Challenge Dad this Father's Day (and win) with this great game!

Okay, so we know that your dad has probably earned his Father’s Day present this year, but what dad couldn’t resist the idea of winning an extra-special present, especially when all they have to do is win an easy game against their child!

Don’t worry though, you won’t have to buy that extra present, because we can virtually guarantee that your dad won’t win (unless he is an absolute genius). 

So for this Father’s Day, we are sharing with you the ancient Chinese game of "Tsyan-shizi", or "picking stones", and if you follow our simple rules, you will win every time and your dad just won’t believe it or know how you are doing it! 


What You Need To Do Before Father’s Day

1. Get 15 identical objects such as matchsticks, stones, marbles, counters or coins.

2. Read the instructions below in preparation for Sunday! 


Get 15 items together to play the game

On Father's Day...

Just when you are about to give your dad your present, take it back and say something like...


Challenge dad this father's day

If he says...


Dad agrees to challenge

...then give him his present and go and get the 15 pieces of the game.

If he says...

Dad declines the challenge

...then take your present away, and act all disappointed. You may have to start making chicken noises to get him engaged!

Some acting may be required

When you've got the 15 pieces, explain the rules, and just before you are about to start, say something like...

Up the stakes with dad!

How to play ‘Tsyan-shizi’

The rules are very simple. In front of the two players are 15 small items, matchsticks are good but any small object will suffice. Each person takes it in turn to remove either 1, 2 or 3 of the objects. The aim is to leave your opponent with the last object.


An example game

Number of objectsNumber of objects removedNumber of objects left
15You remove 213
13Dad removes 310
10You remove 19
9Dad removes 27
7You remove 25
5Dad removes 14
4You remove 31 - Dad loses!


How Does It Work and How Can You Win Every Time?

Make sure that you always start first and that on your first move you remove 2 objects.

From then on, each time Dad takes some items, make sure the total removed by you and Dad add up to FOUR. E.g., If he takes 1 you take 3, if he takes 2 you take 2 etc. This means that Dad is always left with the last object.


Can you win if your dad starts?

Yes you can, unless he understands how to win! That’s why you need to make it the best of 3 and start game 1 and 3 first! 


Here’s how to win when dad goes first and doesn’t know Tsyan-Shizi:

•    If he starts by taking away 1 item, then you need to take away another 1 leaving 13 items. Then continue as above making the count total of 4 after each round.

•    If he starts by taking away 3 items, then you need to take away another 3 leaving 9 items. Then continue as above making the count total of 4 after each round.

•    If he starts by taking 2 items, play randomly and try to get to a point where there are 9 or 5 items left for Dad to choose from. 


For example:

Start: 15 Objects
Dad removes 2 objects (leaving 13)
You remove 2 (leaving 11)
Dad removes 1 (leaving 10)
You can then remove 1 (leaving 9 - target number). You can now win!


Remember that practice makes perfect, so play this game several times before you challenge your dad for real. Good luck.