The popularity of Othello can often be attributed to the complex strategies it employs. Advanced mathematics has been used to analyse the varying permutations and algorithms that result when looking into the game more deeply. For a more commonplace overview, a focus on three key elements can help players to develop a certain amount of strategy to their approach. These are the use of corners and edges, and deliberately restricting movement possibilities for their opponent.
These 4 positions on the board are often seen as the essential aim of the game. Once a player is in possession of the corner pieces their pieces are static and control of the board belongs to them. This is true to a certain degree, certainly if two opposite corner pieces are taken at the right time in such a way that all the edge pieces in between also become static then a very strong advantage is gained.
It is very common to see players positioning themselves to be first to gain a corner piece straight from the beginning of the game.
A square on the edge of the board is not as powerful as a corner piece on the surface. They have the potential to become static, they are able to turn a full row of pieces (the maximum number of pieces that can be turned in one line), and they act as strategically beneficial stepping stones for future moves.
The simplicity in their benefit comes in that, once placed, it is very difficult to get an opposing piece on the board next to it to turn it (corners being the best option to do this). But more so, in higher level games, players will be seen combining the methods of forcing movement and sacrificing pieces to make some edge positions more valuable and more influential than corners.
Forcing an opponent’s move
As mentioned above, the first goal in mastering Othello lays in knowing which positions are beneficial to obtain for advantage over an opponent. Bearing this in mind, the second step is aiding this process by forcing an opponent to make moves that ease and facilitate the capturing of key pieces. For a move to be legal it must meet very strict criteria and it goes without saying that if a player has only one legal move, no matter how bad it is strategically for them, they must take it.
Mastering techniques like this will take a player to their desired positions in a much quicker fashion and ensures they retain control of the flow of the game throughout.
A sacrifice to gain something better
However, where forcing movement is very transparent yet unavoidable, it can be overcome by various sacrificing moves. These are often designed to give an opponent the impression that they are in control of the game right until the point that a sacrifice phase is completed. A common example of this is seen in the use of edges and corners.
Basic strategy will lead players to focusing solely on corner positions and this is where the potential is created. Assuming black has one corner piece and seems to have a move that will allow them to place another piece in the vertically opposite corner. If there are not white pieces running the full length of the edge, as soon as black captures this corner white is at liberty to turn the line in between the two corners completely into white pieces. Black now has fixed the edge but with the majority of pieces being against rather than for them.
If white had indeed engineered such a move phase, black may have not seen the possible outcome even up to the point that capturing the second corner gave them the impression of the upper hand.
Othello strategy can go much deeper than mentioned here but in many ways these core elements form all or part of most of the strategy that is employed.