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Sudoku for Beginners: 13 Things I Wish I Knew (From a Sudoku Aficionado…) 

boy with his grandfather solving sudoku puzzle
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Have you always wanted to give Sudoku a try but were intimidated cause you felt you lacked some basic familiarity? Maybe you’re familiar with the game but unsure how well you would do and would like to know more before you take it up. 

In any case, Sudoku may seem like a complex mathematics game that can deter new and inexperienced players, but it’s just a logic-based game that is much easier than most people think once they know what to do. I figured that out with time and practice. To help newbies interested in the game, I have decided to share 13 things I wish I knew before I started playing Sudoku.

Being a new Sudoku player doesn’t have to be intimidating and challenging. As a matter of fact, it can be a gratifying and immersive experience that provides you with a sense of achievement. Are you ready to play some Sudoku? Use the list below to help you start the right way.

13 things every Sudoku beginner should know:

1. Learn the Rules

Before playing your first game of Sudoku, you should make sure to learn the rules. It may be too obvious to mention, but reading the rules will help you grasp the objective and mechanics of the game. Luckily, Sudoku rules are pretty simple and straightforward and shouldn’t cause too much of a headache. By familiarizing yourself with the rules, you may even come up with strategies of your own that can make the game easier for you.

2. Start on Easy

Sudoku comes in varying difficulties. Don’t pressure yourself to get it cracked at the greatest difficulty right away. There is nothing wrong with playing at the easiest setting first until you get comfortable with the game. 

Even the best Sudoku players had to start somewhere, and they certainly had to work their way up to play on their level. You may download one of many Sudoku apps with varying difficulties, purchase a Sudoku book for beginners, or go about it any way that works best for you.

3. Keep Practicing

It’s important to get comfortable with the game to get good at it, but it’s just as important not to get too comfortable. Once you find yourself solving most puzzles at your chosen difficulty level with ease, you should consider raising the difficulty and challenging yourself. This will help you progress and improve your skills. 

It might take a while for Sudoku to get you truly hooked. You may also find it more difficult than you thought it was going to be when you started. Don’t get discouraged, and just keep practicing. The more you play, the better you’ll get at the game, and the more fun you’ll have.

4. Solve the Easiest Section First

Regardless of your chosen difficulty level, certain sections of the puzzle will be easier and more evident from the start than others. You should always focus your attention on these first and work your way from there, as the solved sections will provide more context for the more complex, empty fields. These are easy to spot as they have more number clusters than others. Look for rows, columns, and quadrants with most numbers present to start solving your Sudoku puzzle.

5. Fix Your Mistakes

Even experienced Sudoku players often make mistakes that need to be corrected. There is no shame in penning down your numbers so that they can be erased later or using an app that allows you to erase your input. 

Sudoku puzzle grid and eraser,
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If you’re not using an app, avoid writing your numbers with a pen, as trying to correct your mistakes will then just make a mess out of your Sudoku puzzle. Be comfortable with using a pencil and an eraser, as well as the notion that nothing is set in stone, and allow yourself to make changes, guesses, and corrections.

6. Use What You Know to Learn What You Don’t

Sudoku heavily employs the ‘elimination process’ as its core mechanic. Learn how it works and how to apply it. For example, a grid may have the following numbers – 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 9 – This is what you know, and based on that, it’s easy to determine that numbers 2, 7, and 8 are missing. To determine where each of the missing numbers should go, look at the rows and columns passing through that specific grid.

7. Look for Missing Numbers

Always analyze the entire Sudoku grid and always be on the lookout for the numbers that are missing. This means constantly examining each row, column, and quadrant. Use this knowledge and compare it to the already on board numbers and their placements to solve the puzzle.

8. The Cross-Hatching Technique

The cross-hatching technique is an extremely useful tool for Sudoku beginners. It refers to a process of cross-referencing rows and columns to find out which of the missing numbers has the unique positioning option in that particular grid. This technique can help you remain aware of all the numbers you will be placed in the empty cells. 

9. Don’t Guess

Sudoku is a highly logical game, and there is little place in it for lucky guessing. Experienced Sudoku players can sometimes make correct guesses without enough information, but this has little to do with luck. 

Beginners should avoid guessing altogether. Once wrongly placed, a number can throw the entire puzzle off and make it impossible to solve. The only time you should pen a number down is when you are absolutely sure that it is the only one that can work in that place based on the information you have gathered.

10. Don’t Rush.

There’s no pressure; take your time to figure it out. Most Sudoku apps feature a timer that may cause unnecessary stress, so you should begin your Sudoku journey with a pencil and paper instead. Get comfortable and take your time. The more you rush, the more confused you’ll get, and the harder time you’ll have to solve it. Learning to play Sudoku actually entails training your brain in various logical techniques. Allow it time to learn, adjust, and strengthen its skills.

11. Use the “One Pass” Approach

The one-pass approach refers to the technique where a player scans the Sudoku grid to find which cells a number certainly cannot be filled in. Once they figure it out, they can narrow down the possibilities for where it can be placed. This method can speed up the solving process by quite a bit.

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12. Refresh on Sudoku Tricks

There are many common ‘tricks’ experienced Sudoku players employ regularly. You don’t need to learn and use all of them from the very beginning, but getting familiar with some of them and keeping your knowledge on the matter fresh can help you apply them with ease once you get comfortable with the game. 

Two such examples are ‘naked pairs’ and ‘naked singles.’ ‘Naked pairs’ are employed when two cells in the same quadrant in the same row or the same quadrant in the same column only have two possible numbers each. This helps you eliminate them as potential solutions for other cells in that quadrant. “Naked singles’ are less of a trick and more of a conclusion of successful application of other elimination techniques that reveal only one possible number input for a cell. 

13. Keep it Fluid

Try to avoid getting stuck on a single block or sub-grid. Train yourself to flow from cell to cell, from quadrant to quadrant, etc. Practice quick thinking and quick thought reaction to keep the momentum of your Sudoku game fluid. For a tough game of logic, Sudoku thrives on fluid gameplay, and the more flexible the player, the better and faster they are at solving it.

In closing

Sudoku is quite simple in its structure but infinitely varied with millions of possible combinations and a wide range of difficulty levels. Regardless, it’s all based on simple logical principles in the context of using numbers from one to nine to fill in the blank spaces based on deductive reasoning while never repeating any numbers within a quadrant, a row, or a column. 

Because of its versatility, you probably won’t encounter two identical Sudoku games in your life, so it’s improbable that you will ever just ‘remember’ the solution for a puzzle. 

However, its universal structure guarantees that if you practice enough, learn and train various techniques, learn how to employ tricks, and just teach your brain how to think in Sudoku terms, you will have a greater chance of solving any puzzle you come across regardless of the difficulty. Good luck!