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How to win Connect 4 every time

Want to see four in a row more often? Our board games strategy guide can help you connect the dots and learn how to win Connect 4 every time.

How to win Connect 4 - a hand placing a connect four checker

So, you want to learn how to win Connect 4. Perhaps there’s a family member you’re determined to beat, or perhaps you’re on a quest of self-improvement that features the popular children’s board game. Whatever your reasons, it turns out you can learn how to always win Connect 4.

While it may be a kids’ board game, Connect 4 is also a strategy board game at heart. This means there are some specific techniques you can learn to improve your chances of winning. Master that, and you’ll be a pro at all the best board games in no time.

Here’s how to win Connect 4:

  • Control the middle column
  • Plan your moves ahead
  • Play offensively whenever possible
  • Block your opponent
  • Set traps
  • Create the game-winning seven

How to win Connect 4 - a connect four board with all red checkers in the middle column

Control the middle column

Every Connect 4 strategist knows there’s one key to winning – the middle column. Any horizontal line must have a checker in the middle column, so being able to control this column is the first step to winning.

You should always put a checker in the middle column on your first turn. Going first in Connect 4 gives you a natural advantage, but you should target the middle column even if you’re going second.

If you can’t control the majority of the middle column, the two columns on either side should be your next priority. They’re not likely to help you win, but you can block your opponent – and maybe score a tie instead.

How to win Connect 4 - a red checker is placed, and three spaces where yellow could place next are highlighted

Plan your moves ahead

Any good board game strategy involves planning ahead. You should try to anticipate your opponent’s moves wherever possible – if you place your checker in one space, you can anticipate what moves your foe might make in response. You can’t always know what someone else’s plan is, but it never hurts to be prepared.

As well as watching your opponent, you should be looking for any game-ending spaces. Spotting one of these early can make or break a game of Connect 4. You might be able to block your opponent when they’re about to win, or you might spot an opening they’ve carelessly left free.

Play offensively whenever possible

It can be tempting to play Connect 4 reactively, but this isn’t the way to win. Whenever possible, you should be on the offensive. It’s often more important to work towards your own winning line than work too hard cutting off your opponent.

That being said, there’s always a balance to be struck. Focus too much on your own lines, and the enemy could swoop in for the win. Next, let’s look at a few ways to keep your opponent on their toes.

How to win Connect 4 - four red checkers blocking a single yellow checker

Block your opponent

The best way to thwart an opponent’s plans is by blocking. Simply place your checker adjacent to theirs, and you’ve cut off a potential line.

The best blocks might also extend one of your own lines, so keep an eye out for opportunities like this. Remember, defense is important, but usually not at the expense of offense.

Set traps

The best way to trap your opponent is to play a checker that poses two threats rather than one. Perhaps the checker you placed has extended two lines rather than one, or it leaves an open space on either side. Better yet, maybe you’ve opened up two game-ending spaces for your next turn.

Since checkers are placed one at a time, your opponent won’t be able to counter both threats straight away. This gives you a chance to get ahead – or even nab a victory.

How to win connect 4 - the 7 shape on a connect four board, with the open winning spaces marked

Create the game-winning seven

It turns out there is a perfect strategy for winning Connect 4. This involves arranging your checkers into the shape of the number seven (see the picture above).

The aim of the seven is to set up a line with two game-ending spaces. It doesn’t matter what direction the seven is facing – if you manage to set it up, a win is pretty much secured. The challenge is the time it takes to set this maneuver up, as you’ll need to carefully block your opponent and watch they don’t get in your way.

Putting in the hard strategy work to become a master of Connect 4 is great, but it’s hardly a barrel of laughs – for a more light-hearted game night, you can always wheel out our list of 150+ brilliant Truth or Dare questions.