How to Never Lose At Tic Tac Toe

It is inevitable that you will be challenged to a game of Tic Tac Toe in your life-time.  Although it has been proven there is no way to win this game unless your opponent makes an error, there are definitely ways to guarantee you never lose.

We must first examine the tic tac toe board:


If we notice, because of symmetry, spots numbered 1,3,7 and 9 are all basically the same.  We could just rotate the board around and number 1 spot could easily become number 3.  Spots numbered 2,4,6 and 8 are also basically the same for the same reason.  The only unique spot on this board is spot 5.   Therefore there are only really 3 first moves, either a corner spot (1,3,7 and 9), a side spot (2,4,6 and 8) or the center spot (5).  Let’s see how all of those play out.

Option 1 Corner Move:

move1  You can see that your opponent has 5 unique ways to play and unless they play in the center spot, you win!

Option 2 Center Move:


Here there are only two ways for your opponent to counter, a corner move or a side move.  In this instance if they play on the corner it will be a cats game at best but if they play the side you win!

Option 3 Side Move:


If you choose a side spot for your first move then your opponent has 5 unique ways to counter.  As long as your opponent picks a far corner spot or an adjacent side spot you win, if not then at best it’s a cats game.

After examining all the evidence your best play is to go first and pick a corner spot.  This will give you the best chance at winning and at worst you’ll cats game.  Happy playing!

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The Who and Why of Jessica Delgado

I’m Jessica Delgado a teacher, surfer, nature lover, mother of two and a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I would eat sushi for every meal if I could and would spend all my days outside if the weather permitted. I chose the profession of teaching mathematics for many reasons but the biggest one is helping …

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