Saami Tablut: In-Game Commentary

Tafl strategy
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Saami Tablut: In-Game Commentary

Post by Asther_Kane » Fri Jun 09, 2023 12:51 am

Commentary on a Recent Game with Ded Fomich


I recently had the pleasure of a game with Ded Fomich which may be good material for future analysis. The game took place on the Fellhuhn app and begins with Black to move first, rather than 'Saami Tablut-w', which I have now come to prefer. Regardless, I believe the same stratagems I used in this match can also be employed in the newer version of the variant to the same effect.

This commentary may also be unique in that I make no attempts at a post-game analysis. Instead, the commentary represents an exact transcript of my thoughts, as I thought them, during every move of the game where I took note. Therefore a distinction must also be made between post-game analysis and in-game commentary (especially from an active participant), of which this record is the latter.

In-game commentary also appears to be the rarer of the two since it is more likely to contain flaws. But I believe the instructional value in a flawed commentary exists in the potential flaws themselves, rather than in spite of them, since the reader may be able to identify the thought process leading up both to the weaknesses and the strengths of the play. In other words, my thought process during this game which I have put into words here may have led me to victory, but it does not necessarily mean the process represents the most optimal logic. So I open this logic (flawed or no) to future critique and interpretation.

The game can be viewed in the app with the game ID here: 8nP2iZw


Captures are denoted with the letter 'x', and movements of the King are denoted by the letter 'K', as in Chess. Since there is no "industry standard" on Tafl notation yet, my notation is intuitively based on the only other existing notation system which is internationally recognized as standard for a strategy board game of similar complexity.


Asther Kane (Black) vs. Ded Fomich (White)
1. d1-d2 e4-f4
2. f9-f8 f5-f6
3. a6-b6 g5-g1
4. i6-g6 e7-h7
5. h5-h6 e6-d6
6. d9-d7 c5-c8
7. e8-d8 c8-c4
8. b5-b3 Ke4
9. i5-h5 d5-d3
10. b6-c6 e3-h3
11. f8-h8xh7 f4-g4
12. d8-f8 f6-f7
13. g6-g7 Kf4
14. f1-f3 f7-f5
15. g7-g5xf5 Kf5
16. h6-f6 c4-f4
17. a4-d4xd3 [White lets the time run out.]


⁃ 4: game-changing move. i6-g6 was more in line with my system and clearly strategic. However, i4-g4 could have accomplished BOTH the positional and a tactical aim by netting material. Could've gone: 4. i4-g4 e3-h3 5. e2-e4xf4 h3-e3xe4 6. h5-h1xg1, resulting in +1 material. I went with the former move because the required game tree for black at that point would become too nebulous--and not what is desired for black in the opening (according to system).

⁃ 6: between d9-d7 and f8-f7. The latter may be a missed opportunity to develop d9. It does put pressure on f6 which would be useful later, but does not have immediate tactical value. It does close up an important corner because White will want to continue attempting escape in the East. If this move, then possibly h7-h8, where I would reply with e8-f8, which would result in an interesting formation. The corner could still probably be internally defended, but would also temporarily detain a significant portion of my material in this small quadrant to deal with the pesky threat currently sitting on h7. The weird formation could still be defended with e9-e8 and i5-h5, possibly deploying f8 and h6 to deal with the internal threat, but again REQUIRES too much of my material... The former move, d9-d7, more effectively limits the King on the 7-row. Multiple threats to White are still active. The NE corner can still be defended.

⁃ 7: White has stretched himself waay too thin over the board. g1 is ineffective. The King is beginning to gravitate to the West and would like to exit the throne somewhere in the vicinity of c3, but he is severely limited in how he can do that. His material is being threatened on multiple simultaneous fronts, and his only hope may be to put more material in the North.

⁃ 8. White has mysteriously retreated, losing time. I am tempted by b6-c6, but I know the real threat is still in the vicinity of c3. With b5-b3, White has more space on c5, but any possible exit to the SW becomes more difficult. However, the SE is still very open, and White may choose to concentrate his material there (possibly beginning with f4-f2). The annoyance on h7 persists.

⁃ 9. Cannot capture h7 because Ke7. i5-h5 to prevent capture of h6, due to discovered threat (d5). Any captures I could make here would only lead to needless tactics, opening the board further for White. Potential for h7-g7. I would like to play b6-c6, if possible.

⁃ 10. I believe d5-d3 was a mistake, and I am unable to see how it improves his position to the SE corner. Now, not only do I have the opportunity to play b6-c6, but I also have a stronger incentive with the new threat of c4-c1. With b6-c6, c4-c1 is easily defended by e1-d1, a previously White-controlled file (the c-file) now prevents the threat of Kc4, the NW corner is completely-closed off for White, a dual threat now exists on d6 and f6, I am enabled to capture g1 with the absence on d5, and, very importantly, I am now able to capture h7. White's odds of victory are substantially reduced.

⁃ 11. Blood is drawn. With his position relatively secure, Black is now enabled to capture material. f8-h8xh7 prevents potential threats to g6 which could theoretically open up the board for White. e9-e6xd6xf6 is now easier without the pesky piece on h7. Most importantly, Black strengthens his presence in the East. In order for White to have any remaining chance at victory, he must expedite his King's maneuver to the SE at all costs; therefore, White material could also become less valuable for Black.

⁃ 12. e9-e6xd6xf6 will obviously lead to Kf4, which would open the board for White and give him greater access to g3, in exchange for material I'd previously said may already be losing its value; I don't see how capturing d6 or f6 would immediately aid in my preventing White's escape to the SE. Playing h5-h4 would put more immediate pressure on the SE, while allowing me to activate inactive pieces with h6-h5, for example, but I am still concerned about White having unprotected access to the North of the f-file. In response, I choose to play d8-f8 which mitigates this issue and brings more material to the more active side of the board. Ironically, e9-e6xd6xf6 becomes more possible with this move.

⁃ 13. Capture is out of the question. I also like the idea of h8-h7 which would move material closer to the SE, but then, g4-g5, which would either allow Kg4 or h3-h4, depending on whether I capture or block. g6-g7 is the natural alternative. It gives White space on g5, but I don't see that being a problem. f7 can be more easily taken.

⁃ 14. Since the King's only escape route is the SE (currently), I need to prevent any legitimate threats of his movement through it. Specifically, I need to prevent Kf3 at this moment. Since f1-f3 is a forcing move, and there are no significant ways to threaten f3 in the future, Black still has time elsewhere on the board; however, control of the SE corner is still in dispute.

⁃ 15. I am not certain, but it seems that was a mistake for White, since I don't see how my capture of f5 improves his position. And the capture of f5 is the obvious retort, where capturing with g7 rather than h5 is vastly preferable. The King is forced to move, leaving g5 in jeopardy. But g5 can be easily defended in the next move by capture (or else) without Black losing a meaningful amount of time. White's position now appears desperate.

⁃ 16. h6-f6 is slightly better than f8-f6 because it maintains more barriers between White and the edge. Obviously, threatening the King here is the only truly good move, and it comes at no cost to Black.

⁃ 17. a4-d4xd3 prevents potential threats via g3. f3 can be very easily defended in this position, and, with that, any potential avenue of escape now becomes impossible for White. Black victory is inevitable.

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