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Open Field Tic-Tac-Toe

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Open Field Tic-Tac-Toe, illustration

In the spirit of Gomoku, two people play a version of the classic paper-and-pencil game tic-tac-toe but on an infinite checkerboard. In it, a player wins by getting four pieces in a row—vertically, horizontally, or diagonally.

Warm-up. Can the first player—blue—force a win in seven turns or less, where a turn consists of both blue and red placing pieces.

Solution to warm-up. The first player can force a win in five turns. Blue moves. No matter where red moves, blue can, in the second move, have two in a row.


Red must now respond to prevent blue from having three in a row that is open on both ends. So R blocks, giving us something like


Blue can now force a two-by-two fork with


No matter where red goes, blue can force an open-ended vertical or horizontal line with three blues, as in


So… now that we know how it works, let us try it for some other problems.

Suppose we have a board with a nine-by-nine grid with the following configuration, and red is about to take the next turn. Can either side force a win?


Solution. Yes, red can force a win. Red threatens…


Blue then red then blue…


Red continues to threaten…


Blue responds…


Red now gets three in a row…


Upstart. Suppose the board is a six-by-six grid with a red exactly in every corner? Blue moves first. There is no limit on the number of turns. Can either side force a win?

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