Duo to the Death

Blokus has taken over my life

Archive for December, 2009

Blokus wishes for the New Year

Posted by nand on December 17, 2009

I know that probably there’s little incentive for Mattel (the new owners of Blokus) to do a lot of tinkering with its site, since membership is free & thus there’s no monetary reason to hire a computer tech guy to make it run better… but a guy can’t help wishing, can he?

So here’s what I think would make it a better site.


  • A warning bell for when the timer drops below 1 minute. This would take, like, about 2 minutes of a programmer’s time to add… it’s unbelievable that despite this being frequently requested by players, this never gets added.
  • 3D Duo in the Competition room, not just in Training.
  • Add grid coordinates along the sides of the board–in duo: A through M on the X axis, 1 through 14 (bottom to top) on the Y. (This could be a toggle button: SHOW COORDINATES/HIDE COORDINATES.)
  • Add an option to number pieces according to the move they’re played on, so you can actually figure out the entire sequence of play at a glance at the board. (This could just be a toggle button: SHOW MOVES/HIDE MOVES.)
  • Install anti-spam software on the forum. I’ve never come across a more spam-prone online forum — it’s truly embarrassing. They eventually get around to cleaning it up by hand, but there are much better automated ways of ensuring this stuff never gets posted in the first place.


  • Add an option to permit players — within the Competition room — to choose sides rather than being assigned them randomly. This would obviously require BOTH players to consent (they would each have a button). This would save a lot of headache when players are trying to resume a match (currently, the only solution is to keep quitting & returning, hoping that the other player is not such a schmuck as to penalize).
  • Fix the poorly-conceived censorship in chat. (For now, let’s set aside the question of whether there should be censorship.) If it’s going to be done, at least program it competently. First: It should not be triggered by part-words. It’s dumb to turn words like “assuming” or “culminate” into “***uming” and “***minate”: if you want to guarantee that it catches both “fuck” and “fucking” then simply put BOTH words in the blacklist. Second: given that virtually all chat takes place in English, no words should be censored that are innocuous & commonplace in English: e.g. “pot”, “con” and “fan”.


  • The best solution to online misbehaviour would be to get rid of the censorship entirely & use a different system: give some trusted players “moderator” status, with the ability to silence unruly players or eject them if necessary.

Posted in misc | 6 Comments »

FY open (vertical): possible line of defence?

Posted by nand on December 17, 2009

This is one of those really tricky lines for both players. No idea which player to name it after–HRF likes it but I’m not sure if it’s his originally. I have not got a surefire defence against it but can usually make life difficult for violet. Here’s the start of one line I’m working on:

1. F – X / 2. Y – N / 3. T5 – P / 4. N ….. I vaguely recall that for move 3, violet L5 to close the centre (H8rrru) is bad, but it’s not obviously bad, so I’d better actually go & prove that another time…

Obvious next move for orange is Y or L5 (I think Y) off the X — haven’t decided what’s the best orientation yet. In general, it’s vitally important for orange to play through the hole the moment he gets the chance — it’s too soon this turn, but I would recommend it on the next turn no matter what. The trick is to avoid messing up the nice 1-2 leak off the top of orange P by letting violet block both leaks simultaneously.

Posted in FY open, openings | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

FW rethought: Kissing

Posted by nand on December 17, 2009

OK, so I’m trying to rethink my approach to this, in part because there are some good midlevel players who still insist on using it despite its evident weakness. (It can win big against low- or midlevel players, I’ll admit; I’m purely concerned with optimal play, though.) Anyway, the most formidable of the “kiss” variants is one where violet tries to use Y and then Z5 or (better) T5 to round the corner, killing off all orange’s useful corners in the bottom left. Here’s the start of my line against it:

Moves: 1. F – X / 2. W – N / 3. Y – F / 4. X – W. Note that it’s a good idea to hang on to Y as a last-ditch block in the midgame (I1uur), though if it becomes freed up then it’s a major threat on top (L14ddl).

If violet is so foolish as to play N on top rather than X then you get one of my favourite positions, eminently winnable for orange:

Moves: …. 4. N – Z4 / 5. T5 – I5. This is an elegant example of an unblockable leak, since the only block (V5[F14ddr]) produces a horrendous I2-T4-I3 series of holes. You can see the violet T5 “corner kill” in action here — not that it does him much good.

If violet plays T5 on move 4 (or Z5) it’s a different line, I still think bad for violet. Will unpack it later on…

Posted in flawed openings, FW, openings | 3 Comments »

XF Yasu, preliminary proposals

Posted by nand on December 17, 2009

Sorry for the nonposting here lately… I always tend to be a feast-or-famine blogger anyway, & it’s been a weird last few months with the new job. I’ve also been gradually thinking more about the game, though it’s hard to be too systematic. Gradually I’m learning that it’s really nearly impossible to “solve” ANY opening, even the weakest…. there are simply too many possibilities. I think there are 2 types of players — the ones who try to keep to the “known” & the ones who welcome the “unknown”. I wish I were more of the latter type of player — great instances would be Toutatis and Kolub68 (neither of whom seem to be on the site anymore, alas), & often Bobby_Bob too. Nowadays lerpyfirth (previously known for the repetitive use of the infamous XF Lerpyfirth opening) is of this type: to some extent it can be just a sign of someone bored with “the normal game” (or someone who specializes in 5-minute games), but it can also in the right hands be a powerful “ice-axe to break the frozen sea” of standard play.

But I’m not usually that type of player — I tend to stick to familiar openings & try to thoroughly understand them & judge them by optimal play. Anyway, it’s served me in good stead… as well as leading to a few disasters.

Anyway, I wanted to get back to the infamous FW opening, in part because I think my posting below is wrong. But in the meantime, I think I’ll start trying to put more useful info on this site.

So, XF Yasu. I’ve been thinking harder about this one lately. It’s a fave of mid-level players, but it’s rather weaker than XF Rubik in my view. Nonetheless, it can be tricky, & I have not come across an airtight orange response. Here are two of the more usual defence formations. In my view, these are flawed, but will — with good play, which I’ll try to flesh out in future posts — get you a close game or a win versus anything less than top-notch violet play.

Orange has an unblockable left side, and is threatening I5(D7u) on left or some variety of block on the right (usually T5 or L5 — I’ll let you figure out the orientation). I usually use this one — despite its flaws — simply because newbies and even midlevel players have no idea how to handle it as violet.

This may be better, though:

This gives you the option of I5, I4, N or something else on the left, depending on what violet plays on the right (assuming he DOES play on the right). I’m less familiar with this line & look forward to exploring it.

Posted in openings, XF Yasu | 1 Comment »