Chopsticks (hand game)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The game's scores are tracked on the fingers of both hands

Chopsticks is a hand game for two players, in which players extend a number of fingers from each hand and transfer those scores by taking turns to tap one hand against another.[1][2] Chopsticks is an example of a combinatorial game, and is solved in the sense that with perfect play an optimal strategy from any point is known.


  • Each player uses both hands to play the game, the number of fingers extended on a hand shows the number of points that the hand has.
  • Both players start with each hand having one point — one finger extended on each hand.
  • The goal of the game is for a player to force their opponent to extend all of their fingers and thumbs on both hands or to force the player to extend all their fingers and thumb and one hand if their other hand is already out. The score has to be exactly five. If the resulting number is more than five, the player is not out no matter what. For example, if a hand with 4 points is tapped by a hand with 2 points, the hand with 4 points becomes a hand with 1 point. This rule is called a 'roll over'.[3]
  • Players take turns to tap their live hand(s) against another live hand (either their own other hand or one of their opponent's).
    • You can tap any live hand per turn, but only one
  • The number of points on the tapping hand is added to the number on the tapped hand, and the player with the tapped hand extends their digits to show the new score. The tapping hand remains unchanged.
  • A player may tap their two hands together to transfer points from one hand to the other. This is called a split. For example, if a player has 4 on one hand and 2 on the other, they are not allowed to switch. Only if it splits evenly. Additionally, if a player has one hand out (0 fingers) and two fingers, on the other hand, they could split to have one finger on each hand.(This does not count as a turn).You are allowed to "swap hands" or switch the number of fingers between hands without splitting (going from 4 on one hand and 2 on the other to 2 on one hand and 4 on the other).

Optimal strategy[edit]

For the specific variation described above, the first player has a winning strategy (can always force a win). One winning strategy is to always reach one of the following configurations after each of your moves, preferentially choosing the first one in the list if there is more than one choice. Each configuration will be given as [a,b],[c,d] where [a,b] represents your two hands (ignoring order) and [c,d] represents your opponent's.

  • [2,1],[1,1] (You start here.)
  • [?,?],[1,2] (Win immediately if possible.)

Conversely, if tapping one's own hand is not allowed, but splitting two live hands into one is allowed, then the second player has a winning strategy.[4][how?]


In some variations of chopsticks, two live hands can be 'split' (or rather combined) into one hand. Independently, some variations treat the two hands as different, and so permit splitting [3,1] into [1,3], which can effectively be used to pass the turn. This may be taken further to permit splitting [0,1] (one dead hand and one live hand with one point) into [1,0].

In another variation, splitting is allowed only from a single live hand with even number of points into two equal halves. A related variation also allows splitting a hand with odd number of points into two nearly equal halves with points differing by only one. In this variation the second player has a winning strategy (can always force a win).[5]

In another variation, roll-overs do not exist, and any sum above 5 is considered out. In the same variation, hitting one's other live hand is allowed. The points This often results in a '3-1' strategy, where the opponent would have one live hand at 1, and the player would tap their own live hand to ensure a 'checkmate'.

Other variations allow different numbers. Some variations have splitting [1] to [1/2, 1/2], which is rare. Some variations allow numerals from 1-9, where 10 is considered the largest number. In this case, Chinese hand numerals are often used. This variation often includes roll-overs.

The Logan Clause: A Player can choose to swap a single live hand to the other non-live hand. This constitutes a turn and it is now the opposing players turn.

See also[edit]

  • Morra (game) - a different hand-game, which is based on chance rather than logic.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Chopsticks Game". Activity Village. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Japanese games – Chopsticks (hand game), 2008

External links[edit]