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Subject: Critique of a Hex video rss

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David Bush
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I do not post the video here, nor in the video section, because I do not have the author's permission to do so. You can see the video here:
Basic Strategies for Hex (Biff's Gaming Videos)

In these images, dark purple tokens correspond to black in the video, and yellow corresponds to white.

I appreciate the effort that went into this video, and I commend any increased popularity for one of my favorite games. There are lots of useful general concepts provided, but several errors as well.

"If you play a strong player and lose, then try to repeat those moves and watch his responses." This is great advice, although perhaps more suited for a computer opponent, which may never vary its opening moves.

The concept of bridges, and a one-bridge versus a two-bridge, are definitely helpful.

The disjoint step pattern is a good pattern to know, but the example is flawed:

Here F8 for black is called a disjoint step, because it can connect to the larger black group in two different directions. It might be a winning move here, but I would not call it the best move. For example after F8 G7 E8 E10

The win for black is not so easy.

If one adds two more stones to the board, black and white, then the example is a simpler win for black.

Now after F8 E10 F9 F10 H9

The win for black is easier to understand.

Chains and blocking: The overall message, that it's better to block from a distance, is sometimes true and sometimes not. In this contrived position,

Biff talks about white G8 as if it were a good blocking move,

but it's a terrible move, because black can play E8 and win right away. Instead, white should play where black wants to play, at E8:

With so many black stones on the board, white still loses here, but at least the win for black is not so quick.

The concepts of momentum and the weakest link of a chain are certainly valid and helpful.

Forcing moves is another valid concept, but at 12:59 this example is shown:

Why should white be compelled to play at i7? If this had been set up against black's border row instead of white's, the example would have made more sense.

The importance of the center, and what ladders are, are certainly helpful concepts.

At 19:50, referring to the first move of a game, text on the screen says "a1 is bad because 2nd player can swap" Well yes, a1 is a bad choice for first move, but it's because a1 is a losing move which should not be swapped. Then at 20:47 Biff points to all four corners and says "You never want to swap when it's in the corners." In my opinion, a first move in an obtuse corner should definitely be swapped. Then he says "don't swap when it's along one of the edges" which is true if black plays along his own border row (with the exception of the obtuse corners,) but if black plays along the opposing border row, it's less clear whether the opponent should swap or not.

On an 11x11 grid, Biff's first move choices a2, a3, b2, b3, and c2 are all decent. I would add to these a4, a5, a6, and d2, and I encourage anyone to try any first move they want.

Here are some opening variations shown in the video:

It's too early in the game to be certain, but white E6 here looks very questionable to me. It doesn't get in black's way enough. For example, black could play H5 with strong threats to connect to the top and to the bottom:

If white plays G6 instead of E6, again this does not look confrontaional enough. Black might reply with C6:

and black's position looks very comfortable to me.

Instead of E6 or G6, if white wants to place a close block on black's F6, I would recommend either F5 or F8:


This early in the game, there are of course many other reasonable moves white could make.

The final opening variation Biff shows is this one:

C6 looks just terrible to me. I have to wonder if Biff forgot which way black's borders were. After black i5,

I cannot say for certain who is winning, but I greatly prefer black.

To his credit, in the last second before he brushes the stones off the board, Biff does mention white F4 as an alternative to white C6.

The concept of a useless triangle is handy to know.

After all this work I went to just to slice and dice someone else's video, one might ask, why don't I make my own. Perhaps I will, but in the meantime, I feel compelled to correct these errors on behalf of anyone who wants to learn Hex.
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Michael Howe
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Doesn't he also get the pie rule wrong? He shows black starting at a2 and then white "swapping" by replacing a2 with a white piece. This is not the same as white choosing to play as black, which was my understanding of the pie rule. The two are only equivalent for a symmetrical first move like b2.
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David Bush
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mhowe wrote:
Doesn't he also get the pie rule wrong? He shows black starting at a2 and then white "swapping" by replacing a2 with a white piece. This is not the same as white choosing to play as black, which was my understanding of the pie rule. The two are only equivalent for a symmetrical first move like b2.

This video does not cover the rules of Hex. Are you referring to Biff's other video on Hex? How to play Hex If you look at the comments to that video on You Tube, you will see my correction of his error. This guy is pretty clueless but at least he's trying to spread the word.

 
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