6 out of 200 – Nhan Bao Ho studies winning strategies for games

Nhim Bao Ho
Photo courtesy of Nhan Bao Ho

Meet Nhan Bao Ho in this Q&A series with 6 out of 200 computer scientists and mathematicians participating at the 4th Heidelberg Laureate Forum, September 18-23, 2016. 22 Laureates (Abel Prize, Fields Medal, Nevanlinna Prize, Turing Award) will attend the forum together with them. For a full week, Heidelberg in Germany will be the hot spot of mathematics and computer science.

What is your name and where are you from? My name is Nhan Bao Ho, I am Vietnamese

Where did you study and where are you currently based? I completed my PhD in mathematics at La Trobe University in Australia. I am still based at La Trobe University now.

What is your current position? I am a honorary research fellow there.

What is the focus of your research? I’m working on two-player combinatorial games. Examples of these games include Go, Chess, Checker, and Tic-tac-toe. My research focuses on impartial games in which legal moves depend on the position rather than who is about to move. The game of Nim is an example, in which the two players alternately remove tokens from a row of piles until all tokens are removed. I have analyzed many variants of Nim, studying winning strategies, complexity, and numerical properties including periodicity. Studying games is enjoyable as I can see how mathematics exists in real life. For example, it would help to explain why some games look simple to play but are very hard to analyze.

Why did you become a mathematician? I enjoyed mathematics in high school, and the main reason is possibly I am better at mathematics than other fields.

What do you see yourself doing in 10 years? I believe mathematics is part of my life, and it is absolutely going to be part of it in ten years.

What are you doing besides research? I have two sons. Playing with my sons in my free time is wonderful. To be honest, I also like reading although I don’t have much time for this. I buy many books, read some of them, normally not finishing one. So possibly I like buying books rather than reading. But I promise, I will finish many of them before retirement

Why did you apply for the HLF? This event is an excellent opportunity for young researchers to network. Meeting new people is enjoyable. Also, Heidelberg is a nice city.

What do you expect from this meeting? I would love to have a chance to talk with many people and learn from their experience. It is my usual practice that I work harder after each conference. This event will absolutely boost by motivation by a factor of two.200-große-Punkte

Which laureates present at the forum would you really like to talk to?  I read a book about Fermat’s Last Theorem when I was in the first year at university and Sir Andrew Wiles was so impressive to me. How surprising, I have chance to meet him in this event.

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Tobias Maier ist promovierter Molekularbiologe mit über zehn Jahren Forschungserfahrung an internationalen Instituten. Er ist Wissenschaftlicher Leiter am Nationalen Institut für Wissenschaftskommunikation (NaWik) in Karlsruhe. Seit 2008 schreibt Tobias das Blog WeiterGen auf den deutschen ScienceBlogs und twittert unter @WeiterGen. --- Tobias Maier is a science communication professional with a ten year track record in biomedical research. He’s the scientific head at the National Institute for Science Communication in Germany (NaWik). Tobias writes a blog on the German ScienceBlogs network and he’s on Twitter as @WeiterGen


  1. I buy many books, read some of them, normally not finishing one. So possibly I like buying books rather than reading. But I promise, I will finish many of them before retirement[.]

    Einzigartiger Humor, womöglich. [1]
    Ganz am Rande abgemerkt, die Mathematik meint die Kunst des Lernens.
    Zufälligerweise hat auch der Schreiber dieser Zeilen ein Buch über die Fermatsche (vs. vermatschte) Vermutung gelesen, wurde insofern ein wenig klüger, als dass Spielereien immer einen Zweck haben sollten, sofern gesellschaftlich finanziert.
    Was natürlich auch für Brettspiele mit vollständiger Information gilt, aber auch für Spiele mit unvollständiger gelten darf.
    Poker ist insofern (für einige) faszinierend.
    Dr. W (der die Überschrift – ‘6 out of 200’ – nicht umfänglich verstanden hat)

    Ohne jetzt x-istisch werden zu wollen, abär bestimmte Denkweise fernöstlicher Art ist schon ganz bemerkenswert und kompatibel (“mitleidend”), hiesige Verhältnisse betreffend. (Was natürlich auch impliziert, dass andere importierte Denkweise dies nicht sein muss, korrekt.)

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