# Computer analysis of Sprouts with nimbers

• Published in 2010
In the collections
Sprouts is a two-player topological game, invented in 1967 in the University of Cambridge by John Conway and Michael Paterson. The game starts with p spots, and ends in at most 3p-1 moves. The first player who cannot play loses. The complexity of the p-spot game is very high, so that the best hand-checked proof only shows who the winner is for the 7-spot game, and the best previous computer analysis reached p=11. We have written a computer program, using mainly two new ideas. The nimber (also known as Sprague-Grundy number) allows us to compute separately independent subgames; and when the exploration of a part of the game tree seems to be too difficult, we can manually force the program to search elsewhere. Thanks to these improvements, we reached up to p=32. The outcome of the 33-spot game is still unknown, but the biggest computed value is the 47-spot game ! All the computed values support the Sprouts conjecture: the first player has a winning strategy if and only if p is 3, 4 or 5 modulo 6. We have also used a check algorithm to reduce the number of positions needed to prove which player is the winner. It is now possible to hand-check all the games until p=11 in a reasonable amount of time.

## Other information

key
Lemoine2010
type
article
2012-04-21
date_published
2010-08-01
arxivId
1008.2320
journal
Analysis
pages
17

### BibTeX entry

@article{Lemoine2010,
key = {Lemoine2010},
type = {article},
title = {Computer analysis of Sprouts with nimbers},
author = {Lemoine, Julien and Viennot, Simon},
abstract = {Sprouts is a two-player topological game, invented in 1967 in the University of Cambridge by John Conway and Michael Paterson. The game starts with p spots, and ends in at most 3p-1 moves. The first player who cannot play loses. The complexity of the p-spot game is very high, so that the best hand-checked proof only shows who the winner is for the 7-spot game, and the best previous computer analysis reached p=11. We have written a computer program, using mainly two new ideas. The nimber (also known as Sprague-Grundy number) allows us to compute separately independent subgames; and when the exploration of a part of the game tree seems to be too difficult, we can manually force the program to search elsewhere. Thanks to these improvements, we reached up to p=32. The outcome of the 33-spot game is still unknown, but the biggest computed value is the 47-spot game ! All the computed values support the Sprouts conjecture: the first player has a winning strategy if and only if p is 3, 4 or 5 modulo 6. We have also used a check algorithm to reduce the number of positions needed to prove which player is the winner. It is now possible to hand-check all the games until p=11 in a reasonable amount of time.},
comment = {},
date_published = {2010-08-01},
urls = {http://arxiv.org/abs/1008.2320,http://arxiv.org/pdf/1008.2320v1},
collections = {Unusual arithmetic,Computational complexity of games},
archivePrefix = {arXiv},
arxivId = {1008.2320},
eprint = {1008.2320},
journal = {Analysis},
month = {aug},
pages = 17,
url = {http://arxiv.org/abs/1008.2320 http://arxiv.org/pdf/1008.2320v1},
year = 2010,
primaryClass = {math.CO},
urldate = {2012-04-21}
}