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Strategy & Tactics

"If you wish to become a master player, or even an expert, you need to learn one thing - how to "plan" and not merely live from one move to the next".

Asa Long.

"Strategy" and "Tactics" are terms commonly used in the game of draughts that have very different meanings. Wm. F. Ryan, a former American champion, distinguishes them by noting that "Strategy in draughts is the objective or over-all plan of play, whereas tactics are used to support this objective".

When we are making an over-all plan for playing a game then we are strategically planning our approach. This might involve planning what squares we would like to occupy with our pieces, whether we should move our pieces off our back line, whether we should encourage or inhibit the exchange of pieces, etc.

In contrast to this we use "tactics" to achieve these aims by preventing our opponent from placing his/her pieces on certain squares through the threat of "shots", sacrificing a piece to gain an early "king", or to tie up some of your opponent's pieces with a lesser number by using blocking tactics.

"The adept player uses a large repertoire of tactical devices in the same way as a wrestler uses holds and throws. Just as in wrestling, where they have names such as the "Surfboard" and "Boston Crab" so in our game we have the "Press", "Fork", "Breech", "Steal", and others."

Derek Oldbury.

The game of draughts is primarily a game of strategy. The following ideas are good strategies to adopt in your play.

Try to obtain at least an equal share of the centre (Squares 14, 15, 18, & 19) but be careful not to overcrowd the centre with too many of your own pieces.

"Domination of squares 18 & 19 for Black, and 14 & 15 for White during the mid-game development gives the player fully 80% scope, and should result in a draw or win in nearly every game played".

L. Ginsburg.

Attack you opponents "Double Corner" when you have the opportunity. (Squares 1 & 5, and 28 & 32)

"It is preferable to break through the Double Corner side, as a piece that crowns their can usually emerge more easily than one which reaches the Single Corner."

M. Tinsley.

Don't be afraid to move your back-row pieces.

"There's no point in trying to play with eight pieces if your opponent is using twelve against you!"

D. Oldbury.

Play according to the strength of your position.

"Attack only with the strong side, and defend only with the weak side!"

M. Chamblee.

The following game, played in the 4th International Team Match between Britain & Ireland Vs America in 1983 demonstrates a number of these strategic ideas;

9-14 22-18 10-15 (This opening favours the White side, as Red's "Double Corner" is slightly damaged after the exchange) 18x9 5x14 25-22 (White has other moves but the strategy is to work against the Red "Double Corner") 7-10 23-19 11-16 (attempting to break the hold which the White piece on square 23 exerts on Red's "Single Corner") 29-25 (a solid waiting move which allows the exchanges and attempts to gain control of the centre of the board in a few moves) 16x23 27x9 6x13 24-19 (a good follow-up, preparing to develop the White "Single Corner") 15x24 28x19 8-11 (looks natural but loses! The correct move to draw here would be for Red to move his back piece 2-6 which prevents the White side advancing to the centre of the board by 22-18 because of the threat of 10-15!) 22-18 3-7 18-14 (gives White control of the key squares 14 & 19 which is already a winning position here) 10x17 21x14 11-16 26-23 13-17 31-26 (note how advancing this back piece eliminates any counter play from the piece on square 17) 17-21 25-22 4-8 22-17 2-6 23-18 (maintains control of the centre) 16x23 26x19 7-11 17-13 11-16 14-9 16x23 9x2 12-16 2-7 16-19 18-15 19-24 7-11 8-12 15-10 and Red can only "Crown" the one piece on square 24, while White "Crowns" the pieces on squares 10 & 13 and attacks the lone Red king to win.

These basic strategies are often neglected by the student player to their detriment.

"A damaging consequence can be that in his preoccupation with tactics (traps and shots), a player tends to dim his awareness of strategic concepts, and begins to plan less and less, seeking only a move which will meet immediate needs and letting the future take care of itself - a dangerous policy".

D. Oldbury.

Golden Rules

The English player and author, Frank Dunne, published a book on the game called "Draughts - A Practical Guide to Play Scientific"s in 1911. There he listed the following "12 Golden Rules" for playing. They still hold true today.

"I hasten to add that the rules apply to the experts and beginners alike".

Frank Dunne.

© NorthWest Draughts Federation 2002