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Monday, July 17, 2017

Puzzle #25: Black to Play; Black to Tinue

Hope everyone is doing well! Thanks to all who view and solve these puzzles!

Here's another Black Tinue. They usually happen later in the game, as it takes time to overcome White's tempo advantage (especially on size 5). So, don't be discouraged just because you play Black; embrace the challenge!


Monday, July 10, 2017

Puzzle #24: Black to Play; Black to Tinue

Here's another puzzle to replace my blunder on yesterday's. Hopefully this one is actually Tinue :)


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Puzzle #23: White to Play; White to Tinue

This one is a modification of a game I was watching the other day. Not the most difficult puzzle, but I think it highlights some unique Tak elements. Ignore the "White wins by default"; ptn.ninja is picking up on the result tag attached to the PTN.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Puzzle #22: Black to Play; Black to Gaelet

Trying my hand at another Gaelet puzzle. Let me know what you think!


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Puzzle #21: White to Play; What is White's Best Move?

A slightly different kind of puzzle for you guys and gals this time. What would you do as White in this situation, and why?


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Puzzle #20: White to Play; White to Tinue

Hello all!

Here's another hard one (I think it's hard, anyway). There are a couple main branches; see if you can figure them out!



Friday, June 23, 2017

Physical Book vs. Kindle

Dear wonderful readers,

I have gotten some requests to make an eBook version of Mastering Tak available. I am happy to do this, but I wanted to give you advanced warning that the quality of the ebook will not be that of the printed one. This has to do with the way that the publishing software formats my uploaded document. I do not have the expertise to reformat my book for cross-platform flexibility nor the money to hire it out. So, here are some examples of both the printed vs the eBook incarnations:










As you can see, the eBook version does not support some of my font choices and page layouts.

Kindle/eBooks are amazingly portable and instantly available. And, I am not trying to discourage you from enjoying my book in the way that you prefer; I just want everyone to go in with eyes open.

Mastering Tak:  Level I Kindle Edition

As always, comments are encouraged!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mastering Tak: Level I -- It's Here!!!



Hello Takolytes,

I would like to present to you my brainchild...Mastering Tak:  Level I !!




For quite some time, I've been working on a series of Tak strategy guides for rookies and veterans alike. Featuring definitions, Taktics, strategies, and walkthroughs, this series will focus on pattern recognition and board evaluation to lead to consistent improvement in gameplay.

And now, the first level is available!


Here are a couple screenshots to give you an idea of the layout and content:




Follow the link below for book specs and purchasing information.

Mastering Tak: Level I

A version for Kindle is also available. Please read this before purchasing the eBook.

As always, if you have any questions, post them in the comments and I'll respond as quickly as I can.



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Puzzle #19: White to Play; White to Tinue

Here's a fun one for you. AaaarghBot can be amazingly annoying, but can also offer some nice entertainment. Hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Puzzle #18: Black to Play; Black to Tinue

I decided to post an easy one this week in a 6x6 size since my mind is focused on the tournament watching/playing and on getting my book ready for print. I'll dedicate a post to the book in a week or two.

This Tinue is care of IntuitionBot and its shortsightedness.

Enjoy!


Friday, May 26, 2017

Puzzle #17: White to Play; White to Tinue

I enjoy making all of these puzzles. But, if there is a certain type (Tinue, Tinue avoidance, board state evaluation, Gaelet, etc.) that you want to request for the upcoming weeks, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Thanks!


Friday, May 19, 2017

Puzzle #16: Tinue Avoidance; Black to Move, Black to Avoid

White has created a strong threat along the bottom. Black has defenders in the area, but which should be used, and in what order, to avoid Tinue?


Friday, May 12, 2017

Flat Win Threat Notation in PTN

While making my last puzzle, I ran into a discrepancy in Portable Tak Notation (PTN). It seems that we have symbols to denote road threats ('Tak' and 'Tinue'), but nothing to show when a win via flat count is impending. This blog is about those flat count win threats and a possible way to incorporate them into PTN.

There are two conditions that cause a win to be determined via flat count:  Board Fill and Stone Exhaustion. During the game, if either player causes the board to have no spaces open (either with the placement of a stone, or the spreading of a stack), the game ends and the win goes to the player with the most flat stones showing (Board Fill). This same method of determining who wins is used if either player places their last piece (Stone Exhaustion).

I did some pondering on 'Tak' and 'Tinue' and came up with with what I feel is the main difference between them:  the percentage chance that the threat of a road will be converted to a win. 'Tak' is a road threat with a low to moderate chance of conversion. When playing the computer at any level above BeginnerBot, the chance of conversion is 0%. When playing a human opponent, the percentage chance of conversion is variable, depending on the sneakiness of the threat and the attentiveness of the opponent. 'Tinue', on the other hand, has a high to very high chance of conversion, though it is still not a guaranteed and automatic win. The player making a 'Tinue' threat may not be aware of it, may run out of time, resign, his opponent may resign, or the player making the threat may even choose not to complete the road on their next turn.

To mirror this 2-level, percent-conversion system with flat count win threats, I came up with this:

The level 1 threat is denoted by placing '#' after the move that initiates the threat. The number symbol seems to fit because the determination of the possible win relies on the number of flats showing. The level 2 threat is simply a doubling of the symbol, much like the PTN for 'Tinue' is a doubling of that for 'Tak' (' escalates to "). So, a high to very high percent chance of a win conversion is denoted by adding '##' after the initiating move.

In a game where 'Tak' must be called, it also seems fitting that flat win threats should be vocalized. I suggest 'Dev' for a low level flat win threat and 'Gaelet' for a high level flat win threat. 'Gaelet' was coined by u/Bismuthsnake on r/tak and refers to the ruthless moneylenders in the KKC. I went with 'Dev' as a shortened form of Devi. She is a subset of gaelets, just as 'Dev' is related to, but not encompassing of 'Gaelet'.

Following are some examples of when these notations would come into play:


In this example we see that Black is making a Dev threat via board fill. If White places a stone instead of moving one, Black can win by filling the board on the next turn.



Notation:
31. 2e3-11 Se3#


And, in this example, we see Black making a Dev threat via stone exhaustion. If White places his last stone, the game goes to Black. So, the Dev threat is forcing White to move stones instead of place them.
Notation:
29. Sa4 Sb5#


The last example here shows a Gaelet threat. White can win next turn by placing his last stone, regardless of what Black does.



Notation:
41. 4a3+4## 2c3<2
42. b5 
F-0


We also need to explore how these symbols interact with one another during those rare board states, such as the one below, where we have both a Tinue and a Gaelet threat. Black has achieved 'Tinue', but White can place his last stone, causing a 'Gaelet' win.



Notation:
31. b1+ 4c1<22##”   ?


 tl;dr (philosophy version)


Threats in any form should be notated (and vocalized in games requiring it).
Road Win threats already meet this requirement.
Flat Win threats do not.

Therefore, Flat Win threats need notation and vocalization options.


'Tak' and 'Tinue' are both road threats with 'Tak' denoting a low level threat and 'Tinue' an almost inescapable threat.

'Dev' and 'Gaelet' are both flat win threats with 'Dev' denoting a low level threat and 'Gaelet' an almost inescapable one. 

Or, said another way...

Tak : Tinue :: Dev : Gaelet

' : " :: # : ##

 

 Let me know what you think; I'm open to suggestions!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Puzzle #15: Black to Play; Black to Gaelet

White just played his second to last stone with Sa4. Black has the flat lead, but has 8 stones left to be played. How does Black win? (There are a few options here.)

Just a couple notes:

This is probably the longest puzzle that I've made, let me know if it is too long.

Also, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, Gaelet is what u/Bismuthsnake came up with for a flat win. It mirrors Tinue in that it is a non-real word from Kvothe's world. Gaelet refers to the ruthless moneylenders and seems to fit a flat win due to all the counting involved and the end game maneuvering reminds me of haggling back and forth to iron out terms of a contract.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Puzzle #14: White to Play; White to Tinue

Thanks to all of you who enjoy and solve these puzzles!


Mastering Tak: Level I -- Walkthroughs

Below are the 2 games that I did in depth analyses on in my first book. Like my puzzles, these are interactive frames taken from Craig Laparo's PTN Ninja (http://ptn.ninja/), so you can not only navigate between moves but actually take the game from any board state and explore different options. If you are unfamiliar with how to use his software or would like to make a donation, click on the menu button on the top left of ptn.ninja and select "About PTN Ninja".

As always, I am open to suggestions regarding the content of my blogs, puzzles, and (now) book! So, let me know if you want me to explore a certain topic or if you have a board state that you would like a puzzle made from.

Thank you for your purchase!

Email me (bill.leighton1@gmail.com), post a comment here, or PM me on r/tak or Discord (rabbitboy84) with any ideas/questions/concerns/etc.


Game 1










Game 2

Friday, April 14, 2017

Puzzle #12: Black to Move; Tinue Avoidance

Black must tread carefully here. What can be done to stop White from gaining Tinue?


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Puzzle #10: White to Move

How does white get to Tinue from this board state?

By request, I've left off the number of moves until Tinue. Let me know if this makes the puzzle more enjoyable.

Have fun!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Puzzle #9: If White plays e4, How Does Black Prevent Tinue?

Here's one that is a bit harder than the last. See if you can spot it.

Note: I posted this as a Tinue puzzle for White: Road to Tinue in 1 move.  But, after discussion on r/tak, it seems that Black has a way to avoid Tinue. So, I changed the title. If you find a way for White to resume tempo in a meaningful and forceful way, let me know. Otherwise, see if you can find the way out for Black.

Note about the Note: If you are not a member of the Tak subreddit (r/tak) and have wandered onto my blog following some other road, then I highly suggest you join. That is where most of the comments about my puzzles appear, as well as many other good questions and announcements from other Tak players.

Puzzle #8: White to Play, Tinue in 1 Move

Here's a fairly easy one for you guys. This is a game between myself and AaaarghBot where I ran out of time on the last move.

Please remember to put your answers in spoiler format so that the newer players have a chance to exercise the Tak lobe of their brains.

Sorry it's been a bit since my last puzzle, I've been working on my Tak writing for the Capstone Quarterly and for my upcoming posts.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Puzzle #7: Black to play. What move can black make to avoid Tinue?

This was a very well played game that I watched most of last night. Black did a wonderful job spotting and avoiding Tinue attempts by white. This is one such example.

Two questions;  What is white's Tinue move next turn....and....How can black avoid it?

Note:  Looks like I trimmed the game a bit too much. Please arrow forward to get to the right board state. White's move should be Sc2.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Puzzle #6: Black to Play. Tinue in a few turns.

I say a few turns because there are a couple paths that black can take. However, each end result is the same; black gains Tinue in a few moves.

I put it into 3D mode since the stacks are so tall. As with my other recent puzzles, the board below is interactive.

Enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Well the landslide will bring it down...

Sometimes all it takes to set off a landslide is one stone jarred loose from its comfortable resting place.  In Tak, the stones (and their controllers) act in much the same way.  The mid-game is mainly where these landslides lurk. You are sitting there watching the board peacefully fill with flatstones, when suddenly a single capture results in a complete change in the look of the board as well as a complete change in attitude of the players. Peaceful coexistence seems to give way to winner-take-all competition within the space of a few turns. Aftershocks of that first landslide spread their waves throughout the remainder of the game, causing other landslides, and finally ending in a rubble-strewn expanse of a game board and a single victor.

I have come to call these landslides Cascades.

John Lewis brought this up on the Tak subreddit. I have attempted to expand upon the idea and nail down some definitions and examples:

Forced Cascade - A series of forced moves that results in a major swing in the board state.  This is very similar to Road to Tinue, except that the result is not an immediate win (though it could lead to it, certainly). Forced moves only work if your tempo is 1 (or 2, if failure to follow the forced move results in Road to Tinue)

Potential Cascade - A pre-Cascade board state that will not become a Cascade unless initiated. The responding player is not forced to initiate the Cascade.

Fishing Cascade - an intentionally set up Potential Cascade (you might even say it is a Potential Cascade with malicious intent) - a lure is dropped that, if taken, will result in a cascade by the player dangling the bait. The best fishing cascades offer the mark a "treasured bait" AND improve the fisherman's board state regardless of whether or not the mark takes the bait. Ex: player 1 captures a stack within reach of player 2's wall. If player 2 captures the stack, player 1 crushes it with his cap and gains superior board position. If player 2 does not capture the stack, player 1 spreads the stack and gains better board position anyway.


I would like to start with the most basic cascade -- a flat capture/recapture scenario. This cascade is a direct result of influence; and if you have not seen Ben's video on the subject, or it has been a while, I highly recommend taking a look at it.

This type of cascade is sometimes called a stack war or a trade war or even a dog pile. As Ben's video demonstrates, each piece on the board exerts a certain amount of influence over adjacent squares. At some point during the game, capturing becomes necessary to prevent a road win or to gain better board position. If the captured piece falls under the influence of an opponent's piece, then the opposing player can choose to recapture. If that recapture falls under the influence of the initiating player's piece, then he/she can choose to continue the war. As stated, each recapture is a choice, making this a Potential Cascade. If the trade war is taken to its end (no adjacent pieces available to recapture the dog pile), then the board now contains a significant stack.

I try to make it a habit to check the outcomes of trade wars for each potential capture that may occur (try to use your opponent's time to do this so you can concentrate on The Fox Prances To The Barn, Smelling Turkey on your turn).  

Below is a simple trade war. Notice that each player has other options besides continuing the dog pile. You can use the navigation arrows to play through the trade war.


The next step in a trade war is to bring in a noble to help rein in the peasants, as seen here in the Northwest:



Exactly how a player should react to this noble placement really depends on the board state at the time. One common response to the placement of a noble beside a valued stack is to jump and spread that stack in the most beneficial direction found.


Now for the hard stuff. A forced cascade is a very powerful tool. Huge swings in flat count or setups for Roads to Tinue can be forced if you can get your opponent into the right position (over a barrel). The following is an example of a forced cascade - The capstone hops to a deputy stack which is also a Tak threat, black cannot respond by using the stack vacated. Then, the capstone hops back on the previous stack, adding 2 extra recruits, keeping a deputy stack, and putting black's capstone in the corner.





I am sure that there are many more cascades in this beautiful game to be discovered. Let me know if you see one and I'll see if I can work it into the blog somewhere.

Also, do you prefer the still pictures or the interactive ptn.ninja frames?

Puzzle #5: White to Tinue in 3



This is a game I didn't complete yesterday at lunch. After going back to the ending later, I had a nice Tinue that I just couldn't see at the time. See if you can find it.

White's move. And, you can now interact with the puzzles! Thanks r/tak user gruppler!!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Puzzle #4: Who has the better position here?

It is white's turn to play in this mid-game scenario.  So, who is better off and why?


Also, let me know if you like the ptn.ninja screenshots or the playtak.com ones better.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Puzzle #3: How would you respond to this board state?

This is a game I played yesterday against TakticianBot. I was confused by the bot's response to this board state, as it was different from what I would have done and, I believe, lost the bot the game.

Let me know what you would have done as black:


Also, if anyone has thoughts on the game other than this state, I'm all ears. This was my second win against TakticianBot (the first was a bug where it missed my road threat). This win really surprised me. Did I just play an awesome game or did Tako miss obvious responses to my play? Here is the link to watch or try alternate moves:  Rabbitboy84 wins! Wait, Rabbitboy84 wins?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Tak Training Guide

Here is a roadmap to get you started on your way to Tak fame and fortune:
  • Watch James Ernest's Introduction Video.
  • Read the Rules.
  • Companion Book- buy the ebook if not the physical copy (either one supports Cheap Ass Games).
  • Join r/tak for the community, advice, and inspiration.
  • Join USTA to stay current on tournament goings on as well as discussions of Tak ettiquette, rule balancing, volunteer opportunities, Tak club resources, and much more.
  • Watch my tutorial for using playtak.com
  • On playtak.com, start with Beginner Bot to get the idea of the game mechanics.
  • Subscribe to Tak Strategy YouTube channel to watch good matches and hear commentary.
  • Learn PTN.
  • Read blogs to learn more strategy and taktics (in no particular order): mine, Turing's, nqueron's, Tayacan's, NoHatCoder's.
  • On playtak.com, work through FriendlyBot levels 2-5 and play as many human games as you can, especially with those ranked in the top 50.
  • Learn how to lose with grace and learn something from each game.
  • Try playing ShlktBot. Do NOT learn opening strategies from this bot, but appreciate how well it plays from the mid-game on.
  • Play more humans to learn current conventions on moves and strategies (and for fun, of course!)
  • Build your own Tak set. The Tak Subreddit has many builds you can mimic, or you can create your own design.
  • Continue reading and re-reading blogs.
  • Solve puzzles as they appear on r/tak.
  • Contribute to r/tak if you are not already doing so:  make puzzles, ask questions, come up with something new, and in general enjoy this awesome budding community.
  • Start a Tak club at your local school, pub, workplace, library, etc. -- teach others to play and love Tak.
  • Review each game after you play it. Try using ptn ninja to notate it if you have the time and inclination.
  • Most of your games to this point will have probably been 5x5. So, try playing IntuitionBot to get the basic idea of 6x6. The strategies and feel of the game are appreciably different. Experienced players can also guide you through some 6s strategies.
  • Level up to FriendlyBot 6-9
  • Continue to play human players of all levels. Try teaching some newbies. You can learn a lot just by teaching to others.
  • Participate in tournaments (online and in person) to experience that aspect of Tak. Everyone needs some eustress in their lives.
  • Spread the work of Tak far and wide.
  • On playtak.com, go up against Takkerus/TakticianBot/FriendlyBot 10-14 -- learn how they make you lose and fold some of those taktics into your own game. Don't feel bad if you lose, because you will lose...a lot. Remember, these bots are looking 5-10(?) moves into the future and they don't miss Tak threats...the only way to beat them is to play your best.
  • Find your niche in the Tak community and begin analyzing your personal Tak style.
  • Begin winning some games against FriendlyBot 10-11
  • Continue losing to Takkerus and TakticianBot, but begin to lose more on flat count and less on Tinue/missed threats.
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
I can't give much advice beyond this point, since this is where I currently reside. But, I plan to update this blog as I progress.  One day we will have Grand Masters to interview and advise us as well! 



Puzzle #2 - How does black get out of this?

At first glance, this looks like Tinue. But, black can weasel his way out. How?



Friday, January 20, 2017

Puzzle #1 - white to play, Tinue in 7 moves

This is the end of a game that I misplayed a couple days ago. Lack of attention on my part and a time crunch at the end of lunch lead to a loss. So, I went back to review it later and saw that I had Road to Tinue. Enjoy the puzzle!


Monday, January 16, 2017

Playtak.com Tutorial

Youtube link

A good overview of the Playtak program with tips and tricks for new users.

Enjoy and give feedback!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Open Comment Game #2

Open Comment Game #2 (youtube link)

fwwwwibib vs LuKAs

*Warning* 

This is just raw footage. It is complete with technical difficulties, unscripted mumbling, and no frills.
 
Maybe it will be a collector item one day as we all become famous :)

Future videos will be more polished as I slowly learn the limits of my system.

Anyway....enjoy!



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Tak Emblem




Above is my emblem for Tak. I came up with it while designing my newest Tak board. If the winter is cold enough (read: I have enough time by the fire) I plan to burn this into each white stone and inlay copper wire into each black piece. Ambitious much?

The emblem came about while breaking in my new fountain pen and handwriting some Tak theories (read: my wife and kids were out of town and...I'm a nerd). It started out as the "T" in Tak and then evolved into a kind of personal logo for the game.

Others may see additional things in the symbol...but, to me:

It represents the building and interrupting of roads. I view it as ambiguous; either the "/" line is a road that is interrupted by the "~" (maybe by a stack spread), or the "/" are walls/flats ready to sever the "~" road.

It shows that different styles all have a place in the Tak universe. From direct to circuitous, angular to fluid, experimental vs tried and true.

I also see it as a reminder and a warning. The "~" is the wind finding cracks in...well, everything. So, no matter how good I get, my strategies and human nature will always have chinks in them. Likewise, no matter how good my opponent is, their strategies suffer the same fate and I always have a chance.

But, whatever else you see in the symbol, hopefully you find it to be simple yet elegant and beautiful, just like Tak.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

He's dead, Jim.


 The promise of the future is a powerful thing. It can keep you pushing through hard times, bolstering your morale; because, just over the horizon is a better world where things will all settle into place and your hard work will be justly rewarded.

But, my post today is not a cheery exposition on the promise of the future. I'm here today to crush your dreams. Not the ones about moving into the woods to build a yurt and sustainable farm...those are perfectly valid :) The dreams of yours I plan on burying under a mound of cold reality are the ones involving that East/West road you continue to pour your heart and soul into...even though your opponent has 2 nobles hindering your progress and has managed to gain a stranglehold on the Western edge of the board.

I understand that these dreams and the promise of the future are hard to give up. I struggle with "letting go" myself. When you place your stones on the board to bring to life your schemes, you are investing a part of yourself into the game and are optimistic about the outcome. This is only natural as they are your plans; your ideas, your actions, attempting to reach their full potential and earn you a pile of just desserts.

So, the key is to fight back against the promise of the future with some guidelines to keep your optimism from losing you the game.

My wet blanket for your dreams:

    1. Give up and change taktics on a road if your opponent has >1 noble that can easily cut your road in twain.
    2. Chin up and move on if your opponent drops your tempo by 2 or more.
    3. Take a deep breath and find a new strategy if your opponent has gained a stranglehold on an edge you need to complete your road.
    4. Sigh and scrap your current project if your opponent makes a +3 (or greater) flat count differential move.
    5. Grumble and accept it if you need to scrap your road threat to stop a road to Tinue threat from your opponent.

    The above are just guidelines. Each specific game has instances where it is worth the risk to trudge onward towards your goal even with all the obstacles.

    Being flexible in your schemes (especially developing bidirectionally or playing offense/defense simultaneously) will be of much more benefit to your gameplay than continuing to beat a dead horse.



    And here is another tidbit along the same lines to take to heart:  Unless you are playing a bumbling newbie or a buggy bot, your initial road will go nowhere. So, stop taking it so badly when that first foray onto the board gets stopped cold. Just take out your thesaurus, find some synonyms for perseverance, and persevere!