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# Impartial Games for Generating Groups

Loosely speaking, a group is a set together with an associative binary operation that satisfies a few modest conditions: the "product" of any two elements from the set is an element of the set (closure), there exists a "do nothing" element (identity), and for every element in the set, there exists another element in the set that "undoes" the original (inverses). Let G be a finite group. Given a single element from G, we can create new elements of the group by raising the element to various powers. Given two elements, we have even more options for creating new elements by combining powers of the two elements. Since G is finite, some finite number of elements will "generate" all of G. In the game DO GENERATE, two players alternately select elements from G. At each stage, a group is generated by the previously selected elements. The winner is the player that generates all of G. There is an alternate version of the game called DO NOT GENERATE in which the loser is the player that generates all of G. In this talk, we will explore both games and discuss winning strategies. Time permitting, we may also relay some current research related to both games.

This talk was given on April 23, 2013 as part of the Cool Math Talk series at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

April 23, 2013

## Transcript

1. ### Impartial games for generating groups Dana C. Ernst Northern Arizona

University Department of Mathematics and Statistics http://danaernst.com UNO Cool Math Talk Series April 23, 2013 D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 1 / 21
2. ### Combinatorial Game Theory Intuitive Deﬁnition Combinatorial Game Theory (CGT) is

the study of two-person games satisfying: • Two players alternate making moves. • No hidden information. • No random moves. • The game sequence is ﬁnite and there are no ties. • Normal Play: The last play to move wins. • Mis` ere Play: The last player to move loses. Example Combinatorial games: • Chess • Connect Four • Nim • X-Only Tic-Tac-Toe Non-combinatorial games: • Battleship (hidden information) • Rock-Paper-Scissors (non-alternating and random) • Poker (hidden information and random) • Tic-Tac-Toe (ties are possible) D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 2 / 21
3. ### Impartial vs Partizan Deﬁnition A combinatorial game is called impartial

if the move options are the same for both players. Otherwise, the game is called partizan. Example Partizan: • Chess • Connect Four Impartial: • Nim • X-Only Tic-Tac-Toe Note • We will explore a few impartial games. • When analyzing games, we will assume that both players make optimal moves. • The player that moves ﬁrst is called α and the second player is called β. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 3 / 21
4. ### Nim Single-pile Nim Start with a pile of n stones.

Each player chooses at least one stone from the pile. The player that takes the last stone wins. . . . . . . n Question Is there an optimal strategy for either player? Answer This game is sort of boring as α always wins; just take the whole pile. Let’s crank it up a notch. Multi-pile Nim Start with k piles of stones consisting of n1, n2, . . . , nk stones, respectively. Each player chooses at least one stone from a single pile. The player that takes the last stone wins. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 4 / 21
5. ### Nim (continued) Example Let’s start with 3 piles consisting of

1, 2, and 3 stones. Here’s a possible sequence. . . (1, 2, 3) α → . . (1, 2, 2) β → . . (0, 2, 2) α → . . (0, 1, 2) β → . . (0, 1, 1) α → . . (0, 1, 0) β → . . Yay! . (0, 0, 0) In this case, β wins. Question Is there an optimal strategy for either player? Answer The short answer is yes. The big picture is to whittle down to an even number of piles with a single stone. If the players make optimal moves, this is only possible for one of the players. The long answer involves nimbers. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 5 / 21
6. ### Mis` ere Nim Mis` ere Version of Nim In this

alternate version of Nim, the player that takes the last stone loses. Example Let’s start with (1, 2, 3) again. . . (1, 2, 3) α → . . (1, 2, 2) β → . . (0, 2, 2) α → . . (0, 1, 2) β → . . (0, 1, 0) α → . . Doh! . (0, 0, 0) β wins again. Optimal Play • If there is a single pile, then α wins by taking all but one stone. • If there is more than one pile, then the general strategy is to whittle down to an odd number of piles with a single stone. • As with normal-play Nim, a more detailed analysis involves nimbers. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 6 / 21
7. ### X-Only Tic-Tac-Toe Single Board X-Only Tic-Tac-Toe Start with a single

ordinary Tic-Tac-Toe board. Place a single X in any empty square. The ﬁrst player to get 3 in a row wins. Example Let’s take a look at an example. α → X β → X X α → X X X β → X X X X α → X X X X X Boom, α wins. Optimal Play It’s pretty easy to see that α can always wins. In fact, if α plays in the middle square, the game is over quickly. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 7 / 21
8. ### Mis` ere X-Only Tic-Tac-Toe Single-board Notakto In the mis` ere

version of X-Only Tic-Tac-Toe (also called Notakto), the player that gets three in a row loses. Question Is there are clear winner? Optimal Play If α’s ﬁrst move is in the center square, then α wins. X Question What happens if we increase the number of boards that we can play on? D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 8 / 21
9. ### Multi-Board X-Only Tic-Tac-Toe Multi-Board X-Only Tic-Tac-Toe Suppose there are k

boards. • Normal Play: Players place an X in any open square on a single board. Once a board has 3 in row, that board is removed from play. The player that gets 3 in a row on the last remaining board wins. • Notakto: In the mis` ere version, the player to get three in a row on the last remaining board loses. Optimal Play For Notakto, a complete analysis involves an 18 element commutative monoid. Note • If you want to know more, check out “The Secrets of Notakto: Winning at X-only Tic-Tac-Toe” (http://arxiv.org/abs/1301.1672). • Also, check out the free iPad app called Notakto. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 9 / 21
10. ### Groups Before discussing the next game, we need to introduce

groups. Groups are fundamental objects in mathematics. Loosely speaking, start with a collection of objects, throw in a method for combining two objects together so that it satisﬁes some reasonable requirements and you’ve got yourself a group. Intuitive Deﬁnition Slightly more rigorously, a group is a set with an associative binary operation satisfying: • Closure: “Product” of any two elements from the set is an element of the set. • Identity: There exists a “do nothing” element. • Inverses: For every element in the set, there exists another element in the set that “undoes” the original. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 10 / 21
11. ### Examples of Groups Example • Z is a group under

addition. Identity is 0 and inverse of n is −n. • Z under multiplication is not a group. Why? If n ̸= ±1, then the inverse of n is not an integer. • R \ {0} is a group under multiplication. Identity is 1 and inverse of each non-zero real number is its reciprocal. • The set Zn = {0, 1, 2, . . . , n − 1} is a group under addition modulo n. Identity is 0 and inverse of k is n − k. • The set Dn of symmetries (rotations and reﬂections) of a regular n-gon is a group under composition. Identity is the rotation by 0◦, inverse of a rotation is the rotation in the opposite direction, and inverse of a reﬂection is the same reﬂection. Dn is non-commutative (i.e., order of composition matters) and consists of 2n elements. • The set Sn of permutations of n objects under composition is a non-commutative group with n! elements. Identity is the element that does not scramble anything and the inverse of a permutation is the permutation that reverses the scrambling. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 11 / 21
12. ### Group Tables One way of representing a ﬁnite group is

with a group table. Example The following table depicts Z6 (written multiplicatively). The product of x times y is the entry in the row labelled x and column labelled y. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 12 / 21
13. ### Group Tables (continued) Example The following table depicts D4 (symmetries

of a square). In this case, r is rotation by 90◦ clockwise, f is reﬂection across one of the diagonals, and e is the identity. Observations • Order matters, but not always (e.g., rf ̸= fr, fr2 = r2f ). • Every element has been written in terms of r and f . • e, r, r2, r3 are rotations. • f , rf , fr, r2f are reﬂections. • Composition of two reﬂections is a rotation (by twice the angle between them). D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 13 / 21
14. ### Generators Deﬁnition Let G be a ﬁnite group. The set

generated by g1, g2, . . . , gn ∈ G is the subset of elements in G that we can construct using only g1, g2, . . . , gn . We denote this set via ⟨g1, g2, . . . , gn⟩. Example Consider Z6 . Then • ⟨0⟩ = {0} • ⟨2⟩ = {2, 4, 0} • ⟨2, 4⟩ = {2, 4, 0} • ⟨3⟩ = {3, 0} • ⟨2, 3⟩ = {2, 4, 0, 3, 5, 1} = Z6 • ⟨1⟩ = {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 0} = Z6 Consider D4 . Then • ⟨e⟩ = {e} • ⟨f ⟩ = {f , e} • ⟨r⟩ = {r, r2, r3, e} • ⟨r2⟩ = {r2, e} • ⟨r, f ⟩ = {r, r2, r3, e, f , fr, rf , r2f } = D4 • ⟨f , fr⟩ = {f , e, fr, r, r2, r3, rf , r2f } = D4 D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 14 / 21
15. ### Generators (continued) Fact 1 If G is a ﬁnite group,

then there is always a ﬁnite set of elements that generates all of G. Fact 2 We always have ⟨g1, g2, . . . , gk ⟩ ⊆ ⟨g1, g2, . . . , gk , gk+1 ⟩ (and may have equality). Fact 3 Zn = ⟨k⟩ if and only if n and k are relatively prime (i.e., have no prime factors in common). Fact 4 Dn = ⟨rk , f ⟩ = ⟨f , f ′⟩, where r is a single-click rotation, k is relatively prime to n, and f and f ′ are any adjacent reﬂections. No single element generates Dn (for n ≥ 3). Careful! There may be larger sets that generate these groups having the property that no strictly smaller subset generates the whole group (e.g., ⟨2, 3⟩ = Z6 ). D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 15 / 21
16. ### GENERATE Game The following game was introduced by F. Harary

in 1987. GENERATE Game Let G be a ﬁnite group with more than one element. On the ﬁrst move, α chooses some g1 ∈ G. On the kth move, a player chooses gk ∈ G \ {g1, g2, . . . gk−1 }. The winner is the player that generates all of G with their choice together with previous choices. Choice Set Generated g1 ⟨g1⟩ g2 ⟨g1, g2⟩ g3 ⟨g1, g2, g3⟩ . . . . . . gk−1 ⟨g1, g2, g3, . . . gk−1 ⟩ ̸= G gk ⟨g1, g2, g3, . . . gk−1 , gk ⟩ = G The player that chooses gk wins. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 16 / 21
17. ### GENERATE for Zn Example GENERATE is pretty boring with Zn

. Let’s look at Z6 (with non-optimal play). Choice Set Generated a4 ⟨a4⟩ = {a4, a2, e} a3 ⟨a4, a3⟩ = {a4, a2, e, a3, a, a5} In this case, β wins. However, α could have won immediately by choosing a or a5. Optimal play for Zn For Zn , α can always win GENERATE in one move by choosing any ak , where n and k are relatively prime. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 17 / 21
18. ### GENERATE for Dn Example Dn is more interesting. Let’s look

at D4 . Choice Set Generated r2 ⟨r2⟩ = {r2, e} e ⟨r2, e⟩ = {r2, e} f ⟨r2, e, f ⟩ = {r2, e, f , r2f } r ⟨r2, e, f , r⟩ = D4 β wins again. In fact, we have the following fact. Optimal play for Dn with n a multiple of 4 In this case, β is guaranteed to win (F.W. Barnes, 1988). General strategy: If α chooses rk with n and k relatively prime or any reﬂection, then β wins on next move. To win, β stalls by picking available rm with n and m not relatively prime. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 18 / 21
19. ### GENERATE for Dn (continued) Example What if n is not

a multiple of 4? Let’s look at D5 . Choice Set Generated e ⟨e⟩ = {e} r2 ⟨r2⟩ = {r2, frf = r4, r, r3, e} f D5 This time α wins. And when n is not a multiple of 4, α can always win. Optimal play for Dn with n not a multiple of 4 In this case, α is guaranteed to win (F.W. Barnes, 1988). D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 19 / 21
20. ### DO NOT GENERATE Game As with the other games, there

is a mis` ere version of GENERATE. DO NOT GENERATE Game Let G be a ﬁnite group. On the ﬁrst move, α chooses some g1 ∈ G. On the kth move, a player chooses gk ∈ G \ {g1, g2, . . . gk−1 }. The loser is the player that generates all of G with their choice together with previous choices. Choice Set Generated g1 ⟨g1⟩ g2 ⟨g1, g2⟩ g3 ⟨g1, g2, g3⟩ . . . . . . gk−1 ⟨g1, g2, g3, . . . gk−1 ⟩ ̸= G gk ⟨g1, g2, g3, . . . gk−1 , gk ⟩ = G The player that chooses gk loses. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 20 / 21
21. ### DO NOT GENERATE Game for Arbitrary Groups Theorem (F.W. Barnes,

1988) Let G be any ﬁnite group with more than one element. Then α wins DO NOT GENERATE if and only if there is a g ∈ G such that • ⟨g⟩ has an odd number of elements; • ⟨g⟩ ̸= G; • ⟨g, h⟩ = G for all non-identity elements h ∈ G such that h2 = 1. Otherwise, β wins. Corollary • The player α wins DO NOT GENERATE on Zn if and only if n is odd or not a multiple of 4. Otherwise, β wins. • The player α wins DO NOT GENERATE on Dn if and only if n odd. Otherwise, β wins. D.C. Ernst Impartial games for generating groups 21 / 21