Fight or Flight – The Problem

By | April 25, 2011

This post is about what to do after you realize your opponent has gained an advantage.  One of the hardest but most important skills in blokus is learning how to play from a bad position.  Since the nature of blokus at the moment is that the score does matter, not just the win or the loss (a match will usually consist of two games, where the overall score difference will be counted), it is important to be able to maximize your advantage when winning, and also to minimize your disadvantage when losing.  Of course, this is also important because blokus is often much harder to predict than it is given credit for, and many a game that have seemed to heavily favour one player have been won by the opponent who played carefully and gained the advantage back a little bit at a time.

After a move where it becomes clear that your opponent has gained the advantage, your body will trigger a fight or flight response by releasing adrenaline.  This will often manifest itself in your game.

If you suddenly feel that your opponent has taken the advantage by claiming a large area, it will be tempting to play a cut move in order to fight your opponent.  The idea is that since they have claimed a large area somewhere, you should play a move that will let you cut off more of their corners to lessen their space elsewhere.  While this is a good idea in theory, it is still important to consider your move carefully and not rush into anything.  A cut move is a double-edged sword: if your opponent responds there before you get to play there again, you lose your most advanced corner.  In fact, after a strong move by your opponent, it is an especially dangerous time to play a cut move because after gaining a large area, your opponent will often be free to respond to your cut immediately, and do even more damage than was done before.

When you follow a move where your opponent gains the advantage by rushing into another bad move, this is called a compound error.  Compound errors are most often the cause of a bonus (for the opposing player) – it is very difficult for one bad move, or even a couple of isolated bad moves to allow an opponent to bonus.  Typically you need to make multiple bad moves in the same area or at the same time in order to give up a bonus.

Following a move where an opponent seems to gain an advantage by blocking one of your colours to a great extent, it will be tempting to play any piece into the most open space you can find, often with a kiss move, in an attempt at flight – running away into an open space.  This is a good idea in theory – if you’re getting blocked off it does make sense to try to find some new space, and a kiss move is a reasonable and often effective way to do this.  However you have to be careful here: if your opponent has just blocked you off, it is often (though not always) the case that your colour has been restricted to a small zone, but that in blocking you in, your opponent also blocked him or herself out.  If you immediately follow with a kiss move you may allow your opponent into the small area that you have, and still not get very far on your way out.  Sometimes it is more worth while to give up a little bit of space, but make it hard for your opponent to get into an area you already control.

These two problems will come up very often, and it is very important to be able to recognize them when they arrive.  But finding the situations where you’re likely to make these moves is the easy part.  The hard part is figuring out what to do instead.  To attempt to keep individual posts short, I have separated the solution into a separate post (two posts actually).  Take a look at Fight or Flight – The Solution (Part 1) to see some ideas about how to get out of situations like this.

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