Game of Nim
This problem is a variation of the Nim game, and there is a wellknown mathematical solution to determine the winner.
If the xor of all the pile sizes is zero, then Bob will win; otherwise, Alice will win. This is based on the Grundy numbers or nimbers, which can be applied to impartial games like this.
Here’s a Python code that implements this logic:


The ^
operator in Python is the bitwise XOR operator, and it is applied to all the elements in the array. If the final result is zero, it means Bob wins, and the function returns False
. Otherwise, it means Alice wins, and the function returns True
.
Identifying Problem Isomorphism
“Game of Nim” involves game theory, where players alternate turns and take away 1 to 3 stones from a pile, and the player who removes the last stone wins. The task is to find a winning strategy, or determine if one exists based on the number of stones.
A simpler problem that deals with counting and subtraction but without the strategic component would be “Counting Bits”, where you simply count the number of ‘1’ bits for each number from 0 to n.
An approximate isomorphic problem is “Stone Game”, which also involves taking turns and strategy, but in this case, players pick from either end of a row of stones, and the goal is to maximize the total number of stones.
A more complex game theory problem would be “Cherry Pickup II”, where you’re dealing with two players (robots) moving in a grid to collect cherries, and they need to maximize their collective harvest. The complexity here comes from managing two players and their positions, as well as their collective goal.
So, from simplest to more complex:
 “Counting Bits”  Count the number of ‘1’ bits for each number from 0 to n.
 “Game of Nim”  Determine if a winning strategy exists based on the number of stones.
 “Stone Game”  Players pick from either end of a row of stones to maximize total number of stones.
 “Cherry Pickup II”  Two robots move in a grid to maximize their collective harvest of cherries.
10 Prerequisite LeetCode Problems
This is about game theory, particularly Nim games, where players take turns removing objects from distinct heaps or piles. Familiarize yourself with array manipulation, bitwise operators, and the concept of the nimsum.
Here are some simpler problems to prepare for it:
136. Single Number: This problem will teach you how to use XOR bitwise operation which is key to solving the Nim game problem.
260. Single Number III: This is an extension of the previous problem and will provide further practice with bitwise operations.
371. Sum of Two Integers: This problem will deepen your understanding of bitwise operations.
389. Find the Difference: Another problem that requires understanding of bitwise operations.
268. Missing Number: This problem requires you to find the missing number in an array, which requires understanding of bitwise operations and XOR property.
645. Set Mismatch: This problem involves finding the missing and duplicate numbers, a step up from the previous problems.
1281. Subtract the Product and Sum of Digits of an Integer: This problem is about simple arithmetic operations on the digits of a number.
1342. Number of Steps to Reduce a Number to Zero: This problem deals with simple bitwise operations and arithmetic operations.
1486. XOR Operation in an Array: This problem is about XOR operation, an important concept for the Nim game problem.
461. Hamming Distance: This problem will help you understand bitwise XOR operation in more depth.
The “Game of Nim” problem requires good understanding of XOR operation and nimsum. These problems will help you understand and practice those concepts.
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?
Problem Classification
Problem Statement:Alice and Bob take turns playing a game with Alice starting first.
In this game, there are n piles of stones. On each player’s turn, the player should remove any positive number of stones from a nonempty pile of his or her choice. The first player who cannot make a move loses, and the other player wins. Given an integer array piles, where piles[i] is the number of stones in the ith pile, return true if Alice wins, or false if Bob wins. Both Alice and Bob play optimally.
Example 1:
Input: piles = [1] Output: true Explanation: There is only one possible scenario:
 On the first turn, Alice removes one stone from the first pile. piles = [0].
 On the second turn, there are no stones left for Bob to remove. Alice wins.
Example 2:
Input: piles = [1,1] Output: false Explanation: It can be proven that Bob will always win. One possible scenario is:
 On the first turn, Alice removes one stone from the first pile. piles = [0,1].
 On the second turn, Bob removes one stone from the second pile. piles = [0,0].
 On the third turn, there are no stones left for Alice to remove. Bob wins.
Example 3:
Input: piles = [1,2,3] Output: false Explanation: It can be proven that Bob will always win. One possible scenario is:
 On the first turn, Alice removes three stones from the third pile. piles = [1,2,0].
 On the second turn, Bob removes one stone from the second pile. piles = [1,1,0].
 On the third turn, Alice removes one stone from the first pile. piles = [0,1,0].
 On the fourth turn, Bob removes one stone from the second pile. piles = [0,0,0].
 On the fifth turn, there are no stones left for Alice to remove. Bob wins.
Constraints:
n == piles.length 1 <= n <= 7 1 <= piles[i] <= 7
Followup: Could you find a linear time solution? Although the linear time solution may be beyond the scope of an interview, it could be interesting to know.
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.
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 realworld details?
Terminology
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?
Constraints
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?
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 nontechnical 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 ProblemSolving 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
Could you please provide a stepwise refinement of our approach to solving this problem?
How can we take the highlevel solution approach and distill it into more granular, actionable steps?
Could you identify any parts of the problem that can be solved independently?
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?
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
Parameters:
 What are the inputs to the method?
 What types are these parameters?
 What do these parameters represent in the context of the problem?
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?
Method Functionality:
 What is this method expected to do?
 How does it interact with the inputs and the current state of the program?
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?
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
Problem Understanding:
 Can you explain the problem in your own words? What are the key components and requirements?
Initial Breakdown:
 Start by identifying the major parts or stages of the problem. How can you break the problem into several broad subproblems?
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?
Task Identification:
 Within these smaller tasks, are there any that are repeated or very similar? Could these be generalized into a single, reusable task?
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?
Method Naming:
 Can you give each task a simple, descriptive name that makes its purpose clear?
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
Identify the initial parameters and explain their significance in the context of the problem statement or the solution domain.
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?
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.
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?
Describe any invariant that’s maintained throughout the code, and explain how it helps meet the problem’s constraints or objectives.
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 following piece of complex software code.
What are the highlevel problemsolving strategies or techniques being used by this code?
If you had to explain the purpose of this code to a nonprogrammer, what would you say?
Can you identify the logical elements or constructs used in this code, independent of any programming language?
Could you describe the algorithmic approach used by this code in plain English?
What are the key steps or operations this code is performing on the input data, and why?
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.
Dissect the code and identify each distinct concept it contains. Remember, this process should be languageagnostic and generally applicable to most modern programming languages.
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.
Next, describe the problemsolving 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 stepbystep 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 Pythonbased coding drills for each of those concepts.
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.
In addition to the general concepts, identify and write coding drills for any problemspecific concepts that might be needed to create a solution. Describe why these drills are essential for our problem.
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.
Q&A
Similar Problems
Can you suggest 10 problems from LeetCode that require similar problemsolving 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.