A way to improvement of player's standard

Many new clubs and new players have appeared recently and they all are going to repeat the way from a little club to a big one, from a beginner to a master.

It is known that beside a good player beginners progress and achieve his level more quickly. However, improvement of player's standard stops when a club stops its contacts with "the outer world". That is why it seems useful to me to describe the way of standard's improvement, to point out some defects, typical for certain stages, to give some advice.


Aquanting himself with renju, every beginner likes combinations, though they are not complicated yet, just 2-3 fours. He often makes fours even without any use, without seeing the victory.

This stage can be described in two words in such a way: a threat - a defence, no defence - a defeat.

The second stage of aquanting with the game begins at the moment when the beginner starts preparing the winning combination instead of just putting into practice the combination he has noticed. Here, a typical method is making a three which the opponent can stop only in one way and hoping he will make a mistake.

The next stage is distinguished by the ability to carry out combinations consisting of 5-7 moves. However, being carried away with combinations the player forgets about the necessity of defence. And as it often happens, at the culminating point of completing the combination with a three, the opponents VCT comes.

As a rule, this is the last stage in education of an amateur player, a typical representative of the nonorganized renju. Practically every player joining a renju club has some defects of these stages.

Joining the club, players learn renju rules. The first response to forbidden moves rules - What are they for? Actually, these rules has not been necessary at the described stages, but it is simply a must for further improvement of skill.

Beginning to play with forbidden moves, the player polishes his ability to choose the right order of winning moves (when playing black) and the ability of thinking for the opponent, seeing his combinations (when playing white). It is rather difficult to understand the rules of forbidden moves in details, especially if there is neither literature not a good player beside. But without a detailed understanding of forbidden moves you can't be even a good crosses & noughts player. It is necessary to remember that it is not the superficial resemblance to a three or a four, but the possibility of their turning into a five, that matters.

As I have already pointed out, the further improvement of player's standard is possible mostly in clubs and it is necessary to master the ability of planning and preparing combinations.At this stage, the player learns typical combinations, and then, learns to create corresponding typical situations in his own games. The defects of the first stages are also eliminated at this stage. The player studies many problems and thus prepares the basis for developing his ability to think out combinations in games. It is a very important stage (approximately corresponding to 5 kyu) and the seriousness of player's attitude to renju is tested at it. Players with no attitude, players who don't consider renju to be a sport, drop out.

They usually don't study either literature or theory, leave tournaments and don't pay member's fees. Experience show that their interest for renju decrease after 2-3 months and after a couple of years they go out of renju sight even if the work in the club is organized in the best possible way.

It is interesting that after the first acquaintance with forbidden moves almost all the players prefer to play white, because you don't need to care about not making a forbidden move. Actually, they don't try to win by using the forbidden moves rules, but just play crosses & noughts.

But further progress is possible only with mastering all the methods possible according to the rules. How can I describe the first satisfaction that appears when you carry out a several moves combinations forcing to make a forbidden move, and look at the puzzled opponent who stops the direct threats but step by step comes to the fine final. Victories using overline or double-four is prticulary pleasing. And the "double forbidden moves", of 1-3-type, is in truth a pearl in renju's crown.

A double-forbidden move. Even if it is Black's move, he can not escape from the forbidden moves in 1 and 3.

There is a characteristic mistake, typical for this stage of mastering renju - a kind of eiphory of forbidden moves, when the player tries to win all the white games by forcing the opponent to make a forbidden move. This excess, as all others, must be got rid of, sometimes at cost anoying defeats.

The next stage is mastering such methods as VCF-threats and counterfour. The feeling of their buties fills the player and he starts using them everywhere. It happens very often, that if he has two possibilities of blocking a threat, he chooses the defence with use of a counterfour. Sometimes it causes a fine victory, sometimes - an annoying defeat. The same applies for VCF-threats. There is a period when the player tries to finish all the games with a double VCF-threat, sometimes losing the game or the chance for victory (it is the level of 3-4 kyu).

A counterfour. By playing 15, Black stops White's VCF victory in a smart way. After 15 try to play out White's winning combination 16,18,20 and 22.

The next stage of player's progress is stubborn defence and awaiting of opponents mistake. No doubt it is a must to be good at acting on the defensive, sometimes it is necessary to calm the situation or entangle the opponent in a horse-net. However, to my opinion, you can't be on the defensive all the time, without trying to go into counteroffensive at the first opportunity. There are players everywhere who profess the defensive style. To be on the defensive till the opponent is enfeebled and loses the game himself - this is their motto. Sometimes in case of wrongly chosen plan of attack or inadequate opponent skill such tactics bring victory. However, stagnation of creative activities and descent in rank is characteristic for defenders.

It is difficult to characterize the next stage, which corresponds to 1-dan and higher. It can only be stated, that possesors of dans are distinguished by continous struggle for initiative, ability to sharpen the struggle in an equal situation by use of "mises". As a rule, such players carry out their own opening analyses. But I underline that it is too early to generalize from 10-20 players.


In all games a conflict develops between two personalities. That is why it is necessary not only to play well, but also to understand the inner state of the opponent, to choose the strategy that is most favourable for yourself and least acceptable for the opponent.

Here I would like to give some advice about both sporting and psychological preparations. for the game.

To play successfully it is necessary not only to posess good knowledge of theory, but also to keep up with the literature (newsletters, collection of games, Renju Sekai). It is particularly important to study those novelties, which are part of your reportoire or these who are popular in yourclub.

Some players consider knowledge of openings to be unnecessary and play at sight. But the opening is a very important stage of the game. Mistakes in the opening can turn out fatal and lead to a defeat, whereas a well played opning makes further play easier.

The other excess is learning openings by heart. Understanding of the game is substituted by memorizing. Instead of making use of a transposition of moves or a different position in regard to the board's edge in some variant, such players themselves transpose moves in order to return to the know pattern.

Long ago J.R.Capablanca formulated a classic principle of game. Each move must be checked, however obvious it could seem from afar. This entirely applies to renju. Each moves in a game must be checked, however obvious it could seem from afar. This entirely applies to renju. Each move in a game must be thought over, must constitute a part of some offensive or defensive plan.

Some players are carried away with thinking over their defensives and offensives and get into time-trouble. In order to decrease the time you spend you can use the follwing rule. Block the fours at once (certainly, if you have no four at your own). If your opponent has made a three and you have found his victory from one end - block it without thinking any more - don't look for his victory from the other end - for you can't surrender too late.

Some other players, on the contrary, play quickly, sometimes they are defeated in a winning position. They can be adviced such a thing. After calculating some combination, write down the move in the protocol, calculate the main variant of your combination once more, then place the stone on the board, but slowly (no matter how strong your desire to win is). After your opponent's move calculate all the variants once again and after that play out your combination until you win.

Some people ask:"How to solve renju problems?". It is a very important question, because problem solving is a good training for the completing stage of a game.

When you are solving a difficult problem, first of all make sure it can't be solved by any sequence of threes and fours. Then try to win substituting some threes and fours by VCF-threats - in those places, where opponent's threes and fours appear that interfere with your victory.

When solving problems, some people leave out important variants - so I'll give such advice: when there is a situation where the opponent has several defending moves - make a list of these points and count in even the most incredible defences. Then cross out in that list the moves after which you have an obvious victory. And after this examine carefully two-three main variants. You can also use this technique when playing by correspondence.

Now about psychological methods. The first and most simply psychological method is using "opening novelties" - unexpected moves in known variants. They always affects opponent's thinking unpleasantly. And the strength of the move is not as important as the psychological effect of surprise, unpleasant awareness of ignorance; they often lead to perplexity, decrease of the exertion of the will, further mistakes and defeat.

However, you should not use pseudonovelties too often. Countermeasures against opponent's novelty can be different: you can, for instance, leave the opening pattern earlier and thus prevent the opponent from using his novelty, or, being sureof your variant, you can meet it (the novelty) and try to refute it.

The second way is much more interesting, for it develops the theory, and it often happens that the player who meets a novelty has already refuted it at home while analyzing this variant. In this case the novelty becomes a boomerang against the player who uses it.

When you are preparing for a specific game it is reasonable to analyse the opponent's games according to the following scheme:

1. Analyze how your opponent plays when he meets a novelty.

2. Look whether he gets into timetroubles.

3. Look which openings were used and his results in these openings.

4. Pay special attention to the games of the recent period.

5. Find out which colour who is better for him.

6. Analyse such things

a) quality of his play in better, equal and bad situations;

b) quality of his play in situations of various essence (double-edged, defensive, passive);

c) ability to invent orginal strategical and tactical ideas.

7. Analyse opponent's behaviour in typical situations appearing in tournaments:

a) "all or nothing" - both players need a victory;

b) situation of a compromise;

c) the result has no significance;

d) influence of lack of success;

e) efficiency of playing with opponents of various standards.

In conclusion I want to advise for all the players who strive for skill to write down all games from tournaments they take part in and all games they can get studying other player's games is also an important part of training.

By Alexander Nosovsky