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Reversi or Othello is a strategy board game for two players, played on an 8×8 uncheckered board. There are sixty-four identical game pieces called disks (often spelled "discs"), which are light on one side and dark on the other. Players take turns placing disks on the board with their assigned color facing up. During a play, any disks of the opponent's color that are in a straight line and bounded by the disk just placed and another disk of the current player's color are turned over to the current player's color.

The object of the game is to have the majority of disks turned to display your color when the last playable empty square is filled.

Reversi was most recently marketed by Mattel under the trademark Othello.


Original version[]

The game Reversi was invented in 1883 by either of two Englishmen (each claiming the other a fraud), Lewis Waterman or John W. Mollett (or perhaps earlier by someone else entirely), and gained considerable popularity in England at the end of the nineteenth century. The game's first reliable mention is in the August twenty-first 1886 edition of The Saturday Review. Later mention includes an 1895 article in The New York Times: "Reversi is something likeGo Bang, and is played with 64 pieces. In 1893, the well-known German games publisher Ravensburger started producing the game as one of its first titles. Two 18th-century continental European books dealing with a game that may or may not be Reversi are mentioned on page fourteen of the Spring 1989 Othello Quarterly, and there has been speculation, so far without documentation, that the game has even more ancient origins.

Othello (1)

Modern version[]

The modern version of the game — the most regularly used rule-set, and the one used in international tournaments — is marketed and recognized as Othello. It was patented in Japan in 1971 by Goro Hasegawa (ja) (autonym: Satoshi Hasegawa), then a 38-year-old salesman.[5]

There are two differences from the original game:

  • The first four pieces go in the center, but in a standard diagonal pattern, rather than being placed by players
  • Each player has (essentially) up to 64 pieces, rather than being limited to 32 pieces each.

Hasegawa established the Japan Othello Association on March 1973, and held the first national Othello championship on April 4, 1973 in Japan. The Japanese game company Tsukuda Original launched Othello in late April, 1973 in Japan under Hasegawa’s license, which led to an immediate commercial success.

The name was selected by Hasegawa as a reference to the Shakespearean play Othello, the Moor of Venice, referring to the conflict between the Moor Othello and Iago, and more controversially, to the unfolding drama between Othello, who is black, and Desdemona, who is white. The green color of the board is inspired by the image of the general Othello, valiantly leading his battle in a green field. It can also be likened to a jealousy competition (jealousy being the central theme in Shakespeare's play), since players engulf the pieces of the opponent, thereby turning them to their possession.


Othello was first launched in the U.S. in 1975 by Gabriel Industries and it also enjoyed commercial success there. Reportedly, Othello game sales have exceeded $600 million and more than 40 million classic games have been sold in over 100 different countries.

Hasegawa also wrote How to Othello (Osero No Uchikata) in Japan in 1974, which was later translated into English and published in the U.S. in 1977 as How to Win at Othello.

Kabushiki Kaisha Othello, which is owned by Hasegawa, registered the trademark "OTHELLO" for board games in Japan and Tsukuda Original registered the mark in the rest of the world. All intellectual property regarding Othello outside Japan is now owned by MegaHouse, a Japanese toy company that acquired PalBox, the successor to Tsukuda Original.

MegaHouse has gratefully acknowledged the late James R. Becker and Anjar Co. for their role in successfully marketing, licensing, selling, promoting, distributing, and popularizing OTHELLO branded products in the U.S. and around the world outside Japan since 1975.

How to Play[]



The board will start with two black discs and two white discs at the centre of the board. They are arranged with black forming a northeast to southwest direction and white forming a northwest to southeast direction.

Game Play[]

Othello is a strategy board game played between two players. One player plays black and the other white.

Each player gets 32 discs, and black always starts the game.

Then the game alternates between white and black until:

  • one player can not make a valid move to outflank the opponent.
  • both players have no valid moves.

When a player has no valid moves, he pass his turn and the opponent continues.

A player can not voluntarily forfeit his turn.

When both players can not make a valid move, the game ends.

Valid Moves[]

Black always moves first.

A move is made by placing a disc of the player's color on the board in a position that "out-flanks" one or more of the opponent's discs.

A disc or row of discs is outflanked when it is surrounded at the ends by discs of the opposite color.

A disc may outflank any number of discs in one or more rows in any direction (horizontal, vertical, diagonal).


For example: a white piece is being placed on the board that creates a straight line made up of a white piece at either end and only black pieces in between.

White places in the illustration a disc on E3.

The black discs on E4, E5 and E6 are now outflanked by the white disc on E3 and the white disc on E7.

The black discs will be flipped to white.

All the discs which are outflanked will be flipped, even if it is to the player's advantage not to flip them.

Discs may only be outflanked as a direct result of a move and must fall in the direct line of the disc being played.

If you can't outflank and flip at least one opposing disc, you must pass your turn. However, if a move is available to you, you can't forfeit your turn.

Once a disc has been placed on a square, it can never be moved to another square later in the game.

When a player runs out of discs, but still has opportunities to outflank an opposing disc, then the opponent must give the player a disc to use.

End of the game[]

When it is no longer possible for either player to move, the game is over.

The discs are now counted and the player with the majority of his or her color discs on the board is the winner.

A tie is possible.

Time Limit[]

Players can start with a preset time limit for their total number of moves. This timing element adds more pressure to the game.

The clock will start counting down at the beginning of a player's first move and be paused each time they complete a turn whilst the opposing player's clock is ticking down.

There are varying time limits ranging from 5 minutes up to 30 minutes as seen in the world championship rules.

When one player's clock runs out of time, no matter what the position or number of chips on the board, that player looses the game.


Because there is an advantage in starting first, the more experienced player should give this advantage to the less experienced player.

When a very skilled player is playing against an unskilled player, then the skilled player may take on a handicap by setting up the board to give his weaker opponent a four corner advantage.

If the difference in skill is not so big, then one, two or three corner advantages can be given.


How to Play Othello or Reversi

Links and References[]