So you’ve gone toe to toe with your opponent, thwarting each other’s roads at every turn, and now it’s beginning to look as though you are competing for a flat win. First of all, congratulations on making it this far. The ability to get this deep into a game of Tak without either of you getting tricked onto the road to Tinuë means that you have both played a beautiful game. However, the tools that have gotten you to this point will no longer be sufficient to carry you to victory. The board is likely polluted with enough walls that the initiative has little or no meaning. Instead, you should be concerning yourself with each player’s current flat count and remaining piece count, and focusing intently on the flat-count differential of possible moves.
When you have the flat count advantage and have fewer remaining pieces, you are firmly in the driver’s seat. Simply playing additional flats continues your inexorable march to victory. This is doubly powerful when it also places your opponent in tak since the forced responses likely don’t help them catch up in flat count; moves of this nature maintain your lead and effectively run out the clock on your opponent. However, despite your distinct advantage, you also need to be wary of your opponent finding high flat-count differential moves. Make sure to guard your prisoners tightly, either under or near walls/caps to restrict your opponent’s ability to release them. Also pay extra close attention to your opponent’t ability to put you in tak. If your opponent forces you to capture, they may be able to leverage those new prisoners. Well-placed flatstones, or even a wall that doesn’t lose your flat count advantage, will limit their ability to find an edge this way.
Conversely, when you are behind in flat count and have more remaining pieces than your opponent, you are in a tight spot. Putting your opponent in tak can be useful, but only if it makes them capture in ways that you are prepared to directly exploit. You should shift your focus away from road building, and instead concentrate your efforts on controlling and then running stacks to achieve flat count parity.
Things are less clear cut when you have the flat count advantage but have more remaining pieces. This advantage is precarious because you have more prisoners than your opponent and are further from ending the game via playing all your pieces. You are still interested in guarding prisoners and placing your opponent it tak, but the goal is no longer to run out the clock as quickly as possible. Instead, you should focus on placing more pieces than your opponent, and on how to weather the storm when they inevitably find ways to release prisoners.
Walls and captstones are pivotal pieces in the end game. Although you should avoid over-walling in the midgame, having some pre-existing walls can be quite valuable when you transition to the end game. Similarly, the more prisoners your cap accrues in the midgame, the less valuable it will be in the endgame, so be extra sure that the prisoners it does take are productive exchanges. Finally, although placing new walls during the end game may seem like a losing proposition, be on the lookout for sequences that build up a tall/zebra stack only to be immediately attacked by a new wall. These kinds of exchanges either concede the stack, force it to run, or force it to be claimed by a pre-existing wall/cap. Depending on its surroundings, these may be extremely uncomfortable options for the winner of the stack.