# An unusual subtraction

I saw this note jotted on a piece of paper on my friend's table.

Jickpom 1–0

Ecarombhp ½–½

Khalerop 0–1

What did he mean by it?

• Possibly chess related?
– z100
Commented Oct 13, 2021 at 22:32

playing TIC-TAC-TOE (or Noughts-and-Crosses, if you prefer)!

To solve this, note that:

(i) The three 'subtractions' look a lot like a point system in a two-player game: 1 point for a win, 0 for a loss, and 1/2 each for a draw, with scores separated by a dash.

(ii) If we are to assume these represent games of some kind, it makes sense to suppose that each letter represents a 'move' or 'turn' of some kind.

(iii) The second game ends in a draw after 9 such turns - what game commonly ends in a draw after 9 turns? Tic-Tac-Toe!

To interpret the letters:

Draw a standard 3x3 Tic-Tac-Toe grid and label each cell, left-to-right, top-to-bottom with the letters a-i, then repeat the process using j-r. The result is a Tic-Tac-Toe grid with two letters encoding each individual space:

Events then unfold like so:

If we assume (for simplicity) that 'noughts' (blue) always plays first, and 'crosses' (red) second, then alternate letters represent moves by blue, then red, then blue, then red, etc. until the game is complete. On any turn, either letter in a space can be listed to represent placing the appropriate symbol there (I suspect that the OP has selected the letters involved in this puzzle out of personal preference for creating more interesting 'words' to decipher!).

For example, the first game's move-set is encoded by 'Jickpom'. This plays out as a nought in space 'j', followed by a cross in space 'i', followed by a nought in space 'c', etc. until the final game-winning nought is placed in space 'm' on turn 7.

Complete gameplay for all 3 encoded games is as follows (note that the two players are not playing optimally, the fools!):