5. (Optional) AI Move

Workshop Resources

Let’s make the computer think

Previously, we use a Random object to randomly generate a move for the computer. As a result, the competitiveness of the computer is fairly low.

In this exercise, we want to increase the difficulty of the game by making optimal decisions for the computer.

We will do so by adding artificial intelligence into our program with the use the Minimax algorithm (a well-defined procedure that allows computers to solve problems).

Minimax Algorithm

Minimax is an algorithm that is used in two-player games to make optimal decisions for a player.

How will Minimax Algorithm work in TicTacToe?

Let’s look at an example below:

  1. In the first row, we considered the 3 possible moves for the computer "O", who is the maximizer.

  2. We examine all the game states until all the moves end will a computer win, player win, or a tie. We then give them their corresponding score.

    For example, in the second board in row 1, the computer wins by placing "O" at position 8. That state will then be given a score of 1 * (number of available spots on the board + 1) = 1 * (2+1) = 3.

  3. At game states that don’t have a winner or a tie, we pick the smallest score during minimizing rounds (when "X" make a move), and the largest score during maximizing rounds (when "O" make a move).

  4. If you follow along through the maximizing/minimizing rounds on the picture above, you should note that the optimal move for the computer is to place "O" at position 8, allowing the computer to win with 1 move from the starting game board.

Code Structure

In activity-3, you wrote the method int getComputerMove(String[] curBoard) to randomly generate a spot for the computer. Let’s write another method called getComputerMoveAI(String[] curBoard) that returns the optimal move for the computer by calling the int minimax(String[] curBoard, boolean isMaximizing) method.

int getComputerMove(String[] curBoard){
    // 1. this method calls minimax() on all the possible moves the computer can pick
    // 2. it takes the maximum out of all of them
    // 3. return the optimal move
int minimax(String[] curBoard, boolean isMaximizing){
    // 1. In the maximizing round, it calls minimax() on all the possible moves for the computer, "O", return the maximum score
    // 2. In the minimizing round, it calls minimax() on all the possible moves for the player, "X", return the minimum score

  • The method minimax() is a recursive function, which means that the function calls itself inside of the implementation of itself.
  • In our method, minimax() call itself with different possible boards by placing "X" or "O" at each available spots. And, the method pick either maximum or minimum score depending on whether its a maximizing round.

Write the Method getComputerMoveAI()

  1. For each available spot on the game board, place "O" at that spot and get the score for that board by calling minimax().

  • Note you should pass false for the second argument since it’d be the minimizer’s turn.
  • You should change that spot back to " " after getting the score, so you maintain the original state of the game board during the next iteration.

  1. Track the largest score and its corresponding position of the board at each iteration. Return the position with the largest score.

  • Have a variable called bestScore that stores the current best score and have an initial value of Integer.MIN_VALUE (minimum value of an integer).
  • This is an useful way to find the maximum value in a data structure. For example:
public int getLargestNum() {
    // the following code find the maximum value in the array "nums"
    int[] nums = {3, 5, -2, 10};
    int largestNum = Integer.MIN_VALUE;
    for(int i = 0; i < nums.length; i++){
        if(nums[i] > largestNum){
            largestNum = nums[i];
    return largestNum;

Write the Method minimax()

As we discussed above, the minimax() method has the header int minimax(String[] curBoard, boolean isMaximizing).

  1. Call getWinner() on the board to check if there is a winner. If so, return the corresponding score.

    (Score: computer wins (1 * number of available spots on the board + 1), player wins (-1 * number of available spots on the board + 1), tie (0)).

  2. Get Minimax Score

  1. Return Largest Score

Test your methods

Copy and paste your two methods below main().

Click Run to test around your methods. We provided a given test of the example of the picture above.

You can plug in different boards to test if you get a desirable output.

Remember to test your methods!

Update the Program

After testing the methods, update all the method calls of getComputerMove() to getComputerMoveAI() in your TicTacToe program.

It should be way more challenging to win this time around😀!