Mastering Sudoku: Tips and Tricks to Win the Game

Sudoku, a popular number puzzle game, has captured the hearts of many with its challenging yet addictive gameplay.

In this article, we will explore the rules of Sudoku, break down the strategies for winning, highlight common mistakes to avoid, and provide tips on how to improve your skills.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, there’s something here for everyone looking to unleash sudoku secrets. Let’s dive in!

What Is Sudoku?

Sudoku is a number-placement logic puzzle, thought to have originated in Switzerland. It was popularized in Japan in the 1980s under a name meaning single number. Sudoku puzzles are composed of a fixed number of blank and pre-filled number cells. Solving the puzzle requires filling in the blank cells so that the same number appears only once in any row (from left to right), Column (from top to bottom), and boxes of different thickness. Sudoku puzzles can be anywhere from beginner to expert difficulty levels.

How To Play Sudoku?

To play sudoku, fill the empty cells in the grid with numerals 1 to 9 in such a manner that each number appears only once in each row, column, and the main regions of the grid. An easy way to start solving sudoku puzzles is to fill in each cell with pencil marks. A pencil mark is a small number potentially going in a cell in which a specific number (sub-grid 3 x 3, row, column) is to be placed to be considered later.

Such notes assist players in reducing the candidates available for different squares. After being solved, they can be erased or modified. It is worth noting that even the most complicated Sudoku puzzles can be solved without using pencil points.

Understanding The Rules

To win in sudoku, you must first understand the rules of the game. The game takes place on a standard 9×9 grid where the goal is to fill the rows, columns, and 3×3 sub-grids of each 9 x 9 grid with the numbers 1-9 without repetition. The standard sudoku rule set has two main conditions for a puzzle: All subgrids need to be filled, and all rows and columns must be filled with one of each number (1-9), once and only once.

Starting With The Basics

Starting with the basics means attempting simpler strategies before progressing to more complex strategies. The basic strategies for winning Sudoku are to write down all the possible number combinations for each square, 1-9 (known as practice pads) and cross out invalid choices as one builds towards filling out the whole grid. Once completed this should form a Partial Remains Map going from partial solution to complete solved Sudoku.

There are two common schools of methodological Play in order to obtain a Partial Remains Map from easier to harder strategies:

  • Lecture method: This is learning through definition and then applying the logic, such as applying Fish Pattern and Wolverine claws under more Multiply subjects.
  • Problem-solving approach: Tends to rely more on logical reasoning through search (subtraction process, for example) where one eliminates the possibility one by one in grid-form.

What Are The Strategies To Win In Sudoku?

The strategies to win in Sudoku utlize crucial logic algorithms to avoid random guessing and checking. Identifying numbers should be the first step to winning a sudoku match, followed by utilizing the candidate lists to identify unique candidate positions for each number.

From there, fill the candidate numbers to determine if there is only one solution. Use the locked candidates rule to identify if 9s must be in row 2 and 3 or if an 8 must be in column 3. Use the naked and hidden subsets rule to identify the next numbers. Then use the trial and error method of number elimination of last resort. Filling the grid with the number in the candidate list is recommended if there are several correct possible solutions for one cell.


Scanning is a strategic method to win in sudoku by using certain patterns in the puzzle. The most common pattern to look for when scanning is the single candidate. For example, a row that does not have a 4 but includes a 4 in all other rows, columns, and grid units implies a 4 must go in that row. Additionally, top-right-to-bottom-left diagonals and bottom-right-to-top-left diagonals often have one number left to be deduced in them. These patterns are innate in the nature of sudoku puzzles and can almost always be used to find the solution or a partial solution.


Crosshatching is a term similar to block jumping which refers to both techniques, but in the parlance of Sudoku it refers to the technique of marking the pairs of lines inside two of the three blocks of a Sudoku three-block row/column. You should see a pattern resembling cross stitching.

This allows you to accurately determine from a given value which are and which are not the possible empty blocks for a given number in the row/column you are looking at. It is a useful tool when the basic techniques are not giving you a solution, as crosshatching can help identify which pair of blocks require a value from a particular subset.

Solving Techniques training from the Nikoli company … uses an example of breaking the block diagonal rule. block lists an incorrect value in r6c5 as an error which is correct but requires block jumping neighboring rule.0

Penciling In

Penciling in refers to marking all possible candidates in a cell based on the other solved cells in the same row, column, or block. Penciling is a clue-tracking technique that is useful for unraveling hard and expert-level puzzles.

The image is a depiction of regular alignment during penciling. You can see how the hidden-pair relationship is used in the leftmost block of the grid to eliminate the 5’s and the 6’s from the circled cells. Penciling accelerates the process of manual deduction. Advanced players can sometimes solve tough puzzles entirely by penciling out possible candidates and constraints on unsolved cells. Note, however, that this technique goes against the norvigian philosophy of needing to make a decision and understanding its ripple effect, as penciling allows players to defer to a later time the making of definitive decisions.


Elimination is the theory that often describes the technique of crossing out possibilities when trying to find the true answer. Another way to think of it is imagining that each space in easy puzzles contain multiple versions of the same puzzle within them. By logically going through the probabilities of the most likely pictures or drawings that would be there, one can eliminate other possibilities, leaving behind the “number solution/application”.


In sudoku, a subset is defined as any group of numbers within a box, line, or column. The four main types of subsets in sudoku are singles, pairs/naked pairs, triples/naked triples, and quads/naked quads. When there are a finite number of possible candidates before the numbers are filled in, they are formally referred to as n-tuples.

In their book Mastering Sudoku Week by Week, James Pitts and Tom Howell explain that all subsets cover the range of 1-9 inclusive. Fortunately, a few n-tuples appear more often than others. They recommend trying to determine naked and hidden pairs in the first instance, then moving on to triples, unless you are experienced and it is clear that the puzzle is too difficult for these concepts to be used.


An x-wing is similar to a swordfish column type 1 in that 3 rows are involved, but only two cells in each column have the possibility to be a clue. The x-wing strategy is a logic algorithm whereby two different columns contain the same restricted pairs of numbers (in two cells each). Examples are shown in the image below.

To identify an x-wing, look for two identical candidate restriction squares in column blocks. Take note of the two restriction squares and the two cells they are in simultaneously across columns. If squares in the same row exhibit the same constraint and sparks show they literally rule the world of potential layouts in their row, a clue will soon present itself elsewhere. In cells of x-wing affected columns that is, the candidate squares to x cells equal to the candidate squares of y cells in row n will be filled by a pattern that makes another cell in the square impossible.

In cells of x-wing influenced rows that is, the squares of the two affected columns will receive cells that would make an already used intersection impossible to decipher. In an x-wing, each row shows only two identical pairs of candidates. This means that when these pairs are eliminated from the affected columns, they cannot appear anywhere else in the puzzle, providing two new elusive links.


A swordfish is like an x-wing but has three rows, three columns, and three groups. There are four primary options when all three rows, three columns, and three groups have three unsolved cells that contain the same three candidate numbers. By eliminating the common candidate numbers between these groups and then eliminating them in the other groups or groups as well via mutual exclusion, a link is formed.

Following up on that, if the only remaining unsolved cells on a group are a matching group with the three candidate numbers under consideration, the following can happen:

  1. If the candidate numbers inside the matching group are still available in that group, the number delay is not a swordfish.
  2. If the numbers inside the matching group are located in different rows or columns of that group, the number delay is not a swordfish.
  3. If the candidate numbers inside the matching group are located in one row or column of that group, the number delay is a swordfish that belongs to the separated group.

If a swordfish is found, then the numbers under consideration can be eliminated from the possible candidates in the cells between the groups that contain the swordfish.

Forcing Chains

Forcing chains represent another idea taken from William Banks’ version of the minimum program. Instead of directly testing this new technique, Gutsche, Poinsot and Simon compared the strength of Thai players who were trained with Banks’ helping functions (including Forcing Chains) in real-world play against the strength of others who did not have this training. Forcing is the macro level of the game, that is, gameplay outside the cell being investigated. Forcing this number gets you thinking a little more universally as you encounter higher-level sudokus, and so forcing can be thought of as both an extension to, and enhancement of, the Forcing X-Wing strategy at the micro level.

What Are The Common Mistakes In Sudoku?

Common mistakes in Sudoku include the following:

  1. Misalignment – This creates significant issues later on but is simple to solve if it’s noticed early.
  2. Guesswork – Assuming without proof that a tile belongs in a slot of any kind.
  3. Stressfully muttering to oneself “Oh no!” when one realizes a move which previously seemed so strategic was wrong.
  4. Penilizing – Meaning, using the eraser portion of the pencil to undo a move one was “so sure” about earlier.
  5. Overthinking – Tying up one’s mind in hard Sudoku when there are easier paths to getting the correct solution.

Not Using Pencil Marks

Not using pencil marks to solve Sudoku means not writing down all possible numbers for a square or group in which their possible locations have drastically been narrowed down. By marking the numbers to select from with a dot, this allows one to visualize the possible number options.

Not using pencil marks can make a Sudoku puzzle unsolvable, or make it so time-consuming that it feels impossible. Pencil marks decrease possibilities which helps make faster decisions and see relationships between options easier. Overall, the benefits of using sudoku tips far outweigh the drawbacks. Even the most meticulous Sudoku solvers make use of the method in nearly all games to ensure faster completion times and fewer mistakes. It also makes one see options they might otherwise overlook.

Not using pencil marks is ultimately a preference on whether one has the time and patience to devote to unsolvable Sudoku problems. Hard Sudoku problems are generally shown to require the use of pencil marks to be solvable.

Skipping Steps

There are several ways in which stepping through solving the whole puzzle might lead to less efficiency in your solution. The most common ways to skip steps in Sudoku is by utilizing the Naked Single (only one number is possible to be placed in a given cell) and the Hidden Single (only one number is possible in a given row, column, or box). Utilizing these strategies can allow a player to skip forward quickly in the puzzle without having to solve for a cell using the full forced choice method.

Making Assumptions

Assumptions play a big role in solving difficult puzzles and especially X-Wing fish patterns, XY-wing fish patterns, and the Jellyfish pattern.

Learn these patterns, which have fixed signals. As not every position on the board is a solution that follows from the laid down numbers, one needs to sometimes work through a tangled web of possible solutions before seeing which one is the valid one. Making the right assumptions speeds up the process of elimination and finding that compelling path which leads to the correct solution.

Not Checking For Mistakes

  • When a player has completed the majority of a puzzle, not checking for mistakes prior to erasing is one of the most common ways to lose.
  • Going through every row, column, and the 3×3 square to ensure there are no duplicate numbers should be done as a natural part of the thinking process. Without this step, a player could accidentally erase perfectly correct numbers for an incorrect guess.
  • Mistakes in sudoku can come from copying errors but are most commonly the results of misinterpretations of the board during play. Thus, they are typically not in a player’s favor and will often set a player back at least as far as they had been set forward by genuine smart playing.

How To Improve Your Sudoku Skills?

You can improve your Sudoku skills by memorizing and practicing hidden singles strategies. The hidden single strategy is a logical approach where a player looks at a unit (a row, column, or block) with a missing digit in mind. The objective is to identify any cells where a candidate’s value appears once and to assign the cell in question that value. Hidden singles are called ‘hidden’ because they are not always immediately or visually recognizable.

Memory can be built by constantly looking at the candidate count of 2 per cell after possible candidates for hidden singles have been removed from cells in the same row, column, or block. Improvement can be measured over time to see if one starts recognizing them quicker or keeps making the same mistakes at the onset of a game.

Practice Regularly

Regularly practicing sudoku is the first and most important step in winning in sudoku. Practice will not make you perfect, but it will greatly increase your speed and how well you spot moves quickly. The Wisconsin Medical School conducted a test with a group of people and found that the average time decrease from someone’s first puzzle to the third puzzle was roughly 53% of the time originally taken. This rate of increase in performance will decrease over time – but it helps consolidate Sudoku skills to neural muscle memory.

Since regular exercise is useful to memory capacity, combining a short break with a Sudoku may be the best form of rest. Recent studies have shown that on average it takes around 23 minutes of distraction from a project before the mind reaches the state of peak relaxation. According to research from the American Psychological Association (APA), the majority of computer users pause for approximately 17 minutes during work for relaxation. Do yourself a favor and use that time to expand your Sudoku skills by participating in a neon online casino tournament.

Start With Easier Puzzles

Several low-difficulty Sudoku Strategies are there such as Naked Single or Lone Single. Naked Single only has one option for a number in a particular cell. These digits are called Naked Pairs, Triples, or Quads because they can easily be placed. One of the best websites for starting with easy Sudoku problems is They offer both a web-based version and a collection of free puzzles in their apps for Android and iOS.

Analyze the notes & numbers carefully. For example, in the image below, initially, the cell labeled 1 only had one option for a number, making it a 2. Surprisingly only cell D3 had all the numbers from 1 to 9 present in the notes cells. Depending on the 4 and 6 present in the notes, one encounters possible digits 4 in cells A3, B1, and f3 and digit 6 in cells B3, E3, G3, h1 and H3. However, in E3, the cells of rows TODO A, C, E, G, or columns B to D and F to H all have ‘6’ as a possible number place. Interestingly, slots of 3*3 blocks in columns D, E, and F all have 6 possibilities.

Study Different Strategies

Studying different strategies is a great way to get better at Sudoku. Various strategies, such as naked or hidden singles, naked or hidden pairs, locked candidates, coloring, swordfish, xy-wing, and remote pairs, can be very helpful for different positions and scenarios. If you familiarize yourself with these strategies, you can help yourself complete a grid much quicker.

Join A Sudoku Community

A good gameplay change is to join a community for increased competition with others. The nature of competitive environments forces players to adapt to others in order to come out on top. Seeing new strategy, discipline, and gameplay in others constantly challenges the player to continually adapt their own strategies, making play more engaging and rewarding.

Moreover, readers are constantly kept aware of new strategies in Sudokus. They can see how the person they are playing against used a strategy successfully and adapt it for their own, changing up the game even further.

The layout of RealSudoku’s website and app integrates the benefits of various social media platforms, such as the ability to comment, like, share, etc. Players can develop and form Sudoku communities with others. This will further engage users with different Sudoku-related content that will provide new ways to learn how to win in Sudoku. They can share and update their ways to Sudoku puzzles. Forming these communities will provide a fun, engaging experience for others along their Sudoku notes journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to Win in Sudoku?

1. What is the goal of Sudoku and how do I win?

Sudoku is a logic-based puzzle game where the goal is to fill a 9×9 grid with numbers 1-9 without repeating any number in each row, column, or 3×3 subgrid. To win, you must fill the entire grid with correct numbers according to the rules.

2. Are there any specific strategies to help me win in Sudoku?

Yes, there are various strategies you can use to improve your chances of winning in Sudoku. Some common techniques include scanning, cross-hatching, and candidate elimination. Doing a quick online search can provide you with a plethora of strategies to try.

3. Is it possible to win in Sudoku without guessing?

Yes, Sudoku is a game that requires logic and deductive reasoning, not guessing. If you’re stuck, try using the “pencil marks” technique to make notes of possible numbers in each cell. This way, you can eliminate possibilities and eventually solve the puzzle without guessing.

4. Can I use any numbers on the grid as long as they don’t repeat?

No, the numbers 1-9 must be used in each row, column, and 3×3 subgrid. Make sure to pay attention to the rules and not just focus on avoiding repetitions.

5. Are there different levels of difficulty in Sudoku and how do I know which one I can win?

Yes, Sudoku puzzles can vary in difficulty, with some being easier to solve than others. If you’re new to the game, it’s recommended to start with easier puzzles and gradually work your way up to more challenging ones. However, don’t be discouraged if you can’t solve a difficult puzzle as it may require more advanced strategies.

6. What should I do if I’m stuck and can’t find a solution?

If you’re stuck and can’t seem to find a way to solve the puzzle, it’s best to take a break and come back to it with a fresh mind. Sometimes, stepping away from the game can help you see the puzzle from a different perspective and find a solution. You can also seek help from online forums or friends who are experienced in playing Sudoku.

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