Arimaa/Distribution of Force

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Right next to the silver camel and far away from both silver dogs, the gold horses are poorly positioned. (Game)


To create strong threats, one must use pieces efficiently. A strong piece should not be wasted on a job a weaker piece could do. At right, Silver would gain no further advantage by having a horse on g3, so the silver dog is efficiently placed there. Another basic concern is activity: strong pieces should be kept flexible and available for duty. The b2 gold horse is passive due to being blocked in. The a3 gold horse is less blocked, but still poorly placed; Gold's position would be stronger if he had a horse in the east to fight the silver dogs.

Pieces are often passive because they are blocked in at home, but even a functional advanced piece is passive if it is not doing anything useful.

Having the strongest local piece is often crucial. If a trap control fight pits two gold horses against a silver camel and dog, Silver might get full control of the trap, but Gold can't unless his elephant joins that fight. The strongest local piece can also help with goal attack, goal defense, mobility fights, etc.

Alignment[edit]

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Silver's advanced pieces mutually support each other; the silver camel protects its dogs from the gold horses, and the silver dogs make a camel exchange unlikely. (Game)

Alignment refers to the overall positioning of one army relative to the other. Ideally, the friendly elephant neutralizes the enemy camel, the friendly camel neutralizes at least one enemy horse, and the other pieces take advantage of the freedom this provides. Silver has a very strong alignment here, leaving Gold few options. The silver camel and c2 horse are both strongest local pieces, whereas Gold does not have the strongest piece in any area.

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The silver elephant and camel ignored the gold horse, letting it create a strong goal threat.

A poor alignment can lose a nearly won game. In this endgame, Silver had a camel advantage, but still let the one remaining gold horse beat her. When it went north on 36g, Silver took no notice. With nothing to stop the gold horse in the northeast, it created a one-turn goal threat on 38g. At that point, Silver had only one way to stop the goal, and that move left her elephant on the f3 trap square. The elephant was lost.

Balance[edit]

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Silver needs a dog on each wing.

It is usually best to have some strength on each wing. Here, the strongest remaining pieces are the elephants, horse, and dogs. On opposite wings, the gold horse and dog may soon overload Silver, whose elephant is his only remaining piece stronger than a dog. To defend both c6 and f6, Silver must balance his own dogs; if the e7 dog moves west, it can counter the gold dog and delay any Gold takeover of c6. In the actual game, Silver left both dogs in the east, and soon got into trouble. Had Silver balanced his dogs, he would have had time to counterattack in the east.

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The silver elephant is stuck defending a horse and dog, but the gold elephant is stuck defending goal. (Game)

Weak pieces should usually be balanced also, as a goal threat might negate an advantage elsewhere. Gold's hybrid frame–hostage–partial elephant blockade may appear strong, but it leaves Gold very weak in the west. The gold elephant is currently stuck defending goal, so the silver camel is free to disrupt Gold's eastern position. Using one's elephant to defend against rabbits is extremely inefficient.

Centralisation[edit]

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The gold camel cannot safely advance without the support of the gold elephant. (Game)

An elephant should stay fairly centralized until it has good reason to go to the outskirts. Here, the gold camel cannot defend f3 until the gold elephant comes east. If Gold played Me2n De1n Me3e De2n, Silver could push the gold camel to f4 (De3s ee4s Mf3n ee3e), where it would be doomed to capture in f6. This would not work for Silver were the gold elephant in the center.

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Gold pieces can move through the center. (Game)

Control of the center itself is also important, as pieces would often like to move through the center. The side with greater elephant mobility will tend to have better central control. In the diagram at left, Silver is limited by potential capture threats in c3 and f3. By contrast, Gold currently defends all four traps; the silver elephant's isolation allows the gold camel to defend c6, further strengthening Gold's control of the center.

Even when both elephants are centralized, shared control of an away trap may improve one's central control; if the opponent owns only one trap, pieces in the center are safer. It is sometimes even possible to blockade the center.