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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 (, 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 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 (, 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.


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 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 screenshots or the 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
  • On, 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, 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, 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 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


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.


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!