How to Win at Connect 4

Get four in a row every time

Illustration: The Spruce / Hilary Allison

While Tic-Tac-Toe may be the original game about getting pieces in a row, Connect 4 is another classic strategy game. With black and red game pieces reminiscent of checkers, Connect 4 requires a fair amount of foresight. Connect 4 can also move quickly, which requires some fast thinking on the part of its players. Like Tic-Tac-Toe, Connect 4 is played between two people, but while you can get creative with constructing a Tic-Tac-Toe board, Connect 4 requires a special rack.

Read on for the details and quick tips on how to win at Connect 4.

Anticipate Your Opponent's Moves

Connect 4 is indeed very similar to other strategy games, but for players who are not used to the rack, it can be almost intimidating. One of the most important things to remember while playing is that you need to anticipate your opponent's moves. You don't want to inadvertently force your opponent into a winning position!

Stay in the Middle

On the standard seven-column board, any connect-four that is not vertical must use one checker from the center column. This means that if you control most of the central column, it will be very difficult for your opponent to get a connect-four.

Look Ahead

If your opponent can create three-in-a-row with an open, playable space on either side, then you will probably lose. Prevent this ahead of time by paying attention as soon as your opponent gets two checkers in a row. Trying to anticipate ways your opponent could win will help you defend against it. 

Watch Out for Game-Ending Spaces

It will sometimes happen that a certain space on the board would give a connect-four to either you or your opponent, depending on who plays there. If this occurs, then as soon as that space is filled, the game will be over. You can safely ignore all spaces above the game-ending space in the same column, as well as any potential connect-fours that rely on the spaces you are ignoring.

Never Play Directly Below the Game-Ending Space

This will allow your opponent to play into the space and claim victory. Conversely, you should attempt to force your opponent to play just below the game-ending space, perhaps by setting up a connect-four that forces your opponent to block in the critical space.

Fork Your Threats Whenever Possible

The ideal position is to have two potential connect-fours that need a final checker on two spaces that are on top of each other. This will usually lead to a victory because you can threaten in the first space. If the opponent fails to block, you win. If the opponent blocks, you play on top to win in the next space. A simple way to set this up is to make a "7" with your checkers, such that finishing the horizontal or diagonal connect-four on the right will be two spaces on top of each other.