Othello tutorial, part 2. Don’t build walls and be quiet

In previous Othello lesson I wrote about importance of corners and mobility. Unfortunately knowledge about this isn’t enough to win against an opponent who also tries to win corners and to be mobile. In order to defeat such opponent you need to understand the concept of frontier discs and learn how to do quiet moves and avoid building walls.

Frontier discs

In previous Othello lesson I stressed the aim of the game. The winner is not the player who captures many discs throughout the game. In order to win you have to end game with the highest number of own discs. It’s easier to achieve that if you have mobility. And retaining mobility requires many enemy discs on board. You lose if you capture to many discs to early.

But the secret is not only about how many discs you capture. It’s important how those discs are positioned. It’s best to explain this on situation shown below. It is not something you see in every game, but it’s excellent example.


We see only 5 Black discs, but their mobility is awesome! And there are 14 White discs with zero mobility. Why? Because all white discs are frontier discs – they are situated just on the edge of figure made of all discs. They adhere to empty fields.

Note that in Othello each disc sticks to other discs. All discs on board form one figure and this figure has edges made of frontier discs, and interior made of interior discs.

The general rule is that you may have a lot of interior discs, but it does not pay to have lot of frontier discs. Those frontier discs limit your moves that could be done in the future (they limit your mobility). Interior discs do not negatively impact mobility.

You have to know two terms from Othello jargon: loud move and quiet move.

Quiet move is when you flip few frontier discs.
Loud move is  when you flip many frontier discs

Loud and quiet moves – examples

Look at the situation shown below. White is to move. Let’s analyze the possibilities. White can play D2 (marked with white star) or G3 (marked with white dot). There are other possible moves, but let’s focus on those two.


Each of these moves will flip three discs. But the result of playing D2 is flipping two interior discs and one frontier disc (D3, D4 and D5). The situation after D2 move will be… not disastrous (see it below).


If White would play G3, it would flip three frontier discs (F3, E3 and D3). After such move situation would be hopeless for White (see it below).


By playing G3 White have built a wall – a long borderline (from G3 to C3). Remember to avoid moves that build walls!

Walls can be costly

Building walls can end tragically.  See the next example.

In the situation shown below Black made a mistake and played F8 (field marked with a star).


Black built a wall from F3 to F8. He could just calm himself down and capture White discs gradually, but he chose to take all in one move. Effect is shown below.


Field marked with a star shows the next White’s move. By playing A2 White responds with quiet move and Black’s mobility stays low.


And now Black has only two moves. He can play B2 and lose a corner (because White can respond with A1). He can also play A4 but this is also not safe move. Let’s say he played A4 (field marked with a black star). Effect is shown below.


In another move white responds in A8 (white star) and gets the corner. The black situation is still bad because of reduced mobility.

White took advantage of Black’s mistake but it would be not possible if he didn’t play well. Let’s say White didn’t Play A2 after Black’s F8. He could play G3 for example and chance to quickly get a corner would be buried. It all started with one Black’s loud move, but White knew how to take advantage from Black’s reduced mobilty.

Where are those quiet moves?

When looking for quiet moves we should remember that captures can be made not only vertically and horizontally, but also diagonally. Look at the image below. Black is to move.


In this case it’s best to play in B5 (black star). Played disc will be the only one new  frontier disc. Black will flip two interior discs (D7 and C8 – diagonally).

Such diagonally moves are often strong.

Use your imagination!

If you are looking for good then don’t play hastily. Many beginners make their moves involuntarily (“Oh! Maybe I’ll put my disc here and see what happens”). Do not play this way if you want to play well. Before making any move you have to use your imagination to “see” two things in your mind.

  1. All legal moves available.
  2. Situation on the board after making a move that seems to be best.

You have to imagine that! After every move!

At this point I want to make you realize how good player think. Suppose there is a situation like this one below and White is to move.


Do you see (in your imagination) all possible White’s moves? There are 8 of them and the image below shows all possible moves (white stars).


Many beginners would miss the C5 move and this is nice, quiet move. Once you’ll find this move you have to be able to imagine the board after it. Board will look just like on the image below.


Imaging all possibilities and the consequences before making a move is very good habit. At first it comes hard, but later your brain quickly learn to do it faster and faster. This is a way to become better player.

Why imagination is really important?

Let’s see the last example of imagination importance. Sometimes it may lead you to abort quietest possible move in order to ensure further quiet moves.

In the situation below it seems reasonable for Black to play E7 (black star). This is a silent move because it will flip only two interior discs.


But wait! Can you imagine a board after this move? It will look just like that!


Black have a lot of interior discs, but opportunities for further play are now limited. If White will respond quietly (by playing F3 for example) some further Black’s moves can be loud (such as G5 or C5). Playing G7  may end up losing the corner. This situation is not bad for Black, but it is not as perfect as it initially appears.

In other words, one silent move does not guarantee superiority. You must be vigilant and anticipate the effects of all moves, always considering all possible options.

You shall not win thanks to one “secret”

If you know the “secret” of quiet moves you are able to win corners. And by wining corners you can win games. But it works only if you play against someone who has no idea about Othello’s strategy. Strong opponent can be better in finding quiet moves and thus he will reduce your mobilty. And he will try to win corners for sure.

Soon I will write about more “secrets”.

Previous parts of the tutorial:

Next parts of the tutorial:

2 thoughts on “Othello tutorial, part 2. Don’t build walls and be quiet

    1. As I wrote “There are other possible moves, but let’s focus on those two.”
      So yes! F3 and B7 are also legal moves (if we are talking about example from second image).


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