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Tactital Toe: Continuing the theme of talking about games nobody wants to play: tic-tac-toe. I've long been fascinated by the mental process of mastering a game, and tic-tac-toe is interesting to me because I remember the process of mastering it.

Initially my opponents and I played tic-tac-toe according to rules of thumb. The first player always played the center square because it was the best-connected square and it was part of the most winning combinations. Then, I discovered forks. With this tactic, you capture two edge spaces while your opponent takes the center. If you're lucky, you can block their third move with a move that sets you up to win two different ways. This is the most satisfaction possible out of a game of tic-tac-toe.

But soon enough, certainly by fourth grade, everyone had figured out how to block forks, and games of tic-tac-toe always ended in draws. But even then there was a certain meta-game that was fun for a while, playing five-second games of tic-tac-toe in quick succession, reveling in our newly acquired powers of always being able to tie, playing until one of us would slip up and lose.


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