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Othello Game (aka Reversi) -- Strategy Tips

Updated on January 22, 2015


Othello is also called Reversi but I prefer the more traditional name of Othello as that's what it was originally called and it sounds better. The reference, I believe, is from Shakespeare's play, "Othello".

How you play is best described in the above video. I am going to give you some basic strategy tips on this game. There is no limit to how much your strategy can develop on this game; after all the slogan is: "A minute to learn, a lifetime to master."


As it says in the video the corner is the most powerful position. Also, the edges are the second most powerful position. If you have your color on the edge then it's easier to control the game and keep the majority of the pieces in the center as your color. If you control the edges you control the game but if you control the corners then you control the edges and while an edge piece is harder to flip than other positions, the corners can never be flipped once a player puts his color there.

To prevent losing the corner position, avoid placing your color in any of the adjacent positions to the corner, especially the one diagonal to it. The only exception is more toward the end of the game when most of the board if already filled up, then it's safer. Otherwise it's too easy for your opponent to jump you and take the corner.


For the sake of this hub, I'm going to call all the squares, except the two outermost rows, the "inside". The photo below illustrates what is meant by the "inside". Every position that has a piece on it in the photo below is on the "inside". Unoccupied positions, for the sake of this photo alone, are not on the "inside".


While the goal of this game is to have the most of your color in the end, how many you have at the start or middle of the game is nearly irrelevant. Especially when placing pieces on the inside. You're not concerned with which move gets you the most pieces, you should be more concerned with the strategy of where your color is going to be. Nearly the whole game is played this way, to get your pieces strategically placed so you can control the edges and corners. The problem of who has the most pieces will come down to the last several moves and then during this time the person with the better grip on the corners and edges is the one who will come out a victor. In fact, sometimes it's a mistake to take too many pieces so early. This will limit your options and will also make it easy for your opponent to change them all back to his color in no time at all. You could use the reverse strategy of allowing him to take a lot of your pieces so the board is mostly his color and then jump into the corner, take all the edges and then the game. This tactic is risky though.

Placing any of your pieces adjacent to an edge piece is a good way for your opponent to jump you and take a position on the edge. Be aware of this and if you do go in any position next to the edge (but not near the corner) then try to do it in a way that you're safe or even that you could use to your advantage.

Controlling the Edges

A quick tip: If your opponent places his piece in the spot that is directly adjacent and diagonal to the corner and it's in the beginning or middle of the game, all you need is for any piece in that diagonal line to be your color for you to jump onto the corner. If none of the pieces are your color, try to change almost any one to your color, without flipping the one that's adjacent to the corner, and then you'll be set to jump to the corner on your next move.

The photo sequence below illustrates this. Each photo shows each alternating turn between black and white.

If your opponent placed a piece that's on the edge and adjacent to the corner, here is a trick for you: Place a piece that is three squares away and on the edge. Then, your next move, place one right next to his. This puts you in a position where you can jump him and go into the corner even if he does jump the piece that's closest to his edge piece.

The photo sequence below illustrates this. 

His only defense, once you've placed your first piece, is to put another one down on the edge right next to his first piece. That will kill your move but also keep this in mind if you're in his position.

Try not to place pieces along the edge with one space in between. He can move there and be untouched until he wants to jump out at a later time and take over the edge. Likewise, if he leaves one space in between two of his own color, try to go there.

Let's say the board is almost all full. There are few places for either player to go. Nobody has taken the corner or any of the adjacent positions to the corner. Your opponent has taken over all of one or more walls. Look at your options but if he has taken over entire walls on any side, it might be a good idea to now take the diagonal adjacent position to the corner. This puts him in a position where he needs or wants to take the corner but if he does, you place your piece in that one empty spot along the wall that's next to the corner. This means that all the pieces could be yours along the wall. Be smart about how you do it, if it allows you to jump all the way into a corner on the other side of the board, it's a good move. However, if it only enables you to jump to the spot that's adjacent to the corner (turning all the pieces on that wall to your color) then it is a bad move as all your opponent needs to do is jump you from his new corner position and he'll have the wall back and a second corner.

The photo sequence below illustrates this move. It also shows you how fast things can turn around in Othello. In the first photo, it looks pretty grim for black but then, using my trick, black comes out as the victor.

The last tip I'm going to give, though it's not the last one I could give, is the trick of getting extra turns. When somebody can't go anywhere, then they skip that turn. Try to put your opponent in a position where he looses his turn. This is more common to happen towards the end of the game. Also, you can do this, say, if you got a corner position early on. Work to convert all the pieces closest to that corner to your color, forming a solid triangle of your color. The more pure that triangle is of your color, the less your opponent will ever be able to convert any of the pieces back to his own color. Think about it.

Like I said, there is much more to discuss here. The best way to really get a feel for it and discover your own strategies is to get a hold of the game and play it. After all, it only takes a minute to learn.


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    • TylerCapp profile image

      TylerCapp 5 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Good to know! What did you think about the strategies? That was the main point of this article.

    • profile image

      Wim 5 years ago

      You say: "I prefer the more traditional name of Othello as that's what it was originally called". However, the original name was reversi; it was first called Othello in the seventies.

    • profile image

      David C. 5 years ago

      Thanks for the tips!