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What you will learn?
- What are beginner Bomb Placing mistakes
- What are the general principles to placing bombs
- What are example of good bomb placements
Beginners often place their bombs in the front row, closing off an entire flank (or even the Center). This reduces mobility and often wrecks the amateur’s position. Consider the following:
This is a common amateur strategy. Red is blocking off the Right Flank with bombs in order to keep the enemy away from his flag on j1. Red reasons that it would take three Miners to break through to the flag—but, of course, this assumption is incorrect, since it would actually only take one.
Red erroneously believes that Blue would have to remove both the bomb on i4 and also the bomb on j4 in order to penetrate the Right Flank, but this is untrue: Red need only remove one, probably the bomb at j4.
Blue will likely leave the bomb on i4 in place, since it is more likely to obstruct Red’s defense of his own flag (by preventing the Marshall on h4 from coming to i4) than it is hinder Blue’s Right Flank offense.
Also, Blue could sweep into the Right Flank through the Center, ultimately using only one Miner to break through to j1 via i1 or j2.
Of course, Blue will quickly discover the locations of the two Red bombs on i4 and j4. He can then place a Miner at j5 at his leisure, and choose to break through only when it is advantageous to him.
As mentioned above, Blue will likely leave the bomb on i4, since it obstructs Red more than it does Blue. Meanwhile, the fact that Blue has discovered two bomb locations means that he will be able to effectively make calculated lottos later on in the middlegame.
Any bomb placed on the first row decreases mobility. Beginners often place bombs behind the Lakes, and while doing this occasionally may be justified (indeed, top players occasionally do it to throw their opponents off), this is the exception rather than the rule. As we saw in Chapter 4, mobility is key to a strong middlegame.
Another common mistake beginners make in their bomb placements is to lock in pieces. This is almost never a good idea.
Consider the following setup:
A flag defense of this sort was recommended by Ed Collins on his Stratego website, which was taken down sometime in 2012. Mr. Collins dubbed this setup “the Tempest.”
The weakness with this flag defense, however, is that it completely encloses the Captain on a2. For the rest of the game, then, Red will be playing down a Captain (a major piece)—unless Blue is foolhardy enough to release it by diffusing the bombs at a3 or b2! Since sending in Miners to take out the enemy flag is one of the laststeps of–
systematic play, and is only done after obtaining a substantial material advantage, this means that if Blue is a systematic player, the Red Captain on a2 won’t see the light of day until Blue has established board domination and Red is already on the brink of losing anyway.
Even if the piece on a2 were merely a Sergeant, we could not recommend this setup—why play down a piece for no reason, even a Sergeant?
A similar result is seen from the following setup:
Here, although Red’s bomb placement is acceptable, it was a poor idea for him to place a Captain at a1. The Captain is a major piece and should be available for fighting in the Middle—it will not be able to enter the fray from its cloistered position on a1. Red will essentially be playing down a major piece for most of the middlegame.
Also, in the event that Blue does crash through on a2 with a Miner, Blue will undoubtedly also have sent in backup in the form of a General or Marshall. The Captain on a1 would then be lost in short order after being trapped by Blue’s heavy artillery.
So, what makes for good bomb placement? First, bombs should generally be placed entirely around the flag. The three best formations are given below:
The setups on the Right and Left Flanks economize bomb use, allowing a player to use more bombs elsewhere (thus defending against lottos). The setup in the middle is also strong because it allows for pieces from the Center, the Left Flank, and the Right Flank to come together to defend the flag.
This formation could of course be shifted over one square to the right. Other formations for guarding the flag should be used sparingly, since they all have some weakness. For instance, consider the following:
This formation, dubbed the “Wheel of Danger” by Ed Collins, appears more a diamond than a wheel and is none too dangerous for Blue. The problem here is that not only is the flag more vulnerable on the second rank than it is on the first rank (Blue doesn’t have to march down as far to capture it), but the bomb conglomeration in the center–
will disrupt Red’s army’s coordination. The bomb pyramid divides Red’s armies into “Left Flank” and “Right Flank” divisions, and in order for a piece to cross from one side to the other, it must necessarily pass through the fourth rank. So, if Blue simply stationed his most powerful piece at e4 or f4 (after the Marshalls have been traded, for–
instance), he would sever all Red’s communication between the two armies. Additionally, the bomb at e1 is “wasted” for the purpose of defending against lottos. No strong player would ever lotto a strong piece on the e1 square here—a strong player would first systematically determine the location of the bombs at d2, e3, and f2 (using a Scout Mill in the Center, for instance), then conclude that there was a bomb at e1.
Finally, it is difficult to imagine an effective position for a Scout Mill from the diagram above, since Red will have difficulty coordinating play in the Center.
So, the first two or three bombs should probably be used up protecting the flag on the back rank. What then? Well, it is important not to disrupt mobility along the fourth rank, or even along the third rank.
This means that a bomb could be placed nearly anywhere along the first and second ranks, and if it is placed on the third rank, it should probably be placed towards the side. Here is one example of an effective bomb setup:
Here, Red has placed two bombs to defend his flag. He has also placed two bombs towards the Center to discourage lottos in the late middlegame. Note how these bombs do not restrict the mobility of Red’s Scout Mill, however. Meanwhile, the bombs at i3 and j3 slightly restrict Blue’s march of progress on the Right Flank without actually limiting Red’s mobility on that side.
The Sergeants on i2 and j4 nicely guard the bombs against Miners.