How to dominate the Board
Once the position has been moderately simplified, the next phase of conversion for the materially stronger player is board domination. Put simply, board domination occurs when the stronger player has control over the channels of traffic across the board, namely the Left Flank,
the Center, and the Right Flank. As mentioned above, board domination may be either “perfect” (meaning total domination of all three channels) or imperfect (usually meaning domination of just two channels).
The key to mastering board domination is to understand how to approach the channels. Examine the following scenario:
In this position, imagine that Blue’s highest pieces are his Majors, and that Red has no Captains or Majors. Red has imperfect board domination.
Although he completely restricts Blue from ever crossing across any of the three channels, he does not “own” the channels in their entirety: Blue still occupies them.
If Red advances with 1. General* b5-b6??, Blue will simply bypass the General by playing 1. . . . Captain* a6-a5. Red could not then stop the Blue Captain from marching down to capture his flag.
Stopping the Blue Captain with the Colonel on f5 would allow the Blue Major to come into play and so on. The result is much the same with Blue’s other tries, for instance 1. Colonel* f5-f6?? would be met by 1. . . . Major* e6-e5.
Meanwhile, Red has no way to push Blue’s forces back. If he plays 1. General* b5-a5, for instance, Blue will simply respond with 1. . . . Captain* a6-b6. After 2. General* a5-b5 Captain* b6-a6 3. General* b5-a5 Captain* a6-b6 4. General* a5-b5 Captain* b6-a6,
Red could not then play 5. General* b5-a5 again because of the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule. So, Blue has held his ground, and the game must end in a draw since neither player can break through the other’s hold. Red will move his Miner about aimlessly, and Blue will simply pace back and forth with his Scout.
How, then, can the stronger side avoid this situation? By better understanding the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule, we can often find ways to prevent such an impasse from occurring. Consider the following scenarios:
Here, an impasse has been created. If it is Red’s move, he cannot get past the Blue Colonel without allowing the Blue Colonel to penetrate Red’s own camp. Now, consider the following scenario:
Here, if it is Red’s move, he can force his way through into Blue’s camp without allowing the Blue Colonel to penetrate Red’s own camp. He begins with 1. General* b4-b5, hitting the Blue Colonel directly. Play continues:
1. . . . Colonel* b6-a6
2. General* b5-a5 Colonel* a6-b6
3. General* a5-b5 Colonel* b6-a6
4. General* b5-a5 Colonel* a6-b6
5. General* a5-b5
Blue is in trouble. Red has moved to the b5 square three times, but he has only moved between the a5 and b5 squares two times; the first time he moved his General to b5, he approached it from the b4 square.
Blue, meanwhile, has now already moved his Colonel between the b6 and a6 squares two times. To play 5. . . . Colonel* b6-a6 again would be to have violated to the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule. So, Blue is then forced to play
5. . . . Colonel* b6-b7. Now Red hits the Colonel again with 6. General* b5-b6, with the same situation as before being repeated, just shifted up one square: Blue will still either be forced to retreat or to move to the side. After 6. . . . Colonel* b7-c7, Red will play 7. General* b6-b7:
Red has penetrated into Blue’s lines, forcing the Blue Colonel to the inside. Now, Red completely dominates the Left Flank. If he penetrates similarly in the Center and on the Right Flank, he will have achieved perfect board domination.
Consider now another scenario:
Here, if it is Red’s move, he can again force his way down the Left Flank without allowing Blue’s Colonel past. After 1. General* c4-b4, approaching Blue’s Colonel from behind the Left Lake, Blue will once again be forced backwards. Blue’s retreat is forced after:
1. . . . Colonel* b5-a5
2. General* b4-a4 Colonel* a5-b5
3. General* a4-b4 Colonel* b5-a5
4. General* b4-a4 Colonel* a5-b5
5. General* a4-b4
Red’s General has moved between b4 and a4 only twice, since the first time he moved to the b4 square, he did it from the c4 square. Blue’s Colonel has moved between a5 and b5 twice, however, and to play 5. . . . Colonel* b5-a5 would violate the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule.
So, Blue is forced to retreat with 5. . . . Colonel* b5-b6, and Red will continue with 6. General* b4-b5 and so on.
Thus, in order to achieve perfect board domination, a solid understanding of the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule is key. Let’s examine one more scenario:
Although the above position is certainly implausible and would probably never happen in a real game (after all, for Blue to block in two of his army’s flanks with bombs is a most disadvantageous opening setup), it is instructive for our purposes here. Red, looking to take control of the Left Flank, might begin with
1. General* c4-b4. This would threaten 2. General* b4-b5, hitting the Blue Colonel directly and forcing it back. Blue avoids the confrontation by playing 1. . . . Colonel* b6-a6!, side-stepping Red’s front assault. If Red proceeds with 2.
General* b4-b5, then Blue responds by pacing with 2. . . . Sergeant* c9-c10 or any other move with his Sergeant. An impasse situation would then occur, with neither side able to break through on the Left Flank. So, Red plays 2. General* b4-a4:
After 2. . . . Colonel* a6-b5 3. General* a4-a5 Sergeant* c9-c10, an impasse position has occurred once again. Thus, with precise play, Blue achieves a draw.
In summary, the stronger side should take care to prevent impasses by carefully exploiting the Three Moves on Two Squares Rule. Although this is, in practice, not always possible, being aware of the opportunities this rule creates is an important part of becoming an advanced Stratego player. With practice, board domination becomes easier to achieve.