The Genius, by A Skymin’s Mind #1

A Korean game show, which I watched online (subtitled of course, so go watch it too) from here. Basically all players play a game, called the Main Match. The loser, called the Elimination Candidate, can choose another person to join them in the Death Match, where one player is eliminated. (In case of multiple losers, the winners choose the one to be Elimination Candidate among them, and they later choose again the opponent as usual.) Rinse and repeat with different games.

So here I just want to talk about the games and my strategy for some of them. Note that this might be a light spoiler for everything, because I don’t list the games in order, so go watch all of them first before reading I suppose. This will be a series that will run for who knows how long.

1.2.3 Game

Used as Main Match of Season 1, Round 1.


Each person receives nine cards, numbered 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3. (Three cards of each of 1, 2, 3.) A person can play with any other person, playing a card each. The person that plays the higher-numbered card, if any, receives 1 point. However, after the length of the game (90 minutes), all people with no more card left get 0 points instead of their current scores.


Cha Minsoo (차민수)’s strategy suffices to avoid being the Elimination Candidate. Observe that there are 13 players and 9 cards each, totaling 117 cards, an odd number. Each play removes two of them. So there will be an odd number of cards left; in particular, some cards left, or not all cards can be played. Thus someone will get 0 points; the Elimination Candidate will be anyone with zero points. Thus guaranteeing one point suffices to avoid being the Elimination Candidate, which is easy: choose someone to ally with, and play a 1 against their 2 and a 2 against their 1. Cha Minsoo suggested playing all 1s and 2s, for three wins each. Choi Changyeop (최창엽)’s strategy of getting four wins (11122233 vs 22331112) is the best when a pair decides to give an equal number of wins to both.

However, Hong Jinho (홍진호) and Lee Junseok (이준석) have an even more astonishing strategy of 9 vs 0 wins (222333333 vs 111111222) by trading cards. If they get rid of their cards, someone else will still have some cards outside, and so will have 0 points similarly. The winner of the pair (in this case, planned to be Jinho) can choose the other player as the Elimination Candidate, and then, with a rather unbeatable nine wins, also gains two Tokens of Life which can be granted to the loser (Junseok). (In the actual show, they got too far: Jinho got 222222333333 vs Junseok’s 111111, cleaning the 1s with the 2s for 6 wins and expecting more with the 3s, but with Minsoo’s strategy getting rather well-known outside, nobody else had a non-3 and their plan went awry.)

Any other strategy that somebody else can discover? For example, extending Jinho and Junseok’s strategy above, if they can also think that people will have 3s remaining, they might ask to get the cards, thus also ensuring the one requested has gotten rid of their cards even though they only have 3 wins. After collecting six more 3s, they can play a stunning 12 vs 0 (all 3s (6 at the beginning + 6 collected) vs all 1s and 2s (6+6)), which will more or less be unbeatable.


5 thoughts on “The Genius, by A Skymin’s Mind #1

  1. Genius is awesome, and a Dutch version should be broadcast next year. I expect the wardrobe will be much duller though. Extensive English discussion of games and more can be found at (Season one talk requires some digging about)

    Regarding the 123Game, I think its main purpose was to drive home to both players and viewers how unfair it could be. The trading and gifting aspect essentially means that the biggest gang of players can always make themselves win in the manner you described, unless paranoia sets in. However, I’d argue that winning the main game is generally a poor idea until about halfway through the show. Coasting along until garnets start to effect eliminations generally seems safer.

    • In the early rounds, you’re supposed to get as large alliance as you can. I think. Just see the first two Death Matches (the same thing) as well as Main Match 2. Also, I see its main purpose as to show that the games, although looking deceptively simple, have immense strategy hidden inside waiting to be discovered.

      In fact, had the Death Match (of round 1) be something that doesn’t require alliance, creating a large alliance for that is problematic: you can only save one person, and whoever that becomes the Elimination Candidate may choose any of the rest, endangering the alliance.

  2. I HAVE A NEW FAVORITE GAME SHOW. (Which, given all the game shows I’ve consumed over the years, is saying an awful lot.)


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