A book that plays tic-tac-toe with you



A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

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Better clear a VERY big section of your bookcase: 100s of millions of pages won’t even scratch the surface. The number of potential positions in a game of Chess has been estimated to be on the order of 10^120. (That’s 1 followed by 120 zeroes.)

If you could somehow encode 100,000,000 positions on the surface of a single atom, AND did this to every single atom in the entire universe… you still wouldn’t come close.

“I can’t wait for the Chess version – it’ll be a couple of hundred million pages long, so I’ve cleared a spot on my bookshelf for it.”

Wait for the Go version. It’ll require a building of it’s own. Like an aircraft hanger…

I basically “solved” tic-tac-toe in 4th grade. Not through precocious genius, our school was under construction and so our class got shuffled around a lot and we spent a lot of time in “quiet time”, so to pass the time me and adjacent kid just played hundreds of games of tic-tac-toe. After a while we’d not only covered every permutation we realized that we’d covered every permutation and where each potential move would take you.

Mandatory xkcd reference:

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About 40 years ago, I “programmed” an IBM punch-card sorter to play TTT using the same method as this book. First, the cards were sorted to get them into starting sequence, then they were sorted on the first play column, which distributed the cards into output hoppers 1 thru 9. The human played by selecting the cards in the hopper corresponding to the chosen square in the TTT grid, numbered left to right, top to bottom. The response move was printed on the top card, and the subdeck placed in the sorter and sorted on the next play column. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I kept the deck slimmer by eliminating rotation variant beginnings. As I recall, it was about a about 200-300 cards.

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