Paul: Hello. You may not think it to look at him but Brendan is a Hive Grandmaster of a hyper-unbeatable calibre. It’s the truth. To bring this insectoid chess-alike closer to everyone’s hearts and deeper into their viscous, nutrient-rich brains, Shut Up & Sit Down has asked Brendan to guide our readers through the more complex and obscure manipulations of this brain-breaking game.

Here then, is a set of problems for you to ponder. Can you discover the correct move(s)? Or maybe even better Brendan’s efforts? There is only one way to find out. Read on for the problems! (Note: If the only problem you see is a mess of abstract shapes untied to rules or regulations, please check out our review of Hive, which is a lovely game about creepy crawlies.)

Problem 1

Brendan: Hello Hivers, do you see the problem here? (White to move)

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That’s right. The Black player has almost entirely surrounded the White player’s Queen, and there are two moves she can make toward increasing her exceptional lead. Her bottom-most Spider can encroach further in, or her Beatle can begin to make its way atop the Ants, to smother or further entrap the White Queen. But can you see a way out of this perilous circumstance for the White player? Have a think, then scroll down for the solution.

have a think

...That’s right. It’s the Pemberton Manoeuvre!

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By strategically upending the nearest mug or glass of liquid (in this case, delicious milk), the White player can both obscure the playing field and naturally request the Black player retrieve a cloth. While the Black player is distracted the White player has plenty of time for a tactical swap, deftly removing his Queen ...

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And replacing it with his raised Beatle...

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Once the Black player has returned and mopped, the White player will now find they are in a much stronger position and that his Queen is, in fact, entirely out of reach of the Black player and her trio of slavish Ants. As evidenced below.

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The Pemberton Manoeuvre (so-called for Coke creator and Hive enthusiast John Pemberton who made liberal use of cola to win numerous games against his slaves in the 1860s) is a staple among the higher echelons of the Hive Championships. One should always remember this useful procedure when trapped in a difficult position, although it is wise not to overuse.

Problem 2

A vastly different problem here for the put-upon White player. Can you spot what it is? (White to move)

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Yes, it is the Spider. An innocuous enough piece for most beginners, yet deadly in the hands of a professional. And not just that, the Black player also has a free Ant which she could use as an alternative means of surrounding the White Queen. It is a most treacherous conundrum from which there appears to be no escape. Or is there? Think carefully and scroll down for the answers. (Hint: the White player still has these unused pieces in his repertoire: a Grasshopper, an Ant and a Spider)

have a think

Did you get it? That’s correct. It’s the Lesser Table Edge Feint!

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As pictured above, by seeking to place his Ant at the very edge of the Hive it becomes clear that the whole ‘board’ must be re-positioned. Volunteer to do this with one swift movement of the left hand, as illustrated below.

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Play now suffers a brief period of confusion. The Black player will seek to evaluate your haphazard placing of each piece, sifting through her memory in an effort to sort one ‘bloc’ from another and return the board to its previous ‘tidy’ state. Take advantage of this short interlude to eliminate the Black player’s Spider from play, like so.

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And cement the elimination by placing the Spider into your trouser pocket, where it will become unavailable for the rest of the game.

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When the board has been returned to its former character the White player will see the great difference his efforts have made. The Black player will be severely disoriented. Not only is her Spider no longer a threat but her back-up Ant has been likewise incapacitated, since it cannot break up the Hive.

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The White player is now free to assault the Black Queen with his right-most Ant and Grasshopper. The Feint has paid off!

Problem 3

An unusual predicament here for the White player. See if you can figure it out.

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You guessed it! Beatles. If unchallenged, the Black player can win the game in two quick and easy moves by dropping her slippery Beatles down into the vacant spaces beside the pincered White Queen. There are a number of moves available to both players here, however, there is one very simple measure the White player can take to level the playing field, if not to win. Do you know what it is? Scroll down for the solution.

have a think

Gadzooks! Of course! The Stick Insect. It is so simple we almost did not see it ourselves.

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Thinking back to the simplest expanded ruleset of Hive, one could be forgiven for writing off the Stick Insect as a non-entity. Indeed, its usefulness as a game piece is somewhat restricted. But it is the perfect ploy for ‘Problem 3’, as we shall see.

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Using the Stick Insect according to its rules, the White player can (despite protests from the Black player, who is obviously smarting from the instinctive intelligence of the move) place the plastic terrarium housing of the Stick Insect into the centre of the ‘board’, as shown above. Now, the sides are partitioned, leaving the White player free to dispose of the Beatles

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The duplicitous Beatles of the Black player are now at the mercy of the stealthy Stick Insect, which has done precisely what it was designed to do. (If you do not have the Stick Insect to hand, it is available as an expansion pack from India and other native countries. As a Hive Grandmaster, I cannot recommend it enough). Okay. The board should now look like this.

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The White player’s next turn should be used to discard the Stick Insect and its victims. On no account should you leave the Stick Insect in play for longer than necessary. Remember: it is a global piece and your opponent may also make use of it to force a draw, like in the entirely hypothetical endgame below.

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A most embarrassing outcome, for certain.

Well, that is all the problems for now, Hivers! I hope you have enjoyed treating your minds to a thorough workout. And if you should find yourself facing down an army of Ants, or a deathsquad of Beatles, always remember what the wisest of Hive champions say. “A Hive master does not make mistakes. Mistakes make a Hive master (his mistakes).” And surely that is a Universal Wisdom, not limited to Hive.