How to Win at Connect 4

Two Parts:Learning Basic StrategiesUsing Advanced Tactics

Connect 4 is a two-player strategy game that can be played on a computer or with a board and disks. The board is made up of horizontal and vertical columns that contain slots, and each player takes turns dropping their disks into the slots. The object of the game is to match four of your disks in a connected line, either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. While this may seem like a simple task, there is a lot of strategy involved, and learning the different techniques and tactics can help you win the game more often.

Part 1
Learning Basic Strategies

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    Control the center. One basic strategy for Connect 4 is to have disks in the middle, because this opens up the most opportunities for you to make connections. Because there are an odd number of columns, having disks in the middle means you can make connections in any direction.[1]
    • If you are player one, put your first disk in the very bottom center slot. If you're player one or two, try to get as many disks into the center column as possible.
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    Plan multiple moves in advance. Just like in chess, moves in Connect 4 can force you or your opponent to make a reactionary move to block a win. Situations like this can be used to your advantage, so it’s important when you're planning a move to think ahead about how your opponent will react.[2]
    • For instance, if you want to ensure you get the chance to put a disk in a particular slot, you can set yourself up for a possible win somewhere else on the board. Then, your opponent will be forced to block your win, leaving your next move free to fill the slot you were initially after.
    • Similarly, before you make a move, look at how it could impact your opponent positively. You don’t want to make a move that will set your opponent up to win, so think ahead about how your opponent will be able to use your move.
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    Block your opponent. A very basic strategy of any game is that if you don’t want to lose, you must prevent your opponent from winning. In Connect 4, this means defending against your opponent’s tactics and placing your disks in the open spots that would allow them to complete a four-disk connection.[3]
    • When possible, prevent your opponent from making a three-disk connection, because this means they are one connection away from winning.
    • Moreover, preventing three-disk connections will also prevent your opponent from setting a trap for you, which is when a game can be won in multiple directions but only blocked from one.
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    Take advantage of your opponent’s mistakes. In Connect 4, a mistake is failing to block an opponent’s moves, thereby allowing the opponent to win. To prevent this, you have to pay attention to the board and the implications of each move so you can take advantage of mistakes.[4]
    • For instance, if you have three disks lined up in a horizontal line and your opponent doesn’t put a disk on top to block you, your next move will be to take advantage of the open slot and complete your four-disk connection to win.
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    Play offensively. While it’s important to play defensively and block your opponent, to win at Connect 4 you must also establish connections with your own disks. You can do this by:
    • Building rows outward in a horizontal fashion.
    • Stacking disks on top of each other to form vertical connections.
    • Using your disks and your opponent’s disks to make diagonal connections with your rows and columns.
    • When possible, place your disks in slots that will create multiple connection possibilities. For instance, if you have disks that are separated by a column or row, find an intermediate slot that will connect the disks and give you opportunities in a diagonal and horizontal or vertical direction.[5]
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    Don’t fill a slot under a game-ending move. In Connect 4, a threat is an empty space adjacent to a three-disk connection that could win the game. Sometimes, these threats can't be used because there are open spaces around them, and you should avoid filling these spaces with your disks, because this could lead to your opponent making a game-ending move.
    • Similarly, if you're trying to set up a win but need the space below your threat filled, don’t fill it with your own disk, or your opponent could block your win.

Part 2
Using Advanced Tactics

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    Practice. There are over four trillion ways that any game of Connect 4 can play out, and this means it’s impossible to memorize the right move in any given scenario. However, practicing will improve your strategy skills and your ability to plan and react to certain moves.
    • There are many online and computer games that you can play, or you can study particular boards to help you practice your strategy.[6]
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    Set up a multi-directional attack. This is when you position your disks so that you have a three-disk connection that could be expanded to a connect-four in multiple directions, meaning your end-game move could be in one of several slots.[7]
    • When this happens, you put your opponent in a position where only one direction can be blocked, leaving the others direction free for your end-game move.
    • This method does require planning, and sometimes depends on your opponent making a mistake or not noticing that you're setting up a trap.
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    Make a “7 trap.” A 7 trap is a name for a very specific strategic move where you position your disks in a configuration that resembles a 7, with three horizontal disks connected to two diagonal disks branching off from the rightmost horizontal disk. [8]
    • The 7 can actually be configured in any way, including right way, backwards, upside down, or even upside down and backwards.
    • This disk formation is a good strategy because it gives you multiple directions in which you can make a connect-four.
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    Build a septuplet attack. The septuplet attack is similar to the multi-directional attack, but on a much larger scale. As the name suggests, this strategy sets you up to win in one of seven directions. To execute it, you need to create a very specific configuration with your disks, and will need to control:[9]
    • The bottom center disk.
    • On the second row from the bottom, the slots one in from either side.
    • On the third row from the bottom, the three center slots (in a horizontal configuration).
    • On the center column, the fourth and fifth slots up from the bottom.

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Categories: Board Games