to address? Can I ignore it and make a stronger threat of my own.
- Any free captures for the taking - especially one that might weaken my opponent's best line?
- Can I simplify to an easy winning position - connect two lines with one stone?
- Can I force my opponent's moves multiple times allowing me to build momentum?
- Will the move I'm considering facilitate the next 3-4 moves?
- Will the move I'm considering strengthen my opponent's position?

Pairs
- Try to win by getting 5 in a row AND by capturing 5 of your opponent's pairs. Don't limit yourself to one form of offense or you will only be playing half the game.
- Capture pairs at every opportunity, except when it will cause you to loose control of the game or if you see a quicker way to win.
- Visualize what the board will look like BEFORE you take the pair. Sometimes taking a pair will leave you at a disadvantage. For instance, you could create or open up a pair of your own for your opponent to capture.
- Avoid placing 2 stones in a row (pair) unless it gives you an advantage.

Double Threat
Make intersecting lines of 3 in a row and continue to build off of them in all directions until you've achieved a double threat. Don't let your opponent do this to you.

Examples of a double threat:
- Open 3 and potential for capturing a 5th pair
- An open 3 and an open ended 4.
- Two open 3s, as shown below.

K10,G6,K13,K9,M10,G8,L10,J10,N10,O10,L12,M11,L11,J14,L12,L13,L8,L9,H11,J10,K12,N9,M12


Extending
- Don't extend an open ended 3 into a 4 until you have good reason to do so, such as reaching another stone to start another line, forcing a capture, or maintaining initiative.

- Here is an example of extending for the purpose of capturing a pair. Be on the lookout for opportunities to inflict this on your opponent and watch out for situations where it may be used against you.




Shapes
There are many shapes in the game of Pente; learn to use them to your advantage and always be on the lookout for your opponent using them against you.

Basic Shapes: Lots of useful information on this site. (Click Here)

Fukumi: Zoeyk's examples of a 3x2 shape that threatens to become a 4x3 shape if left unanswered. (Click Here)

Pawnbroker: This is powerful triangle shape that is often used to force pair captures and take control of the game. The trap is set at move 4. For a detailed explanation, (Click Here)

K10,L11,K13,K9,H12,M9,J11,L9,N9,H9,J9


Keystone: Stone that blocks 4 stones from becoming 5. If one of these stones is captured, the stone will have to be replaced or your opponent will make Pente (5 in a row). A double keystone capture will create a double threat, which can't be blocked.
- Example 1: The white stones in this example are the keystones.



- Example 2: Below is example of extending for the purpose of capturing a keystone pair that results in taking initiative (reference moves 8 thru 12). Notice how Player 1 is forced to respond to the capture, even though they had an open 4. See how Player 2 ends up in control. This tactic is used quite a bit . . . learn how to use it and prevent it from being used against you. The idea is to attack a keystone pair that crosses through your opponent's offensive line in such a way that they cannot rebuild it and block your 4 at the same time.


Example 3: The keystone capture is an important concept to understand. Here is another example where Player 2 steals initiative by first extending and then attacking Player 1's keystone pair. Reference move 5.



Opens
The first few moves in a game can often determine the outcome . . . win or loose. That is why a strong open is so important.

Hat: A commonly used shape is the elongated triangle which resembles a hat. Below is one way to expand on the hat shape. Notice what happens if Player 2 does not react in time (Ref moves 3 thru 7).


4x3 Triangle: This is a slight variation to the hat shape. Notice how Player 1 sacrifices a pair to keep initiative.


5x3 Triangle: Although the shape has symmetry, it is one of the weaker opens . . . probably because it's easier for Player 2 to predict and defeat.


Wedge: Common sequence of moves initiated by player two's second move used to potentially trip up player 1. At this point, both players have lost 2 pairs, so the strategy can quickly shift from getting 5 in a row to protecting your last pair from being captured.

Hammer: Common open initiated by Player 2. There are many variations of what happens next, but Player 2 has the advantage with this open if they play correctly. Use the database to search this shape.


Other Stuff to Consider
Play Often:Ideally play others that are slightly better than you, so winning will be an obtainable goal. Loosing gets old quick, but if you constantly play those that are no match for you, your game will not improve.

Database:Learn to use the database, it is a valuable tool. Review your past games and figure out what you could have done better and what move was the deciding point in the game. Often this move is early on in the game and is the reason well thought out opens are so important.

Computer AI: Play the computer opponents, starting with mm_ai1 and work your way up. By the time you are able to consistently beat mm_ai8 from either seat, you will be a Pente rock star!

Pente Software: Download Pente 10.4 software from Mark's Five-in-a-row site -- this program has the same computer AI that is used here on this site. I like this program mostly because of the back button for undos. If you make a mistake and want to try something else, just back up to the place you want, and start over from there. If you want to see what the computer would do in your circumstance, just change your Player to the computer and click the green button. Configure it the way you want under Options and start playing. This tool is VERY cool!

FUN: And the most important rule, have fun.



up2ng

Posts: 542
Registered: May 9, 2002
From: Northeast USA
Age: 38
Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 22, 2010, 7:38 AM

These are all excellent tips jasonb!

zoeyk

Posts: 2,007
Registered: Mar 4, 2007
From: San Francisco
Age: 42
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Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 22, 2010, 10:40 AM

Very nice thanks for sharing!

the following is to address your first statment marked as 1.

i will address the others too, but i will post them separately.


1. Initiative is the key to winning.

in a nut shell yes, you are correct.

Initiative means you are forcing your opponent to block your 3s or 4s.

not exactly. that is the definition for "forcing initiative", and its not complete.
you forgot chasing for 5th capture. and you also forgot fukumis. a fukumi may not be a unblocked 3 or 4, yet it has the exact same threat level as a unblocked 3 if unanswered. examples of fumkumis can be found at this link - http://pente.org/gameServer/forums/thread.jspa?forumID=27&threadID=4281&tstart=0

and,.. there is still another,..VCTs using either post 3 shapes or split 4 shapes, or both.

and there is another type of initiative.
that has the exact same power level as forcing initiative.

its is called "dominant position".
This although not immediately forcing, holds so much available momentum that just like forcing initiative, if a winning initiative the player will result in obtaining a double threat or greater.

there are no neutral positions in pente. they can only appear that way. these positions still at the very least have one player holding a dominant position.

note that dominant position implies that it has a 100% winning position.
where as forcing initiative does not. it can force for a bit and then dead end with the opponent taking it away.

that's why there are 2 kinds of forcing initiative;
"temporary forcing initiative" - aka "mid game initiative"
and
"VCT (victory by continuous threats) forcing initiative".
aka "end game initiative".

but, some temporary initiatives still can force a win, where it is known that the force will run out and the opponent will get the initiative, but its also known their initiative will run out too, thus you get it back again, and hold it until double threat is obtained.


(note that whether or not the temporary initiative has the win or not, initiative can flip flop through out a game up to 15 times each in theory. (doubt you'll ever see 15 times each in a master vs master of perfect play tho)

5 times is more than reasonable tho.)


but if temporary initiative can get a win, then its different.
so there are 2 kinds of temporary initiatives.

thus we now have 4 kinds of initiative.

~WDP~ Winning dominant position = win
~WTT~ Winning by temporary Threats (in a singular series, or in a multiple series of separate groups (2 or more) inevitably leading to the obtainment of a ~VCT~) = win
~LTT~ Losing by temporary Threats = LOSS
~VCT~("victory by continuous threats" that ultimately leads to the obtainment of a unstoppable double threat, or greater) VCT initiative = win


note that both ~WDP~ and ~WTT~ are implying by default that a ~VCT~ will come after them. you can not have a ~WDP~ or a ~WTT~ with out also having a ~VCT~ sometime after.

also note that a ~LTT~ is implying by default that there will be no ~VCT~ coming, because LTT = lose, and VCT = win.

and no, there is no such thing as a losing dominant position. such a paradox can not exist in pente.

also note that "momentum" is another except-able way to say "initiative", both are commonly used.


If you don't have it, try to take it from your opponent. If you have it, keep it, even if it means giving up a pair or two.

agreed, "but If you have it, keep it" can not apply to the following initiative;
Winning temporary initiative = win
other than that exception, it is true what you say.

Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
zoeyk

Posts: 2,007
Registered: Mar 4, 2007
From: San Francisco
Age: 42
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Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 22, 2010, 11:45 AM

4. Make intersecting lines of 3 in a row and continue to build off of them in all directions until you make 5. Don't allow your opponent to do this.



"until you make 5" should instead say "until you have obtained a double threat". this implies the threat of 5th capture can be involved in the solution too.


Don't allow your opponent to do this.
we need to be clear here,.. often times it is absolutely required to allow the opponent to make a 3 in order for you to win. to have players build momentum in a way to fear ever letting the opponent obtain a forcing line will stunt their development in my opinion.

here is an example where white uses perfect play and has the winning position even though white is giving black a 3 that will need to be answered.

White Wins!

K10,L11,N10,L13,L12,J13,M11




heres another example of where,

White Wins!

K10,N8,N11,P10,L13,N10,M12


Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
zoeyk

Posts: 2,007
Registered: Mar 4, 2007
From: San Francisco
Age: 42
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Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 22, 2010, 6:53 PM

6. Don't extend 3s into 4s, until it will help you to maintain/get initiative or capture a pair.

this would be better said like this;

Don't extend 3s into 4s, until it is needed.

because following the "get initiative or capture a pair" advice the way its written can have them fall into the problem of;
(~LTT~ Losing by temporary Threats = LOSS)

Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
zoeyk

Posts: 2,007
Registered: Mar 4, 2007
From: San Francisco
Age: 42
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Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 22, 2010, 8:53 PM

7. When you do extend a 3, you have 2 ways to do it. In many cases, you can use one or the other, but not both to capture a pair. This is one reason not to break rule 6. Avoid being trapped by this and try to inflict it often.


but not both to capture a pair?
hmm

example where both extensions can capture.




example where you get to do both extensions by way of force.



Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
zoeyk

Posts: 2,007
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Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 22, 2010, 9:37 PM

Example of where using a hyper extension to then attack and capture across the opponent's parallel 3 to try and maintain forcing initiative is a bad idea.

granted this is a little off topic and perhaps more of an advanced concept, yet i found this somehow relevant.





and here is an example of where the same shape was used in actual play.




Message was edited by: zoeyk at Mar 23, 2010 1:06 AM


Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
snow_white

Posts: 5
Registered: Sep 18, 2005
From: Houston,Texas
Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 23, 2010, 1:44 AM

While some of these may seem obvious, beginners don't always do it. #1 is the most often missed.

Before every move slow down and consider you options:

1. Check your opponent's last move. Ask yourself - why did they move there? whats the plan?
2. Any threats that I need to address? Can I ignore it and make a stronger threat of my own.
3. Any free captures for the taking - especially one that might weaken my opponent's best line?
4. Can I simplify to an easy winning position - connect two lines with one stone?
5. Can I force my opponent's moves multiple times allowing me to build momentum?
6. Will the move I'm considering facilitate the next 3-4 moves?
7. Will the move I'm considering strengthen my opponent's position?

AND FINALLY - DON'T MOVE WITHOUT THIS FINAL STEP

8. If I make this move, what will my opponent do?

You just got smoked by a girl
richardiii

Posts: 366
Registered: Dec 8, 2002
From: Huntsville, Alabama
Age: 63
Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 23, 2010, 3:44 AM

r3


Message was edited by: richardiii at Mar 24, 2010 6:48 PM


zoeyk

Posts: 2,007
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Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 23, 2010, 6:06 AM

.


Message was edited by: zoeyk at Mar 25, 2010 4:34 AM


Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
zoeyk

Posts: 2,007
Registered: Mar 4, 2007
From: San Francisco
Age: 42
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Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 23, 2010, 10:03 PM

jasonb, dont get me wrong. im not trying to tell you what to add per say, but giving some food for thought so you can make sure your wording things correctly. much of what i said is advanced concepts and doesnt belong in a beginners tutorial. but by wording things well, down the line when they finally do get to the advanced stuff, they dont look back and see your words as either contradictory, false, or incomplete in a beginners sense. i enjoy to see what your writing from a beginners perspective. i tend to forget how i saw the game long ago. its refreshing to read your ideas.

and snow, thanks for the additional stuff, good stuff.

keep the thoughts flowing.

Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
jasonb

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Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 23, 2010, 10:28 PM

up2ng, Thanks for the KUDOS.

Snow White, Thanks for the great tips. I plan to use them to smoke you one day soon.


Zoey, I appreciate your advice, as always.

I will make the definition of initiative more generic. Detailing the various forms of initiative might be overkill for this guide. I love your fukumi examples though.

What you say about the double threat makes complete since; I will reword the statement about intersecting lines to include this.

I agree that it's often necessary to allow your opponent to make a 3 in order for you to win. When I said "don't allow your opponent to do this", I was referring to making intersecting lines.

richardiii

Posts: 366
Registered: Dec 8, 2002
From: Huntsville, Alabama
Age: 63
Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 24, 2010, 1:47 AM

r3


Message was edited by: richardiii at Mar 24, 2010 6:48 PM


up2ng

Posts: 542
Registered: May 9, 2002
From: Northeast USA
Age: 38
Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 24, 2010, 7:23 AM

Hey jasonb, no problem! Keep it up!

I appreciate zoey's expansion upon your ideas in an effort to put together a more complete solution, but as you said, the way they are written is hard to follow, and the idea that this was a beginner's guide from a beginner's perspective has been missed. These ideas certainly have their place though, just not for a beginner's guide IMO.

The reason I simply praised your guide and didn't offer any suggestions for changes is because I felt that it really didn't need to be changed. It's a good guide for beginners. It's clear and concise and so will be easily understood. Your ideas are accurate and provide good "rules of thumb" that beginners can grab hold of and apply quickly. Obviously there will be exceptions to many rules of thumb but those will often be learned through experience.

The one thing zoey did point out that should be added to your guide some place is the possibility of winning by 5 captures which is sort of ignored in your original guide. Although players don't usually start out a game with the intention of winning by captures, it's an important part of the game and will often drive which moves look promising and which ones might get you into trouble (one thing a beginner often does not do well, for example, is to look out for getting into cap trouble when looking for their next move. On the flip side, finding ways to make moves that attack an opponent's pairs in such a way that threatens winning by captures either immediately or in the not-too-distant future is another area that beginners often miss).

[quote]
I will make the definition of initiative more generic.
[/quote]

I tend to agree with this. I'm not sure where zoey is getting his definition(s) of initiative, especially ones that involve leading to losing the game, but I have always used the term initiative (and have seen it used) in a much more basic sense. In general, it just refers to being on the offensive and keeping the other player on the defensive with each move. Beginners often make moves that look good, but which give up initiative. A common example is taking a capture which just doesn't lead to any threats, just for the sake of making the capture because it "looks like a good idea" to a beginner. So, the opponent now has the opportunity to play a tria, for example, and continue playing offensive moves -- and so he has gained the initiative.

There are times when a player might try to make an offensive move when the situation does not justify it. Player 2 will often try this at some point. This type of move is more of a gambit, which is more of a psychological ploy to try to convince your opponent that you are on the offensive, when if fact you are not. But if the opponent falls for it and plays a defensive response, then your gambit has worked and you have stolen the initiative, usually. Besides a general rule of thumb for beginners such as "take your time to make each move", this idea really does not belong in a beginner's guide. Players should watch out for situations like this, but that comes from experience and from taking just a few more seconds to analyze the current situation before making your moves.

If you look at live games at various skill levels, all set to 20 minute timers, the main difference in how the game is played that will be easily observable is how much clock the players use. Two masters playing against each other will rarely have more than 10 minutes of clock left in a 20 minute game by the end. Beginners, on the other hand, play their moves immediately and it is not uncommon for a beginner to have more than 19 minutes out of 20 remaining on their clock at the end of the game.

zoeyk

Posts: 2,007
Registered: Mar 4, 2007
From: San Francisco
Age: 42
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Re: Pente for Dummies
Posted: Mar 24, 2010, 8:27 AM

to rich;
edited

to up2ng;
there is a losing initiative. what am i missing here? can't figure how im being unclear, but ill try again.

temporary momentum, of (a) forcing move(s), it is initiative, but this one (being losing) not only dead ends, there by handing over the initiative, but also doesn't have enough energy to pick it back up again in the end game with a VCT leading to a double threat = Victory.

if you make a 3, you usually have initiative, unless they can make a 4, or capture from it, or threaten a 5th capture, how ever, this does not mean you have a winning move/position/initiative/momentum, ext ext..........
just a temporary initiative destined to lead to loss...
this is sooo simple in my mind.

is this not clear? i will ponder how to say this more clear perhaps.


Message was edited by: zoeyk at Mar 25, 2010 4:33 AM


Scire hostis animum - Intelligere ludum - Nosce te ipsum - Prima moventur conciliat - Nolite errare
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