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I have played Hex since early 2020, and I run the Halifax Hex Club. I mostly use this user page for draft articles and other random bits and pieces that aren't yet ready to go into a real HexWiki article.

Proposed page: Eric's move

Eric's move is a trick that allows a player to make the best of a 3rd row ladder approaching an obtuse corner. It takes away the opponent's opportunity to get a 5th row ladder.

The move is named after Eric Demer, who discovered it.


Consider the following situation, with Red's 3rd row ladder approaching from the right, and Red to move.

There's not enough room for Red to push one more time, as this will give Blue a 2nd row ladder:


The obvious solution is for Red to pivot immediately and hold Blue to a 5th row ladder:


However, this is not optimal, because Blue has a forcing move at x, giving Blue 2nd and 3rd row ladder escapes: A slightly better solution is the following:


Note that Red has formed edge template IV2d, still holding Blue to a 5th row ladder. Blue still has a forcing move at x, but because Red can respond at y, this only gives Blue a 2nd row ladder escape, rather than a 3rd row escape.

However, even this solution is not optimal for Red, as Blue still gets a 5th row ladder. It turns out that playing a different move 3 is generally even better for Red.


Move 3 is named Eric's move. If Red plays there, Blue in theory no longer gets a 5th row ladder, nor any kind of ladder. If Blue plays at a or c, Red responds at b; if Blue plays at b, Red responds at a; if Blue plays at d, Red responds at e; if Blue plays at f, Red responds at d.

Why it works

Eric's move prevents Blue from getting a 5th row ladder along the left edge. To see why, consider the following line of play, which is one of Blue's best attempts:


If we imagine that the pink cells are occupied by a line of red stones, then Red's move 9 is actually Tom's move, using that line of stones as its edge. In that case, Red would connect, proving that Blue cannot in general get a 5th row ladder. Even if the pink cells are not in fact occupied by Red, the situation is still typically good for Red.

However, the use of Tom's move in this argument requires quite a bit of empty space. If there is less space, or if there are additional Blue stones in this area, then Blue might still be able to do something useful.

The way in which Eric's move works is essentially the same way as blocking a 5th row ladder when there's not enough space under the ladder stone; see theory of ladder escapes.


Connecting parallel ladders

Connecting a 2-5 parallel ladder

Like 2-4 and 3-5 parallel ladders, a 2-5 parallel ladder can also connect to the edge outright, given enough space. One way to do this is to yield to a 3-5 parallel ladder and then use Tom's move for 3rd and 5th row parallel ladders. However, there is a way to do it with much less space. In fact, the amount of space shown here is minimal:


The ladder stones are marked "↑", and Red's winning move is "1". It is Red's only winning move within this space.

Proof of connectedness: Red's main threats is "*", using the highlighted cells:


Red's other main threat is "*", connecting via edge template IV2b, and only requiring 2 of the 3 cells x, y, z:


The overlap consists of the cells marked "a", "b", and "c":


If Blue plays at "a", Red pushes the 2nd row ladder to "c" and then uses Tom's move. If Blue plays at "b", Red responds at "c" and then uses Tom's move. Finally, if Blue plays at "c", Red plays as follows:


This move isn't exactly a version of Tom's move, but it does for a 2-5 ladder what Tom's move does for a 2-4 ladder.

Connecting a 2-6 parallel ladder

2-6 parallel ladders also connect. The required amount of space and the unique winning move within this space are shown:


The basic idea is that this yields to 2-5, and then Red can use the previous trick.

Connecting a 3-6 parallel ladder

3-6 parallel ladders also connect. The required amount of space and the unique winning move within this space are shown:



In all three cases, for the ladder to propagate, the top ladder should be one hex further ahead of the bottom ladder than shown above. (If the bottom ladder is already caught up, the top ladder can no longer be pushed). For the 3-5 and 3-6 parallel ladders, Red doesn't necessarily have to push the bottom ladder before playing 1. However, for the 2-6 ladder, Red does have to push the bottom ladder first.

Also, the fact that these ladders all connect means that they are not really "ladders" in the usual sense; they are basically just templates. Note that unlike Tom's move (2-4 and 3-5 ladders), the connection requires no space above the height of the ladder, so the space in which the ladder would normally travel is already enough space to connect it.

Also, as noted on the page Tom's move for 3rd and 5th row parallel ladders, 3-5 parallel ladders can't always be pushed as 3-5 parallel ladders; the defender has the option to downgrade it to a 2nd row ladder with switchback threat. The resulting 2nd row ladder may not connect. Therefore, Tom's move may not be available if the ladder starts some distance from where there is space.