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A sample Pente game
Players 2-4
Setup time None
Playing time 5–30 minutes
Random chance None
Skills required Strategy

Pente is a strategy board game created in 1977 by Gary Gabrel. It is an Americanized version of the Japanese game ninuki-renju, a variant of renju or gomoku which is played on a Go board of 19 x 19 intersections with white and black stones. Pente allows captures while renju and gomoku do not. Ninuki-renju and Pente have the same capturing rules, but Pente added a new opening rule.



PENTE is a registered trademark of Hasbro for strategy game equipment. The community has apparently not found a generic term that applies only to games with these rules.

Pente (πέντε) is the number five in Greek.

Pente was invented while Gary Gabrel was working as a dishwasher at The Hideaway pizzeria in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Due to the success of Pente, including sale of Pente brand name to Parker Brothers in 1983, Gabrel has opened new Hideaway locations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Pente first became popular in nightclubs as an alternative to backgammon and other games. Its growing popularity influenced major department stores (i.e. Neiman Marcus and Macy's) to begin selling the game, in turn these sales created national recognition by the public of the Americanized strategy game - Pente.

Games Magazine voted Pente to be one of only 20 select "Hall of Fame" winners in 1991. At one time there were Pente leagues and clubs around the world and international tournaments were held for a number of years.

During the early 1980s, a limited edition all-glass board, with 4 stone sets in black cloth bags, was made available through Pente Games Inc. (Indiana Glass). Glass-board Pente sets are now difficult to find. In addition, wood boards (20-inches x 20-inches / by Pente Games Inc. - Gary Gabrel) were distributed to commercial retailers who complied with quota sales of Pente games within a quarter (3-months). This was a promotional program for commercial retailers only, 1 year duration and prior to Gary Gabrel's sale of the Pente name brand to Parker Brothers. These wood boards are extremely rare due to most retailers failing to comply with the required quota sales. During its existence Pente Games Inc. (concept 1973 / company 1977 - 1983) produced numerous Pente game board designs (style and color), inclusive of a "Travel Edition" (mini 13 grid).

Hasbro ceased distribution of Pente in 1993. It later licensed Pente to Winning Moves, a classic games publisher, which resurrected the game in 2004. Pente is currently available in stores, and directly from Winning Moves.


The players alternate in placing stones of their color on free intersections; White begins. The players aim to create five vertically, horizontally or diagonally connected stones of their color. Captures are obtained by surrounding pairs of an opponents' stones vertically, horizontally, or diagonally with stones of their own placed at the ends of the pair. A player cannot "cause" the capture of his or her own stones by moving into a surrounded position. The player who first creates five or more connected stones or captures five or more of the opponent's pairs wins.



In this variation, either two or three connected stones may be captured, and the player who first creates five or more connected stones or captures fifteen or more of the opponent's stones wins.

In 1983, Pente world champion Rollie Tesh (also the designer of Star Wars Customizable Card Game), proposed rule changes. He claimed that under the current rules White would always win with correct play strategy; regardless of moves made by Black. Tesh's variation of the original rules is called Keryo-Pente.


G-Pente is a variation of Pente proposed by Gary Barnes. Again the reason for the variation is to make the game more fair for player 2. This variation restricts player 1's second move, just like the tournament rule. It additionally prohibits playing on the 4th and 5th intersections away from the center of the board that are one the same horizontal or vertical line as player 1's first move. (These moves are the most common second moves for white).


D-Pente is a variation of Pente proposed by Don Banks. Again the reason for the variation is to make the game more fair for player 2. This variation is very different from the others however.

Play starts with white's first move at the middle as always. After that move however, player 1 continues to be in control and places the next stone for his/her opponent. Player 1 continues to be in control and places the second move for each player. (So player 1 makes the first 4 moves of the game, but the stone colors still alternate). At this point in the game player 2 gets control. Player 2 decides to continue playing as player 2, or decides to swap seats and take over as player 1! After that decision is made, play continues just as in Pente with whoever is now player 1 making the next move.

In this variation, Player 2 has an advantage because he has the option of which side to play. Thus, Player 1 is motivated to play a balanced first four moves; otherwise, Player 2 can easily win by selecting the side with the stronger position.


Boat-Pente is a variation of Pente invented by Jay E. Hoff, and later proposed to the internet at by player zoeyk. It is also known as "boat rules" Pente.

The main difference between this game and Pente is in the end game. Once a Pente is made (5 stones in a row) the game can continue as long as the opponent is able to capture across the Pente.

Capturing 5 pairs is still a win like in Pente and the tournament rule is used for rated games. Both unbreakable 5 in a rows, and 6 in a rows and up for example are a win. If the 6 in a row has an available capture from it, but the capture is from a end stone thus leaving a unbroken 5 in a row, then the capture is a invalid move, and the 6 in a row wins.

There are moves/strategies called; "Boat block" "Pente trade" "Infinite Pente trading" (until 5 captures is obtained, but if no capture limit, it could cycle infinitely).


Megiddo is a 1984 board game developed by Steve Baldwin and distributed by the now out-of-business Global Games of Spokane, Washington. Megiddo involves placing glass stones on a circular game board where players attempt to either get six stones in a row (called a Megiddo) or capturing six of the opponents stones (called an Arbatta).

The game board consists of six concentric rings each with six points which are collinear extending from the center. Two (or three) players take turns placing one of their stones on any point on the board. The game ends once a player has achieved a Megiddo or Arbatta, or when all points have been played and none remain (called a Patara). A Megiddo can be six stones extending from the center of the board, in circumference of one of the six rings, or as a spiral. A capture is made when a player brackets 2 (and only 2) of his opponents collinear stones. The 2 captured stones are then removed and replaced with stones of the capturers color.

Tournament Rule

In this common variation, the start player's second move is restricted, it must be at least 3 intersections away from the center of the board. The tournament rule was created by Tom Braunlich to make the game more fair for the second player.


To capture, i.e., to take a pair.


(A Japanese Go term) To lay a stone that threatens to capture.


to lay a stone on the end of one’s own existing line of connected stones.


a Japanese Go term meaning ‘initiative’ or the ability to lay a stone that demands a continuing defensive posture from one's opponent.


3 stones in a line.

Split 3

a tres formed with a pair, a space, and then one more stone.

Posted or Divided 3

a stone, a space, a stone, a space, and one more stone all of the same color.

Open 4

4 stones in a row with no defending stones at either end

Extended 4

a 4 formed by 3 stones, a space, and one more stone.

Split 4

a 4 formed by a pair, a space, and a second pair.


to lay a stone that forces one’s opponent to play into atari against himself.

Soft block

to block one space beyond the end of a tres or pair in such a way that denies one’s opponent an extension into sente on one end.


To make a pair that tempts one's opponent to play an Atari move. An opening tactic favored by many players.

Winding the Clock

Laying consecutive split threes in such a manner that one’s opponent keeps playing into the split and the split 3’s keep forming. The overall pattern evolves in a circular pattern of split threes. This pattern must be set up right for proper execution or it fails, but when it is set up right, it is a beauty to behold.


Announced formations

According to official Pente instructions, there are three formations that are customary (although not mandatory) for a player to inform his opponent of, once created:


Tria, which means three in Greek (τρία), is a straight line of three stones, with open ends. A tria is only two moves away from winning, and if a player does not block or disrupt the tria, the opponent could add another stone to one end and turn it into a tessera, almost guaranteeing his win.


Tessera, which means four in Greek (τέσσερα), is four stones in a straight line with at least one open end.

  • If both ends of Player A's tessera are open, then Player B will lose on the next move, unless he can capture a piece from Player A's tessera, or win the game himself on the next move. However, it should be noted that even a capture cannot guarantee Player B's safety; usually Player A can replace the piece of the tessera captured and Player B will be in the same predicament—but very probably without the benefit of a pair to capture. However, the piece played by Player B to capture the pair from Player A may also form a tessera for Player B, thus turning the tables for more than a moment.
  • If only one end of Player A's tessera is open, Player B can use the above mentioned moves, or simply block the open end of Player A's tessera.


A pente is five stones in a straight line. Forming a pente gives a a victory to the player.

Other dangerous formations

Some other dangerous formations exist that a player is not required to announce. These are made more dangerous by the fact that some players may not notice them if they are unannounced.

Potential tessera

This formation is made up of an open-ended line of two stones, followed by an empty space, followed by another stone. If this goes unnoticed by a player, the opponent can fill in the empty space, completing the tessera. This formation can sometimes be difficult to see, because of the separation of stones. Players creating or defending against potential tesseras should be aware of the danger of capture, if the defending player places a piece in the open space in the middle, or at the end where the two adjacent pieces are.


A double-threat is any formation which provides two ways to win the game. Examples include two trias, a tria and a potential pente, two potential tesseras, or any similar combination. This is frequently the method used to win games at higher levels, since a double threat is about as dangerous as a tessera (which could be considered a form of double threat).

Potential pente

This formation is any in which a line of 5 spaces has 4 stones of the same color. For example, by blocking one end of a tessera, a player has changed his opponent's tessera into a potential pente (which, of course, the opponent would make into a pente). Like the potential tessera, the variety with open spaces in the middle can be deceiving to the untrained eye.


Captures are usually of secondary concern to a player, since a single capture cannot end the game. However, five captures can, so players should consider captures when choosing moves. Also, captures can greatly alter the state of the board, so players should beware the potential for captures to bring new life to the opponent's old threats, or to invalidate formations that a player is trying to create. Especially influential are the multiple-capture, where a player takes more than one pair in one move, and the capture series, where a player takes several captures in a series of moves. The multiple capture can invalidate a tessera, while the capture series can capture enough pieces to win the game.

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