Othello news

How often should I play Othello?

7 May 2024
Written by Carlo Affatigato

Come here, my friend. Sit next to me, and open your heart. You belong to the infamous club of Othello players who spend hours every day trying to get better, right? Maybe you just came out of one of those typical declining phases where you lose 150 ELO points in less than a day and wonder if you should stop, insist, give up, react, quit, or change something. After all, we all want to improve, don't we? So what's the right amount of daily games you should play to ensure the best improvement?

I don't have the answer, my friend. I know the answer is something between 1 and 100 games per day, but I can't say anything more precise. What I can do is tell you what happens if you go to one extreme or the other. We've all been there, you know? We play, then we play even more, then we burn out and take a break of half a day, one day, one week, ten years, then we give it a try again. Losing something behind, regretting what we could have achieved if we were more constant. So let's see together what happens if you exaggerate in one way or another.

If you play too much... well, things get pretty chaotic, my friend. Exciting, from a certain point of view. You accumulate experience in fast-forward mode, you see tons of positions and patterns, you overfeed your memory. All the elements needed to be a better player are in your head, but your head may not be ready for it. You haven't had time to let all that knowledge settle, and meanwhile, you keep playing. You lose one game, then another, then you keep playing because you need a little confidence boost before stopping. You play until you win one, and then... you play again. Because you can't be sure that that win can legitimately close the circle.

When you play 50, 100, or 200 games per day, all that knowledge is within reach, but you inevitably lose focus. Othello is a game that requires concentration, and that's something we possess in a limited quantity. When our attention fades away, a part of us starts playing on autopilot. Do you recall those moments when you lose one game after the other, and even after you study them, you have no idea what you did wrong, what mistake you could have avoided? Sometimes, every game seems blessed without any special effort, while in other moments, you feel cursed despite your complete dedication to the matter. Why? It's just a question of focus, dear.

So you start wondering what happens if you slow down and force yourself to play no more than... let's say, three games per day. If you do that, something unexpected can happen: you get better. Or at least, that's what you feel. You let all that knowledge finally rest in your head, you play each of those three games with your highest focus, and you see all the things you learned, you control every part of your gameplay. You may end up gaining 50, 100 ELO points in two weeks, you know? However, something else happens: the part of your knowledge related to memory, the automatisms you developed in particular positions, your pattern recognition skills... you slowly lose all that. And after a month or two, you may discover that your opponent can kill you with a weird opening you were able to master until some weeks before.

So what shall we do, my friend? Where is the happy medium? Shall we set up an Excel, add one row to each new game we play, and set a daily limit we will never overcome, adding stats and hints on the dedicated columns? Shall we stop caring about everything and start playing Othello while we cross the street at the traffic light, whatever happens? Maybe we can build a soundproof room, allocate half an hour every day, and sit there in silence, just us and the Othello board, then no games for the rest of the day. Is it an option?

Each of us has found a personal solution to this dilemma, but no one can claim to have solved the problem. Join the club, my friend, and share your strategy. We will all be Othello champions one day. "Best Othello player of this side of the street in a summer holiday weekend" still sounds freaking awesome.