How Do You Play Gomoku?

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Have you ever faced embarrassment after someone asked you at a party, “how do you play Gomoku?” If so, after reading this you’ll finally be able to answer that question!

Gomoku, also known as 5 in a row, is a complex mathematical and strategic game. As a traditional Japanese board game, Gomoku has been around since the 1860s.

Starting with a 15×15 grid, players take turns in an attempt to create an unbroken line of 5 pieces in any direction. Gomoku is played either on a board or a Go board. A Go board differs from the regular board in that it uses a 19×19 grid.

Are You Ready to Play Gomoku?

Tips and Tricks

One of the first rules in an otherwise ruleless game is at the start. Players take turns dividing black and white pieces amongst themselves. The goal is for each player to end up with one color. This can be accomplished in a few different ways, as we’ve explained below.

One of the most important guidelines in this game is when the first piece is chosen. Using a coin toss to determine the order, players gather all of the pieces that they need.

Alternatively, instead of a coin toss, players can throw a handful of pieces in a cloth bag, shake the bag, then draw their color.

This is an important step since no pieces move around the board. That means that you only take the color that was agreed upon.

Each player must end up with all the pieces of one color in his starting board. The black stone is traditionally played first.

How Do You Play Gomoku

In order to start playing, the pieces must be placed on the intersections of the grid lines. You don’t need to automatically follow your opponent as you can play your Gomoku piece anywhere you want. Once your piece is placed it becomes unplayable and can’t move from its position.

Players then take turns placing pieces for a total of ten minutes for moves per game.

The object of the game is to get 5 unbroken pieces lined up in any direction. The pieces have to be in a line extending diagonally, vertically, or horizontally. To win, you must have exactly 5 pieces in any given direction. Anything more or less than 5 does not count towards your win.

Here are more helpful tips that you can play by!

  • Study the games of other players
  • Search online for play-by-plays or watch YouTube videos of more experienced players
  • See if you can identify some successful gambits and try implementing them into your own games

How Do You Play Gomoku?

As you play, it’s wise to use your opponent’s turn to think about your next moves. Using the time that it takes for your opponent to play to think about the next move is strategy.

This will give you the upper hand as you’ll be able to play a piece as soon as your opponent plays theirs. This becomes critical towards the end of the game when not much time is left on the clock.

The only time you don’t need to think about where you’re going to move is when your opponent is about to win by having four pieces lined up and waiting on the last piece. This move is instant and needed in order to stay in the game. Block your opponent when you have to, and allow them to make the mistakes.

The first ten moves are probably the most important in the game of Gomoku. As it has been shown that the black piece can win the game every time if their play is perfect, you need to be on your heels and make sure that they can’t steal the game from you. Once you get them on the defensive you can then start strategizing on how to beat them.

Don’t get into a situation where you’re always playing from behind. If you do, the chances of you winning the game go down significantly.

Timed Games

When playing a timed game, it’s essential to use as much time as you can in the beginning in order to set the stage for a win. As the black piece historically can win the game if the gameplay is perfect, it automatically means that the white stones are already starting off at a disadvantage.

The most important thing to do besides playing a very good game of defense is learning and studying your opponent. Even if you’re playing just for fun, it’s still beneficial to learn the habits of the player sitting across from you.

In a tournament setting it would be best to look back on past championships that your opponent has played in, that way you can study and learn how they typically play.

Perhaps in certain situations, your opponent does a certain series of moves to go in for the win. If you know what these sequences are ahead of time, then you can use that to your advantage and let him make all the mistakes. If you’re interested in looking at games, you can visit the Gomoku game here.

How to Block Your Opponent From Achieving an Open 4

An open 4 is a line of stones that has spaces at both ends. There’s no possible way to win in this scenario, so it’s imperative not to allow your opponent the opportunity. In order to do this, you need to start blocking pieces when there’s a line of three pieces. By blocking one end you’re limiting the moves of your opponent.

For a more aggressive posture, you could start by creating two different lines. This is known as a fork. By forking, you open yourself up for two different angles of attack against your opponent. This is one of the hardest moves to defend in Gomoku.

As the play goes on, keep an eye out for the possibilities of setting yourself up in a fork. The easiest way to achieve this is to start setting up open threes or a line of three pieces. This leaves space on both ends of your line to play a piece and puts your opponent on the defensive.

Learning Different Opening Variations

If you’re interested in upping your game you can always try to play using tournament rules. In doing this, you’ll level the field and the advantage of having the black piece will be stripped away instantly. With the professional rules, the first black piece must be placed in the middle of the board. The first white piece can be placed anywhere on the board for the next turn. Additionally, the player with the black piece must play their second piece outside of a 5×5 square from the center of the game board. After this, the game follows the normal rules.

The restrictions of the pieces help to create a more balanced game since no one player should have the advantage.

In terms of variations, there is another professional version that places the limitations of the black stone to a 7×7 grid. This completely erodes any advantage the first player might have had.

The Swap Variation

The swap variation is a play on the rules themselves. The first player places one white piece and two black pieces on the board. At this point, the second player is able to assign the color of the stones accordingly.

Whoever is assigned the white stone takes a turn placing their piece on the board at which point the game is balanced, two stones to two stones. After this, players continue with normal play.

The first player, most likely determined by a coin toss, then needs to place the pieces in such a way as not to disadvantage them as they have no idea what color they’ll be playing.

The last variation is called swap2. It follows the swap variation with just one caveat – the second player can choose to play the opening hand or add two more pieces to the board, one white, one black. If the second player decides to place the additional stones, then it falls on player one to determine who will be playing which color.


Gomoku is a game that has been around for hundreds of years. With time and patience, anyone could go on to play at the professional level. Learning some of these tips and tricks will go a long way in helping you defeat your opponent. With a little practice, perhaps you can even have your own YouTube channel teaching others how to play. Learning how to play Gomoku isn’t hard, but learning how to master Gomoku is a skill!

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