x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

All the right moves

What better way to while away the summer than playing your favourite board game? Here are five of the best and tips for playing the best game.


Like the humble umbrella, a shelf full of board games can be useful in both monsoon rain and overwhelming heat. In many parts of the world, board games are only dusted off on rainy afternoons when the prospect of setting foot outside is too awful to consider. When the gathered family members and friends finally agree to turn off the TV, they usually find that games are a great way to reconnect.

With the temperature in the region now hot enough to melt your shoes to the pavement, it's a good time for a round or two of the classics. But whether you are an absolute beginner or just a bit rusty, it can't hurt to brush up on your skills. Here's a list of top tips for five of the world's most popular board games, gathered from our panel of international champions and grandmasters. We hope the pointers come in handy, but if things get a little too serious, remember: it's only a game...

Patented in 1935, Monopoly is believed to be the most widely played commercial board game in the world. The objective is to become the wealthiest player by buying, renting, selling and trading landmark properties. Will Lusby is the reigning Canadian Monopoly champion. Build houses as quickly as you can. The ultimate objective of the game is to bankrupt all of your opponents, so the quicker you build houses the more likely it is that other players will be paying you large amounts of money.

It's a good idea to buy yourself out of jail if there are still unsold properties on the board. However, you should languish in jail if there is a high chance that you will have to start paying exorbitant rent to other players. Buy the orange properties. You can purchase houses and hotels on them for an amount that is not high relative to their power to bankrupt your opponent. It's a kind of mathematical quirk that is built into the game.

If you complete a deal with another player, it strengthens both of your positions relative to your opponents. The odds of winning will go up substantially, but it's critical not to get hung up on the small details of the trade. Be affable and behave like someone that other people won't mind losing to. There are typically four people in a game, so if one person is demeaning to another, the others will pick up on that and it could harm you.

Chess is believed to have originated in India, but it evolved into what it is today in southern Europe during the 15th century. Each player has 16 pieces and must attempt to checkmate the opponent's king. Professional games use a clock to limit each player's time. Vladimir Kramnik is a Russian chess grandmaster and undisputed world chess champion from 2006 to 2007. The most important thing is to try to predict what your opponent will try to do. The more I can get under his skin, the more I can trick him.

Think several steps ahead - as much as 10 or 20 moves sometimes. The further ahead you can calculate, the better you will play. Official games can take up to seven hours. You can play brilliantly for six and a half hours, but one mistake can cost you the game. In football, if you play well in the first half you can allow yourself some mistakes in the second half. In chess, this is not the case.

If you overstay your time limit on the clock, you lose the game, even if you were winning. In training, I put myself in a position with very little time on the clock and I give myself a task to find the best move. The best players work a lot on keeping fit. You should not eat anything heavy before a big game. No heavy lunches. Eat some vegetables or a bit of fish, maybe. You have to feel light; you should be half empty.

The table football game is played with miniature plastic figures. Players use their fingers to flick the pieces into defensive positions and to score goals by knocking a miniature ball into the goals. Vincent Coppinole is a Belgian Subbuteo player and the president of FISTF, the sport's international governing body. The most important thing is to polish your figures so that they can glide well. Until the early 1980s, nobody polished their figures. Then an Italian player had the idea to polish them and it was a revolution in the game.

Use your index or middle finger to flick. It is absolutely forbidden to use the thumb as a spring or as leverage. Top players can flick figures 80 or 90cm. In the game of football, the players are usually positioned in a 4-4-2 or 3-5-2 formation. But in Subbuteo, most of the time you are playing with seven or eight defenders and two or three attackers. When you are attacking, you can choose the rhythm of the game. There is a famous player called The Hypnotizer who plays very slowly so his opponent starts falling asleep and then suddenly he will do two or three flicks very aggressively. When you play a big tournament you play seven or eight games in a day. It's six hours. To stay concentrated for so long, you need to be in good physical condition. You should also rest between games.

Scrabble is sold in more than 120 countries around the world and in at least 29 languages. Players score points by making words from lettered tiles on a board, with extra points for using rare letters and making seven-letter words. Allan Simmons is the reigning British match-play champion and the UK's national Scrabble champion.

Don't get too seduced by the words themselves. A lot of people find a nice word in their rack, then just look for anywhere to play it on their board. The better play might be to use a more boring word, but keep back several useful, or high-scoring, letters. If you know there are 100 letters in the set and know how many of each letter there is, you can work out the chances that you or your opponent might pick a certain one from the bag. As you get to the end of the game, that knowledge becomes more precise.

J, Q, X and Z are the power tiles. They are worth the most in the set. There are 24 two-letter words that you can play with them, such as ox. Having them as instinctive plays is vital to being a top player. It's really important to keep a grip on what's on your rack and to have a good balance of vowels and consonants. There are roughly three vowels for every four consonants, so a quick look at the board will give you an idea of what's left in the bag. To play serious Scrabble, you should only have one opponent. If you play more than one-against-one, the skill goes out of the window and it's mostly down to luck.

One of the oldest games in the world, backgammon features two players moving their pieces across a board towards home, according to the roll of the dice. The winner is the first player to move all their pieces to the home quadrant and then remove them from the board. Masayuki Mochizuki from Japan is the reigning world backgammon champion.

It's best to block up your 5-point and your opponent's 5-point early on. That's also known as the golden point - the fifth position on your home side, next to your row of six checkers at the start. Doing so helps you to defend your home and stops your opponent from defending theirs. Although you can put as many checkers as you want on one point, you should try not to do it. It's not efficient. You want to unstack any point where you have more than four checkers.

When in doubt, play aggressively. Not only is it technically right to sometimes take calculated risks, but there is also a psychological advantage. If you are leading in the race, run from the back. A typical decision is whether to run for home or keep some checkers in your opponent's home to attack. If all of your checkers are closer to your home than your opponent's are to his - you should make a run for it.

Move the back checker at the beginning of the game. The rearmost checker is most commonly trapped by your opponent.