Let me tell you about a fascinating paradox arising in certain infinitary two-player games of perfect information. The paradox, namely, is that there are games for which our judgement of who has a winning strategy or not depends on whether we insist that the players play according to a deterministic computable procedure. In the the space of computable play for these games, one player has a winning strategy, but in the full space of all legal play, the other player can ensure a win.

The fundamental theorem of finite games, proved in 1913 by Zermelo, is the assertion that in every finite two-player game of perfect information — finite in the sense that every play of the game ends in finitely many moves — one of the players has a winning strategy. This is generalized to the case of open games, games where every win for one of the players occurs at a finite stage, by the Gale-Stewart theorem 1953, which asserts that in every open game, one of the players has a winning strategy. Both of these theorems are easily adapted to the case of games with draws, where the conclusion is that one of the players has a winning strategy or both players have draw-or-better strategies.

Let us consider games with a computable game tree, so that we can compute whether or not a move is legal. Let us say that such a game is computably paradoxical, if our judgement of who has a winning strategy depends on whether we restrict to computable play or not. So for example, perhaps one player has a winning strategy in the space of all legal play, but the other player has a computable strategy defeating all computable strategies of the opponent. Or perhaps one player has a draw-or-better strategy in the space of all play, but the other player has a computable strategy defeating computable play.

Examples of paradoxical games occur in infinite chess. We described such a paradoxical position in my paper Transfinite games values in infinite chess by giving a computable infinite chess position with the property that both players had drawing strategies in the space of all possible legal play, but in the space of computable play, then white had a computable strategy defeating any particular computable strategy for black.

For a related non-chess example, let $T$ be a computable subtree of $2^{<\omega}$ having no computable infinite branch, and consider the game in which black simply climbs in this tree as white watches, with black losing whenever he is trapped in a terminal node, but winning if he should climb infinitely. This game is open for white, since if white wins, this is known at a finite stage of play. In the space of all possible play, Black has a winning strategy, which is simply to climb the tree along an infinite branch, which exists by König’s lemma. But there is no computable strategy to find such a branch, by the assumption on the tree, and so when black plays computably, white will inevitably win.

For another example, suppose that we have a computable linear order $\lhd$ on the natural numbers $\newcommand\N{\mathbb{N}}\N$, which is not a well order, but which has no computable infinite descending sequence. It is a nice exercise in computable model theory to show that such an order exists. If we play the count-down game in this order, with white trying to build a descending sequence and black watching. In the space of all play, white can succeed and therefore has a winning strategy, but since there is no computable descending sequence, white can have no computable winning strategy, and so black will win every computable play.

There are several proofs of open determinacy (and see my MathOverflow post outlining four different proofs of the fundamental theorem of finite games), but one of my favorite proofs of open determinacy uses the concept of transfinite game values, assigning an ordinal to some of the positions in the game tree. Suppose we have an open game between Alice and Bob, where the game is open for Alice. The ordinal values we define for positions in the game tree will measure in a sense the distance Alice is away from winning. Namely, her already-won positions have value $0$, and if it is Alice’s turn to play from a position $p$, then the value of $p$ is $\alpha+1$, if $\alpha$ is minimal such that she can play to a position of value $\alpha$; if it is Bob’s turn to play from $p$, and all the positions to which he can play have value, then the value of $p$ is the supremum of these values. Some positions may be left without value, and we can think of those positions as having value $\infty$, larger than any ordinal. The thing to notice is that if a position has a value, then Alice can always make it go down, and Bob cannot make it go up. So the value-reducing strategy is a winning strategy for Alice, from any position with value, while the value-maintaining strategy is winning for Bob, from any position without a value (maintaining value $\infty$). So the game is determined, depending on whether the initial position has value or not.

What is the computable analogue of the ordinal-game-value analysis in the computably paradoxical games? If a game is open for Alice and she has a computable strategy defeating all computable opposing strategies for Bob, but Bob has a non-computable winning strategy, then it cannot be that we can somehow assign computable ordinals to the positions for Alice and have her play the value-reducing strategy, since if those values were actual ordinals, then this would be a full honest winning strategy, even against non-computable play.

Nevertheless, I claim that the ordinal-game-value analysis does admit a computable analogue, in the following theorem. This came out of a discussion I had recently with Noah Schweber during his recent visit to the CUNY Graduate Center and Russell Miller. Let us define that a computable open game is an open game whose game tree is computable, so that we can tell whether a given move is legal from a given position (this is a bit weaker than being able to compute the entire set of possible moves from a position, even when this is finite). And let us define that an effective ordinal is a computable relation $\lhd$ on $\N$, for which there is no computable infinite descending sequence. Every computable ordinal is also an effective ordinal, but as we mentioned earlier, there are non-well-ordered effective ordinals. Let us call them computable pseudo-ordinals.

Theorem. The following are equivalent for any computable game, open for White.

1. White has a computable strategy defeating any computable play by Black.
2. There is an effective game-value assignment for white into an effective ordinal $\lhd$, giving the initial position a value. That is, there is a computable assignment of some positions of the game, including the first position, to values in the field of $\lhd$, such that from any valued position with White to play, she can play so as to reduce value, and with Black to play, he cannot increase the value.

Proof. ($2\to 1$) Given the computable values into an effective ordinal, then the value-reducing strategy for White is a computable strategy. If Black plays computably, then together they compute a descending sequence in the $\lhd$ order. Since there is no computable infinite descending sequence, it must be that the values hit zero and the game ends with a win for White. So White has a computable strategy defeating any computable play by Black.

($1\to 2$) Conversely, suppose that White has a computable strategy $\sigma$ defeating any computable play by Black. Let $\tau$ be the subtree of the game tree arising by insisting that White follow the strategy $\sigma$, and view this as a tree on $\N$, a subtree of $\N^{<\omega}$. Imagine the tree growing downwards, and let $\lhd$ be the Kleene-Brouwer order on this tree, which is the lexical order on incompatible positions, and otherwise longer positions are lower. This is a computable linear order on the tree. Since $\sigma$ is computably winning for White, the open player, it follows that every computable descending sequence in $\tau$ eventually reaches a terminal node. From this, it follows that there is no computable infinite descending sequence with respect to $\lhd$, and so this is an effective ordinal. We may now map every node in $\tau$, which includes the initial node, to itself in the $\lhd$ order. This is a game-value assignment, since on White’s turn, the value goes down, and it doesn’t go up on Black’s turn. QED

Corollary. A computable open game is computably paradoxical if and only if it admits an effective game value assignment for the open player, but only with computable pseudo-ordinals and not with computable ordinals.

Proof. If there is an effective game value assignment for the open player, then the value-reducing strategy arising from that assignment is a computable strategy defeating any computable strategy for the opponent. Conversely, if the game is paradoxical, there can be no such ordinal-assignment where the values are actually well-ordered, or else that strategy would work against all play by the opponent. QED

Theorem. In any open game, if the closed player has a strategy defeating all computable opposing strategies, then in fact this is a winning strategy also against non-computable play.

Proof. If the closed player has a strategy $\sigma$ defeating all computable strategies of the opponent, then in fact it defeats all strategies of the opponent, since any winning play by the open player against $\sigma$ wins in finitely many moves, and therefore there is a computable strategy giving rise to the same play. QED

Corollary. If an open game is computably paradoxical, it must be the open player who wins in the space of computable play and the closed player who wins in the space of all play.

Proof. The theorem shows that if the closed player wins in the space of computable play, then that player in fact wins in the space of all play. QED

Corollary. There are no computably paradoxical clopen games.

Proof. If the game is clopen, then both players are closed, but we just argued that any computable strategy for a closed player winning against all computable play is also winning against all play. QED

Transfinite game values in infinite chess, including new progress, Bonn, January 2017

This will be a talk January 10, 2017 for the Basic Notions Seminar, aimed at students, post-docs, faculty and guests of the Mathematics Institute, University of Bonn.

Abstract. I shall give a general introduction to the theory of infinite games, using infinite chess — chess played on an infinite edgeless chessboard — as a central example. Since chess, when won, is won at a finite stage of play, infinite chess is an example of what is known technically as an open game, and such games admit the theory of transfinite ordinal game values. I shall exhibit several interesting positions in infinite chess with very high transfinite game values. The precise value of the omega one of chess is an open mathematical question.  This talk will include some of the latest progress, which includes a position with game value $\omega^4$.

It happens that I shall be in Bonn also for the dissertation defense of Regula Krapf, who will defend the same week, and who is one of the organizers of the seminar.

Giorgio Audrito, PhD 2016, University of Torino

Dr. Giorgio Audrito has successfully defended his dissertation, “Generic large cardinals and absoluteness,” at the University of Torino under the supervision of Matteo Viale.

The dissertation Examing Board consisted of myself (serving as Presidente), Alessandro Andretta and Sean Cox.  The defense took place March 2, 2016.

The dissertation was impressive, introducing (in joint work with Matteo Viale) the iterated resurrection axioms $\text{RA}_\alpha(\Gamma)$ for a forcing class $\Gamma$, which extend the idea of the resurrection axioms from my work with Thomas Johnstone, The resurrection axioms and uplifting cardinals, by making successive extensions of the same type, forming the resurrection game, and insisting that that the resurrection player have a winning strategy with game value $\alpha$. A similar iterative game idea underlies the $(\alpha)$-uplifting cardinals, from which the consistency of the iterated resurrection axioms can be proved. A final chapter of the dissertation (joint with Silvia Steila), develops the notion of $C$-systems of filters, generalizing the more familiar concepts of extenders and towers.

A position in infinite chess with game value $\omega^4$

• C.~D.~A.~Evans, J. D. Hamkins, and N. L. Perlmutter, “A position in infinite chess with game value $\omega^4$,” to appear in Integers, vol. 17, 2017. (Newton Institute preprint ni15065)
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Abstract.  We present a position in infinite chess exhibiting an ordinal game value of $\omega^4$, thereby improving on the previously largest-known values of $\omega^3$ and $\omega^3\cdot 4$.

This is a joint work with Cory Evans and Norman Perlmutter, continuing the research program of my previous article with Evans, Transfinite game values in infinite chess, namely, the research program of finding positions in infinite chess with large transfinite ordinal game values. In the previous article, Cory and I presented a position with game value $\omega^3$. In the current paper, with Norman Perlmutter now having joined us accompanied by some outstanding ideas, we present a new position having game value $\omega^4$, breaking the previous record.

A position in infinite chess with value $\omega^4$

In the new position, above, the kings sit facing each other in the throne room, an uneasy détente, while white makes steady progress in the rook towers. Meanwhile, at every step black, doomed, mounts increasingly desperate bouts of long forced play using the bishop cannon battery, with bishops flying with force out of the cannons, and then each making a long series of forced-reply moves in the terminal gateways. Ultimately, white wins with value omega^4, which exceeds the previously largest known values of omega^3.

In the throne room, if either black or white places a bishop on the corresponding diagonal entryway, then checkmate is very close. A key feature is that for white to place a white-square white bishop on the diagonal marked in red, it is immediate checkmate, whereas if black places a black-square black bishop on the blue diagonal, then checkmate comes three moves later.  The bishop cannon battery arrangement works because black threatens to release a bishop into the free region, and if white does not reply to those threats, then black will be three steps ahead, but otherwise, only two.

The throne room

The rook towers are similar to the corresponding part of the previous $\omega^3$ position, and this is where white undertakes most of his main line progress towards checkmate.  Black will move the key bishop out as far as he likes on the first move, past $n$ rook towers, and the resulting position will have value $\omega^3\cdot n$.  These towers are each activated in turn, leading to a long series of play for white, interrupted at every opportunity by black causing a dramatic spectacle of forced-reply moves down in the bishop cannon battery.

The rook towers

At every opportunity, black mounts a long distraction down in the bishop cannon battery.  Shown here is one bishop cannon. The cannonballs fire out of the cannon with force, in the sense that when each green bishop fires out, then white must reply by moving the guard pawns into place.

Bishop cannon

Upon firing, each bishop will position itself so as to attack the entrance diagonal of a long bishop gateway terminal wing.  This wing is arranged so that black can make a series of forced-reply threats successively, by moving to the attack squares (marked with the blue squares). Black is threatening to exit through the gateway doorway (in brown), but white can answer the threat by moving the white bishop guards (red) into position. Thus, each bishop coming out of a cannon (with force) can position itself at a gateway terminal of length $g$, making $g$ forced-reply moves in succession.  Since black can initiate firing with an arbitrarily large cannon, this means that at any moment, black can cause a forced-reply delay with game value $\omega^2$. Since the rook tower also has value $\omega^2$ by itself, the overall position has value $\omega^4=\omega^2\cdot\omega^2$.

Bishop gateway terminal wing

With future developments in mind, we found that one can make a more compact arrangement of the bishop cannon battery, freeing up a quarter board for perhaps another arrangement that might lead to a higher ordinal values.

Alternative compact version of bishop cannon battery

Read more about it in the article, which is available at the arxiv (pdf).

Open determinacy for games on the ordinals is stronger than ZFC, CUNY Logic Workshop, October 2015

This will be a talk for the CUNY Logic Workshop on October 2, 2015.

Abstract. The principle of open determinacy for class games — two-player games of perfect information with plays of length $\omega$, where the moves are chosen from a possibly proper class, such as games on the ordinals — is not provable in Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory ZFC or Gödel-Bernays set theory GBC, if these theories are consistent, because provably in ZFC there is a definable open proper class game with no definable winning strategy. In fact, the principle of open determinacy and even merely clopen determinacy for class games implies Con(ZFC) and iterated instances Con(Con(ZFC)) and more, because it implies that there is a satisfaction class for first-order truth, and indeed a transfinite tower of truth predicates $\text{Tr}_\alpha$ for iterated truth-about-truth, relative to any class parameter. This is perhaps explained, in light of the Tarskian recursive definition of truth, by the more general fact that the principle of clopen determinacy is exactly equivalent over GBC to the principle of elementary transfinite recursion ETR over well-founded class relations. Meanwhile, the principle of open determinacy for class games is provable in the stronger theory GBC+$\Pi^1_1$-comprehension, a proper fragment of Kelley-Morse set theory KM.

This is joint work with Victoria Gitman, with the helpful participation of Thomas Johnstone.

Related article and posts:

Open determinacy for class games

• V. Gitman and J. D. Hamkins, “Open determinacy for class games,” in Foundations of Mathematics, Logic at Harvard, Essays in Honor of Hugh Woodin’s 60th Birthday, A. E. Caicedo, J. Cummings, P. Koellner, and P. Larson, Eds., American Mathematical Society, 2016. (also available as Newton Institute preprint ni15064)
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Abstract. The principle of open determinacy for class games — two-player games of perfect information with plays of length $\omega$, where the moves are chosen from a possibly proper class, such as games on the ordinals — is not provable in Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory ZFC or Godel-Bernays set theory GBC, if these theories are consistent, because provably in ZFC there is a definable open proper class game with no definable winning strategy. In fact, the principle of open determinacy and even merely clopen determinacy for class games implies Con(ZFC) and iterated instances Con(Con(ZFC)) and more, because it implies that there is a satisfaction class for first-order truth, and indeed a transfinite tower of truth predicates $\text{Tr}_\alpha$ for iterated truth-about-truth, relative to any class parameter. This is perhaps explained, in light of the Tarskian recursive definition of truth, by the more general fact that the principle of clopen determinacy is exactly equivalent over GBC to the principle of transfinite recursion over well-founded class relations. Meanwhile, the principle of open determinacy for class games is provable in the stronger theory GBC$+\Pi^1_1$-comprehension, a proper fragment of Kelley-Morse set theory KM.

See my earlier posts on part of this material:

Determinacy for proper-class clopen games is equivalent to transfinite recursion along proper-class well-founded relations

I’d like to continue a bit further my exploration of some principles of determinacy for proper-class games; it turns out that these principles have a surprising set-theoretic strength.  A few weeks ago, I explained that the determinacy of proper-class open games and even clopen games implies Con(ZFC) and much more.  Today, I’d like to prove that clopen determinacy is exactly equivalent over GBC to the principle of transfinite recursion along proper-class well-founded relations.  Thus, GBC plus either of these principles is a strictly intermediate set theory between GBC and KM.

The principle of clopen determinacy for class games is the assertion that in any two-player infinite game of perfect information whose winning condition is a clopen class, there is a winning strategy for one of the players. Players alternately play moves in a playing space $X$, thereby creating a particular play $\vec a\in X^\omega$, and the winner is determined according to whether $\vec a$ is in a certain fixed payoff class $U\subset X^\omega$ or not. One has an open game when this winning condition class $U$ is open in the product topology (using the discrete topology on $X$). A game is open for a player if and only if every winning play for that player has an initial segment, all of whose extensions are also winning for that player. So the game is won for an open player at a finite stage of play. A clopen game, in contrast, has a payoff set that is open for both players. Clopen games can be equivalently cast in terms of the game tree, consisting of positions in the game where the winner is not yet determined, and where play terminates when the winner is known. Namely, a game is clopen exactly when this game tree is well-founded, so that in every play, the outcome is known already at a finite stage.

A strategy is a class function $\sigma:X^{<\omega}\to X$ that instructs the player what to play next, given a position of partial play, and the strategy is winning for a player if all plays that accord with it satisfy the winning condition for that player.

The principle of transfinite recursion along well-founded class relations is the assertion that we may undertake recursive definitions along any class well-founded partial order relation. That is, suppose that $\lhd$ is a class well-founded partial order relation on a class $A$, and suppose that $\varphi(F,a,y)$ is a formula, using only first-order quantifiers but having a class variable $F$, which is functional in the sense that for any class $F$ and any set $a\in A$ there is a unique $y$ such that $\varphi(F,a,y)$. The idea is that $\varphi(F,a,y)$ expresses the recursive rule to be iterated, and a solution of the recursion is a class function $F$ such that $\varphi(F\upharpoonright a,a,F(a))$ holds for every $a\in A$, where $F\upharpoonright a$ means the restriction of $F$ to the class $\{ b\in A\mid b\lhd a\}$. Thus, the value $F(a)$ is determined by the class of previous values $F(b)$ for $b\lhd a$. The principle of transfinite recursion along class well-founded relations is the assertion scheme that for every such well-founded partial order class $\langle A,\lhd\rangle$ and any recursive rule $\varphi$ as above, there is a solution.

In the case that the relation $\lhd$ is set-like, which means that the predecessors $\{b\mid b\lhd a\}$ of any point $a$ form a set (rather than a proper class), then GBC easily proves that there is a unique solution class, which furthermore is definable from $\lhd$. Namely, one can show that every $a\in A$ has a partial solution that obeys the recursive rule at least up to $a$, and furthermore all such partial solutions agree below $a$, because there can be no $\lhd$-minimal violation of this. It follows that the class function $F$ unifying these partial solutions is a total solution to the recursion. Similarly, GBC can prove that there are solutions to other transfinite recursion instances where the well-founded relation is not necessarily set-like, such as a recursion of length $\text{Ord}+\text{Ord}$ or even much longer.

Meanwhile, if GBC is consistent, then it cannot in general prove that transfinite recursions along non-set-like well-founded relations always succeed, since this principle would imply that there is a truth-predicate for first-order truth, as the Tarskian conditions are precisely such a recursion on a well-founded relation based on the complexity of formulas. (That relation is not set-like, since when considering the truth of $\exists x\,\psi(x,\vec a)$, we want to consider the truth of $\psi(b,\vec a)$ for any parameter $b$, and there are a proper class of such $b$.) Thus, GBC plus transfinite recursion (or plus clopen determinacy) is strictly stronger than GBC, although it is provable in Kelley-Morse set theory KM essentially the same as GBC proves the set-like special case.

Theorem. Assume GBC. Then the following are equivalent.

1. Clopen determinacy for class games. That is, for any two-player game of perfect information whose payoff class is both open and closed, there is a winning strategy for one of the players.
2. Transfinite recursion for proper class well-founded relations (not necessarily set-like).

Proof. ($2\to 1$) Assume the principle of transfinite recursion for proper class well-founded relations, and suppose we are faced with a clopen game. Consider the game tree $T$, consisting of positions arising during play, up to the moment that a winner is known. This tree is well-founded because the game is clopen. Let us label the terminal nodes of the tree with I or II according to who has won the game in that position, and more generally, let us label all the nodes of the tree with I or II according to the following transfinite recursion: if a node has I to play, then it will have label I if there is a move to a node labeled I, and otherwise II; and similarly when it is II to play. By the principle of transfinite recursion, there is a labeling of the entire tree that accords with this recursive rule. It is now easy to see that if the initial node is labeled with I, then player I has a winning strategy, which is simply to stay on the nodes labeled I. Note that player II cannot play in one move from a node labeled I to one labeled II. Similarly, if the initial node is labeled II, then player II has a winning strategy; and so the game is determined, as desired.

($1\to 2$) Conversely, let us assume the principle of clopen determinacy for class games. Suppose we are faced with a recursion along a class relation $\lhd$ on a class $A$, using a recursion rule $\varphi(F,a,y)$. We shall define a certain clopen game, and prove that any winning strategy for this game will produce a solution for the recursion.

It will be convenient to assume that $\varphi(F,a,y)$ is strongly functional, meaning that not only does it define a function as we have mentioned in $V$, but also that $\varphi(F,a,y)$ defines a function $(F,a)\mapsto y$ when used over any model $\langle V_\theta,\in,F\rangle$ for any class $F\subset V_\theta$. The strongly functional property can be achieved simply by replacing the formula with the assertion that $\varphi(F,a,y)$, if $y$ is unique such that this holds, and otherwise $y=\emptyset$.

At first, let us consider a slightly easier game, which will be open rather than clopen; a bit later, we shall revise this game to a clopen game. The game is the recursion game, which will be very much like the truth-telling game of my previous post, Open determinacy for proper class games implies Con(ZFC) and much more. Namely, we have two players, the challenger and the truth-teller. The challenger will issues challenges about truth in a structure $\langle V,\in,\lhd,F\rangle$, where $\lhd$ is the well-founded class relation and $F$ is a class function, not yet specified. Specifically, the challenger is allowed to ask about the truth of any formula $\varphi(\vec a)$ in this structure, and to inquire as to the value of $F(a)$ for any particular $a$. The truth-teller, as before, will answer the challenges by saying either that $\varphi(\vec a)$ is true or false, and in the case $\varphi(\vec a)=\exists x\,\psi(x,\vec a)$ and the formula was declared true, by also giving a witness $b$ and declaring $\psi(b,\vec a)$ is true; and the truth-teller must specify a specific value for $F(a)$ for any particular $a$. The truth-teller loses immediately, if she should ever violate Tarski’s recursive definition of truth; and she also loses unless she declares the recursive rules $\varphi(F\upharpoonright a,a,F(a))$ to be true. Since these violations occur at a finite stage of play if they do at all, the game is open for the challenger.

Lemma. The challenger has no winning strategy in the recursion game.

Proof. Suppose that $\sigma$ is a strategy for the challenger. So $\sigma$ is a class function that instructs the challenger how to play next, given a position of partial play. By the reflection theorem, there is an ordinal $\theta$ such that $V_\theta$ is closed under $\sigma$, and using the satisfaction class that comes from clopen determinacy, we may actually also arrange that $\langle V_\theta,\in,\lhd\cap V_\theta,\sigma\cap V_\theta\rangle\prec\langle V,\in,\lhd,\sigma\rangle$. Consider the relation $\lhd\cap V_\theta$, which is a well-founded relation on $A\cap V_\theta$. The important point is that this relation is now a set, and in GBC we may certainly undertake transfinite recursions along well-founded set relations. Thus, there is a function $f:A\cap V_\theta\to V_\theta$ such that $\langle V_\theta,\in,f\rangle$ satisfies $\varphi(f\upharpoonright a,a,f(a))$ for all $a\in V_\theta$, where $f\upharpoonright a$ means restricting $f$ to the predecessors of $a$ in $V_\theta$, and this may not be all the predecessors of $a$ with respect to $\lhd$, which may not be set-like. Note that this is the place where we use our assumption that $\varphi$ was strongly functional, since we want to ensure that it can still be used to define a valid recursion over $\lhd\cap V_\theta$. (We are not claiming that $\langle V_\theta,\in,\lhd\cap V_\theta,f\rangle$ models $\text{ZFC}(\lhd,f)$.)

Consider now the play of the recursion game in $V$, where the challenger uses the strategy $\sigma$ and the truth-teller plays in accordance with $\langle V_\theta,\in,\lhd\cap V_\theta,f\rangle$. Since $V_\theta$ was closed under $\sigma$, the challenger will never issue challenges outside of $V_\theta$. And since the function $f$ fulfills the recursion $\varphi(f\upharpoonright a,a,f(a))$ in this structure, the truth-teller will not be trapped in any violation of the Tarski conditions or the recursion condition. Thus, the truth-teller will win this instance of the game, and so $\sigma$ was not a winning strategy for the challenger, as desired. QED

Lemma. The truth-teller has a winning strategy in the recursion game if and only if there is a solution of the recursion.

Proof. If there is a solution $F$ of the recursion, then by clopen determinacy, we also get a satisfaction class for the structure $\langle V,\in,\lhd,F\rangle$, and the truth-teller can answer all queries of the challenger by referring to what is actually true in this structure. This will be winning for the truth-teller, since the actual truth obeys the Tarskian conditions and the recursive rule.

Conversely, suppose that $\tau$ is a winning strategy for the truth-teller in the recursion game. We claim that the truth assertions made by $\tau$ do not depend on the order in which challenges are made by the challenger; they all cohere with one another. This is easy to see for formulas not involving $F$ by induction on formulas, for if the truth of a formula $\psi(\vec a)$ is independent of play, then also the truth of $\neg\psi(\vec a)$ is as well, and similarly if $\exists x\psi(x,\vec a)$ is declared true with witness $\psi(b,\vec a)$, then by induction $\psi(b,\vec a)$ is independent of the play, in which case $\exists x\psi(x,\vec a)$ must always be declared true by $\tau$ independently of the order of play by the challenger (although the particular witness $b$ provided by $\tau$ may depend on the play). Now, let us also argue that the values of $F(a)$ declared by $\tau$ are also independent of the order of play. If not, there is some $\lhd$-least $a$ where this fails. (Note that such an $a$ exists, since $\tau$ is a class, and we can define from $\tau$ the class of $a$ for which the value of $F(a)$ declared by $\tau$ depends on the order of play; without $\tau$, one might have expected to need $\Pi^1_1$-comprehension to find a minimal $a$ where the recursion fails.) As in the truth-telling game, the truth assertions made by $\tau$ about $\langle V,\in,\lhd,F\upharpoonright a\rangle$, where $F\upharpoonright a$ is the class function of values that are determined by $\tau$ on $b\lhd a$, must not depend on the order of play. Since the recursion rule $\varphi(F\upharpoonright a,a,y)$ is functional, there is only one value $y=F(a)$ for which this formula can be truthfully held, and so if some play causes $\tau$ to play a different value for $F(a)$, the challenger can in finitely many additional moves (bounded by the syntactic complexity of $\varphi$) trap the truth-teller in a violation of the Tarskian conditions or the recursion condition. Thus, the values of $F(a)$ declared by $\tau$ must in fact all cohere independently of the order of play, and so $\tau$ is describing a class function $F:A\to V$ such that $\varphi(F\upharpoonright a,a,F(a))$ is true for every $a\in A$. So the recursion has a solution, as desired. QED

So far, we have established that the principle of open determinacy implies the principle of transfinite recursion along well-founded class relations. In order to improve this implication to use only clopen determinacy rather than open determinacy, we modify the game to become a clopen game rather than an open game.

Consider the clopen form of the recursion game, where we insist also that the challenger announce on the first move a natural number $n$, such that the challenger loses if the truth-teller survives for at least $n$ moves. This is now a clopen game, since the winner will be known by that time, either because the truth-teller will violate the Tarski conditions or the recursion condition, or else the challenger’s limit on play will expire.

Since the modified version of the game is even harder for the challenger, there can still be no winning strategy for the challenger. So by the principle of clopen determinacy, there is a winning strategy $\tau$ for the truth-teller. This strategy is allowed to make decisions based on the number $n$ announced by the challenger on the first move, and it will no longer necessarily be the case that the theory declared true by $\tau$ will be independent of the order of play. Nevertheless, it will be the case, we claim, that the theory declared true by $\tau$ for all plays with sufficiently large $n$ (and with sufficiently many remaining moves) will be independent of the order of play. One can see this by observing that if an assertion $\psi(\vec a)$ is independent in this sense, then also $\neg\psi(\vec a)$ will be independent in this sense, for otherwise there would be plays with large $n$ giving different answers for $\neg\psi(\vec a)$ and we could then challenge with $\psi(\vec a)$, which would have to give different answers or else $\tau$ would not win. Similarly, since $\tau$ is winning, one can see that allowing the challenger to specify a bound on the total length of play does not prevent the arguments above showing that $\tau$ describes a coherent solution function $F:A\to V$ satisfying the recursion $\varphi(F\upharpoonright a,a,F(a))$, provided that one looks only at plays in which there are sufficiently many moves remaining. There cannot be a $\lhd$-least $a$ where the value of $F(a)$ is not determined in this sense, and so on as before.

Thus, we have proved that the principle of clopen determinacy for class games is equivalent to the principle of transfinite recursion along well-founded class relations. QED

The material in this post will become part of a joint project with Victoria Gitman and Thomas Johnstone. We are currently investigating several further related issues.

Open determinacy for proper class games implies Con(ZFC) and much more

$\newcommand\Tr{\text{Tr}}$One of the intriguing lessons we have learned in the past half-century of set-theoretic developments is that there is a surprisingly robust connection between infinitary game theory and fundamental set-theoretic principles, including large cardinals. Assertions about the existence of strategies in infinite games often turn out to have an unexpected set-theoretic power. In this post, I should like to give another specific example of this, which Thomas Johnstone and I hit upon yesterday in an enjoyable day of mathematics.

Specifically, I’d like to prove that if we generalize the open-game concept from sets to classes, then assuming consistency, ZFC cannot prove that every definable open class game is determined, and indeed, over Gödel-Bernays set theory GBC the principle of open determinacy (and even just clopen determinacy) implies Con(ZFC) and much more.

To review a little, we are talking about games of perfect information, where two players alternately play elements from an allowed space $X$ of possible moves, and together they build an infinite sequence $\vec x=\langle x_0,x_1,x_2,\ldots\rangle$ in $X^\omega$, which is the resulting play of this particular instance of the game. We have a fixed collection of plays $A\subset X^\omega$ that is used to determine the winner, namely, the first player wins this particular instance of the game if the resulting play $\vec x$ is in $A$, and otherwise the second player wins. A strategy for a player is a function $\sigma:X^{<\omega}\to X$, which tells a player how to move next, given a finite position in the game. Such a strategy is winning for that player, if he or she always wins by following the instructions, no matter how the opponent plays. The game is determined, if one of the players has a winning strategy.

It is a remarkable but elementary fact that if the winning condition $A$ is an open set, then the game is determined. One can prove this by using the theory of ordinal game values, and my article on transfinite game values in infinite chess contains an accessible introduction to the theory of game values. Basically, one defines that a position has game value zero (for player I, say), if the game has already been won at that stage, in the sense that every extension of that position is in the winning payoff set $A$. A position with player I to play has value $\alpha+1$, if player I can move to a position with value $\alpha$, and $\alpha$ is minimal. The value of a position with player II to play is the supremum of the values of all the positions that he or she might reach in one move, provided that those positions have a value. The point now is that if a position has a value, then player I can play so as strictly to decrease the value, and player II cannot play so as to increase it. So if a position has a value, then player I has a winning strategy, which is the value-reducing strategy. Conversely, if a position does not have a value, then player II can maintain that fact, and player I cannot play so as to give it a value; thus, in this case player II has a winning strategy, the value-maintaining strategy. Thus, we have proved the Gale-Stewart theorem: every open game is determined.

That proof relied on the space of moves $X$ being a set, since we took a supremum over the values of the possible moves, and if $X$ were a proper class, we couldn’t be sure to stay within the class of ordinals and the recursive procedure might break down. What I’d like to do is to consider more seriously the case where $X$ is a proper class. Similarly, we allow the payoff collection $A$ to be a proper class, and the strategies $\sigma:X^{<\omega}\to X$ are also proper classes. Can we still prove the Gale-Steward theorem for proper classes? The answer is no, unless we add set-theoretic strength. Indeed, even clopen determinacy has set-theoretic strength.

Theorem. (GBC) Clopen determinacy for proper classes implies Con(ZFC) and much more. Specifically, there is a clopen game, such the existence of a winning strategy is equivalent to the existence of a satisfaction class for first-order truth.

Proof. Let me first describe a certain open game, the truth-telling game, with those features, and I shall later modify it to a clopen game. The truth-telling game will have two players, which I call the challenger and the truth-teller. At any point in the game, the challenger plays by making an inquiry about a particular set-theoretic formula $\varphi(\vec a)$ with parameters. The truth-teller must reply to the inquiry by stating either true or false, and in the case that the formula $\varphi$ is an existential assertion $\exists x\,\psi(x,\vec a)$ declared to be true, then the truth teller must additionally identify a particular witness $b$ and assert that $\psi(b,\vec a)$ is true. So a play of the game consists of a sequence of such inquires and replies.

The truth-teller wins a play of the game, provided that she never violates the recursive Tarskian truth conditions. Thus, faced with an atomic formula, she must state true or false in accordance with the actual truth or falsity of that atomic formula, and similarly,
she must say true to $\varphi\wedge\psi$ just in case she said true to both $\varphi$ and $\psi$ separately (if those formulas had been issued by the challeger), and she must state opposite truth values for $\varphi$ and $\neg\varphi$, if both are issued as challenges.

This is an open game, since the challenger will win, if at all, at a finite stage of play, when the violation of the Tarskian truth conditions is first exhibited.

Lemma 1. The truth-teller has a winning strategy in the truth-telling game if and only if there is a satisfaction class for first-order truth.

Proof. Clearly, if there is a satisfaction class for first-order truth, then the truth-teller has a winning strategy, which is simply to answer all questions about truth by consulting the
satisfaction class. Since that class obeys the Tarskian conditions, she will win the game, no matter which challenges are issued.

Conversely, suppose that the truth-teller has a winning strategy $\tau$ in the game. I claim that we may use $\tau$ to build a satisfaction class for first-order truth. Specifically, let $T$ be the collection of formulas $\varphi(\vec a)$ that are asserted to be true by $\tau$ in any play according to $\tau$. I claim that $T$ is a satisfaction class. We may begin by noting that since $T$ must correctly state the truth of all atomic formulas, it follows that the particular answers that $\tau$ gives on the atomic formulas does not depend on the order of the challenges issued by the challenger. Now, we argue by induction on formulas that the truth values issued by $\tau$ does not depend on the order of the challenges. For example, if all plays in which $\varphi(\vec a)$ is issued as a challenge come out true, then all plays in which $\neg\varphi(\vec a)$ is challenged will result in false, or else we would have a play in which $\tau$ would violate the Tarskian truth conditions. Similarly, if $\varphi$ and $\psi$ always come out the same way, then so does $\varphi\wedge\psi$. We don’t claim that $\tau$ must always issue the same witness $b$ for an existential $\exists x\,\psi(x,\vec a)$, but if it ever says true to this statement, then it will provide some witness $b$, and for that statement $\psi(b,\vec a)$, the truth value stated by $\tau$ is independent of the order of play by the challenger, by induction. Thus, by induction on formulas, the answers provided by the truth-teller strategy $\tau$ gives us a satisfaction predicate for first-order truth. QED

Lemma 2. The challenger has no winning strategy in the truth-telling game.

Proof. Suppose that $F$ is a strategy for the challenger. So $F$ is a proper class function that directs the challenger to issue certain challenges, given the finite sequence of previous challenges and truth-telling answers. By the reflection theorem, there is a closed unbounded proper class of cardinals $\theta$, such that $F”V_\theta\subset V_\theta$. That is, $V_\theta$ is closed under $F$, in the sense that if all previous challenges and responses come from $V_\theta$, then the next challenge will also come from $V_\theta$. Since $\langle V_\theta,\in\rangle$ is a set, we have a satisfaction predicate on it. Consider the play, where the truth-teller replies to all inquires by consulting truth in $V_\theta$, rather than truth in $V$. The point is that if the challenger follows $\tau$, then all the inquiries will involve only parameters $\vec a$ in $V_\theta$, provided that the truth-teller also always gives witnesses in $V_\theta$, which in this particular play will be the case. Since the satisfaction predicate on $V_\theta$ does satisfy the Tarskian truth conditions, it follows that the truth-teller will win this instance of the game, and so $F$ is not a winning strategy for the challenger. QED

Thus, if open determinacy holds for classes, then there is a satisfaction predicate for first-order truth.

This implies Con(ZFC) for reasons I explained on my post KM implies Con(ZFC) and much more, by appealing to the fact that we have the collection axiom relative to the class for the satisfaction predicate itself, and this is enough to verify that the nonstandard instances of collection also must be declared true in the satisfaction predicate.

But so far, we only have an open game, rather than a clopen game, since the truth-teller wins only by playing the game out for infinitely many steps. So let me describe how to modify the game to be clopen. Specifically, consider the version of the truth-telling game, where the challenger must also state on each move a specific ordinal $\alpha_n$, which descend during play $\alpha_0>\alpha_1>\cdots>\alpha_n$. If the challenger gets to $0$, then the truth-teller is declared the winner. For this modified game, the winner is known in finitely many moves, because either the truth-teller violates the Tarskian conditions or the challenger hits zero. So this is a clopen game. Since we made the game harder for the challenger, it follows that the challenger still can have no winning strategy. One can modify the proof of lemma 1 to say that if $\tau$ is a winning strategy for the truth teller, then the truth assertions made by $\tau$ in response to all plays with sufficiently large ordinals for the challenger all agree with one another independently of the order of the formulas issued by the challenger. Thus, there is a truth-telling strategy just in case there is a satisfaction class for first-order truth.

So clopen determinacy for class games implies the existence of a satisfaction class for first-order truth, and this implies Con(ZFC) and much more. QED

One may easily modify the game by allowing a fixed class parameter $B$, so that clopen determinacy implies that there is a satisfaction class relative to truth in $\langle V,\in,B\rangle$.

Furthermore, we may also get iterated truth predicates. Specifically, consider the iterated truth-telling game, which in addition to the usual language of set theory, we have a hierarchy of predicates $\Tr_\alpha$ for any ordinal $\alpha$. We now allow the challenger to ask about formulas in this expanded language, and the truth teller is required to obey not only the usual Tarskian recursive truth conditions, but also the requirements that $\Tr_\alpha(\varphi(\vec a))$ is declared true just in case $\varphi(\vec a)$ uses only truth predicates $\Tr_\beta$ for $\beta<\alpha$ and also $\varphi(\vec a)$ is declared true (if this challenge was issued).

The main arguments as above generalize easily to show that the challenger cannot have a winning strategy in this iterated truth-telling game, and the truth-teller has a strategy just in case there is a satisfaction predicate for truth-about-truth iterated through the ordinals.  Thus, the principle of open determinacy for proper class games implies Con(Con(ZFC)) and $\text{Con}^\alpha(\text{ZFC})$ and so on.

Let me finish by mentioning that Kelley-Morse set theory is able to prove open determinacy for proper class games in much the same manner as we proved the Gale-Stewart theorem above, using well-ordered class meta-ordinals, rather than merely set ordinals, as well as in other ways. If there is interest, I can make a further post about that, so just ask in the comments!