In a ladder situation, the players have two different roles: The player who tries to connect to the edge is the attacker, and the player who tries to prevent the other from connecting is called the defender. Here is an example where Red is the attacker and Blue is the defender, with Blue to move.
Generally the attacker has the momentum. The defender's moves are usually forced; he has to defend or else the attacker will connect.
The defender has two options: he can push or he can yield. Pushing means to play a move on the same row as the earlier moves, while yielding means to allow the attacker to get one row closer to the edge. The two possibilities are marked with a star in this diagram:
It is usually best to continue pushing until the attacker does something else, but occasionally it is essential to yield in order to avoid one of Red's outposts, as in the following diagram:
If Blue pushes in this diagram, Red will be able to connect to the bottom. If Blue yields instead, Red won't be able to. It is important for Blue to yield at precisely the right moment. Had he done it one move earlier, Red would have connected to the bottom.
Red usually has three options: he can push, break or jump. The possibilities are shown in the following diagram:
- Pushing means to continue with adjacent moves on the same row.
- Breaking means to play on the same row, but skipping one hex.
- Jumping means to go one row further away from the edge. Note that jumping is a move similar (symmetric) to the defender´s yielding; however jumping is usually an offensive move, while yielding is very |defensive, hence they have different words.
Jumping is used when the attacker has a ladder escape but needs to get further from the edge to use it. Here is a standard example:
Red first jumps to (*). If Blue makes the standard response, Red's next move is (+), making a connection to the bottom.