The Rules of Minesweeper

I occasionally get asked for some advice as to how to get better at minesweeper.

Oftentimes, one way to get better that is often underused is to better know the rules. Really. And minesweeper is no exception. Many people are not aware of certain specifics of the rules of minesweeper, and what they therefore imply they can do. Thus, here I am making a post about the rules of minesweeper. If you wish to get better, you might want to take a closer look at statements bolded and what they imply.

(In the following rules, a “square” indicates any of the units in the game of minesweeper that contain either a number, a blank (“0”), or a mine.)

The object of the game of minesweeper is to locate all the mines as quickly as possible. Specifically, the game of minesweeper is won at the point when all squares that are not mines are clicked open.

The game of minesweeper is lost when a square that the player clicks open contains a mine.

The game of minesweeper begins upon the opening of the first square the player clicks open, which starts the timer.

The grid of mines for a board is pre-generated before the start of the game. The first square clicked never contains a mine. If it did contain a mine in the board pre-generation, the mine is moved to the upper-left hand corner of the board, and if that was a mine, the next square over to the right, and so on.

There are two ways to click open a square: left-clicking the square and chording.

To click open a square by left-clicking, click the left mouse button. The square the cursor is over at the point of release of the left mouse button is the square that is opened.

When a square is successfully opened without containing a mine, it shows a number. The number indicates the number of mines that exist in the eight squares touching the square the number was in.

If the number would have been a 0, the number 0 is not shown, and all squares touching that square are opened as well.

When a square is right-clicked, a flag appears over the square. Right-clicking is intended for marking a square as a mine. Right-click again to remove the flag. (Note: In the original windows minesweeper, the second click moves to the ?, and only the third click removes the mark. The ? is obsolete in the professional minesweeper world, and by default nearly all professional minesweeper players turn off the ? option if it exists at all.) Each time a square is flagged, the number of “mines left” display is decremented.

(This process is known as chording.) If the number in a square is equal to the number of squares touching that square that are flagged, double clicking on the number opens up all remaining squares around the number. The game is lost if there is any inaccuracy in the flagging around the number. Specifically, the left mouse button must be released over the square in which the number is while the right mouse button is depressed.

The number of mines in a board is pre-determined. A Beginner board has 10 mines on an 8-by-8 board, an Intermediate board has 40 mines on a 16-by-16 board, and an Expert board has 99 mines on a 16-by-30 board. (Note: In Windows XP and later, Beginner is on a 9-by-9 board. The 9-by-9 board is not used in the official minesweeper community for records.)

(Note: Windows Minesweeper is not accepted officially for minesweeper records, because it is too easy to cheat with. The accepted versions are Clone, Arbiter, X, and VS, which can be downloaded at

(Note: In addition, one might add the rule that in official versions, the 3BV of a Beginner board is at least 2 (and 3 in some), the 3BV of an Intermediate board is at least 30, and the 3BV of an Expert board is at least 100. If you wish to learn more about things like 3BV, visit this page.)

(Note: Vista and later minesweepers in Windows are so distant from the original that they might as well not be considered minesweeper.)

This should actually be a fair speed-up in minesweeper skills, if considered thoroughly.

2 thoughts on “The Rules of Minesweeper”

  1. I don’t understand what the white squares mean. Can any of those be bombs?

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