The Connect 4 wikipedia entry shows that this game was mathematically solved in 1988, and the solution shows how to force a win if you start the game with correct play. Ironically it is the first player who can surrender the game by playing his first move on any of the four outer columns.
The correct opening move of starting in the center leads to a draw with correct play apparently.
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Of course most people are not aware of the solution, even if they are aware that the game was solved, so it is still worth playing.
However at history gamer, we like to take things that little bit further. How about this for a variation on the game.
1. All disks must be played. The game ends when the grid is full.
2. Players score 3 pts for 3 in a row
3. Players score 8pts for 4 in a row
4. Players score 15pts for 5 in a row (hopefully this wont happen too often)
5. Players score 24pts for 6 in a row (very careless play)
6. Players score 35pts for 7 in a row (come on, someone wasn't trying!)
This should lead to all sorts of tactics, you can't prevent your opponent from scoring now, but can you score more?
If you start to play this variation please call it the Historygamer.com variant.
Let me know how it goes! Please Comment on Facebook below I would be delighted to hear about your ideas behind the strategy.