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Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays, volume 3

Elwyn R. Berlekamp, John Horton Conway and Richard K. Guy
A K Peters
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The Basic Library List Committee considers this book essential for undergraduate mathematics libraries.

[Reviewed by
Fernando Q. Gouvêa
, on

Second editions often pose a problem: are they new enough, different enough, to be worth getting even if one already owns the original edition? The answer, of course, is "it depends."

Winning Ways, as we have noted before before (in fact, twice before), was a ground-breaking book when it came out in 1982. It created a whole new approach to the mathematics of combinatorial games that has led to much progress since then (see, for example, our reviews of Games of No Chance and of More Games of No Chance). But Winning Ways is still valuable, and it is just as much fun today as it was 21 years ago. The new edition has been split into four volumes instead of the original two, so there's still one more to come. Volume 3 (dealing with "Games in Clubs", which means that the games have been grouped together according to how you play them) is considerably fatter, it seems to me, than the first half of the old volume 2. Several of the chapters have been revised, which makes the new edition definitely worth having.

Plus, the games are fun. Every math teacher should teach students how to play "Sprouts" on the blackboard (just perfect for those classes just before a holiday when only half the students are there). And how can one resist things such as "Fox-Flocks-Fox" and "Chessgo, Kinggo, and Dukego"?

Fernando Q. Gouvêa is Professor of Mathematics at Colby College in Waterville, ME.


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