Play Connect 4

For anyone who's a fan of strategy games, Connect Four is a definite classic. Playing against an opponent, you try to be the first to place four checkers in a row on the game board. While figuring out game winning strategy can sometimes be challenge, the game is simple enough for the entire family to play. If you're gearing up for your first game, you'll get the hang of it in no time, especially if you're familiar with Tic-Tac-Toe.


Preparing the Game

  1. Assemble the board. There are several different types of Connect Four boards, but all come with a grid that hold the checkers and some type of stand that holds the grid. The traditional set-up features two end supports with slots for hooks on each side of the grid to snap into. Once the end supports are attached, place the board on a flat surface, and close the sliding lever at the bottom of the grid so that there are bars to prevent the checkers from falling through.[1]
    • When attaching the end supports to the the grid, make sure that the notched edge of the end support is facing the grid.
    • Some versions of Connect Four, such as the Pop Out Connect Four and Connect Four On the Run travel game, feature a round game base with slots on each side for tabs on the bottom of the grid to snap into.
    • When you’re ready to play, place the board between you and your opponent so you’re each on one side of it.
  2. Sort and choose checker colors. Connect Four comes with 21 red checkers and 21 black checkers. Before you begin playing, separate the checkers into piles based on their color. Next, you must decide who will play each color. Whatever color you choose, take that pile of checkers. Your opponent takes the other pile.[1]
    • If you and your opponent both can’t agree on who should play which color, you may want to put a checker in each color in a hat, bag, or other container that you can’t see into. Then whatever color you or your opponent pulls out is the checker shade that you’ll play.
  3. Decide who will go first. During the course of play, you and your opponent will alternate turns after making a move with a checker. The player who goes first typically has an advantage in the game, so to be fair, you should take turns going first.[1]
    • If you can’t agree on who goes first, you may want to flip a coin to avoid an argument.

Playing the Game

  1. Understand the object of the game. Before you can start playing Connect Four or planning a strategy, you must make sure that you understand the object of the game. In order to win, a player must get four checkers in their color in a row. Whoever does it first is the winner.[1]
    • There are three ways to get four checkers in a row in Connect Four: horizontally, vertically, and diagonally.
    • Some versions of Connect Four have an additional game where you attach an extra column to the grid and attempt to get five checkers in row.
  2. Make a move. When it’s your turn to make a move in Connect Four, you take a checker and drop it down one of the slots at the top of the grid. Standard boards have have seven columns and six rows to choose from. On your first move, you will typically wind up placing your checker in the bottom row, but you can choose any of the columns, depending on your strategy.[1]
    • You want to choose each move carefully because your opponent will have a turn after you. Not only do they have a chance to thwart your strategy for four in row, your move can sometimes make it easier for them to get four of their checkers in a row.
  3. React to your opponent’s move. After you make a move with your checker, your opponent gets a chance to go. As you plan each of your moves, try to imagine how your opponent will respond. That allows you to react to their moves quickly and decisively. Before you drop a checker into the grid, ask yourself what you would do next if your opponent had made the move that you’re about to. [1]
    • If you have the first turn in the game, your opponent will probably be responding to your moves and attempting to block you from getting four checkers in row.
    • If you have the second turn of the game, you’ll likely be on the defensive, trying to keep your opponent from getting their checkers in row.

Winning the Game

  1. Select the middle column for a first move. If you are the first player to go in a game of Connect Four, your initial move can actually dictate the entire game. When you’re opening the game, the best move is to place your checker in the center column. By placing your checker in that slot, you may it much more difficult for your opponent to counter your moves so your chances of winning increase.[2]
    • Placing the first checker in the middle column doesn’t guarantee a win. You still have to avoid making mistakes along the way.
    • If you choose a column other than the middle for your first move, it becomes easier for your opponent to force a tie.
  2. Choose another bottom row slot with the second move. When you have the second move of the again, you’re on the defensive so it’s more difficult to win. If your opponent places their checker in the center column to open the game, don’t place yours in the same column so it’s on top of their checker. That doesn’t give you any strategic advantage. Instead, your best bet is to place your checker in the bottom row in one of the other columns and hope that your opponent makes a mistake.[3]
    • If your opponent doesn’t place their checker in the center column with the first move of the game, that should be your initial move when it’s your turn because the space offers the best advantage in the game.
  3. Use a game solver tool. If you’re having trouble defeating opponents, you may want to consult a game solving tool. The game solver allows you to input your opponent’s moves and then provides winning moves that you can counter with so you’re guaranteed a victory. Most opponents won’t appreciate you consulting a tool like this on your smartphone or tablet while you’re playing, so try practicing with the game solver to help you start identifying winning moves that you can use in actual game play.[4]
    • There are several websites, such as Connect Four Solver, that offer these types of game solving tools.


  • When you open the sliding lever at the bottom of the grid to release the checkers, it’s a good idea to do it over the box that the game comes in. That way, the box will catch the checkers so you don’t lose any.
  • The best moves are the ones that provide with multiple ways to win. For example, a move that you sets you up to get four checkers in a row horizontally and diagonally is usually the most effective. That’s because you can still win even if your opponent blocks one of the directions.

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Sources and Citations

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