Sudoku rules for beginners: How to play and tips

Our step-by-step guide will help your latest sudoku grid...

Gentleman Playing Sudoku

by Red Edwards |

If you want to know how to play sudoku then you've come to the right place. Our step-by-step guide will help you learn how to solve any sudoku.

We're going to teach you every basic rule of sudoku, so next time you lock eyes on the sudoku puzzle book, you'll be eager to play and raring to go.

Sudoku rules at a glance:

• You can only use the numbers 1 to 9

• Avoid trying to guess the solution to the puzzle

• Use the process of elimination as a tactic instead

• You can only use each number once in each row, column, & grid

• Use cross-hatching and penciling in techniques

Follow these five rules and you should be able to solve any sudoku puzzle! There are different levels of difficulty when it comes to sudoku, so if you find yourself struggling to complete the puzzle don’t be too hard on yourself, you may just be trying to solve a real tough one.

If you’ve never played sudoku before, these rules will still probably be sounding pretty alien to you. Continue reading for our full sudoku rules for beginners.

Why play sudoku?

Those who’ve never played sudoku will most likely look at it and automatically think it’s a mathematical game, but it’s actually not. Sudoku is in fact based on logic and having a careful eye, making it a great brain training game. Lots of people play it to improve their playing skills, with many timing how fast they can complete the game. It’s also great for improving your concentration, problem-solving skills and is even thought to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Sudoku rules for beginners

1. Know the Sudoku grid

Sudoku grid example
Sudoku grid example ©masteringsudoku.com

Sudoku is played across a grid of 9 x 9 spaces, and amongst the rows and columns, are 9 separate 'squares' (each made up of 3 x 3 spaces).

There are a total of 81 spaces across the entire sudoku 'board', and each space will ultimately be filled with a number between 1 and 9.

Typically, a new sudoku board will already have some spaces filled in with numbers, and based on how difficult the puzzle is, the board will feature less numbers and indicators that hint at what the answer is.

2. Know the basic rules

1. Every square has to be filled in with a single number from 1 to 9.

2. You must not repeat the same number within the same row, column or square. (So, only the numbers 1-9 can be used just once).

3. Each vertical column must only contain each number from 1 to 9 once.

4. Each horizontal row must only contain each number from 1 to 9 once.

Top tip: No number can be repeated in any 3×3 box, row, or column! And the goal is to fill each 9 square row, each 9 square column and each 9 square box with the numbers 1 to 9 only, with each number used once and only once in each section.

3. Do NOT guess

Sudoku is a game where logic is at its forefront. You shouldn't have to guess when playing sudoku. Be patient, recognise patterns and have a clear mind to play your best game.

If you're finding the game slightly difficult and you're not sure what number to put in a certain space, just remain calm and scan other areas of the grid until you see an opportunity to put a number in.

Filled-in Sudoko Puzzle Book
©Getty

Did you know? Sudoku can be a real tranquil treat when you're just after something mellow to kill some time and want to clear your headspace.

4. Find gaps that can only be one specific number

As we know, the sudoku board will already feature numbers placed on it, which enables players to work out where more numbers should go.

Sudoku game example

If you look at the above example, from masteringsudoku.com, you can see that only the number 2 can go in the square that is highlighted blue.

This is because the numbers 1, 8 and 9 already appear within the space, so they cannot be placed. The numbers 3 and 5 cannot be placed as they already appear in the same column as the highlighted 2. And consequently, the numbers 4, 6 and 7 will not fit as they appear in the same row as the highlighted 2.

Leaving only the number 2 to fit in the highlighted spot.

5. Main rule of sudoku: Using the process of elimination

As we just described above, the process of elimination is pretty much the main rule of thumb when playing sudoku.

You should repeat this process until you can start filing in the board with ease, and voila! You're on your way to becoming an expert.

Why not check out our selection of puzzle books, including sudoku, of course, to keep your mind occupied...

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