The Hardest Easy Game

  • Published: 04 November 2019
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    Edward de Bono is a lot of things -- an author, an economic theorist, a physician -- but he’s also a thinker about… thinking. His 1967 book “The Five-Day Course in Thinking” included a game that’s one of the hardest in the world, yet also one of the simplest.

    The idea behind creating the perfectly simple, perfectly impossible exercise that turned into The L-Game was to distill a 2-player experience down to a constant churn of critical strategic decisions. By limiting the board to just 16 spaces with 2 L-shaped tetrominoes and 2 neutral pieces, the board can’t distract from the core task. And with so few rules -- really, just that you need to move your L piece to an open space and then optionally move one of the neutrals -- the focus is purely on thinking several moves in advance.

    That level of abstraction is way, way harder than it seems. But by using experience to identify and organize some strategic guiding principles to moving in the L-Game, it’s possible for both players to play perfectly -- and forever.

    As de Bono demonstrates in his course, that’s the same sort of approach we apply to almost everything we value. We think strategically about the groceries we buy, the relationships we have or want… if it matters, we employ some form of strategy. And the better we are at strategic thinking, the more likely we are to get the result we need.

    And it all starts with a 4x4 board, two tetrominoes, and a couple pennies.

    *** SOURCES ***

    "The L Game: Strategic Thinking". The Five-Day Course in Thinking by Edward de Bono:

    "Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays, Vol. 2," by By Elwyn R. Berlekamp, John H. Conway, and Richard K. Guy:

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    Research And Writing by Matthew Tabor

    Editing by AspectScience

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Comments • 1 722

  • Vsauce2
    Vsauce2   2 weeks back

    Just some clarification about only having 3 possible moves in the A, B, and C scenario -- yes, there’s also a fourth move (the L down the left side from the top corner), but it just mirrors the situation we have in A and B. By simply reflecting the L vertically, we open ourselves up to another immediate loss as orange places a horizontal L on the second row and kills our chance to make another move. 

    Also, in move B, de Bono assumed that we would notice that Player 1 also moved the neutral piece from the top toward the bottom (since it can go in any of the open spots), which opens up a spot for Player 2 to go down the right half of the board. The neutral piece can’t be moved by orange *before* the L is moved, so that neutral piece had to have been moved by pink after Player 1 moved their L. 

    Thanks for diving deep into these details -- and showing what strategic thinking is all about.

    P.S. -- Whether or not I put my pants back on for the rest of the video is up to you to decide.

    • jC3drums
      jC3drums  2 days back

      ​@Jivan Scarano That makes no sense. In that scenario, player 1 could have stayed alive for one more turn by not moving the coin. In other words, Vsauce2 did not demonstrate all possible moves. In other words, he messed up.

      Also, as others have said, all possible moves would include every possible coin move as well. He included none, aside from the mistake in scenario B. Perhaps he left them out for the sake of brevity, because at least with scenario A, it appears moving a coin would not help player 1 to avoid an instant loss. But he really messed up on scenario B.

      Furthermore, if Vsauce2 meant for player 1 to move the coin, he should have shown it in "My Possible Moves". So, once again, he messed up. What makes it worse is that he couldn't admit it, and came up with a lame excuse instead.

    • wario stalin
      wario stalin  1 weeks back


    • bryceowen
      bryceowen  1 weeks back

      @Liam Swedberg Came here to make this same comment. If you're allowed to break the rules, then EVERYONE wins! (Or loses... Whatever.)

    • MitchTheWise
      MitchTheWise  2 weeks back

      Vsauce2 I would be interested to know if chess is discussed in the strategic thinking course. As you were describing all the things you and your opponent need to keep track of and the concept of predicting your opponent’s next 2-3 moves, I couldn’t help but draw similarities to chess.

  • Kazi Shadid Raiyan
    Kazi Shadid Raiyan  11 hours back

    You look like William Wallace with that lighting on your face :v

    • Zaphax Gaming
      Zaphax Gaming  12 hours back

      Vsause: presenting the L-game
      His friend : Trying to defeat him
      V: seeing his friend has a spot that will defeat him
      His friend : put in the other spot
      V : smiles like a ghost
      His friend : No, no you can't no wait there's gotta be a way
      V : *Starts L-dancing*
      His friend : Nuuuu

      • John Adams
        John Adams  17 hours back

        what happened to the lighting...

        • potato game A.
          potato game A.  21 hours back


          • Izzyp
            Izzyp  22 hours back

            i just won against the computer online haha I feel smart

            • GONK droid
              GONK droid  23 hours back

              *GET READY TO L*

              • Leonard Eisen
                Leonard Eisen  1 days back

                If I’m not mistaken, the “Counter Move for B that he offers at 05:30 would have required the opposing player/viewer to move the neutral piece before moving their L which is not a legal move.

                • Jorden Haws
                  Jorden Haws  2 days back

                  to this day we still dont know if he is wearing pants

                  • Hadiya Howard
                    Hadiya Howard  2 days back

                    It seems like Kevin’s face is painted

                    • Slinkizy
                      Slinkizy  2 days back

                      the question I asked for the whole video:
                      DID KEVIN PUT BACK ON HIS PANTS????

                      • Donovan Cooper
                        Donovan Cooper  2 days back

                        Complicated tic tac toe

                        • Ateis Fowl
                          Ateis Fowl  2 days back

                          So the hardest easy game is in fact, life?

                          • Swathii Selvakumar
                            Swathii Selvakumar  2 days back

                            Ah... a game where my paranoia helps me out

                            • MrsongLK
                              MrsongLK  2 days back

                              "Sounds Easy Eh?"

                              • I am stupider
                                I am stupider  3 days back

                                If the hardest easy game it should be medium

                                • Studio Sessions
                                  Studio Sessions  3 days back

                                  Teacher: The test is easy.
                                  THE TEST:

                                  • Jorge C. M.
                                    Jorge C. M.  3 days back

                                    I can't even see the consequences of one move in chess

                                    • Jorge C. M.
                                      Jorge C. M.  3 days back

                                      Computer AI is ruuuuuude

                                      • Zeke Phoenix
                                        Zeke Phoenix  3 days back

                                        Doesnt possibility b not work for the first part because you would have to move the neutral piece before you move the orange piece?

                                        • rodrigo fernandez
                                          rodrigo fernandez  4 days back

                                          It´s just like chess

                                          • Cyn aaa
                                            Cyn aaa  4 days back

                                            "men's clothing" bitch where's the anti-microbial women's clothing at

                                            • Arthur W
                                              Arthur W  4 days back

                                     we did it boys

                                              • Coaster Brain
                                                Coaster Brain  4 days back

                                                0:58 let me just take off my pants

                                                • ShicoLoveLife
                                                  ShicoLoveLife  4 days back

                                                  L loves this game

                                                  • Ilya Rudnitskiy
                                                    Ilya Rudnitskiy  4 days back

                                                    Just chess though.

                                                    • JerrYReaPPer
                                                      JerrYReaPPer  4 days back

                                                      I just mastered it.

                                                      • Lee Jason
                                                        Lee Jason  4 days back

                                                        Next episode:
                                                        The easiest hard game

                                                        • Jonathan CHAN
                                                          Jonathan CHAN  4 days back

                                                          *Do not let this video distract you from the fact that Mr krabs sold spongebob's soul for 62 cents*

                                                          • Tanner Hansen
                                                            Tanner Hansen  4 days back

                                                            At 5:46 B is an impossible move

                                                            • Xboy
                                                              Xboy  5 days back

                                                              4 minutes into the video and my brain hurts

                                                              • Cooper Postma
                                                                Cooper Postma  5 days back

                                                                Does the people who play it have adhd an he is red and blue

                                                                • Daniel Dahlgren
                                                                  Daniel Dahlgren  5 days back

                                                                  It's pretty easy to win vs the bot on that site you linked to the game. One trick is to make the base of your L along the "height" of his L and make the "top" of your L touch the wall.

                                                                  • John A
                                                                    John A  5 days back

                                                                    Dr. Strange wishes he would’ve had better strategic principles instead of living out all 14,000,065 possible futures lol

                                                                    • Elpio
                                                                      Elpio  5 days back

                                                                      wait why couldnt he also flip it vertically at 4:10?

                                                                      • emruss2
                                                                        emruss2  6 days back

                                                                        Is there another possibility in the example that you showed? You show three possible moves. If I number the squares Top to Bottom and Left to right as 2 digit numbers,
                                                                        the possible moves that you show are (11 12 21 31) (11 12 22 32) ( 21 22 31 41) but isn't (11 21 31 32) another possibility? I t seems as though if you made that move and then move the penny from 42 to 34 you would have won?? Am I missing something? Thank you.

                                                                        • MrBoogyBam
                                                                          MrBoogyBam  6 days back

                                                                          i won this game...

                                                                          • Alektorophobic Carrot
                                                                            Alektorophobic Carrot  6 days back

                                                                            1:34 if you are lazy like me and this is the top comment. It skips the sponsor, thank me later

                                                                            • THE Brother Holmes
                                                                              THE Brother Holmes  6 days back

                                                                              I played against the computer and won on my 2nd turn! (1st game)

                                                                              • Random YT
                                                                                Random YT  6 days back

                                                                                So basically chess

                                                                                • POwered byNOobz
                                                                                  POwered byNOobz  6 days back

                                                                                  I lost brain cells when i read the title

                                                                                  • Tay Gumi
                                                                                    Tay Gumi  6 days back

                                                                                    It reminds me one of my friends, which is smart as Admiral thrawn from SW. xD no bothering

                                                                                    • Renzo Polcaro
                                                                                      Renzo Polcaro  6 days back


                                                                                      Vsauce 2: let me just take off my pants

                                                                                      • nicolas Francisco
                                                                                        nicolas Francisco  6 days back

                                                                                        I thought "Hey! Vsauce micheal here."

                                                                                        • Henry Lavender
                                                                                          Henry Lavender  6 days back

                                                                                          @ 4:10 , aren't there 4 possible moves?

                                                                                          • Gamemauser
                                                                                            Gamemauser  6 days back

                                                                                            4:40 there are more than 3 moves

                                                                                            • Latina Anderson
                                                                                              Latina Anderson  6 days back

                                                                                              I'm bummed that this channel doesn't seem to have any more content about all the interesting creative creations in art, science and technology happening out there. Bidipi was my favorite!

                                                                                              • Richie P
                                                                                                Richie P  6 days back

                                                                                                It's complicated as L.