Count It All As Nought and Crosses

Stuck somewhere in waiting mode and somebody scrounges up paper and draws a Tic-Tac-Toe.   The challenge is too much to resist!

Tic-Tac-Toe was played in Egypt around 1300 B.C. and similar grid games show up in ancient carvings of the Roman Empire.   Some call it Noughts & Crosses or 9-Man Morris.


There are 765 essentially different positions (state space complexity) or 26,830 possible games up to rotations and reflections (game tree complexity).

Yet the winning strategy is easy:

1) If the offense doesn’t take the middle, the defense should.

Corollary:  If offense takes #2 and defense blocks in 4, 6, 7 or 9 instead of middle, offense can win.   Same goes for the other 3 inside spots.   Defense should avoid confusion and always take the middle if it’s untaken.

2) If offense takes the center, defense must block with an outside corner, not one of the four inside spots.

If both combatants know these simple rules, game after game ends in Cat’s Game until persistence wins or somebody goes comatose!

It’s just a game to amuse ourselves and pass the time.   But we must live for a higher purpose.

Paul said he had counted everything life has to offer as nought and crosses (Philippians 3:8, 10).   He considered “all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus …”  He wanted to “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”  Like him, I take up my cross daily and follow the One crucified (Matthew 10:38).

Here, too, persistence wins out.  “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

The joy of making three O’s or X’s in a row and slashing a line through them with Zorro flair will not even compare to being resurrected to a new powerful spiritual body into the Kingdom of God!

The next time you enjoy playing Tic-Tac-Toe, remind yourself of the nought and crosses that really matter.

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Dad with tshirt final

Robert Curry


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