Binary Tree Coloring Game

To solve this problem, we need to understand how we can maximize the number of blue nodes by selecting the right y after the first player has colored node x red.

  1. Find the Node with Value x: We’ll need to locate the node with value x in the tree to understand the layout of red and uncolored nodes.
  2. Analyze the Subtrees of Node x: We’ll consider the left and right subtrees of node x, along with the remaining part of the tree (excluding the subtree rooted at x).
  3. Choose y to Maximize Blue Nodes: We’ll choose y in such a way that it will allow us to color more nodes than the red nodes. If such a y exists, we can win, otherwise not.

Let’s put this logic into code:

class Solution:
    def btreeGameWinningMove(self, root: Optional[TreeNode], n: int, x: int) -> bool:
        # Helper function to count nodes in a subtree
        def count_nodes(node):
            if not node:
                return 0
            return 1 + count_nodes(node.left) + count_nodes(node.right)

        # Helper function to find the node with value x
        def find_node(node, x):
            if not node:
                return None
            if node.val == x:
                return node
            return find_node(node.left, x) or find_node(node.right, x)

        # Find the node with value x
        node_x = find_node(root, x)

        # Count nodes in left and right subtrees of x
        left_count = count_nodes(node_x.left)
        right_count = count_nodes(node_x.right)

        # Check if coloring any subtree or the rest of the tree will lead to more blue nodes than red
        return left_count > n // 2 or right_count > n // 2 or (n - left_count - right_count - 1) > n // 2

The btreeGameWinningMove function returns true if the second player can win, otherwise false. It first finds the node with value x and then counts the number of nodes in its left and right subtrees. Finally, it checks if selecting y in either of the subtrees or the rest of the tree will allow the second player to color more nodes than the first player.

Identifying Problem Isomorphism

“Binary Tree Coloring Game” involves strategic decision making in a binary tree. One player colors a node, and the other player must choose a different node to color. The game’s rules constrain possible moves, and the task is to determine if the second player can make a move that ensures victory.

A simpler problem is “Find Mode in Binary Search Tree”. This problem simply requires traversing the tree to find the most frequently occurring element, introducing the basic idea of visiting nodes and collecting information.

An approximate isomorphic problem is “Path Sum III”. In this problem, you’re trying to find the number of paths that sum to a target value, which involves exploring different possibilities in the tree, but without the strategic component of the original problem.

A more complex problem is “Binary Tree Cameras”. This problem requires not only understanding of tree traversal and choosing nodes in a particular way, but also needs more strategic decision-making skills, much like in the Binary Tree Coloring Game, making it more complex due to the additional rules and conditions.

So, from simplest to more complex:

  1. “Find Mode in Binary Search Tree” - Traverse the tree to find the most frequently occurring element.
  2. “Binary Tree Coloring Game” - Determine if the second player can make a move that ensures victory.
  3. “Path Sum III” - Find the number of paths that sum to a target value.
  4. “Binary Tree Cameras” - Determine the minimum number of cameras required to monitor all nodes.

10 Prerequisite LeetCode Problems

For this, the following are a good preparation:

  1. “94. Binary Tree Inorder Traversal” - Understanding how to traverse a binary tree will be foundational to understanding how to approach the coloring game.

  2. “104. Maximum Depth of Binary Tree” - This problem gives practice with understanding the depth of various nodes in a binary tree, which will be useful in calculating whether the second player can win the game.

  3. “226. Invert Binary Tree” - Inverting a binary tree helps to understand node relationships and how changing the tree’s structure can impact outcomes. This is relevant to the tree coloring game.

  4. “700. Search in a Binary Search Tree” - The search logic in this problem will be useful for finding the initially colored node.

  5. “101. Symmetric Tree” - This problem gives practice on understanding tree symmetry which can help in formulating a strategy for the second player.

  6. “543. Diameter of Binary Tree” - This problem helps to understand the longest path between any two nodes in a tree, an aspect which can influence the coloring game.

  7. “102. Binary Tree Level Order Traversal” - Understanding level order traversal will be useful for coloring nodes in certain orders to block the other player.

  8. “111. Minimum Depth of Binary Tree” - Understanding how to calculate minimum depth is important for the second player’s strategy.

  9. “617. Merge Two Binary Trees” - This problem provides practice manipulating binary trees which can be helpful for visualizing player strategies.

  10. “112. Path Sum” - The concept of tracking a path through the tree is somewhat analogous to the path a color might take in the coloring game.

These cover binary tree structure, traversal, manipulation, and properties that will be useful in forming a winning strategy for the Binary Tree Coloring Game.

Problem Classification

Problem Statement:Two players play a turn based game on a binary tree. We are given the root of this binary tree, and the number of nodes n in the tree. n is odd, and each node has a distinct value from 1 to n. Initially, the first player names a value x with 1 <= x <= n, and the second player names a value y with 1 <= y <= n and y != x. The first player colors the node with value x red, and the second player colors the node with value y blue. Then, the players take turns starting with the first player. In each turn, that player chooses a node of their color (red if player 1, blue if player 2) and colors an uncolored neighbor of the chosen node (either the left child, right child, or parent of the chosen node.) If (and only if) a player cannot choose such a node in this way, they must pass their turn. If both players pass their turn, the game ends, and the winner is the player that colored more nodes. You are the second player. If it is possible to choose such a y to ensure you win the game, return true. If it is not possible, return false.

Example 1:

Input: root = [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11], n = 11, x = 3 Output: true Explanation: The second player can choose the node with value 2.

Example 2:

Input: root = [1,2,3], n = 3, x = 1 Output: false


The number of nodes in the tree is n. 1 <= x <= n <= 100 n is odd. 1 <= Node.val <= n All the values of the tree are unique.

Analyze the provided problem statement. Categorize it based on its domain, ignoring ‘How’ it might be solved. Identify and list out the ‘What’ components. Based on these, further classify the problem. Explain your categorizations.

Clarification Questions

What are the clarification questions we can ask about this problem?

Problem Analysis and Key Insights

What are the key insights from analyzing the problem statement?

Problem Boundary

What is the scope of this problem?

How to establish the boundary of this problem?

Distilling the Problem to Its Core Elements

Can you identify the fundamental concept or principle this problem is based upon? Please explain. What is the simplest way you would describe this problem to someone unfamiliar with the subject? What is the core problem we are trying to solve? Can we simplify the problem statement? Can you break down the problem into its key components? What is the minimal set of operations we need to perform to solve this problem?

Visual Model of the Problem

How to visualize the problem statement for this problem?

Problem Restatement

Could you start by paraphrasing the problem statement in your own words? Try to distill the problem into its essential elements and make sure to clarify the requirements and constraints. This exercise should aid in understanding the problem better and aligning our thought process before jumping into solving it.

Abstract Representation of the Problem

Could you help me formulate an abstract representation of this problem?

Given this problem, how can we describe it in an abstract way that emphasizes the structure and key elements, without the specific real-world details?


Are there any specialized terms, jargon, or technical concepts that are crucial to understanding this problem or solution? Could you define them and explain their role within the context of this problem?

Problem Simplification and Explanation

Could you please break down this problem into simpler terms? What are the key concepts involved and how do they interact? Can you also provide a metaphor or analogy to help me understand the problem better?


Given the problem statement and the constraints provided, identify specific characteristics or conditions that can be exploited to our advantage in finding an efficient solution. Look for patterns or specific numerical ranges that could be useful in manipulating or interpreting the data.

What are the key insights from analyzing the constraints?

Case Analysis

Could you please provide additional examples or test cases that cover a wider range of the input space, including edge and boundary conditions? In doing so, could you also analyze each example to highlight different aspects of the problem, key constraints and potential pitfalls, as well as the reasoning behind the expected output for each case? This should help in generating key insights about the problem and ensuring the solution is robust and handles all possible scenarios.

Provide names by categorizing these cases

What are the edge cases?

How to visualize these cases?

What are the key insights from analyzing the different cases?

Identification of Applicable Theoretical Concepts

Can you identify any mathematical or algorithmic concepts or properties that can be applied to simplify the problem or make it more manageable? Think about the nature of the operations or manipulations required by the problem statement. Are there existing theories, metrics, or methodologies in mathematics, computer science, or related fields that can be applied to calculate, measure, or perform these operations more effectively or efficiently?

Simple Explanation

Can you explain this problem in simple terms or like you would explain to a non-technical person? Imagine you’re explaining this problem to someone without a background in programming. How would you describe it? If you had to explain this problem to a child or someone who doesn’t know anything about coding, how would you do it? In layman’s terms, how would you explain the concept of this problem? Could you provide a metaphor or everyday example to explain the idea of this problem?

Problem Breakdown and Solution Methodology

Given the problem statement, can you explain in detail how you would approach solving it? Please break down the process into smaller steps, illustrating how each step contributes to the overall solution. If applicable, consider using metaphors, analogies, or visual representations to make your explanation more intuitive. After explaining the process, can you also discuss how specific operations or changes in the problem’s parameters would affect the solution? Lastly, demonstrate the workings of your approach using one or more example cases.

Inference of Problem-Solving Approach from the Problem Statement

Can you identify the key terms or concepts in this problem and explain how they inform your approach to solving it? Please list each keyword and how it guides you towards using a specific strategy or method. How can I recognize these properties by drawing tables or diagrams?

How did you infer from the problem statement that this problem can be solved using ?

Simple Explanation of the Proof

I’m having trouble understanding the proof of this algorithm. Could you explain it in a way that’s easy to understand?

Stepwise Refinement

  1. Could you please provide a stepwise refinement of our approach to solving this problem?

  2. How can we take the high-level solution approach and distill it into more granular, actionable steps?

  3. Could you identify any parts of the problem that can be solved independently?

  4. Are there any repeatable patterns within our solution?

Solution Approach and Analysis

Given the problem statement, can you explain in detail how you would approach solving it? Please break down the process into smaller steps, illustrating how each step contributes to the overall solution. If applicable, consider using metaphors, analogies, or visual representations to make your explanation more intuitive. After explaining the process, can you also discuss how specific operations or changes in the problem’s parameters would affect the solution? Lastly, demonstrate the workings of your approach using one or more example cases.

Identify Invariant

What is the invariant in this problem?

Identify Loop Invariant

What is the loop invariant in this problem?

Is invariant and loop invariant the same for this problem?

Thought Process

Can you explain the basic thought process and steps involved in solving this type of problem?

Explain the thought process by thinking step by step to solve this problem from the problem statement and code the final solution. Write code in Python3. What are the cues in the problem statement? What direction does it suggest in the approach to the problem? Generate insights about the problem statement.

Establishing Preconditions and Postconditions

  1. Parameters:

    • What are the inputs to the method?
    • What types are these parameters?
    • What do these parameters represent in the context of the problem?
  2. Preconditions:

    • Before this method is called, what must be true about the state of the program or the values of the parameters?
    • Are there any constraints on the input parameters?
    • Is there a specific state that the program or some part of it must be in?
  3. Method Functionality:

    • What is this method expected to do?
    • How does it interact with the inputs and the current state of the program?
  4. Postconditions:

    • After the method has been called and has returned, what is now true about the state of the program or the values of the parameters?
    • What does the return value represent or indicate?
    • What side effects, if any, does the method have?
  5. Error Handling:

    • How does the method respond if the preconditions are not met?
    • Does it throw an exception, return a special value, or do something else?

Problem Decomposition

  1. Problem Understanding:

    • Can you explain the problem in your own words? What are the key components and requirements?
  2. Initial Breakdown:

    • Start by identifying the major parts or stages of the problem. How can you break the problem into several broad subproblems?
  3. Subproblem Refinement:

    • For each subproblem identified, ask yourself if it can be further broken down. What are the smaller tasks that need to be done to solve each subproblem?
  4. Task Identification:

    • Within these smaller tasks, are there any that are repeated or very similar? Could these be generalized into a single, reusable task?
  5. Task Abstraction:

    • For each task you’ve identified, is it abstracted enough to be clear and reusable, but still makes sense in the context of the problem?
  6. Method Naming:

    • Can you give each task a simple, descriptive name that makes its purpose clear?
  7. Subproblem Interactions:

    • How do these subproblems or tasks interact with each other? In what order do they need to be performed? Are there any dependencies?

From Brute Force to Optimal Solution

Could you please begin by illustrating a brute force solution for this problem? After detailing and discussing the inefficiencies of the brute force approach, could you then guide us through the process of optimizing this solution? Please explain each step towards optimization, discussing the reasoning behind each decision made, and how it improves upon the previous solution. Also, could you show how these optimizations impact the time and space complexity of our solution?

Code Explanation and Design Decisions

  1. Identify the initial parameters and explain their significance in the context of the problem statement or the solution domain.

  2. Discuss the primary loop or iteration over the input data. What does each iteration represent in terms of the problem you’re trying to solve? How does the iteration advance or contribute to the solution?

  3. If there are conditions or branches within the loop, what do these conditions signify? Explain the logical reasoning behind the branching in the context of the problem’s constraints or requirements.

  4. If there are updates or modifications to parameters within the loop, clarify why these changes are necessary. How do these modifications reflect changes in the state of the solution or the constraints of the problem?

  5. Describe any invariant that’s maintained throughout the code, and explain how it helps meet the problem’s constraints or objectives.

  6. Discuss the significance of the final output in relation to the problem statement or solution domain. What does it represent and how does it satisfy the problem’s requirements?

Remember, the focus here is not to explain what the code does on a syntactic level, but to communicate the intent and rationale behind the code in the context of the problem being solved.

Coding Constructs

Consider the code for the solution of this problem.

  1. What are the high-level problem-solving strategies or techniques being used by this code?

  2. If you had to explain the purpose of this code to a non-programmer, what would you say?

  3. Can you identify the logical elements or constructs used in this code, independent of any programming language?

  4. Could you describe the algorithmic approach used by this code in plain English?

  5. What are the key steps or operations this code is performing on the input data, and why?

  6. Can you identify the algorithmic patterns or strategies used by this code, irrespective of the specific programming language syntax?

Language Agnostic Coding Drills

Your mission is to deconstruct this code into the smallest possible learning units, each corresponding to a separate coding concept. Consider these concepts as unique coding drills that can be individually implemented and later assembled into the final solution.

  1. Dissect the code and identify each distinct concept it contains. Remember, this process should be language-agnostic and generally applicable to most modern programming languages.

  2. Once you’ve identified these coding concepts or drills, list them out in order of increasing difficulty. Provide a brief description of each concept and why it is classified at its particular difficulty level.

  3. Next, describe the problem-solving approach that would lead from the problem statement to the final solution. Think about how each of these coding drills contributes to the overall solution. Elucidate the step-by-step process involved in using these drills to solve the problem. Please refrain from writing any actual code; we’re focusing on understanding the process and strategy.

Targeted Drills in Python

Now that you’ve identified and ordered the coding concepts from a complex software code in the previous exercise, let’s focus on creating Python-based coding drills for each of those concepts.

  1. Begin by writing a separate piece of Python code that encapsulates each identified concept. These individual drills should illustrate how to implement each concept in Python. Please ensure that these are suitable even for those with a basic understanding of Python.

  2. In addition to the general concepts, identify and write coding drills for any problem-specific concepts that might be needed to create a solution. Describe why these drills are essential for our problem.

  3. Once all drills have been coded, describe how these pieces can be integrated together in the right order to solve the initial problem. Each drill should contribute to building up to the final solution.

Remember, the goal is to not only to write these drills but also to ensure that they can be cohesively assembled into one comprehensive solution.


Similar Problems

Can you suggest 10 problems from LeetCode that require similar problem-solving strategies or use similar underlying concepts as the problem we’ve just solved? These problems can be from any domain or topic, but they should involve similar steps or techniques in the solution process. Also, please briefly explain why you consider each of these problems to be related to our original problem. The response text is of the following format:

Here are 10 problems that use similar underlying concepts: