12 Skills Needed To Be Good At Connect 4 (And Similar Games)

A group of men plays a giant-sized game of Connect Four at the Forks
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If you want to be a consistent Connect 4 champion, you really have to know your stuff. You need to know the rules, be familiar with the game pieces, and of course, have some know-how.

What I’ve found over the years is that to be a Connect 4 Pro, skill – and I mean real skill – is required. And this type of skill doesn’t come from simply reading the game rules and playing a round or 2. It comes from years of practice, attention to detail, and being dedicated to winning. I can only hope that I have developed these skills over the years and that when the next opportunity presents itself, I will be winning all the Connect 4 games I get myself involved in.

12 skills needed to be good at Connect 4 (and similar games):

  1. The ability to gain firm control of the middle of the rack.
  2. Planning and organizational skills.
  3. Good defense mechanisms to consistently block the opponent.
  4. Strategic thinking to always be one step ahead of the opponent.
  5. Ability to recognize patterns.
  6. Opportunistic thinking so that a possible connection is never missed.
  7. Offensive thinking to ensure that the opponent’s moves are less impactful.
  8. The ability to learn from experience so that mistakes are not repeated.
  9. Basic mathematics/counting skills.
  10. Ability to consider possible outcomes so that potentially dangerous moves can be easily avoided.
  11. Effective problem-solving skills to ensure that every disc inserted doesn’t hinder the next move.
  12. Fine motor skills to handle picking up discs and inserting discs easily.

The good news is that even if you don’t have these skills when you start playing Connect 4, you will develop them along the way. The game, when played regularly, develops these very skills through consistent repetition. 

If these skills needed to become a good Connect 4 player come as a surprise to you, perhaps you would like to learn a little more about each of them. That’s the very reason why I began researching and writing this post, to begin with – I needed to know more. Below I break down each of the skills needed to be a champion Connect 4 player – read on to learn what skills you need to start working on now.

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What You Need to Become a Champion Connect 4 Player 

To consistently win at Connect 4 and similar games, there are certain skills needed. You will find the skills needed to be a great Connect 4 player listed above. And below, you will find a bit more information on each of these skills. Let’s jump right in and start brushing up on our Connect 4 playing skills right now!

1. The ability to gain firm control of the middle of the rack.

Shh, don’t tell anyone, but this strategy really does work. Once you have tried it and consistently play this way, the strategy becomes more of a skill than just a strategy. To increase your chances of winning at Connect 4, you need to gain control of the center of the rack. You need to be quick about it – don’t waste any time.

Start aiming for center rack control from your very first move. To do this, you can put your very first disc into the bottom center slot on the rack. Thereafter, focus on getting as many discs into the center slots as possible. Why? When you dominate the center columns, it opens up the opportunity for you to make more connections. And because there is an odd number of columns, when your discs take up the middle, you can potentially make connections in any direction.

2. Planning and organizational skills.

There’s a lot of planning and organizing required to plot where to drop your discs and to ensure that you are aware of precisely what is happening on the rack at all times. Players quickly learn to become more organized in their mindset when they regularly play Connect 4.

3. Good defense mechanisms to consistently block the opponent.

A person needs to defend their own opportunities quite cleverly when playing Connect 4. Defense mechanisms involve finding innovative ways of avoiding possible hiccups along the way and playing strategically to ensure that you are always one step ahead of the opponent. Some might say that there is nothing more important than a good defense.

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4. Strategic thinking to always be one step ahead of the opponent.

Without strategic thinking, winning at Connect 4 or other similarly competitive games would be quite difficult. In a game of Connect 4, both opponents have the same objective – to get 4 in a row – but in addition to that, they both want to create a difficult environment for their opponent to do the very same thing. When playing Connect 4 regularly, players start to think in a strategic way, so as to always have the upper hand. 

5. Ability to recognize patterns.

In order to be good at Connect 4, players need to be able to look at the rack and quickly recognize patterns. When you are so focused on creating a 4 in a row pattern of your own discs, while constantly watching out for possible opportunities; recognizing patterns makes dominating the rack a lot easier. Prepare to become obsessed about patterns.

6. Opportunistic thinking so that a possible connection is never missed.

A good Connect 4 player is always looking for their next opportunity to win. By watching the other player, you can notice opportunities early on. It’s also quite opportunistic to watch the opponent and note if they have a specific go-to play or a pattern that they follow. You can use this information to your advantage.

7. Offensive thinking to ensure that the opponent’s moves are less impactful.

Playing defensively is about finding opportunities to block your opponent, but that cannot be your entire game strategy. You also need to have the ability to play offensively by making connections with your own discs. 

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How do you go about playing offensively and starting to develop a mindset that thinks in that way? It’s simple really…Players learn to think and play offensively by building horizontal rows outwardly, stacking discs vertically on top of each other, making diagonal connections with your rows and columns, and by placing discs in slots that create the opportunity of multiple connections (such as the middle of the rack).

8. The ability to learn from experience so that mistakes are not repeated.

It’s safe to say that the best Connect 4 players learn quickly. When playing a certain move and finding it doesn’t work, they learn quickly not to go that route again and are able to think of their feet and try new and innovative options almost immediately. The game actually teaches people to learn from their “mistakes” and move on along quickly.

9. Basic mathematics/counting skills.

In order to get 4 in a row and to predict possible outcomes, Connect 4 players need to be able to count or do basic mathematics (basic addition and subtraction). If you have kids that need to brush up on their mathematics skills, Connect 4 can help. Most great Connect 4 players are able to add, subtract, and count quickly.

10. Ability to consider possible outcomes so that potentially dangerous moves can be easily avoided.

The best Connect 4 players don’t just drop discs into the rack without considering what that could mean for their next move. Every single disc is inserted with prior forethought and consideration, so as to ensure that no move suddenly ruins their chances of winning. This means that games take a considerable amount of concentration.

11. Effective problem-solving skills to ensure that every disc inserted doesn’t hinder the next move.

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Every time a player drops a disc into the rack, it poses a problem to the opponent. The opponent has to be alert, aware, and able to quickly process the new information in order to solve the problem. Reacting in a way to use that move to his/her advantage quickly and effectively is a skill that some of the best Connect 4 players have.

12. Fine motor skills to handle picking up discs and inserting discs easily.

In order to stay poised, ready to consistently pick up discs and slot them into the rack, a certain amount of fine motor skills and coordination are required. If you start out playing Connect 4 with no or limited fine motor skills (which is often the case with small children), these skills will naturally develop the more the game is played. 

Practice, practice, and practice some more! 

Anyone can be good at Connect 4, but not everyone can be a consistent champion. To be a worthy opponent, all I can recommend is that you practice, practice, and practice some more. I have personally found that all the skills you wish you had in order to be a highly successful champion Connect 4 player can actually be learned by playing the game. Enjoy, and good luck!