Tic Tac Toe Gems

written by Sundeep Reddy Thirumuru

Many times we see interesting things emerge from simple rules. In this blog, I want to bring forward some of the interesting game positions I found in Tic Tac Toe game.

Tic Tac Toe is a simple strategy game played by two players. Each player marks a square on their turn. The player who completes a row or a column or a diagonal first wins the game. In a 3x3 game, it is 3 squares in sequence and in a 5x5, it is 4 squares in a sequence to win.

Counter Fork

Fork is a game position where a player needs more than one move to block the opponent from winning. In other words, a player who creates a fork wins in the next move. Fork is fascinating because it is an elevation from making blockable threats to an unblockable win.

Counter fork is a game position where a player creates a fork while blocking the opponent's threat of winning. It is even more interesting because a player who was doing catch up by blocking threats has turned the tables and got to an unblockable winning position.

In the below 3x3 Tic Tac Toe game (a), circles get counter forked after the move a1 with the move c3. Similarly, in the game (b), crosses get counter forked after the move c1 with move a3.

Counter Fork Example 1

game (a)

Counter Fork Example 2

game (b)

Strategic Loss

Blocking only the immediate threats can result in losing the game due to forks. The game can be saved only if one looks for fork setups which are few moves before the visible threat and block them. In other words, just tactical play without strategy would result in a loss.

In the below 3x3 Tic Tac Toe game (c), crosses not making the center move defence b2 for the corner opening a1 results in losing the game.

Strategic Loss Example

game (c)

Beauty of Synergy

Synergy is the interaction between two or more moves that produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their individual effects. Tic Tac Toe game shows the synergy in play in a beautiful way where a sequence of blockable threats combine together to form a fork and eventually an unstoppable win.

In the below 5x5 Tic Tac Toe game (d), crosses make the move a2 to setup a fork but circles counterattack them with a stunning sequence of threats which synergize to create a fork and subsequently a win.

Synergy Example

game (d)